Monday, March 10, 2014

With Great Risk Comes Great Reputation

           In The Man Who Ate His Boots, in criticizing Captain Ross’s attempt to find the Northwest Passage, Barrow states that “Reputation and risk are almost inseparable in the life of a naval officer” (29), a connection, which I believe strongly applies to all kinds of adventuring, including mountaineering. As is known about many famous naval officers, such as Nelson, these officers only became famous because of the risks they took. The same applies to famous mountaineers. Sir Edmond Hillary and Tenzing Norgay risked their lives multiple times to achieve the first ascent of Everest, and Simpson and Yates risked their lives to make the first ascent of their mountain in the Andes. These climbers became famous because of the high risks that were involved in successfully completing their climbs. Many more climbers climb Everest and other mountains in guided hikes, but apart from their individual claims to fame, these climbers receive no recognition for their successful climbs. The other interesting issue with the connection of reputation and risk is that the bar is continually being reset and it is becoming constantly and exponentially more difficult to achieve recognition. Constantly, in order to achieve the same degree of recognition that mountaineers were achieving years before, mountaineers today are being forced to accomplish gutsier and more difficult ascents that in the old days would never have been attempted, which is making an already risky sport even that much more dangerous.   


  1. While there is a push to do more difficult things, I don't think the sport is necessarily getting more or less dangerous. "They say that every adventurer suffers from the conviction that he was born too late (Ed Viesturs from "K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain")." A large part of the reason that people are doing more difficult routes is the newer technology and climbing techniques. Alpine style climbing didn't come into full force until about the 1970s. The lightness and protectiveness of clothing and other gear has improved, opening up new possibilities. As more places are explored, more routes are found, and more information is made available about these routes. It's not just the drive to do something bigger/harder, it is also the advancements that now make these adventures feasible, bringing them into the realm of acceptable risk for the climbers.

  2. I agree with Becca. Although the bars of risk are constantly being reset and those who want to are looking for new climbs to claim their own (like the Banff film about the ascent in Antarctica), there are constantly updates to the climbing technology, making the climbs a bit easier on the climber. When Hillary summited Everest it was much more difficult for him than many who followed him, after all.