Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Extreme sports - mountain climbing

I am obsessed with mountain climbing. Not actually doing it, of course, but reading about it and watching it and learning about it and trying to figure out what it is that drives a man or woman to the tops of the world, usually over and over again.

In general, I've enjoyed various accounts of climbers in Alaska, the Colorado Rockies, the Andes, and K2, but in particular, I am obsessed with Mount Everest. I can't even explain it, but as an avid reader, I have pretty much put aside any kind of fiction to devour everything I can get my hands on about Mount Everest (usually first person accounts by those who have climbed it). I would say in the past 3 or 4 years my collection has grown from 0 to maybe 10 or so.

I think it's because in part, I admire these men and women who have the drive, ambition, and talent to overcome so many obstacles to climb these mountains. But mostly I think it's because I still can't wrap my head around the fact that they sacrifice their savings, their families, and in many cases their lives chasing these dreams. Is it bravery or is it stupidity? I don't think I've decided yet.

Other aspects that intrigue me: true mountaineering vs. tourism mountaineering; the irresponsibility of many people allowing others (or themselves) to climb mountains like Everest without the necessary knowledge or skills; how the extreme nature of climbing mountains like Everest brings out,especially in times of disaster, the selfish and animalistic parts of human nature, but also the heroic and self-sacrificing aspects. The 1996 Everest disaster and the 2006 death of David Sharp and rescue of Lincoln Hall in particular really make me think about these things.

The first three books I read on mountain climbing and still my favorites are: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston; Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. Recommend them to anyone. Well written and really make my emotions dance between lamenting the stupidity and being overwhelmed by the bravery and triumph of the human will.

My interest is not just limited to books about mountain climbing - have also enjoyed the Imax movie Everest and Discovery Channel's Everest series Beyond the Limit.

Sometimes people who know about this weird obsession of mine ask me when I plan to climb Mount Everest - pretty much never. I would definitely be one of those people who died. I walk into walls and trip over my feet and have mental blocks at sea level...but I would like to trek to Everest Base Camp someday, just to see it once in person.

My personal mountaineering hero: Ed Viesturs. Look him up!

No comments:

Post a Comment