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knotzen

the climber's death

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Hello All,

A very good friend of mine directed me to this thread the other day and I have read it and re-read it many times. I sat here with my fingers on the keyboard wanting to say something, and nothing, all at the same time. Silence has been very comforting lately.

I have been so close to this subject. Much closer than I ever envisioned I would be.

I never climbed mountains, or considered doing so, until my fiance died on one not that long ago. I became obsessed with putting my feet in his foot steps, however long ago blown away by wind and rain and snow. It didn't matter. He had walked the same trial. Stepped among the same rocks. Time seemed to stand still.

People say things they think will help and in fact, it only makes things worse. The most well-meaning people say to me "Have a nice day", "How are you?", "Time heals all wounds" and blah, blah, blah. When, in fact, when I hear these things I just want to scream out loud. I have been angry lately. I see the season changing, leaves turning color, the air turning cooler and I think, "How dare time move on!" How dare these things change and that the world can continue to plod along when everything else seems strangely frozen in time. I am jealous of young married couples. I am jealous of old married couples. I find peace just escaping this heart ache and walking along a trail somewhere. When I think I am going to explode with the unfairness of it all, I do one of two things. I either put on my running shoes or my hiking boots. Or I crawl under the covers in my bed and stay there. Both are a means to escape I suppose. Both have helped me in some way reflect on this reality, dream about a happier time, and try and accept the things I cannot change.

And so I reflect on the men and women who have lost their lives in the mountains. Experiencing life. Their lives were not wasted. Their lives were full and complete at that moment.

I can say the same thing that others have said here, those words that seem so hollow, that they died doing something they chose to do. Yes, that's true. It may bring a bit of comfort. And it may make those of us left behind even more angry that we've lost someone with whom we've shared our life and beliefs with. But we did share them. Our lives are touched and changed, too. They did not die lonely, friendless, or without passion. I can only hope that I have the same grand story to live. They did not sit idly by and watch the world plod along. They jumped in feet first and LIVED it fully.

 

Thank you AllYouCanEat.

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Wow. I hadn't read this thread since it went to a second page 'cause I thought everything that could be said, had already been said. After Norman opened up, I thought "How could this get more powerful?!" Boy was I wrong. Thank you everyone.

 

Would I stop climbing if I knew I'd die from it? If you mean knowing that the serac I was under was going to crush me in 5 minutes... sure thing. I'm done.

 

But knowing that somewhere, sometime - climbing would take my life? Probably not. Shoot... living will take my life sometime and I'm not taking drastic measures to stop that.

 

Dechristo, you're so right - however we live our lives, we are making a difference - in one form or another. And however death finds us, we will be living our lives. That's not to say that I want death to find me soon - there is always more life to live... even if you're 92. But when it does find me, I hope, I pray, that I'll be content with it.

 

I used to think "dying doing what he loved doing" was a noble thing. I used to think this was somehow praising the life of a person. What a bunch of bunk. I'm pretty certain that if I die in the woods, my last thoughts won't be "Well... at least I died doing what I enjoyed doing." No... I imagine it'll be more like "Damn. And I knew that was a bad rock." or "Well THAT was stupid." As Ireneo mentioned, I don't think that way anymore, and could definitely do with hearing that phrase less and less.

 

But what I WOULD like to hear when I die is that I was doing something I enjoyed doing - living life. We all need to live our lives to the fullest - however that might be defined for us. It's not the same for all of us. But it's the only life we have to make a difference here on earth.

 

-kurt

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Hello All,

A very good friend of mine directed me to this thread the other day and I have read it and re-read it many times. I sat here with my fingers on the keyboard wanting to say something, and nothing, all at the same time. Silence has been very comforting lately.

I have been so close to this subject. Much closer than I ever envisioned I would be.

I never climbed mountains, or considered doing so, until my fiance died on one not that long ago. I became obsessed with putting my feet in his foot steps, however long ago blown away by wind and rain and snow. It didn't matter. He had walked the same trial. Stepped among the same rocks. Time seemed to stand still.

