Cut The Strings

"Cut The Strings" by Nathan Hoarn

“Cut The Strings” by Nathan Hoarn

Marionettes. Puppets on strings. Obsequious smiles painted permanently on faces that are no longer capable of feeling. Little wooden figures jerked along in awkward motions by those to whom we willingly submit control of our lives.  It would be almost comical if it weren’t so depressing.

I see it every day, everywhere I go; the 9-5 working crowd is the easiest to identify. Recent college grads who have just finished picking their stages and are busy happily tying into their first set of strings; middle-aged career engineers and salesmen and managers who are beginning to suspect that the sense of peace and security offered by the puppeteers in exchange for subservience might not be all that it’s cracked up to be; tired old men and women nearing retirement, well aware now of the deception and filled with regret, but too fatigued and jaded to do anything about it…all of them dancing dutifully on the stages of their lives, propped up and manipulated by invisible cords held by bosses, managers, spouses, family members, opinionated acquaintances, or societal expectations.

Well I say it’s time to cut the fucking strings! 

The knife is honed to a razor edge and it’s always there, hiding in the darkness just beyond the edge of peoples’ conscious minds. It’s the little voice that questions whether life is always going to be like this, or mightn’t there be a better way…the wistful longing for change, because you know you could be better, accomplish more, be somehow different than what you have let yourself become. The time to sever the cords is now, but I can see the fear and doubt lurking in your eyes; it’s a long drop to the stage and your body is brittle and fragile. “Is this going to hurt? Maybe the strings aren’t that bad,” you say, starting to hesitate.

The knife is out now, the glittering blade hungry to slash and tear; it remains only for you to make the cut and take the long fall. Your delicate body will explode into a hundred jagged pieces when it smashes into the hard floor of reality and public opinion, but resurrection and redemption wait on the far side of that shattering impact. The new world that awaits you when you wake is brimming with danger, pitfalls, and potential heartache. You’ll never be as safe or as comfortable as you were on the strings; you might not live as long, and pain in various forms will soon become a trusted companion.

Yet in spite of all this – and in equal measure because of this – for the rest of your life, you will rise each morning with the opportunity to truly live.

 “There is an undeniable interdependence between consciousness and physical suffering…pain, I came to feel, might well prove to be the sole proof of the persistence of consciousness within the flesh, the sole physical expression of consciousness.”  Yukio Mishima, Sun and Steel

Make the cut.

Someday

“You’re living my dream right now haha. If I didn’t have to work or pay bills, I would probably be traveling all over! So envious!”

“There’s no way I can take a trip like that now…but someday I will!”

“I’m just so busy with work and school right now, but maybe next weekend we can do some climbing.”

“…so I hate to bail, but I don’t think I’ll realistically be able to fit the climbing trip into my schedule…I was really excited about it, but I just don’t think I can fit it in this summer.”

If you’re reading this and you recognize some of the above words as your own, the rest of this article is going to piss you off. I really don’t care; I just hope it makes you think. Those words are direct quotes from conversations I have had with four different friends in the last three months, and taken at face value, they seem to almost reek with logic and responsibility. To be sure, there’s nothing inherently wrong with those concepts; in hindsight, a little more logic and responsibility at certain times in my life would have saved me a substantial amount of heartache and wasted time and money.

What irks me is the pervasive, societally-perpetuated concept of “someday.” The quotes above are all slight variations on that theme, and the instructions to live a “someday life” read like a damn route summary off Google Maps:

  • Take the expressway straight from high school to college.
  • Continue straight to post-graduate studies.
  • Slight left onto Career Expressway.
  • Continue straight on Career Expressway…forever. Never ever detour, look right or left, take an exit, or stop to stretch and smell the proverbial roses (if you do, the Jones’s might pass you).
  • And finally, after many long years of acquiescence, compromise, and ass-kissing, arrive at…

Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Johnson. You died of brain cancer at age twenty-eight. Or at age forty in a car accident. Either way, you didn’t make it to the Great American Goal of Retirement. Aren’t you glad you delayed on that month in Europe that you have been planning and looking forward to since you were an awkward, pimply-faced ninth grade dreamer? You knew every detail of how you would spend every day of that first week in Paris. You dreamed about the taste of your lover’s kiss under a moonlit sky in northern Ireland, and you felt a shiver of terror and excitement up your spine every time you thought about being trapped in a storm on the Croz Spur of the Grandes Jorasses.

