Posts Tagged ‘Climbing’

Sapiens, Master Of The Universe, Best When Mountains Fall

May 14, 2021

Climbing Is About Nothing And Everything, Just As Life Itself, Or Climbing can be viewed as an adventure in mastery between oneself and fate. 

Climbing, well done, is experiencing an entire life, in one, or a few days. Climbing, well done, does not murder the emotional lives of those who love us, by killing whom they love. Any climber of some experience had close calls. Reinhold Mesner, the first to climb all 14 8000 meter peaks, had many close calls (for example falling inside a crevice on Everest while completely alone). He climbed them without oxygen. Sometimes by new routes (Broad Peak, Annapurna, Everest), sometimes solo, even making probably what is, to this day, the only real solo climb of Everest without assistance whatsoever (it was August, during the warm and wet monsoon, nobody else was on the mountain besides a photographer girlfriend in base camp). 

Mesner was lucky: he made much of his own luck, sometimes (Nanga Parbat) waiting patiently for a slope to avalanche away before climbing it when it had been scoured clean. He knows luck was on his side, he wrote about it. 

Some love to compare today’s exploits with those of the past. In the past the equipment was not what it has become, and not what it will be some day. One can’t compare yesterday’s achievements with today’s, or tomorrow. A few months ago, in the solo sailboat race around the world, a rogue wave broke the boat of a famous sailor in two, in the middle of the southern ocean, far from any shore. He had the time to inform a satellite of what had happened, and got into a rescue device. The race center in France was then able to vector several other competitors to the area. With more electronic and human feat, the sailor in his shelter was localized and recovered by a competitor who then transferred him to a French warship. 

All the part delimited by the white line avalanched off 2006. A few years earlier, my partner and I, leading across a giant ice gully, a hundred meters below point C, below the picture. That’s when and where the huge rock avalanche struck, at the worst possible moment. It hit the ropes, when I was twenty meters out of a very bad belay (it was bad, because there was nothing else and I had set it up myself. It is extremely rare that I could not make a belay good by wedging various devices in cracks… Then, having miraculously survived the rockfall, I went straight up, a bit right of the Bonatti Pillar route, and more on the pillar than Bonatti. I had cams, which Europeans did not have at the time, so I could protect cracks, and also crack practice, from Yosemite… Amusingly the near death below propelled me to great heights (generally I am a very cautious climber… but not that day… because of the hubris effect I describe below…)

Someday, maybe everybody will be climbing solo with anti-gravity devices… Or some other way to prevent falls…

In the mountains what we are, and what nature is, is revealed. Including morally. 

Climbing can also be an adventure between oneself and companions who keep us alive. In any case, climbing, optimally done, should be about life. However, some went to the mountains as an alternative to suicide… As when Bonatti climbed the south west pillar of the Dru. 

I made a first ascent of a route on this one, after getting nearly killed partway up it, in a massive rock avalanche caused by the greenhouse heating most severe in the mountains and polar regions [1]. I was climbing extremely well that day, because I had just died, I could not believe I was still perhaps alive, and my miraculous survival made me believe God, or the effective equivalent of God) was on my side (or something like that). I took more risks that day than I ever had lead climbing. I would make enormous runouts, ignoring my bleeding arms. Pulled off the mountain by the avalanche, I had succeeded to wedge myself in a rock ice chimney as I fell into the half a mile high ice gully below. It was the most unlikely piece of mountain luck/exploit I had ever heard about. To this day, I can’t believe what happened.

Not that I could gloat about my route. There were other collapses in the same area. A few years after this astounding success, the entire part of this mountain collapsed (the entire Bonatti pillar). 

Avalanches teach in mysterious ways. There was justice in all this: the mountain does not matter, the exploit doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing better this life we are lucky to have. We climb the mountains to get to know ourselves better. Another gift is that we show fate, that we too can play with, and master, the universe, as if there were values greater than life itself.

It is not that we are control freaks, it is that, sometimes, we human brains need to express ourselves fully the way we are: masters of our own fates, awed by none, imposing our own values to all and sundry [2]. 

And did I learn something directly from my quasi-death on the Drus? Yes, I learned how (much of) the hubris mechanism works. When one looks at history on the largest scale, one often sees leaders taking crazy, very dangerous decisions, as if they were invincible gods. Stalin and Hitler are examples, but also Castro, Che Guevara, the Khmer Rouge, or various juntas all over, Maduro, numerous fundamentalist religious groups, Saddam Hussein, etc. Many of these leaders have this in common: they were nearly killed at some point prior. But they survived. Yet, as survivors, they probably felt like cats with many lives. Lethal risk taking is habit forming, and a drug.  

