We are living in the Internet age, and the plutocratic age. Plutocracy wants celebritism to rule the minds. When people feel, think, and live through celebrities, they are ready to do so through plutocrats.
Plutocrats hence push everywhere for the celebration of the unique act, because unicity is what they extoll.
And no act is more unique, and useful, to plutocrats than those which say life is not important.
[I was told, Oct. 2015, that this is actually Dan Osman, see comment; Dan was also, and more than John, living off stunts; he died jumping off Leaning Tower, close to where the pic above was taken, when his rope broke.]
Hence it is no wonder that the New York Times wrote a long article on a solo climber (I have known the author, Dan Duane, a friend, for decades, but, as one will see below, this does not make me blind, or, otherwise said, it’s dangerous to be my friend…I have been pitiless with my friend Barack, trying to set him right about non-battlefield usage of drones, in no uncertain terms…).
In The Heart-Stopping Climbs of Alex Honnold, we read that the master of climbing without ropes spends his life cheating death (By Daniel Duane, March 12, 2015).
“Honnold could afford to buy a decent home, if that interested him. But living in a van — a custom-outfitted van, in his case, with a kitchenette and cabinets full of energy bars and climbing equipment — represents freedom. It also represents a commitment to the nomadic climber’s ideal of the “dirtbag,” the purist so devoted to climbing that he avoids any entanglement that might interfere… When he’s not climbing overseas in places like Patagonia, France or Morocco, he lives an endless road trip through the Southwestern desert, Yosemite Valley, British Columbia and points between. Along the way, he has turned himself into the greatest living free-soloist, meaning that he climbs without ropes, alone.
Unroped climbing is, of course, the oldest kind, but ropes and hardware can provide such a reliable safety net that nearly all climbers now use them. This is typically done in pairs, with one climber tied to each end of the rope…”
What happens then is that, if one climber falls, but the rope has been put around prominences, or through safety equipment that the lead climber may have installed (“nuts” or camming device, or ice screw) or found (bolts or pins), then, hopefully, the rope will not break, and the fall not be so long that death or injury will occur.
Sometimes, everything fail, and both climbers fall to death (although this is rarer on harder rock walls). Sometimes the rope fails, sometimes some pieces fall out, and the tumbling leader is gravely injured and the other climber has to go alone for rescue (something that happened to me).
“But using gear slows progress. A roped pair, taking turns climbing and fussing with all that equipment, might spend six hours on a climb that a free-soloist floats up in 30 minutes — focusing purely on the pleasure of movement, the tactile sensation of hands on rock. Free-soloing also carries the mystique of self-reliance in the face of extreme risk: On cliffs where even elite climbers employ complicated rope systems, the free-soloist wears only shorts, a T-shirt, a pair of climbing shoes and a bag of gymnast’s chalk to keep the hands dry. Honnold has free-soloed the longest, most challenging climbs ever, including the 2,500-foot northwest face of Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, where some of the handholds are so small that no average climber could cling for an instant, roped or otherwise. Most peculiar of all, even to elite rock climbers, Honnold does this without apparent fear, as if falling were not possible.” “Peculiar” is the word. Some people have defects in their agmydala. Or they just have no culture: the most famous soloists died, soloing.
I sent the following comment:
If everybody tried to live like him, nobody would.
That’s the problem.
It’s not a morality, it’s a lethality.
I have climbed my entire life. Much more years that the gentleman. However, there were many close calls. Some from avalanches, including rock avalanches. My closest friends died in the mountain. They were top professionals of climbing, having achieved the highest guiding status in existence. Higher than Mr. Honnold. And one of them soloed at a higher level (he died from an avalanche).
This last friend, Damien Charignon, kept most of his 5-13+ soloing secret. Not to worry his family. And he knew it was amoral. So he did not do it much. I tried to discourage him as much as I could. Because soloing is amoral.
All serious mountaineers have to solo at one point or another. Soloing is not really a choice.
But it should stay an exception. Flaunting it will just bring more death. I have on sighted, roped, including in Yosemite, pitches where famous soloists fell off. And I did not fall (although I was much less of a climber than them).
So what to say? Those with a moral soul will not flaunt soloing. Doing so leads other young, impressionable people to try it, and they would surely die. This has happened many times in the past.
A devil may care attitude is not exactly something to encourage for humanity at large nowadays. There is already much too much of it… Under the sponsoring of corporations determined to instill in all the feeling of playing around with life.
Another example: a French “reality show” called, appropriately enough, “Dropped”.
Ten people died, most of them French, including three celebrities, last week in Argentina, when their helicopters collided.
Some will whine that I am unfair.
Not so. The Argentinian pilots were experienced, the French crafts brand new. The cause of death was clear: even experienced pilots are not trained for formation flying, something very special, and that the military trains for specially. Especially with helicopters, which can rob, each other air, so to speak. “Reality TV” shows love formation flying, and they don’t worry so much human life: celebritism is more important.