“There are old climbers and bold climbers, but no old and bold climbers,”

Via on Jul 10, 2008

Timothy Egan reminds us in a thoughtful and moving opinion piece in the New York Times. His article is a series of musings about climbing and mountaineering risks in the wake of two recent deaths on Denali, one on July 4th and another the following Monday.

My father spent summers in his 20s climbing and mountaineering in around Boulder. He and his father, my grandfather, were skilled mountaineers before Gore-tex was invented (They also used to ski in jeans. Some Texans still do, I might add). The summer I was 18, I lived in rural Thailand and taught English, but that was also the same summer my brother graduated from Dartmouth, so as a celebratory trip, he and my father backpacked in Wyoming and summited the Grand Teton. When someone asked my mom what she was doing while I was in South Asia and my father and my brother were roaming around Grand Teton National Park, she jokingly answered “sitting at home and taking Valium.” But in the that joke, there is an underscore of truth about risk and risk taking, even when there is risk assessment, not to mention skilled climbers and guides.

Perhaps I found Egan’s piece particularly moving because in 6 weeks I will be backpacking and mountaineering in the Himalayas with NOLS India. I am excited, but also a little nervous. I feel I follow in the footsteps of my father and his father; not literally, my father still hikes primarily in the Rockies, but in spirit. The same spirit that takes every climber first to the base of the peak and then, hopefully, the summit. And so while articles of climbing fatalities always send a cascading ripple of sadness and reflection through not only the climbing, but the non-climbing community, it also speaks to the inherent spirit in the sport that already recognizes our own mortality, and in acceptance of that, has chosen to live fully and in the moment.

About Rachel Steele

Rachel Steele originally hails from Charleston, SC, but schlepped all the way to Boulder to play in the mountains and study at the University of Colorado. She graduated with a degree in in Political Geography in 2008 and then briefly traveled in India and was certified as a yoga teacher in 2009 at Holy Cow Yoga Studio. She has since returned to her mother's ancestral home of Brooklyn, NY and is proud to call the Williamsburg area home. Despite what her mother recently said, she doesn't think she's become a hipster. She does wears many hats, including a fedora with a pin of Lindsey Lohan on it, but the one that is most important to her is that of a feminist filmmaker. She also loves live music, enjoys cooking, and is happiest when rabble rousing. She does miss Colorado, but feels very connected to her college home when writing for elephant. Her personal blog can be found at womanofsteele.tumblr.com and on imdb.

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