August 4, 2008

The night will be long but beautiful

61-year-old Frenchman Hugues d'Aubarede blogged about his ascent of K2 and his last post reads:

"I would love it if everyone could contemplate this ocean of mountains and glaciers. They put me through the wringer, but it's so beautiful. The night will be long but beautiful."

d'Aubarede, along with ten others, is feared dead in one of the worst mountaineering accidents. Also dead is the first ever Irish to climb K2 - Gerard McDonnell, who started his adventure with the words:

“Let luck and good fortune prevail !!! Fingers crossed."

He made it to the peak but died on the way back. More online updates on the K-2 Tragedy, if you are interested.

The K2, as many of you may know, is the world's second tallest mountain but is considered far more treacherous to climb than Mt. Everest. Consider this statistic: "As of November 2007, only 280 people have completed the ascent, compared with about 2,600 individuals who have ascended the more popular target of Everest. At least 75 people have died attempting the climb."

One of the biggest mountain climbing tragedy is the 1986 K2 Tragedy in which 13 climbers from several expeditions died. The other such tragedy, was the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest, made famous by Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air; also made into a horrible TV movie that I caught parts of some time back). Btw, though I had read about Anatoli Boukreev's rebuttal to Krakauer's book with his own version of what transpired on the South Ridge in The Climb, I did not realize that when the tragedy happened, there was another crew on the other side of the mountain, where people perished too. Just now, I read that..

..the storm's impact on climbers on the mountain's other side, the North Ridge, where several climbers also died, was detailed in a first hand account by British filmmaker and writer Matt Dickinson in his book The Other Side of Everest.

This reminds me that I never got around to reading Into Thin Air. Five-six years ago, I started the book but then moved to his earlier book, Eiger dreams: Ventures among men and mountains, thinking I'll get back to it later but somehow never did.

Mountaineering or even climbing of any sorts is an activity I would never attempt but I remember reading Eiger Dreams, a collection of essays by Krakauer on climbing, and in doing so entering a whole other fascinating world that never will be mine to experience. The experience was obviously not quite like reliving the actual accomplishment of these adventerous souls and yet it was far more deeply experienced than even seeing a good documentary showing them climbing these trecherous mountains.

Isn't that why we read -- to enter into worlds that we would otherwise never experience?

For better or for worse, this is the life some people decide to live. More power to them for living life to its fullest! Their philosophy is probably best reflected by a quotation by Helen Keller, which another mountaineer, Alex Lowe, used to have on his office wall:

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all."

Alex apprently had some crazy adventures on mountains and after having climbed mountains like Mt. Everest, K2, and Annapoorna, died on the Shishapangma, the fourteenth highest mountain in the world and the lowest of the eight-thousanders; which is interestingly also the last of the top 14 to be climbed successfully, with the first successful attempt coming in 1964. The first was the scaling of the Annapurna, 10th in the list of 14, which was scaled in 1950 by French climbers, Maurice Herzog and Louis Lachenal.

Anyways, such is life...or rather to usurp Vonnegut's words yet again: And so it goes!

No comments:

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...