All men yearn to segregate what is theirs. And all those who would separate them from it are just trying to make a better life for themselves. That both sides always claim the moral summit is of no interest to the future, who has a fetish only for the living. Were the Etruscans a virtuous people, or racists? As they’re no longer around, no one really much gives a damn.
Which you would think might lead some liberal philosophers to posit moral precepts granting just enough civilizational continuity to perpetuate our exquisitely refined liberalism, if nothing else. But who the hell knows? Probably one of those other social constructs will be equally enthralled with sea ice, abortion, and mocha lattes. So maybe it’s all in sure hands after all. But I’m not inclined to take chances.
As a result I’ve been contemplating bolt-holes. And given that the first gated community I investigated had some questionable deed restrictions, the search ranged farther afield.
At this point I’m leaning toward K2.
Do we have any alpinists reading this entry from the Karakoram on their satellite phone? Anyway, here’s the directions the realtor provided: fly into Islamabad and take a 30 hour bus ride to the village of Skardu. Then another 6-8 hours by 4WD jeep to the last human atoll of Askole. Then, owing to the impassable terrain, you dismount and hike (with gear and porters) for two days to a grassy terrace called Paiju. That’s the last time you’ll see something beyond ice and rock. You next commence a six day shuffle to the barren plateau of Concordia. Which precedes the mountain’s base camp by some other number of hours and days. I am advised that the mountain itself, and its rather imposing retinue of vassal peaks, is so remote that it is visible to no permanently inhabited settlements. And if you prefer entering from China, the route is quite a bit more lengthy and strenuous.
At a second highest 28,251 feet, K2 has only been straddled about 300 times, with 80 other souls relinquished in the attempt. I’m thinking this might be the sort of neighborhood that proves enduringly resistant to itinerant Guatemalans. Perhaps I’ll swipe one of my neighbors’ home security signs and find a cozy serac among the craggy ramparts.
In reading and watching testimonials of those who reconnoiter such desolate redoubts, I feel an abundant admiration–tempered partially by their lack of diversity, as they appear to be vastly white with some few asian sprinklings. Though there’s remarkable spirit in such a frivolous exercise. These men (and occasional women) incur great costs, strain, risks, and hardship before even reaching the destination to climb. And then to set about flinging viable lives at an indifferent rock, whose only expressions of appreciation include avalanches, hypoxia, crevasses, and brisk fall weather. See current forecast below:
Days 0-3 K2 Weather Summary: A dusting of new snow. Extremely cold (max -29°F on Sun night, min -45°F on Fri morning). Winds decreasing (gales from the SW on Fri morning, light winds from the W by Sun morning).
That’s Fahrenheit, by the way. And I can’t remember the last time I slept outdoors in minus forty-five of it. Yet some sliver of people embrace these dangers and deprivations lustily. They do so with a likelihood of death far greater than fame. And thus they appear, to this fascinated onlooker, driven only by the romance of adventure and accomplishment. It is this–not at all equally distributed–motivation to stretch our tethers that has seen western civilization go from turning a wheel to leaping into space. These small determined people persevering through bitter misery for no cause greater than standing at higher altitude represent that same spirit of attainment that has seen our footprints at very high altitude indeed.
And while I admire the mountaineering spirit, and vaguely hope the reservoir of my own would be equal to their task, I do wish the climbers, artists, and strivers would remember to keep a few filaments of consciousness at ground level. For life is more than mounting a colossal stalagmite. It’s also tending your own garden. Civilization requires work and combat boots as much as it does crampons. That European dreamers so often now go snow blind to their wakeful peers seems almost a medical response to life at high elevations. Which is one of the best reasons of all to usher them down in times of distress…or push.