Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Our Demons Taunt and Beckon Us

From the first time I saw it, the picture--a portrait of the Thumb's north wall--held an almost pornographic fascination for me. On hundreds--no, make that thousands--of occasions over the decade and a half that followed I took my copy of Mountaineering down from the shelf, opened it to page 147, and quietly stared. How would it feel, I wondered over and over, to be on that thumbnail-thin summit ridge, worrying over the storm clouds building on the horizon, hunched against the wind and dunning cold, contemplating the horrible drop on either side? How could anyone keep it together? Would I, if I found myself high on the north wall, clinging to that frozen rock, even attempt to keep it together? Or would I simply decide to surrender to the inevitable straight away, and jump?

~ Jon Krakauer, The Devil's Thumb, essay from Eiger Dreams

The man can flat-out write.

It shouldn't surprise you (especially if you've read him, or any mountaineer-author, for that matter) that he goes on to climb it. Thereby hangs the essay--and another post.

4 comments:

Glenn_in_MA said...

Into Thin Air was a GREAT read...then of course, I had to read ALL others accounts of that tragic event.

Glenn_in_MA said...

At the risk of over-commenting on my first visit, I've just read a few more of your posts (including Karen Smyers) and I've just got to tell you that you're a terrific writer. Keep up the good work!

Velosopher said...

Glenn, no such thing as over-commenting in my book -- I started this blog in the hopes that there would be some good dialog with other philosophically-oriented cyclists out there, and couldn't be happier that it's coming true. You're most welcome here. And thank you very much for the compliment! (The Smyers post may be the one I most enjoyed writing out of all of them. What a great experience.) All encouragement gratefully accepted!

Glenn_in_MA said...

The funny thing is I really had no idea who she was...just sort of randomly picked that one to read from the label list!