Today I started browsing Amazon.com for mountaineering books. Yes. I just fell in love with mountains so much that I’m actually optimistic that one day I will be able to climb mountains in the technical, freezing, windy, snowy and slippery sense of mountain climbing. I would like to entertain the thought.
And what do I run into as the best selling books? Personal accounts of disaster strikes and miraculous survivals, possibly after losing toes or legs. Perfect. Just about the right kind of material for someone looking forward to the sport, especially when trying hard to cut out that negativity sponge inside me.
I need one motivational book about mountains that is not a guide book. One.
Maybe I’m new to the field. Maybe there are such books out there and I just need to dig hard enough, or better yet, ask specialists. But wait a minute! Why do I want positive books so bad? Mountains are tough and they’re known to be tough. I acknowledged this about them from the very beginning. In fact, I fell in love with mountains specifically for that reason. That’s what makes them so special, isn’t it?
On a second thought, maybe I should read such books. If I need to understand mountains then I sure need to read everything there is about them, be it good or bad. What I think I can do is read these books from a mountain’s perspective. I will try to read between the lines to get an idea of what basic, raw, human-mountain interaction can be like. What kinds of attitudes do such people carry to the mountains? Why do they want to climb these mountains? How do they view these mountains?
Some quotes hypnotized me. Read this one from Craig Conally:
“Backpackers venture into the wilderness to see a little farther, but mountaineers describe their adventures as means of looking more closely into their own selves–to see a little deeper. Climbing mountains compels introspection because every detail–from the smallest to the most ominous–must be constantly attended to. That’s both exhausting and exhilarating. Exhilarating, because the criteria for success are absolute and absolutely objective–they are chosen by the mountain, not by the mountaineer, and every person is equal when judged by mountains. Success requires mountaineers to appraise their own physical and mental capacities and to know, or discover, the extent of their reserves of competence, commitment, and courage. Mountaineering does not build character so much as it reveals it.”
“Every person is equal when judged by mountains.” Amen to that! To me, this is very, very encouraging. Yes, to a mountain you’re just another climber. You could be wearing all your sophisticated gear and heading towards it, but you’d still be completely oblivious to what awaits you no matter how hard you believe you have prepared yourself.
I believe there is so much I can learn from any person who has been on a mountain, and I believe that all those who wrote such books are – obviously – mountain lovers, or freaks, which I aspire to be.
So here’s the list of books I have actually purchased, and I hope when they arrive no one tells them I’m in Artificial Consumerist Dubai for a week:
The Mountaineering Handbook: Modern Tools and Techniques That Will Take You to the Top by Craig Conally
I love the idea of this book. It’s a guide book alright, but it’s written by an engineer who has put his own discipline into practice by figuring out the best climbing techniques on a mountain. This book is for beginners to intermediates. Just right.
Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 50th Anniversary by Ronald C. Eng
This book is known to be a classic and a must have for any mountaineer, or aspiring mountaineer. So ok, add to my cart of course. I must have it too! And it has the key delicious words that always make my eyes glow: “Mountaineering” and “freedom”!
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
First one in my disaster series. What attracted me to the book, apart, of course, from the fact that it’s a bestseller and clearly making its way to the classics list, was its careful account of human relationships on the mountain and how much weight they can really have in making an expedition win or fail. I felt the spark of the group I was with when I was on Mt Kilimanjaro, and I feel grateful for it, despite the fact that it was a large group.
Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival by Joe Simpson
I first saw this book with a passenger sitting next to me on the flight back from Arusha to Nairobi. I couldn’t take my eyes off the cover. I hesitated so much before asking him to show it to me. There was no chance, actually, he was either napping or directly shooting into the pages the minute his eyes were open.
K2: Life and Death on the World’s Most Dangerous Mountain by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts
Ok… I don’t plan on climbing K2, so don’t get any funny ideas. But something draws me to at least reading about it. I keep googling its pictures and staring at it for so long. It’s the world’s second highest mountain and it’s certified as its most vicious, unforgiving one. I must meet that guy! Maybe read about it first and then hopefully see it from afar?
So it’s two guide books and three disaster ones. I’m fine with all. I am known to be a horror junkie, but not that kind of real, serious horror. I’m buying these books to learn about the mountains. Because believe it or not, I think I will still walk out of each of these books with a smile. I will find the beauty in there. I know I will.