Worth Dying For

Loren simul-soloing on one of the purest alpine climbs I've ever done. We went light, fast, and with a minimum of technology; we truly met the mountain.

Loren simul-soloing on one of the purest alpine climbs I have ever done. We went light, fast, and with a minimum of technology; we truly met the mountain.

I have been called a purist, old-fashioned, and an idealist. Those terms I usually take as a complement if I have any respect at all for the person labeling me. I have also been told that I am stuck in the past, hindering the progress of our sport, and afraid of change. The first is true, the second debatable depending on your definition of our sport, and the third patently false. I have never put a drill bit to rock, and I know for a fact I never will. I usually wear that distinction among my peers quietly, but always with pride.

Mark Twight once wrote an essay about bolting entitled “Barbarians at the Gate.” I first saw it nine years ago, and the proud, angry words resonated strongly with my impressionable young mind. Some primitive, righteous entity was birthed inside me as I worked my way through his discourse, and I felt the nervous thrill of encountering some great pearl of truth. Having not lived the words the way Twight had, I couldn’t grasp the full weight of what he wrote, but the concepts fit together with my desired evolved self like a puzzle piece. I have read it scores of times since, and the idealistic phrases and uncompromising lines are now permanently imprinted on my heart.

Perhaps that obsession with his words is why I now find myself unable to write anything worth reading on the same subject. Anything I pen either sounds like plagiarism or weakness; I’ve torn up or erased several attempts over the last three months. Quitting is not my usual modus operandi, but I am of the opinion that Twight’s words were complete, lacking nothing. Since I’m not interested in producing an inferior product solely for the sake of autonomy, I have posted a link below to his original piece. If you read it carefully, you will understand – although perhaps not agree with – my title for this post.

“Barbarians at the Gate” – by Mark Twight

As a final note…I was texting my brother yesterday, telling him what I had decided to do with this piece. I remarked that Twight had said everything there was to say on the subject of bolting ethics, and in my opinion he had said it perfectly. Matt’s response was thought-provoking:

“…[John] Muir said it all. Twight only needed to say anything because people forgot Muir…you didn’t need climbers to talk about climbing ethics at all until climbers forgot to appreciate the mountains and just treated them as a big gym for their personal use.”

Truer words were never spoken.


3 thoughts on “Worth Dying For

  1. Twight has had a huge effect on me as an alpinist. Glad to see someone else who respects Dr. Doom. Cheers

  2. I completely agree. It was good to read Twight’s article again to reinforce the style of climbing that I pursue—clean and minimalist with respect for nature. Unfortunately, climbers like us are in the minority these days.

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