Monday, March 3, 2014

Climbing Critical

   I think I would have enjoyed the novel more if we read it at the beginning of the semester because I found myself questioning the abilities of Yates and Simpson, rather than enjoying the prose. Simpson provides great visual descriptions of the climb. “To the right of Rasac’s snowy summit, and connected to it by a dangerously corniced ridge, I could see the slightly lower summit of Seria Norte” (p. 21). I don’t think I would appreciate Simpson’s often lengthy visual descriptions at the beginning of the semester when I knew little about climbing, but now that I know more about the technical aspects of climbing, I find myself wanting to know more about the scene. Rather than focusing on the descriptions and reading of Simpson’s “Touching the Void,” I found myself questioning the climbing abilities of Yates and Simpson. Reflecting on his struggles during the climb, Simpson writes, “I struggled with zips and gaiters until my fingers would not work, and I rocked back and forward, hands in my crotch, moaning with hot aches” (p. 29). As someone with no climbing experience, I find it comical that I could question the climbing abilities of such courageous adventurers, and I wonder why I have become so critical.

   What my critical reading of Simpson’s narrative has shown me is that armchair adventurers become more critical with each read. Compared to Krakauer and Norgay, Simpson provides less contextual background on the climb. Simpson offers a real time account of the climb, walking us through the climb play by play. It is an engaging read, but Simpson’s use of the first person and vivid real time detail seem so foreign to me given our previous readings aimed at the experienced adventurer. Have our previous readings provided me with the climbing knowledge to feel like a true climber? At what point does an armchair adventurer come to criticize the adventure? 

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