It is not just that those who nearly died think they can get away with it one more time, or that the life they are presently enjoying is an after death experience. It is also that human neurology is made to take lethal risks, and fully expresses itself only when it does.

And this has a very practical consequence that strategists should keep in mind, when they ponder the possibility of war on a small planet.

War is not just the continuation of politics by other means, it is the continuation of domineering metaphysics by other means.    

Patrice Ayme

***

[1] Why more heating in glaciated mountains and regions? Because as the ice and snow decreases, the heat augments in the summer months, gets stored, released in winter, while the heating effect is augmented considerably by albedo decrease (if Greenland had no ice right now, it would not grow back). 

Tall mountains above the permafrost are cathedrals of ice. As the ice enters a cycle of thaw and freeze, not being permanently ice-strong all the time anymore, the cracks are continually pried ever more open, and the rock fails. The specialist Ludovic Ravanel, high Mountain Guide, Hut Guardian, and geomorphology researcher at CNRS says:

From 1855 until 1950, the situation stayed stable. Then in the second half of the XXth century the rock falls continually increased. During the two decades of 1990 and 2000, the warmest, “they exploded in frequency and volume”.

“The falls occur during the warmest periods or at the end of them”. 

“The permafrost is the triggering factor”. 

“The global warming +2 degrees Celsius in Chamonix since 1936 will increase the phenomenon”. 

“Most probably rock falls high in our mountains will occur more frequently and be bigger according to the increase of temperatures, even during the colder seasons”.

***

[2] All and sundry: This phrase dates from the 1300s and meant ‘one and all’, in the sense of both collectively and individually. The word ‘sundry‘ derives from the Old English syndrig, meaning ‘separate, exceptional or special’.

War And Climbing Are Tales Of All Passions

April 19, 2021

We Climb Therefore We Are?

Climbing is the tale of all passions. Where the essence is reached. The top of the world is littered with corpses. Littered with ambition and selfishness too, not just selfless heroism. Mountains bring out the extremes. The extremes of humanity: life, death, what human beings consider reasonable behavior… which, in many cases, turns out to not be reasonable at all. Climbing teaches life, and how human values can dominate it.

So a question mountains always bring is how come reason vanishes up there, and how come do human beings persist in taking enormous risks, just because they can and it brings fame. Mountains bring new Achilles ready to kill to achieve fame, and the one they kill is not named Hector, nor for exacting revenge, but it is themselves they kill, and for flimsier reasons.

Nevado Chacraraju at sunrise from Chopicalqui camp. Cordillera Blanca, Peru. America del Sur.

It has always been true that climbing mountains is a great way to find out about human nature. Nature does not care about humanity. Humanity is here to give nature a soul. That soul, that human soul, is the most astounding object in the universe. It is the very fact that lives are at stake, that life is in the balance, for no good reason, which makes climbing irresistible. Gods used to live among the mountains. By entering the peaks, though, and rolling the dice with life itself, human beings make themselves into gods, telling the universe that life and death, and all human passions are just what they play with, and roll around like dice.

This doomsplay makes climbing divine. In one day, one hour, one second, entire lives are lived and universes born and created.

The dirty and not so little secret about humanity is that it is all about creating and destroying. And sometimes, having life in the way is the best way to be alive.

Si vis pacem, para bellum“, the Romans used to say. If you want peace, prepare for war. But preparing for war does not mean just having bigger and better weaponry. It also means to have bigger and better psychology, it means to understand the enemy. It means to understand that the enemy’s psychology is no less than the climbing psychology: it is not because the odds of surviving are low that the feat shall not be attempted. Actually, it is the other way around. It may well be, with some characters (say Xi, China’s dictator) that, the lower the odds of surviving, the more tempting the adventure.

It is important to understand that war, like climbing, is attractive for reasons pertaining to the very inconveniences it fosters, discomfort, pain, fear, and death. When Japan and Nazi Germany went to war, the odds that they would win were extremely low (they both got very lucky initially). But the very fact that the odds were low made the wars they started, more attractive, as, the more deadly and frightening the mountain, the more tempting it is to scale it.

War is not just entertained as politics by other means, but, just like mountain climbing, is as the very root of what it means for human beings to be alive in full… even if that means disdain for life itself… precisely because it means disdain for life.

