The other day the Butcher sent me an email about the Reel Rock tour and the narratives contained within. The standard mountain narrative goes like this:
“There’s this mountain, its big/hard/dangerous etc. We got cold and wet. We almost died. We failed, or we triumphed over the mountain.”
It may seem like I’m painting with a broad brush, but if you were take a random sample those types of stories will be the most common narrative form. Hell, I’ve written one myself. There is good mountain writing out there (see Steve House, Mark Twight, Herman Buhl’s autobiography among various others) one just has to be willing to seek it out.
What sets good mountain and cycling writing apart from the bad is the author’s willingness to let us inside. Often times the truly exciting events are happening inside the mind of the protagonist. For better or worse we filter our experiences through the screen of our imaginations. Often this makes the author nervous and they revert to the mere reporting of events. “A” happened before “B” which then lead to “C”.
“We raced up ____ pass, I saw that ____ was suffering, so I attacked.”
While the above states the events I think we can agree that it is far from compelling. That’s because all the drama is in mind of the doer. Using the above “We raced” example we could fill in a fairly common occurrence with items like: What put the racer in the race in the first place. What the author is felling as they struggle up the pass. How that makes them feel. What their perception of said events is (great example in that link).
Pulling that type of narrative out of a banal event is difficult, but is made easier when the author has a high level of self awareness A level of awareness that is sadly lacking in the world at large.