"You think of
a mountaineer and think of a supergutsy person with no fear for his life,"
Caldwell adds. "In a way nothing could be farther from the truth. You
utilize this fear to realize how great being alive is. Everything afterward is
many magnitudes more satisfying."
it's perfectly possible that I might be killed climbing, but she also knows
it's what gives me life," Harding says. "I have a greater capacity for
doing anything else, even enduring tedium, because I know I can always bug out
and go climb a mountain. I wouldn't even consider it fear. Fear is being afraid
you might collapse and fall apart. Or bungle enough to drop some absolutely
true fear I experienced was that those bastards were going to try to rescue
us," Caldwell says.
live to climb. We climb to enhance living. We hardly ever talk shop. It's
extremely boring—things like doing half a pitch of 5.10 liebacking or two
tied-off 6.8 mashies."
self-respecting mountain climbers do not appreciate this kind of disparagement.
Asked if some climbers are piqued by Harding and Caldwell's irreverence. Dave
Hanna solemnly thought it over, then said, "Hell, yes!"
hardly the word," Caldwell admitted. "Some climbers think this is a
religion or a competition or cancer research. Some groove on doing the same
climb faster and faster. Others get down to memorizing the location of every
pin. Making the climb becomes almost superfluous. To me the advantage of a
first climb on a new peak is that you're not competing with someone else. You
can come to a hellish problem and not have your mind cluttered with wondering,
"How did he do it?' "
compare climbing El Capitan with writing a Ph.D. dissertation," contributes
Dean. "It's essentially meaningless."
After El Capitan,
the onward, upward school of climbers was anticipating new opportunities to
blanch at the sociable pair; Harding and Caldwell had planned next to scale the
prodigious ice wall of 20,000-foot Mt. Jirishanca in remotest Peru, to be
followed by an ascent of the face of Angel Falls in the Venezuelan jungle.
But now, in what
the two admit may be some reaction to the month-long enforced fellowship on El
Cap, a fissure has developed in their working relationship)—apparently a
common, usually reparable, condition among mountaineers. Each now wonders of
the other: Did success spoil rock climber?
And so, while
Caldwell still prepares for South America, Harding talks of surmounting certain
unnamed, unclimbed spires on the Yukon-Alaska border and voices unspecified
complaints about the Hanna-Caldwell relationship. He says he needs to "get
away from it all," adding darkly, "maybe even life itself."
Caldwell tends to shrug off the feud, his strongest criticism of Harding being
that Warren's life-style is "too structured." It is a complaint Harding
has rarely heard spoken of him before.