Last night I enjoyed dinner at the Rum Doodle restaurant. People familiar
with Everest climbing know that this is the hub of the city excitement. A
special wall of the restaurant features the signatures of "the Everest Club"
members, comprised of people who have reached the summit. The wall is so
famous now that the restaurant had to actually, I'm not kidding about this,
encase the wall behind glass! It looks like the Mona Lisa back there!
After talking with the waiter about the verification process, he produced
the book that goes with the wall. The tradition is that after you sign the
wall, you sign the book and include any wisdom you see fit. It was absolutely
fascinating reading. Babu Chiri Sherpa talked about his speed ascent (16
Alexander on guiding the blind climber,
to the summit, Reinhold Messner on climbing without supplemental oxygen, ext,
ext. It was incredible. Lots of stories of missing fingers and toes too!
(Don't worry Catie- I got the GOOD boots!)
What was especially interesting was the variety of significance found in
different cultures. All the Sherpas included their photograph and only the
number of times they have summited. It was sort of a who's-who guide. Western
climbers seemed primarily concerned with "firsts"- "First blind guy" (as Eric
put it), First married couple, first father and son, first to record HD video
on the summit (I'm not kidding, that one was my favorite). In the last 10
years or so Everest has become such an achievable destination that so many
people are looking for the most interesting ways to make it a big event again.
Just look at my own team- first on Viagra without Oxygen, First Belgian to
parachute from the summit, First Roosevelt High School Graduate (go Riders!).
Everest is such a curious mountain because it has the uncanny ability to
attract the sport's few extroverted individuals. Most climbers enjoy the
mountains because of the lack of attention and the need to get off the
cultural radar screen. Everest is the opposite of that- more like a three ring
circus. When a site like EverestNews.com brings in a half-million page views a
day we have the opportunity to take a long look at ourselves and determine why
it is we play this game.
"Why climb?" or "Why climb Everest?"
Stay tuned to find out.