“Some people have big dreams, some people have small dreams. Whatever you have, the important thing is that you never stop dreaming.
Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became an almost Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greator by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium, and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking, above all else, something like a state of grace.
“To turn around that close to the summit…,” Hall mused with a shake of his head on May 6 as Kropp plodded past Camp Two on his way down the mountain. “That showed incredibly good judgement on young Goran’s part. I’m impressed—considerably more impressed, actually, than if he’d continued climbing and made the top.
— about Goran Klopp, a 29yo solo climber who’d ridden from Stockholm to Nepal, and turned around at 28,700 feet.
Unfortunately, the sort of individual who is programmed to ignore personal distress and keep pushing for the top is frequently programmed to disregard signs of grave and imminent danger as well. This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually comes up against: in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die.
Above 26000 feet, moreover, the line between appropriate zeal and reckless summit fever becomes grievously thin. Thus the slopes of Everest are littered with corpses.
Now I dream of the soft touch of women, the songs of birds, the smell of soil crumbling between my fingers, and the brilliant green of plants that I diligently nurture. I am looking for land to buy and I will sow it with deer and wild pigs and birds and cottonwoods and sycamores and build a pond and the ducks will come and fish will rise in the early evening light and take the insects into their jaws. There will be paths through this forest and you and I will lose ourselves in the soft curves and folds of the ground. We will come to the water’s edge and lie on the grass and there will be a small, unobtrusive sign that says, THIS IS THE REAL WORLD, MUCHACHOS, AND WE ARE ALL IN IT.—B. TRAVEN
—Charles Bowden, in ‘Blood Orchid’