Monday, March 3, 2014

Reflection on an Adirondack Climb

Last weekend I decided to climb Cascade Mountain, the smallest of the 46 peaks in the Adirondacks. I am pretty sure that it was my first "ascent" of one of the 46 peaks. Throughout the weekend I had been reading Touching My Father's Soul, and was thus already considering various motivations for climbing. As I hiked up Cascade, I pondered my own motivation for climbing as well as others' rationales for "bagging all of the 46 peaks."
Less than 0.2 miles away from the summit, I turned around. The wind was blowing very hard (70+mph) and had already knocked me over once. People all around me were losing hats and sunglasses as they leaned into the wind, struggling up towards the rocky summit. I realized that touching the actual summit would not change the feeling of my day at all, and so I decided to turn around and wait for my friend in the protection of some trees.
When I decided to climb, the motivation was solely to get some exercise and get outside. I was hopeful for a beautiful view at the top, but it ended up being very cloudy. My mother was the only person whom we told we were planning to climb Cascade Mountain, so I had nobody to hold me accountable for "failing." Had I taken the time required to climb a larger peak on the other side of the world, or had I been aiming to be a "46er," I may have cared more about standing on the summit, but for me, the day was a success.
As I have come to understand it, accomplishments such as climbing one of the worlds highest peaks or climbing all of the Adirondack peaks, take time and determination and are recognized accordingly. When a person undertakes a challenge as large as that, they tell other people because training, preparations, and actually taking the time to do it becomes a huge part of their lives. Their motivation must blend their desire to succeed with a passion for the journey to reach the goal. While I appreciate Norgay's spiritual point of view, I think that both he and Krakauer were a bit too harsh on the majority of the client's motives for attempting Everest. Summiting Everest certainly makes for an ego-boosting brag, but nobody would ever climb it for ego alone. Even commercial clients with minimal mountaineering experience hope to enjoy the experience of climbing.


  1. I agree. I think this was definitely overlooked by us in class and by Krakauer. It is interesting how quick we are to shut the door to understanding motivations when money gets involved - it's as though money makes us lose sight that there are often many reasons and motivations behind a decision to climb a mountain.

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  3. I really like your point, particularly about the process of training and preparation reflecting one's excitement for the upcoming experience. I agree that there is a lot to be said for how one feels when training for an event. That rationale seems abundantly clear in those moments when you struggle to get out of bed for a workout or become exasperated with planning. Your argument reminds me a lot of the 90 miler training. On mornings when I felt exhausted I felt with surprising clarity my reason for being there, which was the enjoyment of a challenging experience.