“Wait a second!” you object. “I planned carefully with my finances, delayed gratification, inherited good genetics, ate well and exercised, and lived a risk-free, bubble-wrapped life. Now I’m sixty-five and I’m going to enjoy retirement, and do all those things I put off doing until ‘someday!’ Someday is finally here!”

Nope, sorry again. Social Security is bankrupt, your indomitable spirit is now housed in a body no longer equal to the challenges of the physical adventures you planned as a young adult, and your carefully planned investments just got wiped out by another national financial crisis. In short, you’re fucked and full of regret.

When are people going to wake up and realize that, with extremely rare exception, someday never comes. The short answer is that they’re not.The Kool-Aid is mixed in with breast milk and formula these days, so your typical high school graduate has been consuming that shit for eighteen years. They’re brainwashed into thinking that two weeks of paid vacation a year is a great deal, and that five days at a water park two hours from home with three kids and a tight budget will be just as exciting and life-changing as traveling the world as a reckless, free twenty-five year old. It’s not impossible to wake them up from the coma, but it’s not as simple as pumping their stomachs with impassioned pleas to live a little and tales of how your own adventures have changed and shaped your life. It’s more like a cocktail of organ replacement surgery (starting with the brain) and long-term dialysis.

The few with the courage to refuse the cup when it’s passed around – or who quietly gag themselves and vomit out the poison in the bathroom at night when mom and dad are sleeping – are looked at as irresponsible and labeled “no-future kids.” Fine – give me the label. Tattoo it on my chest and back and ass and let me wave a flag with the words printed in bold, black letters. Someone please explain to me why I should spend the prime years of my existence planning on an anticipated event that I probably won’t live to see. And people think I’m the crazy one…

Supernova

1840 on June 13, 2014 

“I don’t care about what I climb, only how it affects me. Success merely punctuates the experience.” – Mark Twight

If that isn’t a perfect summary of my heart towards alpinism, then I don’t know how to improve it. Those words – and that desire to be so purist in my motives – cries out to me, screams for my attention, and loudly proclaims the truth and validity of such lofty ideals. I read those two sentences and I hate myself for not being that strong. How easy and continually tempting it is to climb with and for lesser reasons and motivations! Someday I will be that strong…

I will continue to cut and burn away those parts of me – and everyone and everything around me – that drag me from the pursuit of my ideal self. Not a look or visible image; nothing so fleeting or banal. No, the “me” I so earnestly strive for can be barely glimpsed in the physical. Alpinism and training for it will be my fire, my furnace where I will melt away all that is weak and shameful and emerge time after time an evolved and purified man. Introspection, discipline, and honesty with myself will be my only ways. I will not hold onto that which gives me pleasure but detracts from progress.

This is war.

The strong survive and watch with pitiless eyes as the weak perish. Personally, I don’t give a fuck if I live or die. Dying just means I was playing the game on and with the edge, and the edge won. At least I was a participant. Living means the cycle can continue; evolution can continue internally and externally. Pain, shit, and blood will drive and lubricate the gears of the machine called life. There is no great personal gain or loss either way; why be so arrogant to presume that my flickering life-light really represents any significant social consequence?

My responsibility is to flare up and burn brightly while I remain on this ugly ball of mud – but for me, not for anyone else. And when it’s time to snuff that light out, I hope I’m fully cognizant and aware of every last second. I hope it hurts. And I fucking hope I go supernova.

Kool-Aid

There’s a lot of anger in this post. I had just failed on the north face of Mount Stuart with my brother, and I didn’t get out of that route what I was searching for and badly needed. The casual attitude toward death probably comes across to most as either overly dramatic prose or egotistical blustering; at the time I wrote it, it was neither. I really just didn’t care.

1838 on May 19, 2014

Well, I’m on the airplane on the way “home”…MN might be where I’m living, but the mountains feel so much more like home. I think I am going to keep an eye on tickets. If I can find a cheap round trip, I think it would make sense to go solo Mount Stuart. For me and just me – fuck everyone else and their goddamn judgmental opinions. And fuck me for caring what they think or do.

