Posts Tagged ‘Climbing’

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 has a Rope, and A Friend Taking the Picture. Why so? It is often safer to solo steep slopes where one cannot the slightest mistake in the mountains, to go 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 discouraged the habit by encouraging 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’