Thursday Thought: Worth a Little Risk

[This Thursday Thought is both written and video…the reason being the video version didn't come out the way I had hoped, so I decided to write it as well. Hope you enjoy!]

As you all know, I've been absent for a bit. Well, more than a bit – a few Cotopaxi_2008weeks, actually. I was in Ecuador climbing Cotopaxi and shooting images for First Ascent, and then returned for the holidays which were busy to say the least.

But, I'm back now and trying to get caught up.

And, first on my list is posting another Thursday Thought.

A couple of days ago, I got out for a few hours alone to climb some local ice. Nothing huge, nothing epic, but it was a great break from the chaos of the holidays. Just me and my tools and some good, plastic ice…always a good order for a head clearing and a return to the essentials in life.

And, as always, as I climbed, immersed in the simplicity of placing tools, placing feet, and not falling, the words and thoughts of A. Alvarez milled through my brain.

So, today's Thursday Thought is from Alvarez on the recurring topic of why we climb, and of why we seek risk in our lives:

"Life loses interest," wrote Freud, "when the highest stake in the game, life itself, may not be risked." Those who cultivate risk for its own sake, however, are probably emphasizing only their own inner torpor, just as the people who talk most fervently about the beautiful emotions induced by drugs are those who have most difficulty in feeling anything at all. The pleasure in risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination – in a word, experience. Climbing, in particular, is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Each pitch becomes a series of specific local problems: which holds to use, and in which combinations, in order to get up safely and with the least expense of energy. Every move has to be worked out by a kind of physical strategy, in terms of effort, balance, and consequences. It is like playing chess with your body.

And, that, for me, is the final satisfaction…On a climb…I am thinking with my body rather than my weary, addled head, and if I make a mistake, the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period and on a small scale, I have to be directly responsible for my actions, without evasions, without excuses. In that beautiful, silent, useless world of mountains, you can achieve at least a certain clarity, even seriousness of a wayward kind. It seems to me worth a little risk. 

Jake Norton is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational speaker from Colorado.
  1. Mount Everest
    Mount EverestJanuary 11,10

    Glad to see that you are back and have had a great time away climbing.

    Mount Everest The British Story

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