Patrice Ayme

***

P/S 1: An implicit background to all this philosophy is that our ancestors were climbers, and carnivores, at least for 100 million years. Climbing… and fighting… come to us more naturally than walking on two legs. They are more part of our creation-given logic.

***

P/S 2: Some of the (mildest) core of this essay was sent to the New York Times as a comment on an article of Mallory and Irvine (who came very close to Everest’s summit in 1924). My comment was blocked. I mention this, because it shows how much the plutocratic newspaper worries about molding its readership’s mind. The same day another comment of mine on “Cancel Culture” was also blocked. Ezra Klein, from Vox and now the NYT, argued that “Cancel Culture” was just legal maneuvering by corporate America. I added that “Cancel Culture” was the oldest thing in English American culture: after all, the Native Americans were “cancelled”. Well, the NYT cancelled that comment… Climbing may not be everywhere, but fighting is…

Why Climb? To Study Life In Full!

September 17, 2020

I have climbed a lot, for decades, from the age of 6. Each climb is a life, with its potential death attached. It doesn’t matter how easy: the easier climbs kill more, because there are more of them, and one’s guard is down, because they are easy. Also easier climbs are harder to protect, because the hardest climbs would not go without some protection. 

Never let the guard down, expect danger from the expected and unexpected, try to keep a safety margin because sometimes it will erode or disappear, all of a sudden. Some deranged feminists working for The Man, have argued that climbing was “toxic masculinity” . As we will show, all that they are promoting is toxic weakness and lethargic non-examination.

Girls do it as well… The lady is climbing solo, no rope. One mistake, death. Any serious mountain climber ends up climbing solo, because sometimes having a rope is too much of a drag, or pointless (no anchors), or too time consuming (I have climbed down entire quasi-vertical mountains fast, solo, because doing it with a rope would have been ten times slower and thus increase the danger ten times…)

Climbing teaches to master one’s hubris. It forces the otherwise arrogant, uninformed human mind to listen to the universe, to take instructions from it, to become one with the universe. 

Why climb? Why live? Each climb, well done, should feel like a life… because it’s a life. But mostly it reveals unknown powers. Ours, and those of the universe…

Once I was torn off a mountain by an enormous rock avalanche, the largest I have ever seen: my double ropes had been hit by rocks… Also I was running a one hundred meters wide ice gully… in rock climbing shoes, not proper ice equipment, and the belay was horrendously bad. I  faced certain death: the ice gully below, the most notorious in the Chamonix area, is a mile high… I remember the event, it was as if it happened three seconds ago, although it was three decades… Miraculously, I was able to wedge myself between an ice wall and a rockwall along the side of the gully… and stopped! At the time I was an excellent Yosemite chimney climber… After this I stopped mountain climbing proper for years. But the fact remains that I discovered my brain could mobilize absolutely superhuman strength. When I remember exactly what happened, if someone else than myself described it, I would not believe it. 

The original superstar solo female super climber was the Algerian born French climber Catherine Destivelle (she is now in her sixties), who climbed all over the world, at the highest level. She nearly died falling off a peak she had just made the first ascent of… while taking a victory photograph, she went backwards too much, and fell off until the end of the rope to her partner… in icy, lonely Antarctica (self-rescue was more than problematic). Another time she got broken up falling in a rimaye, a Bergschrund, in Chamonix. Somehow she stopped on her way to oblivion.

So I learned something from what should have been my end, I could never have learned in books, because I don’t believe in superstitious religions: sometimes the thoroughly impossible happens. For a hard core rationalist such as yours truly, this is an astounding lesson, nearly as astounding as the miracle of life itself.  

The entire pillar next to the gully, the Bonatti Pillar, on which I made a first ascent, later entirely collapsed.

Many more lessons can be learned from climbing, or activities similar to it: mountain running, which I still practice between smothering smoke clouds, requires similar neurology. In mountain running one of the dangers is to trip and head head first towards a rock, or off a cliff, it happened to me more than once… although emergency reflexes saved me with fractions of seconds to spare… In general, whereas danger in climbing can appear in seconds, in mountain running, it can appear in hundredths of a second, and one needs to think with one’s body much faster than in climbing. 

What are older folks going to do? Well one can climb into very old age, and of course the best climbers are the oldest, as climbing is a survival school. And to replace mountain running, there is always hiking. There is actually a rule among professional mountain runners: if you can’t see the top of a rise, you walk (high angle running is less efficient an walking).

