Monday, October 11, 2010

Into Compulsion

I've been reading Jon Krakauer's fascinating book Into Thin Air. For those of you who don't know it, it details the 1996 tragedy on Mt. Everest in which nine people were killed. He's a great storyteller and it's a page-turning read.

It's also one of those books that makes you think about what you'd do in a particular situation.

In this case, I wouldn't be in that situation.

When I was a kid I decided that I was going to climb Everest. I think I saw it on The Wonderful World of Disney and, of course, planned on making the climb. After all, how hard could it be? You climb. End of story.

But somewhere in between Tinkerbell flying over the castle and my reaching the age I am now, I've changed my mind. I got smarter. Or lazier. Or something. But looking on it now, I wonder that anyone wants to do it. Forget "because it's there" it's insane!

You're sick all the time. You're exhausted. You alternately cough up blood or feel like you're otherwise going to die. People do die, every year. And you pay at least $75,000 for the privilege.

In many ways I'm in awe of people who achieve this. The discipline required to get your body into shape for an Everest climb is beyond my comprehension. And the drive necessary to achieve this one goal through pain, deprivation, fear, and threat of freezing to death is equally mysterious. Frostbite is nearly certain, apparently. Who really needs all 10 toes? And sure I'm willing to forsake family and friends for three months while I acclimatize my body to 29,000 feet. Sure, I want to live at the altitude that planes usually cruise at.

The whole thing seems both pointless and admirable -- crazy and and fascinating. I'm glad I read the book, but equally glad i'll never do it myself.

1 comment:

FinnyKnits said...

The book alone gave me a migraine, I'd never make it. Not that I'd try. Everest is for crazy people who hate their bodies.