On that note – soloing Mount Stuart – I re-learned some things on this climb about fitness, training, and nutrition:

  • I need to train harder, mainly cardio and legs. My arms just don’t get used nearly as much on long alpine climbs, especially objectives that are easy enough to solo.
  • Light breakfast is ok, but I need to eat and drink small amounts more often.
  • Coffee is essential with breakfast.
  • Consistent pace is better than short fast bursts.
  • 3am starts at the latest – I like climbing in the dark and snow conditions are more stable.
  • Train cardio and legs more.
  • Repeat the previous step.
  • Find out a way to train my body to recover faster after long days.

Overall, for my lack of consistent hard training before this trip, I was pleasantly surprised with my performance. I could have continued up and over the summit, no problem. However, I have to remember I was climbing with a weaker, less experienced partner, and I only did well in comparison to him. A stronger climber might have – probably would have – smoked me. I don’t ever want to be the weak one…

Fuck, I want that route. I want it like I have never wanted anything before. I crave it, the sensation of being totally isolated and self-reliant, self-responsible. To know that if I fuck up, I die. That no one else could ever be to blame, that my every choice actually has real consequences. I want to live in color for a day, and leave this fucked-up, confusing world behind for a while. I want connection to my ice axe and my ice tool, and I want to cut away connection with every human on the planet. I want to feel real fear and truly be strung-out, but to operate coolly and effectively in spite of those feelings…or maybe because of those feelings.

Regular, old, everyday life sucks. And by the way, fuck [a friend] for drinking the Kool-Aid and chasing a career. I drank a glass too and nearly succumbed to the poison, so I can hardly judge. But goddamn, he should be doing what I’m doing and he fucking knows it. It was dripping from the drunk texts he sent last night – texts he never would have let himself send if he were sober and “thinking clearly.” Fuck this notion of logical decisions and clear thinking. Clear according to whom? Your parents? Your boss? Societal norms? Who the fuck gave them the right to make your decisions for you? And no matter who did, why are you falling in line? Why did you decide that security was better than freedom? Their brand of security only comes when you’re willing to stand behind bars and locked doors.

Thank god life jammed its fingers down my throat and forced me to vomit up the Kool-Aid before the poison did irreversible damage. A hard solo route should clear away the last vestiges of that bullshit, fucked-up, cock-sucking philosophy – if I survive. And if not, who fucking cares? Maybe my torch will burn brightly enough through these words and my actions to light the fire under someone else who is treading the fine line between freedom and acquiescence. I hope so.

The knife

Perhaps the rawest of the past entries that I’ll post; there were some long nights filled with a lot of cynicism and introspection. There’s worse (or better, depending on your viewpoint), but those get a little too personal to put up here. 

1930 on May 9, 2014 

Ha…my most cynical “ha.” So much for the bold words of this morning, predicting my triumphant, terrible wrath and resulting victory in the arena of exercise and training, no matter the pain or potential adversity. A bouldering session so short and weak so as to not even be worthy of the title was not what I boldly predicted would occupy my time tonight. To be honest though, today I really don’t give a fuck. After following up months (years really) or shitty eating, false starts, and revolting laziness with a week of discipline and real training, my body is feeling beat to shit. It’s a good feeling…but it was also undeniably clear that a rest day was needed, mentally and physically.

So now a Surly Hell while I sit and write. Also on the to-do list for the night: pack for climbing tomorrow morning (5am departure) and drink with Nathan. Pretty chill night…

I finally looked up some of Twight’s recommended punk/post-punk playlist today at work. I truly almost laughed; I was expecting much more anger and intensity from his descriptions. Another myth in my mind shattered for the better…it may have done the job for you, Mark, but I will will take the drive and intensity of Disturbed or Avenged Sevenfold any day of the week. To each his own, and I suppose that at some level, music, like high-level alpinism, is anarchy anyway. So fuck it all. Ha, and here I was thinking that by neglecting to adopt someone else’s unique taste in music, I was holding back my climbing and personal development at some level. “No chalk? I’ll smear their fucking routes with jelly if I want to…”

30 Seconds To Mars’ “From Yesterday” plays loudly in my ears, over and over. “On a mountain he sits, not of gold but of shit.” Yeah, that about sums up life here in Minnesota. I should never have come back…and when I finally leave again, I’ll never return to this state. A failed marriage and broken promises to hundreds haunt me, stalk me while I sleep, torment my dreams. I see what could have been with Kristi, and I both loathe it and long for it. Thoughts and memories, both good and bad, come rushing through the floodgates if I relax the stranglehold on my emotions for even a second.

