Monday, December 18, 2006

Because it is there…

Those of us who live in these little communities at the foot of Mt. Hood forge a relationship with it that is hard to explain. We are astounded by this beautiful and awesome creation of nature, but at the same time a bit fearful of the power it has.

This morning the weather is clear, cold and sunny and Mt. Hood gleams in its grandeur. It has a magical draw for climbers who cannot resist the pull of the summit. This past week three men set forth on a challenging and perilous climb. They knew full well the dangers involved but they had planned carefully and had confidence they could overcome any problems.

What they could not overcome was happenstance and the weather. Yesterday the body of one of the climbers was found in a snow cave about 300’ below the summit. It is speculated that they summited, but then ran into trouble. Many of the local climbers, experts, news reporters, even families have ideas about what happened.

I think they summited and then dug a snow cave for all three of them when the weather shifted suddenly. That is the first cave the rescuers found Sunday. Then the climbers left for a descent and something happened to Kelly James, an accident or sudden onset of illness. The two other stronger climbers dug a "quick and dirty" snow cave to protect him and set out for help.

It was from that cave that Kelly called his family a week ago. The other two climbers have not been heard from since. Although the sheriff is continuing to hold out hope and calling the search a rescue mission, it is likely that the two men met with disaster either buried in an avalanche or falling to their deaths in a crevasse.

The mountain has taken another toll and we all grieve for the climbers and their families. From the warmth of our living rooms it is sometimes difficult to comprehend why these men risked their lives for such an ascent. But George Mallory, who paid the ultimate price on Mt. Everest, explained the answer to us: “Because it is there.”


Anonymous Jake Norton said...

Dear Patricia,

Excellent post and thoughts on the unfolding tragedy on Hood. I am a climber and also guide and had the priveledge of guiding Brian Hall on an ice climbing trip two years ago. He is a wonderful person, strong and full of life, and I am holding out hope that he and Jerry will come out of this in one piece.

On a side note, I would add to your mention of Mallory's famous quip "Because it's there" that that was, in fact, a somewhat flippant reply to the question. He would later articulate his reasons for climbing Everest in more detail, which I think encapsulates what many of us feel in the mountains:

"There is something in man that responds to the challenge of this mountain, and goes out to meet it. The struggle is the struggle for life itself, upward and forever upward. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy...And hoy is, after all, the end of life."

Thank you, and keep your fingers crossed for Brian & Jerry.



8:32 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home