People say things they think will help and in fact, it only makes things worse. The most well-meaning people say to me "Have a nice day", "How are you?", "Time heals all wounds" and blah, blah, blah. When, in fact, when I hear these things I just want to scream out loud. I have been angry lately. I see the season changing, leaves turning color, the air turning cooler and I think, "How dare time move on!" How dare these things change and that the world can continue to plod along when everything else seems strangely frozen in time. I am jealous of young married couples. I am jealous of old married couples. I find peace just escaping this heart ache and walking along a trail somewhere. When I think I am going to explode with the unfairness of it all, I do one of two things. I either put on my running shoes or my hiking boots. Or I crawl under the covers in my bed and stay there. Both are a means to escape I suppose. Both have helped me in some way reflect on this reality, dream about a happier time, and try and accept the things I cannot change.

And so I reflect on the men and women who have lost their lives in the mountains. Experiencing life. Their lives were not wasted. Their lives were full and complete at that moment.

I can say the same thing that others have said here, those words that seem so hollow, that they died doing something they chose to do. Yes, that's true. It may bring a bit of comfort. And it may make those of us left behind even more angry that we've lost someone with whom we've shared our life and beliefs with. But we did share them. Our lives are touched and changed, too. They did not die lonely, friendless, or without passion. I can only hope that I have the same grand story to live. They did not sit idly by and watch the world plod along. They jumped in feet first and LIVED it fully.

 

Thank you AllYouCanEat.

 

 

my heart goes out to you. I hope you able to find some peace eventualy.

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People seem to put too much stock in the idea that a long life is somehow inherently good while a short life somehow is a life wasted...

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Anyone without a family that depends on them (emotionally, financially, whatever) IMO can take risks with fewer regrets. I am making the baseline presumption that the biggest impact of the climber's death is not on the climber but on those he/she leaves behind. If you buy this idea, this means that a person's death at age 30 or 40, leaving a spouse and kids behind, has a greater human cost than a person with fewer responsibilities dying at age 18, or 25, or whatever. I am not seeking to measure one person's grief over another's. I owe a debt to each of the people who have honored us on this page by sharing their stories of loss. I have been fortunate enough not to have lost any close friends to climbing yet, and make no claim to speak as a survivor.

 

I do believe that the absolutely worst time for me to take risks was when I had several young children under age 5. That period (which has not been over for long) was the busiest and hardest phase of my life so far. Apparently social science data bears this out as a general trend (exceptions apply, obviously). If I had vanished with no notice, leaving behind the legacy of "My fun recreation was more important to me than all the years of struggle now before you," the manner of my departure would probably generate lifetime of bitter feelings in all the people I care about the most. I didn't expect to feel this way in my forties, but without counting my chickens, already I have a certain amount of relief that I survived that period without mishap.

 

My wife still says "If you die climbing, no one will ever forgive you. That's just a fact."

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She meant no one in my family would forgive me. Then she said "But it's all right," i.e. go ahead and keep climbing, which sounds like a contradiction; but that's sometimes how life is.

 

Sky, I don't remember the Latin, but you are definitely not no one. Eras algo. Though I hope you don't have to exercise it, forgiveness is appreciated.

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Why do people say "at least they died doing something they loved"? Does it matter if you die prematurely from a heart attack, a car crash, or a climbing accident? You are still dead. Do they think that because a person was doing something they liked when they died that at the end they weren't petrified and fighting with every ounce of their being to live? Dead is dead, nothing will change that. What you did in life is what matters.

 

I think the assumption is that while they are dead (no way around that), people think that they were living fully until that instant. Of course, this would work well if death was instantaneous. Like for me as a sailor too, I'm fine dying during an intense race, but please hit me with the boom first so I don't have to deal with that drowning crap: I've heard it sucks. From what I've read and seen, more often than not, mountaineers who fall have *ample* time to think about their coming death, and that sucks.

 

Now, my uncle died climbing the north face of the Matterhorn. Yes, he did die doing what he loved. Yes, he probably had an awful long time to realize he and his friend were going to die after the fall started...

 

I'll take a quick death, and then a death doing what I love smile.gif

 

It all gets very complicated when you include family and friends in the equation, and whether or not you have the "right" to die "prematurely" or not. On that topic, personnally I think I may as well die driving my car, so my "dying ethics" here are that as long as I am trained and not reckless, it's okay. If I die, I die.

 

drC

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Seems also like there is the assumption that there is nothing good, or maybe even better, after death.

 

But we don't know, right? It's a great unknown. It could be better, it could be worse, it could be nothing.

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David Byrne wrote:

 

Everyone is trying to get to the bar.