For all my talk and blustering about my willingness to use the knife to cut away obstacles between me and climbing, I still miss and hurt and grieve. God, it hurts like hell sometimes, when will the bleeding stop? The morphine of adrenaline, sex, or alcohol could never be enough to heal, just mask. At the end of the day, it still fucking hurts.

But isn’t it supposed to? Isn’t pain and suffering and scarring intrinsic to the use of the knife? Only one question remains then: was it worth it? Were the cuts worth the pain? Do the results justify the costs of the operation? My answer would shock some, alienate others, and convince still others that I am living in a state of denial…but yes, it was worth it. The shit and blood and pain was worth it all. If I die on my next climb, it was worth it all, for I died living out my ideal.

Not the popular or accepted viewpoint in the circles I was running in over the last six years; I get that. I also don’t give a shit.

With my freedom now comes the heavy weight of my responsibility to personal evolution, I understand and accept that. My life will be filled with more self-induced pain than I can currently imagine if I am going to approach the limits of my potential…it’s going to hurt, badly. But it has got to be better than living a lie of happiness, stuck inside a life away from the only thing I really love – the one thing that makes me feel truly alive.

To my brother

I really hesitated posting this for public viewing for a couple of reasons. It’s not written in the best style; I had a lot on my mind that night and it could be rewritten so much better. It’s extremely vulnerable, and reading it touches nerves in places I’ve worked hard to wall off. I also never planned on making any of this public when I wrote that last paragraph. However, it provides an accurate (if somewhat abbreviated) snapshot and timeline of the last eight years, as well as a glimpse at my daily training as I started to gain strength again after so many years on the sidelines.

1723 on May 8, 2014

Another note on the futility and senselessness of letting ego get involved with climbing in regards to comparisons and inferiority complexes based on route grades. At least in hard alpine climbing, route grades are, at best, general indicators of the first ascentionist’s experience. Climbs in the mountains are so susceptible to changing conditions by the very nature of being alpine routes; one party could report 300 meters of straightforward 5.10 rock climbing, while two weeks later, a party on the same route could encounter verglass-coated M7 and WI5 under cloudy skies and high winds…obviously they would experience a radically different climb.

It all comes back to the fact that, in order to find true satisfaction and contentment in the alpine realm, an alpinist must turn his gaze fully inward…not to be ignorant of evolving standards and the progress of the sport as a whole, but to ensure that the process remains purely for the purposes of personal growth, evolution, and joy. Only then can true peace be attained.

Enough waxing eloquent about abstract conceptual bullshit; here are facts:

CARDIO: 10 miles resistance bike 32:49

CIRCUITS x3:

  • 15x pushups
  • 1 French pullup
  • 5x box steps w/ 30# each arm
  • 15x pushups
  • 8x 30# goblet squats
  • 15 second L-hang, any holds
  • 10x lunges
  • 75x flutter kicks
  • 8x curls each arm w/ 35# dumbbells

STRETCHING: full body

And so the streak of winning or surviving (depends on your perspective and your definition of each of those words; “living” and/or “existing” could probably also be substituted or added) continues, much to the chagrin of that pathetic, weak little bastard part of me that tried to get me to skip my workout and go piss away money watching a movie. Motherfucking asshole…I showed him.

Tomorrow will be even better and more productive: 100/100/100 in the morning, climbing at Vertical Endeavors after work, and then a run after climbing to close out the day. If I’m lucky, the shitty forecast is wrong (currently calling for rain, rain, and more rain) and I’ll get two days up at Taylor’s Falls (plus circuit training and cardio both days of course) before a rest day Monday. Then train hard Tuesday and Wednesday and fly out Thursday. Fuck yeah.

I am super stoked to finally be hopping on a serious route with my bro. We have been talking and dreaming of this since before he graduated high school. I’m not sure either of us truly believed it would ever happen…backpacking trips, sure, but I was dead-set on a career as a SEAL and Matt was climbing the ladder in the massive cluster-fuck of a system that is the Chicago city government. By the time I was out of the Navy and fixated on climbing everything I could see at Taylor’s Falls (sans ropes in the beginning), Matt was too out of shape and locked into a marriage and the accompanying compressive lifestyle to do much more than offer encouragement and financial help in obtaining gear…a rope, two Black Diamond Alpine Bod harnesses, and a handful of nuts and ‘biners. Actually, this latter contribution likely saved my life, so its significance should not be at all underestimated.

