Our Adventures and Political Instability

A 19th century depiction of Europe's highpoint, Mount Elbrus.

The recent insurrections in Egypt and Libya changed a lot of people’s travel arrangements and earlier this week, Russia closed off tourism around Mount Elbrus (18,510 ft./5,642 m.) in the Caucasus mountains near Georgia because of increased violence.  Several were attacked, others were killed and bomb plots were discovered. 

Political instability has always endangered our adventures.  Mountaineering accomplishments practically ceased globally during World War II, except for a few rare exceptions.  Nepal’s recent communist insurrection caused some hiccups for the climbers heading in-country, though most were unfazed. 

It upsets me whenever regulations, fees and politics gets in the way of me enjoying wilderness on my terms and schedule.  I realize that’s probably indicative of the selfishness of this era (and I am trying to fix that about me, really.)  But the political dangers are risks that have to be considered.  For instance, when Argentina’s economy deflated several years ago, that nation was on the brink of an even greater crisis.  It was possible, though a lower risk, that we might not have been able to safely camp near El Chalten. 

One’s nationality (and the implied loyalty to a cause that comes with that) is always an issue that needs to be considered; not know what the level of risk is could put a traveler at great risk of succumbing to the violence because the proper precautions were not taken.  American citizens should check the State Department’s website before any international trip (except I never check before visiting our great friends in Canada, who does?)  Other governments provide similar resources on their websites or through their embassies. 

Be careful out there! 

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The AAC: Support for Achievement

If you climb regularly and are already a member of American Alpine Club (AAC), you know the value it brings.  If you don’t climb regularly, you might be tempted to think the US$75 dues are not worth it for you.  Even if you don’t enter the vertical world frequently, your passion for the mountains and the sport will benefit from membership. 

I wanted to join in the late 1990s to join the ranks of its members like Bradford Washburn, Charles Houston, Steve House and others.  But the dues were expensive for me, when I was still a high school student.  Now I am a working professional and a proud member that benefits from the AAC even though I hardly hit the steeps as often as I once did. 

The AAC offers climbers a great deal of support, even if you’re the Suburban Mountaineer in Peaklessburg.  The AAC works to ensure climbers maintain access to climbing sites in conjunction with the Access Fund and will engage in regulatory advocacy; it was quite active in the negotiated rulemaking in Denali National Park regarding climbing fees this past fall. 

The club also has adopted the spirit climbers embrace: Only through adversity and challenge can accomplishment truly be appreciated.  The membership ranks are climbers with the same adventurous spirit.  We may hike and fly fish, work in cubicles or outfitters, be introverts or extroverts, but we share the desire to solve vertical challenges.  And while the name implies alpinism only, today members are boulders, trad climbers, sport climbers, ice climbers and alpinists. 

Enjoying mountaineering from my desk and armchair these days and rarely visiting New England’s hills or the Pacific Northwest’s peaks, I enjoy the access it offers to the Henry S. Hall, Jr. American Alpine Club Library, the online issues of the American Alpine Journal, issues of Accidents in North American Mountaineering,  invitations to climbing community events in my region or across the country, discounts  to huts and lodges, as well as the support the AAC provides to climbers in rescue insurance, conservation efforts (including efforts in Los Glaciares National Park in Patagonia) and grants to the truly adventurous members. 

I enjoy the network a great deal, but the borrowing privileges at the library and access to the AAJ really impresses me.   I considered joining the Friends of the American Alpine Club Library for US$50 in order to borrow books for the Suburban Mountaineer site.  With that I would have had to pay shipping from the library and the return postage.  And I would not have had access to the AAJ back issues available only to members.  The membership dues seemed to be a significant bargain suddenly!  With membership, books are shipped to you as part of your dues; you only pay to return them. 

If you are not a member already, I recommend it.  It might even inspire you. 

Thanks again for visiting.  If you enjoyed this post, and the many others, please follow the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook and Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).

Adventure’s Purpose

Alpinist Willi Unsoeld was a great mountaineer, best known for being among the first Americans to summit Mount Everest and also for the tragic story of losing his daughter, Nanda Devi, on her namesake mountain.  He was also a professor or religion and philosophy (but I’ve heard different explanations of what he actually taught.) 

Here is one quote from Unsoeld that struck a cord with me about hiking and climbing.  I always had this thought whenever I was going back and forth to the Adirondacks in high school and in college.  I think it may be even more resonating now:

” …Why not stay out there in the wilderness the rest of your days? Because that’s not where men are. The final test for me of the legitimacy of the experience is ‘How well does your experience of the sacred in nature enable you to cope more effectively with the problems of mankind when you come back to the city?’”

Thanks again for dropping by.  Remember, you can also follow the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook and Twitter (@SuburbanMtnr).

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