Monday, February 24, 2014

p.80- "Why were they here?"

Given that we ended our last class with our continued question of "what do mountains do?" and "why climb?" I was particularly drawn to a quote on p.80. Norgay begins the second paragraph on that page with two questions similar to our own from class: "So what motivates these foreigners to climb? Why were they here?" He claims that "for the commercial guides-like the Sherpas- it is a business," while other climbers (presumably the foreigners he referenced in his first question) come for "personal challenge,” which he suggests may be in actuality them "hurling against their inner demons,” and others in order to "gain recognition." He ends by making the claim that "most of the climbers, myself included, don't know what we will find during our journey, other than a brief glimpse of the impermanence and the frailty of the human condition." This quote reminded me a lot of the epigraph that Blum chose to include at the beginning of Annapurna: A Woman's Place, about how you can never truly conquer a mountain because a human's footprints are quickly and easily blown away from the top right after he summits. After considering both of these passages, I suggest that though Norgay divides these climbers up into different answers for "why climb?" mountains appear to be "doing" the same thing for most of them. By that I mean that the mountains are these impenetrable forces of nature that work to reveal that "frailty of the human condition" that Norgay mentions. And it is the "conquering" of-or at least, surviving in spite of-this frailty that allows a climber to achieve their goal. I see this in the fact that even though he lost most of his fingers and toes, Herzog gained recognition for himself and France because he made it to the top and he made it back down, despite what Annapurna threw his way. I also see this in the climbers both Krakauer and Norgay discuss; those who have made it their goal to not only climb Everest, but to do so without oxygen. Thus, I agree with Norgay that you get this "brief glimpse of the impermanence and the frailty of the human condition" and that that is a kind of certainty in mountaineering- because that, to me, seems to be one of the things which mountains "do.”

1 comment:

  1. This is a great observation Bethany! I also think it's noteworthy to bring about this ever-present question of "why climb;" however, I'd like to challenge the notion that the mountains are "doing" the same thing for the various climbers we've read about. While I agree that, in many cases, climbers are all pursuing the summit possibly in search of something greater than themselves (either consciously or subconsciously), but I don't necessarily think it's fair to compare Norgay and Herzog's motives in the manner that is presented here. On the other hand, I completely agree that Norgay makes a vivid distinction between climbing for business and climbing for the self. But does this always have to be for recognition? I'd like to challenge this (just for the sake of it being a potentially controversial argument!).