Expedition “Climbing”

By this point, to some folks who have shown enough faith in this venture to take a look at this blog, maybe the DJ just stopped the disk:  BHBHBHRRRRRP.  Wait a minute.  I though you guys were going climbing.  What gives?  Where is the ACTION?  Huh.  Good question.  The answer to that could be as prosaic as [in the voice of the worst incarnation of a tenured ivy league professor] “Well, often we find in the cosmic outworkings of existence that the reality of our most treasured dreams, becomes tedious and slippery like oil…..”  Ok, you lost me.  We’re talking about climbing.  Or lack thereof.

So, I can’t help but see the humor in expedition climbing.  To illustrate this, I can’t think of a better way than to will borrow a line from one of my heroes, Warren Harding.  (Ethics Police, please stand down!  Calm yourselves…. Harding knew how to call a spade a spade, and he, above all, realized the ultimate folly in this game we play at – scrambling up rocks.  For that, he warrants hero status in my book.)  In his book, Downward Bound: A Mad Guide to Rock Climbing he has this line about climbing being “the hardest way to get absolutely nowhere”.  (If I didn’t quote verbatim, I apologize.)  And, addressing the age-old, beaten dead horse question of ‘why do people climb’, he says in so many words – Mallory was right, but he was too snobby to get to the real truth.  We climb because it’s there, and because we’re mad!!  Harding also was portrayed as Satan.  literally.  So maybe a grain of salt is in order.  But I can’t help but think how appropriate Harding’s rebellious quips are to this thing so many climbers just can’t help themselves with.  This being: choosing to climb something that one must mount an expedition to get to.

Climbing itself becomes such a small part of the whole that in order to not become impatient, frustrated, aggravated, pissy, difficult to be with, causing interpersonal strife amongst the brethren of the climbing team…. the climber must in some way become the processor.  Because, really, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty, it’s the process that is so compelling.

The crumbling streets crawled with the rancid offings of humanity.  Smell of smoke.  Burning waste, plastic, diesel, decomposing animal carcasses.  Noises.  Overwhelming, otherworldly.  Horns of trucks, cars, rat-a-rat-a-rat-a-rat-a sound of little Yamaha motorcycles es speeding by.  In all of this, there is an explosion of color, images from ancient times still today very much alive and vital.  A snake charmer sits in the bazar, hypnotizing serpents from a basket as easily as he hypnotized the thick crowd of onlookers to buy his quack medicines.  The heat beats down like a hammer.  On the corner, a small wrinkled man in rags sits on a mat and repairs shoes.  His eyes shift quickly up, then down and away.  The cell phone explodes.  It’s a message from Faisal Ali…..

A scene from Indiana Jones?  Bourne Supremacy?  Star Wars?  No it’s us!  It’s just three gawky North American dudes walking down the street in Skardu, trying not to look too out-of-place (HA!), as they go to meet up with their tour operator to discuss plans for a fast approaching climbing expedition.  (Ok, maybe just one of those dudes is gawky.)  The thing about expedition climbing, is that, let’s face it: everything sounds way more badass if you can say you did something, then tack on a nice little postscript like: in Pakistan.  When, really, what you’re actually doing is finding the hardest possible way to get absolutely nowhere!

Everything becomes way more engaging.  For example figuring out what food you’ll take.  To do this, you need to have a few things in mind such as: what kinds of food will give a high calorie to weight ratio; what kinds of meals will you actually be able to eat day after day for a month or so without forming some sort of hateful/barf reflex sort of relationship with that food; what kind of food do know how to cook; how many pounds per person per day based on activity, expected weather or altitude.  But here, first of all the diet is different.  Rice and chappatis breakfast and dinner.  (In some form or another.)  It’s difficult to get a feel for how much rice, how much flower will go how far.  And forget finding sausage or cheese – which are two indispensable sources of fat and protein (and soul comfort).  Actually there is cheese.  But not in the sort of quality many might be excited to find.  Chocolate… choco-who?   Ah, peanut butter!  Yes.  Well, in lieu of sausage and chocolate, we’d better take a bunch of peanut butter.  20 jars sound reasonable?  They’re small jars…. sure, 20, why not?  Coffee.  Hmm.  We could take lots of tea.  (We did bring a bunch of coffee, but there is no way it’ll last clear through.  We have some yerba mate as well.)  Let’s see, what else is on the list…. cloths for serving chappatis.  Do we need those?  Well, when in Rome, I guess.  Maybe our guide will like having them.  Table (for the mess tent that is)?  Absolutely not!

And so the process of climbing goes.  And we haven’t even addressed mountain weather yet.  My point is that, sometimes, there’s so much to see and experience outside of the bone crimps and finger locks, that maybe it’s refreshing to have to do some processing now and then.  There’s much to see.

P.S. Since I’m sure some readers may be wondering who Warren Harding is: He was a visionary and rebellious climber during the “Golden Years” of Yosemite rock climbing in the 50’s and 60’s.  He is most known for the first ascent of the Nose on El Capitan.  Some of his climbs continue to be controversial to this day.

One Response to “Expedition “Climbing””

  1. Awesome post Jake. Great capture of the expedition mentality. You guys keep having fun, processing the little things and stay safe out there! Great blog so far, so good to see you are taking advantage of your time during the prep stages of your expedition. Love that you rented motorcycles and rode around.

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