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.