Saturday, 17 September 2011

The reason we were born

"...that dratted miserable disgusting humiliating irresponsible egregiously wretched gut-wrenching heart-robbing Jesus-bitten hope." - from Carlos Amantea as he wrote in this blog.

Okay, maybe all of us don't climb mountains. Shoeless.

But that doesn't stop me from trying my best.

In my rather single-minded, no-holds-barred obsession with getting published, I'm reminded of George Mallory, from Cheshire, England. In 1924 he attempted, for the third time, an expedition that would end his life on a mountainside. He once said, when asked at a press conference, why he'd want to climb Mount Everest, "Because it's there."  This is the most honest and unapologetic answer I've ever heard: he wasn't afraid to say that he would sacrifice everything for the raw need of his passion.

The final ascent: George Mallory (June 18, 1886 - June 9, 1924) and Andrew Irvine (April 8, 1902 - June 9, 1924) from this brilliant site about the Mallory Expedition

He had problems with his wife. She wanted him to stay in England and stop this business of climbing mountains. But his brain was wired differently than most. He wanted to climb to the top. Of everything.

His first climb was to the top of the local parish church where his father was clergyman. They were amazed to see him there, on the steep apex roof, fearless. He was six or seven years old.

George and his wife, Ruth

At the time of the Everest climb, he was already the proud father of two beautiful daughters and a son who aspired to climbing as high as he - there exists a family photo of the girls atop a boulder, one of them with a one leg hitched up to the next step, to get to the top.

George Mallory was found seventy-five years after his final ascent, in 1999. He was found by a climber who wanted to get to the top of Everest - the as-yet unsurmountable mountain. Face-down, his body is still there, frozen to the side of the mountain that he loved and hated and feared, fingers dug into the shale-like rock as if to hold on for dear life, one leg resting on the calf of the other, doing the only thing he could to remedy the cold pain of a broken leg (which perhaps resulted from falling from The Second Step. Some eight hundred to one thousand feet from the summit. Pre-ladder.)

The thin oxygen. The lack of appetite. The pounding headaches. The ice. The avalanches threatening at every step. The temperatures dropping into a ball-squeezing -20 degrees F. The hard climb up with nothing but hob-nailed boots and a thin frayed rope, and the bare-naked hope to get you to the top. Beyond all these things it is the light in his eyes that strikes me the most.

This is a face that says: Come what may.

Enjoy your Saturday, all. Make the most of it.

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