I have argued earlier that climbing makes us into gods. The picture accompanying the essay is of Ueli Steck, a Swiss climber who died, soloing up a similar face, in a similar way: he fell off, maybe because of wind slab, on Nuptse, the mountain facing Everest. At least climbing sure makes us feel that way, like gods, when done maximally. We need divine powers, to muster all we need to resist gravity. Even time loses meaning, for example, in solo climbing: we become a force that goes, beyond smarts, a second can feel like a lifetime. Each climb is an occasion of contemplating life in its entirety.

We, and the universe. To be human beings in full, we need to be reminded all the time of the following: we are at our best, when we are one with the universe. Be it from a relationship with a pet, or from enjoying a landscape, or experiencing a wilderness, nothing replaces reality, and especially not virtual reality.

In the case of climbing, becoming one with the universe is a requirement, because death is the alternative poor execution leads to. Other dangerous sports such as sailing, diving, surfing, require this mind meld with the universe too. Being one with the universe forces our wisdom to work, and to learn, in the most exacting circumstances, that of the universe in full…

Socrates opinionated that the unexamined life was not worth living. Socrates promoted daily investigation of virtue or morality. However, examining his life in turn, we can see that the philosopher examined himself in battle, and was not found wanting. Socrates killed four enemies in combat. He also saved a friend during a dreadful retreat, and fought rear guard actions, to great risk for his own life after the Athenian army had been defeated.

These are extreme circumstances. Extreme circumstances enable us to see until the ends of what we really want, meant, and are. Combat is indeed helpful to find out about ourselves and the universe, it reveals lesser minds, and raise others above their own existences. Examining life is important, but the important examinations go to uncomfortable depths and have a hefty price.

So what is the most important? Gathering more wisdom, or denying a deeper grasp on reality? As usual, the devil is in the details of the consequences of whatever we do.

But, ultimately, even the most placid love depends upon enough wisdom to experience it, and project it. We are not called “Homo Sapiens” for no reason. The deepest reason is that even our roughest emotions should be wise, and they become wise because they are informed and have been examined

Patrice Ayme

 

Why To Climb? Because It’s a Life Which Makes Us Gods

May 8, 2017

Climbing is hard, and it’s a life. That’s why it’s there. But it’s a there we climbers chose, not one we just submit to. Normal life, the life common people live through,  is something we have to submit to. Climbing life, and the potentiality of the death it is attached to, we chose.

God While You Last. South Face of Annapurna, Ueli Steck, Solo. He carries a rope, and a friend is taking the Picture… but he is not ON the rope. Why so? It is often safer to solo steep slopes where one cannot the slightest mistake in the mountains, with the objective of going faster over dangerous terrain. I soloed faces nearly that big, up, and down, in the name of… safety! After nearly dying in two pesky avalanches, I have encouraged myself to undertake less adventurous climbing…

Climbing is a chosen life-universe. This is why, deep down inside, more than for simple bragging, people pay $65,000 to drag themselves up Everest. They are helped by countless servants, and various technical devices, from gel insulated boots to carbon fiber axes, bottled oxygen, dehydrated foods, bottled methane, fixed ropes, and looming helicopter service and rescue. Still more than 400 climbers have died in the giant horseshoe formed by Chomolungma (Everest), Lhotse-Nuptse horseshoe. Many of them most famous, and the best. My best friend, also at the time the best mountaineer, died not too far from there, when part of a mountain he was doing the first ascent of, broke. Climate change can strike the heart.

The 2017 climbing season in that highest of all horseshoes, was inaugurated by the death of Ueli Steck, 40 years old. At the time he started to careen down that icy abyss, Mr. Steck, a Swiss, was viewed by many as the greatest living mountaineer. One of the many greatest living mountaineers to die within a few miles of there.

All true and genuine breakthrough philosophers are solo climbers, they risk death. And if not death from their contemporaries, they have to create the threat, because menace is the essence of human existence.

Nietzsche was climber, and a solo climber. He would regularly climb Corvatch, a peak which is still glaciated, from the Upper Engadin valley floor, a mile down. I have skied there in summer: a cable car brings the modern faineant up there. When Nietzsche was climbing alone, it was clearly dangerous: no helicopters at the time.

