Did you see the New York Times piece by Thomas Easley of the AP titled “Elation and Heartbreak on the World’s Highest Peaks”? If you haven’t, don’t bother looking it up. It’s not worth the irritation if you are passionate about mountain climbing the way I am.
To me, the bottom line was Easely asking whether our sport is too dangerous and ought to be outlawed or at least regulated. The same question was asked publically in 1865 when four fell to their deaths after summiting the Matterhorn! So expect that we’ll be dealing with this question of whether society should permit people to take such risks at all, or to what extent, as long as we as a species climb… sky dive… or do anything someone else might consider dangerous.
Now with that out of the way…
I had a donut and red wine extravaganza for Fathers Day this past weekend. I didn’t do much reading — one of my favorite activities whenever I have down time — but there wasn’t any down time. Still, I took an inventory of the books and magazines laying around my home — literally laying around my home. So I thought I’d update you on what I’m reading now and why:
I picked up Freedom Climbers by Bernadette McDonald (2011) about a month ago at long last! It’s a terrific story of the Poles climbing exploits while held under Soviet control. I’m reading it because it’s won several awards, including the 2011 Banff Mountain Book Competition and the American Alpine Club Literary Award this past March. I’m also reading it because I am half Polish on my mother’s side. While my grandparents immigrated to the United States in the 1920s when they were children, it was hard to ignore what was happening in Poland in the 1980s when I was just a young kid growing up. I never understood why, but this book sheds some light on it for me. As an aside, it also shows how climbing matters to us as human beings and why Easley is missing the point!
I’m also reading John Long’s story of the rise of real rock climbing in the United States: Rock Jocks, Wall Rats and Hang Dogs (1994). The first climbing book I ever bought and read was by Long and was his how-to guide on face climbing. It was a fantastic book that opened the dispelled the myth of magic equipment and illuminated the importance of technique! Edelweiss gave this to me, along with several other books by Long, for Christmas one year. I’m reading it now to help close my knowledge gap on rock climbing.
Yes, unfortunately I am still trying to finish Alpinist 38. Editor Katie Ives said she was editing photo captions for 39 over the weekend (with the help of lattes,) so I have to hurry up and finish. This is only magazine I literally read cover-to-cover. The best piece in 38 was Jerry Auld’s tribute to the long ice axe (mainly since that is my antiquated tool of choice.) However, the Mountain Profile — a part II — on K2 has been bogging me down in the most pleasant way. Mainly, I just haven’t wanted to rush.
Eric Hörst said alpinism is closely related to big wall climbing. I’ve known that
in terms of the scope and size of the challenge are comparable, however, but I hadn’t thought of looking at alpine climbing through of prism of lessons from the big walls. So I scanned through some of my old issues of Climbing and pulled Issue No. 289 October 2010. On the cover is Tommy Caldwell and attempting the Dawn Wall on El Capitan. I don’t know that I have gleaned anything directly, but the logistics and intimidation factor of an aid climb like this, well, excite me.
I’m going rock climbing at the gym this weekend with my friend Chris so I took Rock Climbing: Mastering Basic Skills by Craig Luebben (2004) off my shelves. I thought I might refresh my memory on a few knots but I’ve barely looked at it. I’ve been too busy with other things and when it comes to reading, there are just more exciting stories to read… like the ones I just mentioned!
So I hope that was time better spent than reading Easley’s NYT’s piece. Remember, if you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter. Happy reading and carpe climb ‘em!