High Altitude Mountaineering Quote of the Week

On my Amazon Christmas wish list, I had the following listed:



The other side of Everest, by Matt Dickinson, set in the 1996 climbing season - the disastrous one that made Krakauer and Brashears famous. Unknown to most people, the storm also fatally affected the North Side.

From base camp on the North Side of Everest, Dickinson directed a video shoot for British TV of British Climber/Actor Brian Blessed, who previously was filmed by David Brashears on Everest.

Anyway, commenting on the conversations among old pros at base camp, Matt says:

"...spent long hours swapping news of who had climbed what, by which route, and who had died since they last met.
...these high-altitude mountaineers discuss avalanches, falls, and ferocious storms in the same matter-of-fact way that normal mortals discuss the football results. A death here. A camp obliterated there. Fatalities are reported with the same sense of inevitability that casualties are reported from the front line of a war, the news digested with the barest nod of the head, or a raised eyebrow.
Inside they must be wondering when their turn will come."


I was reading that and thinking of all the people I've talked to about climbing high, on glaciers, in ice and snow and mist and crappy rock. Most look at me like I'm either a hero or insane or both. I do something they may dream about but not realize what it really means.

I tell them about falling into several crevasses, and how it's not a big deal. About trusting your rope mates, or if you are solo, yourself and destiny. About climbing something in the dark, then seeing it in daylight and being surprised you are alive. Hearing some people describe the same route you "just walked up" with terror shaking their voice. About lightning buzzing in the air, and cracking a rock into gravel not 50 meters from your feet. About the mist lifting and seeing 200 meters down a crumbling, overhanging slope just a meter to your side. About a man dieing 150 meters from you in seracs on a Cascade peak.

Some get a little glow of adventure lighting their eyes, but then spouse, job, children work their way to the front of their vision and the glow dims, perhaps lit at night in dreams in a quiet spot where no one else can see their secret wish.