Monday, February 17, 2014

Why do climbers climb?

Why do climbers climb? I don't have the answer to this question. But  a lot of Krakauer's text really pushes me to think about it. Because, man, they sound miserable most of the time they are on Everest. A journal excerpt from the beginning of Chapter Eleven really grabbed me and made me stop to consider this question.

"Behind a mystique of adventure, toughness, footloose vagabondage-- all much needed antidotes to our culture's built-in comfort and convenience-- may lie a kind of adolescent refusal to take seriously agin, the frailty of others, interpersonal responsibility, weakness of all kinds, the slow and unspectacular course of life itself...If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its forfeit" David Roberts (pp. 151).

The reason this quote struck me is because it gets to the heart of deconstructing why climbers may climb. Are they just in it for the adrenaline? Krakauer says no, this is a fallacy. It is about "enduring pain" (140). It's about escaping society. It's about transcending physical limitations--or trying to...feeling like you can for just a moment...

Yes, I've been hiking, I've felt my quads burning on a rock slide in a way that made me question if they might turn to jello . I've worried about 15 year olds getting hypothermia because they forgot to pack their fleece that day, or crossing my fingers the kid who didn't put bee allergies on his medical form won't go into anaphylactic shock 40 miles from the road. But somehow those challenges feel entirely different. They're in a whole different realm of extremity. I haven't been concerned with voluntarily putting myself at risk of things like HAPE, HACE and random and unpredictable avalanches. That feels like walking into a trap-- tempting fate.

How much pain do you endure? How much is worth it and how do these climbers decide? From the perspective of an armchair adventurer I'm like: Hell, you're not having any fun at all! Don't people go on adventures to have the most wild time of their lives? Calculating risk carefully as you go...?

With the commercialization of Everest do climbers now lack the "similar seriousness of purpose"? (141). I feel torn between giving everyone the chance to push themselves beyond what they thought they could do, and wait-- only these crazies should be able to climb because they really know what they're getting into? What defines a climber if just Plain Jane can climb any mountain now?

1 comment:

  1. "I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace" (140). I thought of your blog post as soon as a read this and felt like it sort of linked our respective posts together a bit. I think that people were (and are) willing to endure the absurd amounts of physical pain and suffering to get to the top of Everest because it represents something entirely different. To be able to reach the summit becomes synonymous with achieving another goal each of which made Krakauer gain a great deal of respect for his teammates. I think that there isn't a great answer to your question of how much pain do you endure, because I think that for the people climbing Everest (whether, arguably, they should be or not) that level of pain and suffering is essential to achieving the more symbolic goal.