The extremely gifted Ueli Steck fell a full kilometer on Nuptse, a peak on the Western side of the horseshoe-shaped Everest-Lhotse-Nuptse CWM. Steck was apparently within 200 meters of the summit, and had climbed up there, starting at 4:30 am, with astounding speed. The face is very hard, very steep. During such solo climbs, if one slips on an ice lens, or one is hit by a fist size rock from up high, one will fall, and, most probably die (although some have survived falling all the way down the Matterhorn, this sort of feat is rather rare).

Dangerous physical activities such as climbing require full cerebral engagement. Paradoxically, although such tasks look like the less intellectual, they are exactly the opposite, the ones where the intellect is fully engaged in a massive way, which no sedate activity ever brings.

Climbing often requires full neurological mobilization, especially when soloing is involved. This is an important aspect of its charm. It makes one feel fully alive as nothing else does!
This full neurological mobilization is all too often the only way to avoid death.
Once I complained, while climbing, to two female mountain guides in the Alps that so many of my friends died climbing, and they scoffed that, once one reaches 40, many of one’s climbing friends are dead.

Yet, feeling that full neurological power, is feeling divine.

The climber, especially in a desperate situation, especially when falling towards certain death (as happened to me once after being hit by a rock avalanche) has incomprehensible powers. Those powers come from a fully mobilized brain, all neurons firing out commands with superhuman power. It has to be experienced, to be believed.

As part of the Dru spire fell on me, and I therefore thereafter tumbled down an ice chute, I was able to stop myself. However, should anyone else tell me the same story, I would not believe it (being short of believing in God-ordered miracles). Without any question a philosophically stimulating experience.

Climbing is not a game. Or then, it is the game of life. Each Climb is miniature life, but with the climber free to select it, as she, or he, were God. Each climb is an entire life, an entire universe, in miniature. It starts with hope and power. It ends with fatigue, accomplishment. Yet, all along, death can strike said life

Aristotle claimed that man was a political animal. Whatever. In truth, Aristotle was the animal, an animal, a ravenous beast, whose friends, the worst of the worst, fed out of politics, like pigs out of a through. Aristotle didn’t know that Polis, the City, Civilization, was less than 10,000 years old, and humanity, millions of years old. All Aristotle wanted is to foster monarchy, especially when, as was the case, those monarchs (Alexander, Antipater, Craterus, etc.) are family.

Humans are creative, labouring, and this thanks to hard and very deep thinking, the essence of humanity.

The point of life is to survive it. Day to day. We, and who, and what, we love. Such is the engine of human motivation. But “life” itself has to be defined. The discovery of those who seriously climb is that they are the ones who define what life is. In climbing, it’s the climber herself, or himself, who decides what “life” is going to be: climbing this, or that peak, or this, or that route. Climbing with this, or that, companion(s). 

The mountains are there. More exactly, the potential lives they offer are there. They are there for us to pick. If we so decide, as if we were gods. Which we are, in a deep sense, as far as climbing is concerned. We may be the only free agents in the universe, and we are free, because we chose what the universe is. And this is what the climber does. Hence the fascination and importance of climbing, which is found in all civilizations, from South America, to Africa, to China.

We can’t yet reach for the stars, but we can reach for the peaks, and this is what humanity has been about, all along. Going where no stupid animal would ever go. Precisely because their brains are too stupid to make the universe what they want it to be. Climbers make universes as others make pizzas, just because they can, and no other agent in the universe is crazy enough to do so.

Patrice Ayme’

Obama Closes Yosemite

June 20, 2016

OK, only part thereof. Something Europeans miss totally about the USA, is that it is an empire, a military empire, and obeying orders from above is view as the essence of morality. Yes, the Roman army worked exactly like that, for many centuries… Until it did not. This is what gives to the Trump phenomenon an interesting, not to say disquieting, perspective: as Americans view respecting orders from above the essence of morality (as the Prussian pseudo-philosopher Immanuel Kant ordered) one may wonder what will happen with President Donald Trump? Will Americans goose step behind him as they did with G. W. Bush? 

So President Obama shows up in Yosemite, and a gigantic expanse of cliffs is “closed”, a kilometer high, several kilometers across. What fascinated me was the obedient tune many climbers sounded in a climbing site I read. It was as if God had ordered them to do something, and they felt honored. In a place like France, the order would have been so unenforceable, it would not even have been tried. Many individuals would have made a MORAL point of disobeying it.  

