But I shall go down from this airy space, this swift white peace, this stinging exultation,
And time will close about me, and my soul stir to the rhythm of the daily round.
Yet, having known, life will not press so close, and always I shall feel time ravel thin about me,
For once I stood
In the white windy presence of eternity.
Other times, climbing throws you into the heart of your own life, which is the only thing that really matters. To know what this book has really been about - because technique, like professionalism, is only a means to an end - get up early on a sunny Saturday morning at the beginning of May. Walk down the Manifold Valley to the bottom of Beeston Tor. A jackdaw circles out from the rock. On the steep, deteriorating terraces below, white thorn blossom is massing on the bare black branches. Everything is coming out of the thermal lag of winter. Stand there with the sunshine beginning to warm your back, listen for the noises of the valley as it wakes up - a woodpecker that sounds like a toy gun, a footstep in the dry river bed. Think of all the things you have had to do in the week so that you can be here now. Then slowly reach out and touch the rock with the flat of your hand. Let it lead your eye upwards. There, you’re alive again.
Ron Fawcett 1987
The cold fresh mornings, when the mist is creeping from the grey hills and the vigour of dawn is in the blood, the warm sun-steeped spaces at noonday, the purple dusk when the veld becomes a kind of land east of the sun and west of the moon, full of fairy lights and misterious shadows, the bitter night when the southern constellations blaze in the profound sky, - he who has once seen them must carry the memory for ever. It is such things, and not hunger and thirst and weariness, which remain in a man’s mind. For the lover of nature and wild things ... it is little wonder if, after these, home and ambition and a comfortable life seem degrees of the infinitely small. And the others, who are only brief visitors, will carry away unforgettable pictures to tantalise them at work and put them out of all patience with an indoor world - the bivouac under the stars on the high veld, or some secret glen of the Wood Bush, or the long lines of hill which huddle behind Lyndenburg into the sunset.
John Buchan. The African Colony. 1903.
The climbers run, jumping over puddles on the way to their one-star hotels. They know that the beds and mattresses that they are heading for are probably older than themselves. But in such places one can really dream, especially if it's raining outside. Then one can dream the old climber's dream of the french girls, that are too young and too pretty, and the great climbs that are too high and too difficult.
What would have become of Georg Winkler, had he returned from the Weißhorn? When his plan to climb with Prof. Eugen Guido Lammer had come true? Nobody knows. What we do know is that in a letter to Lammer he wrote: and not seldom I find myself staring, with no thoughts, at a good book until I wake up out of a dream of ropes, crampons, fog and rock walls.
At this point the excitement and beauty of the moment have reached 100%. More is not possible, but can only change to the excitement and beauty of rock climbing.
Hermann Magerer climbing to the start of the Badile north ridge in the Bregalia.
"It's so difficult to accept nothingness... You would like to know how things really are beyond life, be sure it's not all a big joke, but, as big as it may be, how can a joke survive for millenia? Look how beautiful the stars in the coal black sky are, those little twinkling gems, those little fantastic worlds. You've got Creation before your eyes, here, on this same mountain that's taking your life and you can't hate, not even now. And what if truth is really here, amongst these pyramids of granite?" 9.10.2007
Rene Desmaison, died 28.9.2007: From his book "342 Hours on the Grandes Jorasses"
I built my house near the village,
but don't hear the horses and wagons.
How is this at all possible?
If your heart has parted from the world,
then you are at peace with yourself.
At the east fence I pick Chrysanthemum,
watch the mountains in the south.
The fresh air in the evening,
when birds are flying to nest.
In all these things is a deep meaning,
which however I can't put it into words.
From a drinking song from T’ao Ch’ien 365- 427 AD.
Two things are needed for happiness: an intact countryside, and a good climbing partner.
... every bit of unspoilt nature which is left, every bit of park, every bit of earth still spare, should be declared a wilderness area as a blueprint of what life was originally intended to be, to remind us.
A Walk with a White Bushman.
Laurents van der Post.
The immense longing not just to protect, but to rehabilitate the Earth.
A Walk with a White Bushman.
Laurents van der Post.
If the great beasts are gone, man will surely die of a great loneliness of spirit.
Chief Seattle of the Neg Percé 1884.
Deviation from nature is deviation from happiness.
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784).
"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in a magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time."
Jack London Dedicated to the crew of the Columbia
When talking about Rock Climbing, people would often say: "You must have a Death-wish." I explained it was really a "Life-wish" and while that is accurate I never felt it conveyed enough - so here is my answer: What's occurring is a conscious act of craziness. What you are seeing is pinpoint focus combined with mad abandon in such a way as to cause spectres of death and the exaltations of life collide at some kind of crossroad. The sparks that fly from that collision are like little shards of God. If you can hold them in your mind for more than 5 seconds, you can understand everything that ever was, or will be.