Monday, March 3, 2014


Last week, I discussed Norgay’s quote about how what many mountaineers know they will find on a mountain is the sense of human impermanence and frailty. I suggested that maybe the answer of “what do mountains do?” was provide that place of vulnerability. After continued thought, I have developed this thought more and wonder whether mountains provide, for those who achieve new records and who make it back down the mountain, the ability to say “I confronted human frailty and survived to tell the tale.”  I saw this idea continued in Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void. The title/subtitle immediately brought me to that idea of facing human frailty and surviving it. Simpson’s quote on p.53 brought me to this idea again, as he states that at the summit he “felt the usual anticlimax. What now? It was a vicious circle. If you succeed with one dream, you come back to square one and it’s not long before you’re conjuring up another, slightly harder, a bit more ambitious- a bit more dangerous.” That idea that in adventure, you always needed to come back to that vulnerability- so when you finished one thing, you had to start a harder one to find that vulnerability again. Lastly, I saw this idea in a quote from the beginning of the Touching the Void film, as Joe Simpson states that they knew every other expedition had failed, and so he thought “well, we’ll just do. We’re better than them [the other expeditions].” Simpson says this regretfully in the film, but the fact that he set off with the mindset that he would overcome the frailty that others couldn’t, made me think: maybe mountains provide the void, that possibility of your own impermanence and frailty. And in doing so, also provide you with the chance to only touch the void, and to come back and say that in despite of it all you survived. I have not finished Simpson’s book, so I will be interested to see his attitude post-disaster, but I think this idea is interesting to keep in mind. 

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