This Entire Landscape Is The Area Which Was Closed To Climbing When Obama Visited For Three Days

This Entire Landscape Is The Area Which Was Closed To Climbing When Obama Visited For Three Days

To give the scale, of this piece of the North Rim of Yosemite Valley, the exposed landscape in the picture  is more than 4,000 feet (1,200 meters) high. I have climbed and run all over it, from left to right, and above, and beyond. Differently from Socrates, who engaged in combat during epic battles, I am reduced to meeker pursuits, to get to examine myself.

What is good about being an obedient little fascist, is that one never has to examine oneself: following Immanuel Kant, one can define one’s morality as following orders. And this is exactly what the Nazis dis, and explained to whoever wanted to listen to them. (The jury of Eichmann in Jerusalem was not impressed by Eichmann explaining he had been moral by obeying Kant, and condemned him to hang. The Israelis had learned a few important things in WW II!)

Now this sort of orders given to an American population eager to please its masters, is not an happenstance: it’s training graciously provided by the Deep State, another occasion for Americans, in this case rather young Americans (most climbers don’t make old bones) to obey orders. I sent the following comment, fully expecting racist, tribal, hypernationalistic abuse of the sort which passes for normal in the Anglo-Saxon world this days, regarding France (and I was not disappointed). Yes, philosophy rests on experiments, just like science:  

I love the way Americans take orders, thus showing they are not worthy to lead the world, civilizationally speaking, as they effectively do. This sort of self-humiliation would NEVER work in France. Instead little American sheep take unconstitutional orders with alacrity, pride and total obedience. They should be ashamed of themselves, instead, and the rest of the world should be afraid. Very afraid. Indeed, who is this Obama? An employee of We The People! Wake up, People, instead of just goose stepping proudly in the sunset of the dignity of the human spirit. The meaning and appeal of real climbing is freedom. Taking orders, the exact opposite.

I know perfectly well that the essence of the USA is the military thing: the Indians did not go away nicely. They resisted. The army exterminated them. General Jackson, commander of the US Army decided to attack them, and Congress was too scared to contradict him. Hence the Cherokee “March of Tears”. The famous Tocqueville saw it, in front of his very eyes, but, as this was outside of his philosophical understanding, did not draw any conclusion on the American character, from that experience (I obviously do). Maybe one of the reason Tocqueville is so popular in the United States is, precisely, that he did not draw any conclusion of the holocaust of the Native American over a full quarter of the US, precisely when he visited them. That makes Tocqueville an All-American boy: very smart on what’s less significant, mute on what is most significant.

Here is the order: “climbing areas will be closed over the weekend. Please see below for area closures for Thursday evening (6/16, tonight) through Sunday afternoon (6/19). There will also be other areas closed Friday evening through Saturday evening. We will keep you updated on the official word for the Friday/Saturday closures.

“All climbing routes from and including Church Bowl east to Washington Column (Washington Column itself remains open) will be closed from Thursday sunset through Sunday afternoon. This includes Bishops Terrace, Royal Arches, Serenity Crack, Son’s of Yesterday.”

Thank you for your cooperation in these temporary closures.

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/climbingclosures.htm

The reactions I got were the usual abuse, insults and lies (deeply believed to be the truth): France was accused to be a Nazi bastion of cheese eating surrender monkeys. Always amusing from the country which, besides Germany, did the most for Adolf Hitler. OK, I plead guilty for provocation, but what is science, but for teasing out, provoking through experiments the true nature of things, be they human or mineral.

I also understand that Obama has little choice in these matters, or so he feels: the instinct of obedience, called also “peer pressure”, is strong in the empire. And Obama was selected, because he felt it, deep in his bones, to help him “navigate”, as he put it. Thus, when Obama became president, he obeyed. Obama obeyed the powers that be. The empire was safe with him. Thus, some are disappointed by Obama, worldwide, but he is loved in the US: “change you can believe in” was very very small. And next year, the meek progress Obamacare ephemerally proposed will blow-up (it’s already doing so). As the “health corridors” expire with the Obama presidency. But don’t worry: President Trump and his art of the deal, will have to pick up the pieces, and dozens of young Americans are ready to goose-step behind him, lauding all and any “closures” that the government may decide to order.

Patrice Ayme’

Soloing, & Celebrity Cult

March 16, 2015

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.

My Friend John Bachar Free Soloing, Showing Off. Fell To His Death, Free Soloing

My Friend John Bachar Free Soloing, Showing Off. Fell To His Death, Free Soloing

[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).

Dan pursues:

“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.

Patrice Ayme’


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