We have one of those movie dvd rental boxes at the front of the store I work at, and the previews for each movie will stay for months. So everyday I pass by…and see the Tibetan prayer flags, the perfect blue sky, and the beautiful mountain scenery…and I know what’s coming. The previews for Everest play every day, every ten minutes, and have for months now. Most days I manage to hold it together, but some days I don’t, and for that I credit some really good writing by Jon Krakauer.
One day I was getting my lunch and watching the screen and the checker said to me, “Well, that’s just stupid. Why would they do that – they put themselves in danger.”
So why do people climb mountains? The simple answer might just be: because it’s there. Because once you’ve seen it, how can you not want to? Isn’t that the whole point of being human? To try the impossible, until it is no longer impossible? Climbing, free diving, exploring – these things move humanity forward, they help us to understand our world and our place in it. It’s a physical philosophy of sorts, and just as important as the purely mental. Seeing what we are capable of is inspiring. “Look at what we can do.” There’s a sense of pride and satisfaction in seeing what we are capable of.
20 years ago, on May 10-11 several climbing teams were on Mt. Everest, either ascending from or attempting to summit and when the storm hit everything went to hell. As luck would have, or not, both a journalist, Krakauer, and an IMAX team, were on Everest, at that time. 8 people died.
There have been worse incidents on Everest since then. Higher death tolls. But the drive to climb the highest peak in the world, to literally touch the sky, is everlasting.
The quote “Look at what we can do” is from Aaron Sorkin’s days on “Sports Night” and the episode “The Quality of Mercy at 29k”.