Summiting

8 01 2010

I have a strange affinity (some might call it an obsession) for mountain climbing. I am consumed with reading the books, the articles, the essays about mountain climbing. I search out documentaries for the first person perspective of summiting a mountain. I want to know everything there is to know about this sport…and I secretly have a dream of climbing a mountain, no matter what odds are against me.

This might seem like a normal pipe dream for someone but it is essentially one of the strangest developments for me in my life. I am obsessed with something so illogical that my friends and family think I am somewhat insane when I spout off detailed accounts of climbing strategy, technique, disasters and the history of this incredible sport. It’s strange because I am not some thrill seeker. I don’t claim to be incredibly fit (fit enough to climb a mountain at least). I don’t like the cold. I don’t like heights. I am terrified of dangerous pastimes. I have asthma and a weak immune system (which would complicate climbing a mountain where a person gets less and less oxygen for each breath they take). These components combine to represent a huge obstacle that I would have to surmount to be able to achieve a goal like this….

My biggest obsession is Everest. I love to read the books…it all began when I read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air as a teenager. It was one of my dad’s books that I decided to read and I immediately fell in love with Krakauer and started reading everything he had ever written. Into Thin Air is Krakauer’s account of the 1996 Everest disaster where fifteen climbers died in one season, making it one of the deadliest seasons in history…and it’s written so poignantly and so clearly (for someone without a climbing background) that I loved it as a young adult and still love it now when I read it a decade later. After reading that one book, it was a few years but I eventually began reading all the books I could get my hands on.

**Note: Jon Krakauer is also known for writing Into the Wild, Under the Banner of Heaven, Eiger Dreams, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman** http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon_Krakauer

I read all the books on the 1996 Everest disaster, all the books about the 7 Summits, the 8-thousanders, K2, The White Spider (Eiger), and other mountaineering accounts. I was obsessed. I carried a notebook and one of those books around in my giant bags and could spout off facts, details, stories and names with ease…and my friends became worried. “Are you sure you want to spend this much time reading on something that will never happen?” they asked…their concern warranted by the fact that I am not built for climbing a mountain…but it only fueled the fire that demanded more information, history and details. I surfed the Internet and read tons of blogs, stories, looked through pictures and did the research for the topic. It became my secret dream.

My biggest deterrent from climbing a mountain is that my uncle and godfather was killed mountain climbing in France when I was an infant. I don’t remember him because I was too young when he passed away to remember him. He died in an avalanche when climbing a mountain and it affected my mother and grandparents for decades as they dealt with the all-too-soon death of their beloved…I feel as if climbing a mountain would honor him as well as bring their hidden pain to the surface. And even though I am not close to my mother or her side of the family, I am sensitive to the fact that my actions would bring them pain.

In conclusion, I wonder about the amount of effort and energy that goes into climbing a mountain. It astounds me the amount of resources and energy required to summit a mountain. I have been reading other blogs lately where people are breaking under the stress of summiting their own personal mountains on a day-to-day basis. I wonder how many people struggle to summit their own Everests…how many weaken and give up, surrendering to the fatigue of fighting something that feels insurmountable. For me, the challenge is the greatest part and makes the summit all the more appealing…so here’s to 2010 and finding the strength to pursue what I really want (even in the face of so much doubt) and summiting my own personal Mt. Everest.

Please check out my blog  http://kjdougall.wordpress.com/ for a selection of poems written about my love affair with mountain-climbing and most predominantly, Everest. Thanks!M

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