I wanted to jump on this before yet another person found it and told me to read, only to end the conversation with “That could be you, you never know what can happen”. The rant\ heart felt feelings below come via The Climbing Narc. You should read the post, then read Max Zolotukhin post on his accident, then I would suggest reading Jamie Emerson’s post on the subject, as always with blogs, be sure to read the comments section. Knowing the content of the above posts and comments is important to understanding the content below.
Some time back I posted about soloing and risk after reading an obit of John Bachar in the Wall Street Journal. My thoughts have not changed. Normally I would have found this discussion interseting and probably would have linked to it on my facebook page. Why am I writing about this again then? Because I there is a dangerous dialogue going on in the comments section and in Max’s post it self.
One of the threads is to blame the climbing media for highlighting the accomplishments of Kevin Jorgeson and Alex Honold. These are bold accomplishments, not only physically, but mentally as well. The amount of mental control required to solo is huge and requires a huge helping of some thing that seems to be in short supply. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!!!! It is a cop-out, often used by non-participants, to blame the media. If you are pressed to solo by the huge accomplishments of others then you should not be in the game. End of story.
From his post on the incident it seems that Max understands that his motivations were not pure. What I’m unclear on is if he got the fact that soloing is more a mental task than a physical one. One requiring the practitioner to be constantly checking his mental state. He is aware that he missed the subtle clues that his warm up burn gave him, but failed to notice that his rush to solo the line.
I also think that his friend who sent him the email is way off base. Here’s a quote:
My good friend Jake List sent me an extremely touching and insightful email several days back. The gist of it was that I deserved to be chewed out for doing what I did. “…so next time you free solo a route, let alone a 5.14 route,” Jake wrote, “think past yourself. Sooooooooo many people would have been CRUSHED if you had bashed your head and died, including me.”
I truly believe that one of the factors in this accident was the fact that Max was thinking past him self.
By this point the others were ready to go back up to other cliffs to try their projects again. I felt guilty. They were taking time out of their projects to make sure that I didn’t hurt myself. All this weighed on my mind as I sat trying to lose my pump but maintain the heat that had made itself into my cold fingers. As the minutes passed I sort of disassociated myself from the situation. “Just go for it” I told myself.
His rush to solo the route, along with his hubris, pushed him to do something that he wasn’t ready for. It doesn’t matter that he managed to red point it in a couple of days. When you are thinking of laying yourself out there like that, soloing something at or near your limit, you have to have that shit WIRED. Jorgeson said this to me personally after a clinic I took with him at the Portland Rock Gym. “When you’re soloing you have to know that your going to do it that day. You have to show up and say today is the day” It seems that all of Kevin’s highballs and solos are well rehearsed and planned out. Max rushed and he’s paying the price. Luckily he didn’t die and he managed to escape with a severely broken foot and a few more dollars short in his luck deposit box.
He goes on to say that his friend’s email gave him a minor epiphany.
The first time I read it I was a bit appalled; how dare he blame me for attempting something that would have brought me happiness! I took the risk, and now I’m paying the price, and no one has the right to tell me differently. But as I sat there reading it over and over I had a minor epiphany.
This is what set me off. Max, you should be appalled. It is no one’s place to tell you how to live your life. What you should be berated for is not preparing fully for your goals and not checking in with your motivations. There is absolutely nothing wrong trying to solo a beautiful line that inspires you, you just have to be prepared. Yes, there are consequences for your selfish actions and there are people waiting for you to come home in one piece. However, if you are going to engage in these exploits you must be up front and honest not only with yourself, but those around you whom you love.
I was up front and honest with my girlfriend about what I do when we first started getting serious, all of my friends, family and climbing partners know what I FEEL I HAVE TO DO. They know that I am going to engage in these pursuits and that they are part of who I am as a person.
When I took my tumble down that snow slope on Ingall’s I was retreating from a solo attempt. I backed off near the top of the first pitch because I knew my head was not in the right space. Afterwords my friend Graham chewed me out. Not because I was up there all alone, but because I was not fully prepared. That was Max’s sin.
Don’t listen to the rants of non-participants and follow your own path. I’ve already talked about what I get from soloing so I won’t do it again. I don’t need to defend my actions either, because unlike most people, I take responsibility for them. I believe that one of the greatest sins someone can commit is to deny themselves joy in their own lives. I did this for many years and now that I’ve stopped I’m happier than I have ever been at any other point in my life. It was not until I got rid of the crutch of religion that I learned to be responsible for my own life, sadly it still took many more years to realized that I was denying a fundamental part of who I was as a person. I have chosen to follow my path and leave others to their own. All the delusional non-participants should do the same.
There is a small chance that this will cut deep for some people, others will just think me an asshole. That’s fine. Them comments are open and I’m up for civil debate. If you think differently please don’t be afraid to post.