Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Because It's There

Half Dome

I joined a couple of book memes last month. I had done a few when this blog was younger and am trying to wake up both myself and this blog so went back to them. They are both TBR memes. TBR means to be read and they have to lofty goal of getting rid of books from old piles or shelves of unread material. In my case, there is no shortage of TBR books.
I am now proud to report that I have read 4 of 12 books on my list with an additional one almost finished. These were books I have been procrastinating on reading, some for years. So I'm half embarrassed at how easy they were to pick up and read with the right motivation. Now I'm procrastinating on reviewing the books but here's the first.
Eiger Dreams: Ventures among Men and Mountains, by Jon Krakauer.
I very much enjoy Krakauer's writing and am an armchair mountain climber. Except for my dream to someday climb Mount Rainier (a non-technical climb that can be achieved by wimps like me), I have no ambition to confront my fear of heights and dying in a more direct fashion. Even so, I love to read of other people's courage, drive and stupidity.
Eiger Dreams turned out to be great fun. There is some stirring prose and plenty of humor. Here is a bit of the former: "By and by, your attention becomes so intensely focused that you no longer notice the raw knuckles the cramping thighs, the strain of maintaining nonstop concentration. A trance-like state settles over your efforts, the climb becomes a clear-eyed dream. Hours slide by like minutes. . . . At such moments, something like happiness actually stirs in your chest, but it isn't the sort of emotion you want to lean on very hard. In solo climbing, the whole enterprise is held together with little more than chutzpah, not the most reliable adhesive." By G-d, I almost get it.

River Bed Canyon

There is a piece on canyoneering that had me itching to grab my hiking boots and head to Utah, and stories on the dangers and physical trials of climbing that had me vowing never to climb anything taller than the flight of stairs to my office.
Here is Krakauer describing inside terminology for falling off a cliff:
"'Peel,' 'catch some air,' 'take a screamer,'log some flight time';such are the quaint turns of phrase climbers use to denote the act of falling."
Actually hitting the ground in a fall (as opposed to being rescued by one's ropes), is referred as "cratering." Cool.
I have made a commitment to myself to take my family backpacking next summer. That will probably be adventure enough for me. As to this small collection of essays, they are not of the caliber of some of Krakauer's longer books, such as Into Thin Air and Into the Wild, but it is well worth a few hours of reading.

P.S. The photos, as always, are my own--Half Dome in Yosemite and a slot canyon in Zion National Park.


paula said...

you know i like reading those types of books sometimes too...and sometimes i just get tired of the adrenal rush fools. :)
hey next time you are going to go to WA in nice weather let me know and lets see if you and my sister can hike mt rainer..i think she has done it. and she is not one of those intense athlete types, in fact i imagine you two would be on the same page the whole way.

JL said...

I am, bizarrely, reading Herman Hesse at the moment. Old copies off the shelves I've never read. STEPPENWOLF is the current tome.

Bev Sykes said...

Don't you love Yosemite? I haven't been there in a long time, but was there frequently in the days before it got to be so busy and when there really WAS a Mirror Lake. Loved you photo of Half Dome.