"When I get sad, I just stop being sad and be awesome instead. True story." - How I Met Your Mother


Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Change Of Perspective

Over vacation I re-read the book "Into Thin Air" by John Krakauer.  It is a personal account that chronicles a disastrous expedition to climb Mt. Everest in 1996.  I can remember being in Canada when this book was released and seeing an IMax film about a seperate expedition to climb Everest which happened to be on the mountain at the same time as John Krakauer.  Although the filming of the documentary was a seperate effort, the events that occurred during John's climb effected the IMax expedition and the tale ended up being weaved into the film as a consequence.  The documentary motivated me to read Krakauer's novel the first time back in 1998 when I was 13 years old.  Thereafter I became extremely fascinated with rock & ice climbing, and mountaineering, but had not had the opportunity to try the sport until much more recently.

Last year I learned how to rock climb (and also experienced real fear for one of the first times in my life).
I also learned how to ice climb while visiting Alaska.

Then finally, I completed my first summit attempt on Mt. Adams.  Nothing too spectacular, just a little 12,281 ft climb of limited technical difficulty, but it gave me a nice taste of what the sport of mountaineering is all about.

I was on such a high after that climb that I started to get all sorts of delusional thoughts about becoming a bad-ass, mountain climbing chick and conquering summits all over the world.  I came up with a plan: I would start training by gaining experience on the close by peaks of Mt. Hood,

Mt. Baker,

and lastly Mt. Rainier

Then I would go visit the fiance' up in Alaska and together we would tackle Denali (ignoring the fact that I am quite sure he has no interest in high-altitude climbing, but minor detail).

Hopefully we would even get to travel the world and climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa, and perhaps some other less challenging (and expensive) than Everest or K2, Himilayan Peaks.  And maybe, eventually one day we would get to visit Everest.

But before I could even initiate phase 1 of the plan (conquer local Washington peaks) we got reassigned to Qatar.  A country that is 100% flat, and sandy, and basically like a barren hell hole.  But, alas, I am a dreamer and I still harbored the hope that I could accomplish the impossible.  I started thinking, "Maybe I would try to climb some peaks in Europe and heck, Africa is even closer now, and so are Pakistan and Nepal!"  My skiing trip to Austria this past March only fueled the fire as the future hubs and I spent an entire week admiring the glory of the Alps.  So when I came home for vacation and spied the dusty "Into Thin Air" book sitting on the shelf in my old bedroom, I grabbed it and began reading with a renewed fervor.


I must have not "really" read this book when I was 13 or understood what I was reading at the time.  Seriously, did I miss the whole part where basically everyone on the expedition died a horrible death alone and lost on the mountain or from illnesses related to altitude, or at a minimum was left disfigured from frostbite??  Because if anything, "Into Thin Air" will turn you off of climbing and make you clearly understand the repercussions of doing anything at high altitude.  At about 24,000 ft your body starts to literally deteorate and eat itself just from the air and cold alone.  Not to mention the million other physical danagers of unstable glacial ice, avalanches, storms, etc. 


Yeah, I no longer have any desire to climb the Himilayan Greats (although I still would be interested in hiking up to Base Camp at Everest) and my thrist for Denali has also been somewhat quenched.  But I still have a bit of a lingering desire to climb some smaller, less dangerous summits and Mt. Kilimanjaro.  

It is shocking just how much your perspective can change with age.  Climbing Mt. Everest seems to be a whole lot of hassle and they say when you get to the top you are so tired and oxygen deprived that you cannot even really feel happiness or relief that you made it. Not worth it in my opinion.  (Note: I am still very much intrigued by the subject (aka a sick fascination) of high altitude climbing and have since bought a few more books on the subject.)  At any rate, the future hubs will be very excited that I just saved us over $130,000 (65K/person) by deciding that I do not want to climb Mt. Everest (yes, it costs THAT much just to try to climb it).  Maybe I can buy some shoes and a Kindle with all the money I just saved us!


  1. haha, you're too funny.. i love the realization, "basically everyone on the expedition died a horrible death alone and lost on the mountain or from illnesses related to altitude, or at a minimum was left disfigured from frostbite??" and we both know, being disfigured from frostbite would mean a LOT less Kindle-ing and a LOT less wearing of cute shoes.

    Hubs and I had those same dreams.. Hubs was (is) actually the avid climber- he taught me to climb during college and i fell in love with it. we used to boulder all the time (well, not so much now that im growing a fetus) in a local state park back when we lived in PA.. LOVE the sport.

    but.. talk about hardcore. "Into Thin Air" and the movie "K2" really put things into perspective! Hubs wants to put a rock face in our basement when we refinish. now THAT'S awesome..(err, a major design faux-pa, but whatever, right?).

  2. If you put a rock face in your basement I am totally crashing house and coming over. ;-) Haha. No, seriously.

  3. You should read 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson. At first it's about his stories of climbing K2, but then turns to the fact that there are no schools near villages he climbs. It goes into getting funding and help from mountain climbing community, and tensions in Pakistan/Afghanistan with the military etc. It's not a light read, but it's really good :)