The name of the bar, the bar is called heaven.

The band in heaven plays my favorite song.

They play it once again, they play it all night long.

 

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

 

There is a party, everyone is there.

Everyone will leave at exactly the same time.

Its hard to imagine that nothing at all

Could be so exciting, and so much fun.

 

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens.

 

When this kiss is over it will start again.

It will not be any different, it will be exactly the same.

It’s hard to imagine that nothing at all

Could be so exciting, could be so much fun.

 

Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.

Heaven is a place where nothing every happens.

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I think the assumption is that while they are dead (no way around that), people think that they were living fully until that instant. Of course, this would work well if death was instantaneous... From what I've read and seen, more often than not, mountaineers who fall have *ample* time to think about their coming death, and that sucks.

If you all think dying after a 1000 foot fall, or drowning, is worse than dying in bed-- think again. A lot of people that die in bed do so by drowning from within, on their own fluids. Sorry to burst the bubble, but it's best to know. Even if you live to be really old and then die a non-traumatic death, it's a matter of chance and luck whether you suffer or not. A few seconds of terror are probably not very nice, but in perspective--it's only a few seconds. Even a few hours of slow freezing in a crevasse is probably no worse than the physical distress of all kinds of "ordinary" deaths that happen all around us every day.

 

I remember a conversation with ChucK at a pub club a few years back where we were discussing the crevasse idea. I'm pretty sure that if that happened to me, I'd be thinking what Stefan was thinking when his rappel anchor failed: "My wife is going to be really pissed." The mental pain scares me more than the physical. But in the case of the mountaineer, neither is likely to last too long.

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Think of all the past generations the world over that have thought and discussed these same issues. I like that quote from the 1936 Rainier dude.

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Someone said, "it's not worth dying for, but it is worth the risk".

 

This is the most succinct post yet in this thread.

 

This thread is about a hypothetical question: If you knew without a doubt that you would die climbing, would you quit? I would. I've got other things I want to accomplish in life. But none of us know that for sure, so most of us are willing to take the risk, cautiously and with our eyes open. Including me.

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"Drowning they say is the pleasantest. See your whole life in a flash."

 

Joyce - Ulysses Chapter 6 (Hades)

I can tell you from personal experience that drowning does not happen in a flash, but soon as the realization hits you that you are drowning and there is nothing you can do, it is actually pleasant. Dying is not as bad as it is made out to be. Neither is climbing for that matter.

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"Drowning they say is the pleasantest. See your whole life in a flash."

 

Joyce - Ulysses Chapter 6 (Hades)

 

I agree. Imagine being 'neath the guillotine; the battle is lost; you know that it is over; you wait for the cord to be pulled. Your destiny is out of your hands. Drowning is like that. Once you breathe in, it's over.

 

After that nearly happened to me, I wrote this:

 

I swim with all my might

Into the sun as bright as bright

Blinding me

That BRIGHT!

My arms sooo weak

Defeated

I slide into the night

My fight all fought

Goodnight…

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If you knew you would die climbing, would you continue to climb? Would living your passion be worth the cost of dying prematurely?

Yes, absolutely. Climbing is such an integral part of my life that to be without it practically equals death in itself. I can see Lowell's point when he says that an obsession with climbing indicates narrow-mindedness, but others would call that focus . It all depends on your perspective.

 

Ross also made a good point with his assertion that "People seem to put too much stock in the idea that a long life is somehow inherently good while a short life somehow is a life wasted... ". When you take a look at the lives of people we've lost in our immediate climbing community (Carl and Ben leap to mind), most would say that their lives ended early. But who would argue that they hadn't crammed an incredible amount of activity - that is to say, life - into what time they had on this earth?

 

For me, being in the mountains is where life actually happens. Nothing else can replace it. At 20, I've spent a quarter of my life climbing and cannot imagine what I would be doing otherwise. And maybe my priorities will someday change, and I'll want a family and a house with a white picket fence - but jesus, I hope not.

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I never saw a wild thing

sorry for itself.

A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough

without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

 

Now if you knew that you would die in car crash would you drive a car...?

The only assurance in the world is that you will die one day...the only thing that matter is what you did before.

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I died as mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was man.

Why should I fear?

When by dying did I ever grow less?

Yet once more I shall die as man,

To soar with angels blest;

But even from angelhood I must pass on

To the Unknowable

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