Monday, June 06, 2016

Naked Grandeur: How I Became A Fan Of Cory Richards

On February 2, 2011 Cory Richards became the first American to climb an 8,000-meter peak in winter. He carried a small camera and filmed constantly.

Today, at 6:34 local time on May 24th in Tibet, Eddie Bauer Athlete and adventure photojournalist Cory Richards made his first successful ascent to the peak of Mt. Everest without the use of supplemental oxygen.

“What is your fascination with those two?” My wife asked as I checked Instagram for the 20th time.  Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards were to attempt to summit Everest without O2---and they were communicating the attempt in real time with social media.  Why my fascination?

My interest is vicarious.  I’ve been fascinated with climbers of Everest since my youth.  Krakauer heightened my interest in 1997.  I’m never going to climb Everest.  I like sleeping in cold---but not below zero temperatures.  Guaranteed stomach problems don’t excite me nor digging holes in the ice for relief.  I’m not motivated by the prospect of ‘every orifice being cracked and dry,’ as one climber described it.   On top of all that it’s tough to justify the 45 to 89-thousand-dollar price tag for the trip.  So why?

“Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there’s nothing else to gaze on...” is the first line from Robert Services’ great poem.  To experience pristine wilderness; cold blue water, air thick with pine and quiet—such quiet unimaginable til you’ve been away a while; that’s one reason.  Jagged peaks few will ever see and fewer will be victorious over.  That is the second reason.

Every man feels it but not every man acts on it.  The urge to push oneself so hard until you’re at the end of yourself—then to overcome.  Everest is the ultimate challenge.  This years’ climbing season ended with six dead on Everest.  That’s some high-stakes poker.  That too is why you climb with the likes of Ballinger and not someone else.  Great to summit.  Nice to make the trip back home.

Finally, there’s the spiritual component.  I wonder if part of the drive for Ballinger and Richards isn’t spirit driven?  “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.”  God’s handiwork shouts His praise, power and vastness while at the same time quieting my ever-disturbed soul. 

“Have you suffered, starved and triumphed,
groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors,
heard the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew).
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- it’s calling you.”