Mountain rant revisited

There is something beautiful in a mountain existing, reaching for the sky and standing as solid as anything can stand. There is an appeal to those heights, and some are fascinated enough to try to reach them. There is the triumph of a skilled, hard working mountaineer reaching the top of one of the world’s great peaks — this should, considering the number of serious high-altitude climbers in the world, be a rare occurrence. There is also the real risk that a climber that has overestimated himself or his partners or that has failed to recognize the unattainability of the route or peak will die on its slopes.

Everest belongs somewhere, perhaps but not necessarily, even, on a list of significant climbs by a significant climber, not on the resume of high-paying amateur. Everest and other prestigious mountains should be climbed by those respectful of the mountain and, as much as is possible with such a mountain, worthy of it, not by someone who thinks of it as the ultimate challenge to enliven their boring life as a salesman, banker, CEO, teacher or factory worker.

If you don’t believe me — if you are thinking maybe you’d try it someday if you could find the money and get yourself into good enough physical shape to satisfy a guide — read about what the experience does to people who save $30,000 and put it in the hands of a guide they believe will drag them to the top, one way or another. Read about the effect of summit fever on those involved in the 1996 disaster as detailed in Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Know what caliber of person is attracted to the lawless, wealthy expanse of camps on both sides of the mountain.

Then, grab a backpack, the right equipment and some training, and choose your own adventure on one of the millions of miles of trail, hundreds of thousands of campsites and thousands of nameless and distinctly non-famous peaks, valleys, walls and pillars found the world over. Because I am tired of hearing about how you rocked out the big one — or died trying to be the 38th person in one week to top it.

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