Monday, February 3, 2014

When Do You Stop?

While reading Maurice Herzog’s Annapurna, the question I could not get out of my mind was: at what point do you stop climbing? Admittedly, I was in awe of the description Herzog gave immediately after reaching the top of Annapurna, as he explained that “I was stirred to the depths of my being. Never had I felt happiness like this- so intense and yet so pure” (114). And yet, as amazing as this description sounded, as amazing as the experience most likely was, I couldn’t help but wonder if Annapurna was worth the risk. Herzog explains wondering the same thing to himself, as he states “there was no doubt about frostbite being a very real danger. Did Annapurna justify such risks?” (141). We know from the book that Annapurna was clearly worth the risk to these men, even when frostbite becomes a reality rather than just a danger. However, from my comfortable position as the “armchair adventurer,” reading the memoir some fifty years later, I could not help but keep asking that question. After that questioning of whether Annapurna is worth the risk, Herzog lets us know just how much he sacrificed. He gives detailed description after detailed description of Oudot clipping off his fingers and toes (he never gives a final tally, but from what I counted, he lost almost all of them) and tells us how his amputation sites get infected and he becomes the host for a half-pound of maggots. As I read this, I asked again: When do you stop climbing? When does the risk, or reality, of horrific danger outweigh anything else? When does the near-brush with death become too near and you stop? Or do you never stop?

1 comment:

  1. This brings up the question of whether the true adventure lies in finishing the climb (regardless of whether or not the adventurer summited) and reentering society or if reaching the summit is the most important component. I think that there is a lot of glory in summiting and thus most people consider that to be the most important part. However, there are many adventurous or memorable moments on the climb (as our friend Miley Cyrus notes). What is more important, perhaps, is the descent. If a climber does not have a successful decent, there will be no time for her to reflect on the adventure. I think that a disproportionate amount of emphasis gets placed on summiting, rather than every step of the journey.