So last night I missed a world cup game to go to the Intelligence2 Mountain Festival, and actually I'm really glad I did. It's really nice to go and dip into a world that you're not part of, listen to their issues and be confused about what the hell is going on. I think all the panel and speakers had climbed Everest, but at different points in history. Like it was interesting to find out that viola-players are the outsiders in the orchestram, it was interesting to hear the insider gossip from the mountaineering world.
As always, some random bits, in bullet points:
- The reasons why people do stuff like scale mountains: the opportunity to explore human greatness. I liked that.
- "The immensity of these aerial summits excited when they suddenly burst upon the sight, a sentiment of extatic wonder, not unallied to madness." Shelley, on Mont Blanc.
- From an essay, 'Murder of the Impossible', by Reinhold Messer, the idea that with every frontier crossed we limit what is possible for future generations.
- People used to climb mountains in tweed.
- Answer to 'why do you climb mountains' by Doug Scott: "Because I get grumpy when I don't"
- "Why is it that humans are affected by the nature/the great outdoors? We're all lifted by being out in the wilderness." Doug Scott, I think, but it's a question I've often thought about.
- Part of the attraction of 8,ooo ft+ mountains is that even if you've never done something like that, 'there's a familiar taste about it'.
- People who live in the mountains don't need adventure because it's there all the time. We've removed risk from our lives, turned our back on natural existance and moved to technology - no wonder we seek out adventure.
- Part of the debate was about whether Everest has become too touristy. Apparently there are guide ropes to get to you to the summit and over 3,000 people have 'summited'. One of the guys on the panel, Kendal Cool, runs a service where he guides commercial expeditions to the summit of Everest, which the old guys were against ('you have to be resourceful and imaginative if there is no guide'). The elitist-democratic debate over the highest point in the world...
- 'Adventure is when planning goes wrong' - Rebecca Stephens.
- The description of the sun rising over Tibet at 4:25 and being in the shadow of Everest was pretty immense.
- That humans can be quite calm in the face of death - Doug Scott talked about being in an avalanche.
Two things struck me following the evening. One, how awesome nature is. The risk and unpredictablility of those sort of ventures is part of the attraction. Two, and someone explicitly mentioned this later on, is that humans are conditioned for optimism. Which is probably a big factor in why we attempt stuff like this in the first place.
I picked up a flyer for a similar thing in November, it looks quite interesting, I might go...
And some guy (Peter Baily I think) made a joke about being bitten by yaks. I want to know if they really do bite.