I climbed that summer in Taylor’s Falls, as well as taking a trip to Montana where I met up with Skew (thank you rockclimbing.com). After meeting Krzysztof while bouldering in T.F. one August day, I moved to Montana for seven months to learn how to ice climb…all to take “Kris” up on his offer to climbing with him in the Tatras the next March. This I did, and after a brief two month stint back in Minnesota, I moved back to Bozeman for seven more months. That August, Loren and I climbed the North Face Direct Route on Granite Peak, the pinnacle of my climbing career at the time. God, it was amazing.

Only four months later, I lost my job and fled back home to Minnesota…partially to chase a girl I would end up marrying and then divorcing. But now I wonder if a part of me knew I was pushing too hard, too fast to survive my self-induced learning curve. I was soloing hard ice routes at a desperate pace, trying so hard to prove I was worthy of something. Through it all, my brother watched, encouraged, loved, and in some ways probably envied. But he always believed in me.

The next six years saw a flurry of activity very unlike the preceding twenty. Desperate to achieve in some venue and lacking the mountains I had abandoned, I centered my attention and efforts on Amway and Kristi. Ultimately, I failed at both…willingly at one of them. But while the full weight of my failure and its accompanying shame was crashing down on and around me, a curious thing happened. My brother packed up his life, said ‘bye to the city, and moved to the mountains. And he started to get strong.

Matt, if you’re reading this, I’m dead and gone. I suppose I should have had the guts to tell you more often while I was alive, but I love you…for so many reasons, many more than are listed in the paragraphs above. I hope we climbed a shit-ton of hard routes together. Hell, I hope you never get a chance to read this. But if you do…I love you, bro. Live long and climb the fuck on.

Technicolor

There’s not much I would add to this entry. It’s one of the most concise explanations I’ve ever managed to pen for why I climb.

2026 on May 7, 2014 

I am feeling fucking strong and confident. One more week of this before I get on a plane to throw my best against a cold, icy, menacing route that cares little about my times on the bike or the number and intensity of my circuits. Mount Stuart has only to loose a single rock, open up one icy crevasse, or let slide one wet, cement-like slab avalanche, and my life will be snuffed out like a candle (and with about as much fanfare)…and for this, I love her, for it is only because of these risks, this rolling of the dice, that the endeavor is worth our striving.

Overly dramatic? Some would doubtless say so, and I would agree while sitting here in the safety of my apartment. But on the mountain, everything changes. On the mountain, the danger is palpable, and fear is a living, breathing thing. On the mountain, the grey landscape of existence transforms into the shimmering technicolor of survival. Suddenly, each decision matters, has consequence. All at once, the brain engages and links perfectly and inexplicably with instinct. Each choice on an alpine climb becomes, at some level, a matter of life and death. We roll the dice over and over, each time knowing that we are gambling more than we should – more than we can really afford to lose. But this…this is why we fucking climb. Not to die, but to risk death in order to feel truly, wonderfully alive.

I pity those who never know this feeling.

Credo

Another archived post…the lack of clear and coherent thoughts referenced in the first paragraph was partially due to an open, half-empty bottle of Jack Daniels sitting on my kitchen table as I wrote. Reading it a few weeks later, though, I was amazed at how clearly and concisely I managed to communicate my heart toward climbing and alpinism.

1830 on May 6, 2014 

I fully intended to try to puzzle on paper about climbing grades and ratings, better climbers, harder routes, and my strange and somewhat disgusting, immature loathing of every climber who is better, faster, stronger, or gifted with more opportunity than me. But now that I sit here with time, privacy, and plenty of blank paper, the puzzle pieces no longer seem to fit together with the same ease they did just hours earlier.

If accumulated history is any indicator, even the hardest, most cutting-edge routes of today will eventually become tomorrow’s warm-up climbs, beaten into submission with superior fitness, techniques, tactics, or technological advantage. In one way, this strikes me as sad – depressing even, in a nostalgic sense. Of course, I recognize this as an inevitability in such a rapidly-evolving sport. It also certainly has its advantages; cams, modern ice tools and crampons, and woven nylon ropes have been integral and essential components in some of the experiences of my greatest joy and self-discovery.

