The Descent

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.

This mountain protected by ADT

This mountain protected by ADT

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.

13 thoughts on “The Descent

  1. Pingback: The Descent | Reaction Times

  2. Pingback: The Descent | The way I see things …

    • There’s been a push in Uruguay to “legalize it, man”. Maybe they have the stock to build and maintain a productive libertarian utopia; or maybe they’re a bunch of hippie retards. The chances of the latter are non-zero enough to make one think twice about thinking of moving there.

      • Yea, weed is everywhere in Uruguay. In Montevideo they have smoke-ins. The President is all for it. The previous president was a conservative against weed and abortion.

        Hippie retards. Also, Peruvians moving in. They loiter around Parque Batlle selling the usual odds-and-ends, or just whistling at white girls.

  3. Here’s an odd anecdote to supplement the discussion–such as it is. I went skiing today at a modest operation I’m tempted to call regional, though would more candidly be categorized as local. Nice little place, not Aspen, and not a lure for international aristocrats. And yet it was shocking how many Arabs and/or Maghrebis littered the slopes at what has historically been a remote enclave for middle income whites.

    Who were they? From where did they come? Does the state and our Lutheran/Catholic/Jew relocation industries now offer stipends for refugee lift ticket and rentals? Is this considered the barest humanitarian gesture along with food, board, and transportation? This isn’t a place oil ticks would intentionally alight, thus they must reside within some limited radius. I found their notable presence as disconcerting as Chris Christie at a P90X workout. One can only hope a few sorties down the slopes will leave them feeling as all-american as a Baltimore black rioter.

    • Qatar, probably. That South Pars gas-condensate field is worth a lot. People with money buy the same shit, just like people without money. They wind up on the Black Sea coast banging Russian girls the same way they wind up in rural Montana; telling each other about it.

  4. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2016/02/07) – The Reactivity Place

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