If, however, once accepts the unstoppable consequences of such rapid evolution as fact, then the logical progression of thought journeys down a somewhat fatalistic highway until one arrives at the conclusion that climbing can only ever be fully enjoyed when viewed and truly accepted as the following:

  • An anarchical endeavor, where no man has the right to impose laws, boundaries, or ethics on another so long as the first does not engage in behavior that would hinder, impede, or in any way be detrimental to the experience of those who will come after him.
  • A purely selfish pursuit, where the sole purpose is self-satisfaction and personal evolution. Sadly, a spirit of competition and egotism, so intrinsic to human beings, can be justified under this point. Such petty emotions do have their place in accelerating progress and standards; the purist, however, is able to (largely) overcome or at least circumvent these childish notions with a proper sense of perspective.
  • A past-time that is really no better or worse than any other, except in the hearts and souls of those who hear and answer the siren’s call, knowing that only the vertical realm holds the antidote to the poison of this horizontal landscape in which we live.

To a non-climber, or maybe (probably) to everyone except a very tiny minority, the words above represent nothing more than a cryptic waste of ink. Meaningless drivel about a selfish, dangerous past-time. To me though, those words are the heartbeat pounding in my chest, my very soul and the credo by which I strive to exist. It doesn’t fucking matter that most people will never truly understand it; in some ways, it makes it so much better.

Redemption

Another archive journal entry. I struggled immensely with motivation and self-discipline in first two months after the divorce was finalized; this post reflects a common theme during those months.

2015 on May 5, 2014 

As promised, more writing today…just not more good stuff. If I am being honest, I used muscle soreness from Saturday and Sunday and the self-made promise of an ass-kicking workout tomorrow to justify being lazy and over-eating today. At least I kept it to decently healthy foods; peanut butter and Surly were the worst offenders tonight. In reality, I have fallen off the wagon of self-discipline much harder, and a legitimate argument could be made for taking a rest day today. The caloric intake was a bit obscene though…

I hate this part of me – this fetid, sickly weakness, full of rationalizations for not bettering myself and quick to console my ego by comparing my mediocre fitness to those with even less discipline. It’s ironic that this weakness in me, this frail, piece-of-shit inner child may very well get me and itself killed in the mountains with it’s too-often-successful attempts to shanghai my attempts at discipline and mastery. The mountains that I love so much are unforgiving. They suffer neither fools nor the weak to pass regularly without consequence.

The beautiful thing about this state of humanity in which I live and breathe and shit is that, barring a night-time encounter with Death, I will wake up tomorrow with another chance at discipline, and an opportunity for redemption (however undeserved).

Carpe Diem, seize the day…

Today I failed in this.

Tomorrow I will succeed.

A good thing

This is one of a few selected “backdated posts” I’m going to post at the beginning of this blog…other than the correction of a few grammatical and spelling errors, I am posting them in their original format even though it’s very tempting to re-write or omit portions of them. I was deeply depressed when I wrote some of them, extremely angry during others, and slightly drunk while penning several of them. Enjoy.

April 29, 2014

“We are using physical effort as a means of self-discovery.” I think those words by Mark Twight (summing up the philosophy of Gym Jones) describe about 50% of my reason for climbing…the personal evolution and development that come through putting one’s self through the physical, mental, and emotional crucibles that are found in the complete package of alpinism. That’s why my psyche immediately bristled when I read on [a respected climber’s] blog that “the whole point of climbing is to stand on top of the mountain.” Really? The hell it is…

The value in these mad, meaningless heaps of rock, snow, and ice is not found in their physical apex – reaching the summit is merely an indication that the really valuable part of the climb is over. Exception to this rule in two radically different cases:

1) When the descent is an unknown, and will be an equal or greater challenge than the climb itself.

2) That the climber made reaching the summit the principle goal of the climb and therefore took the easiest route there, requiring little or none of the transformative experience for which I go to the mountains.

No, the value of these great massifs is found in the process, in the struggle…and in how it changes a man willing to undertake the fight. This is why the common alpinist (if there is such a thing) is no better or worse than any other athlete who continually crucifies themselves with and upon their torture device of choice in the pursuit of personal and spiritual development. We are all of us pitiful beings, so weak and frail in the face of such huge, uncaring masses of stone and ice…and yet in some small way we are beautiful to dash our tiny selves against such obstacles in so futile but noble a pursuit.

Does climbing make me better? Maybe not directly. But it changes me, makes me different. It helps me fight stagnation and sameness, and this cannot be considered anything but a good thing.