Why do you do things? Do you do follow your passion just to post it on Face Book? Why does the man of passion pursue his passions? Is the driving force the internal or the external reward?
A friend of mine has recently discovered the joy and amazement of alpine climbing but his path that brought him to the point of experience the internal reward as opposed the external reward was a bit round about. Wes discovered alpine climbing at a late age, 52, and the climbing bug bit him bad. Now Wes’ situation is a bit unusual because he lives in Geneva, Switzerland and has access to one of the greatest alpine climbing areas in the world, Chamonix. Wes did what many people who lack climbing experience do, he hired a Chamonix guide to take him into the mountains. Wes, with his guide went from 0 to 55 MPH. With his guide, Sebastian, Wes managed to tick off some of the great classic climbs of Chamonix. Wes filled is FaceBook page with stunning pictures of himself at the summit of Mount Blanc, the Aiguille du Midi, the Aiguille du Plan and Les Grands Chamoz. I must say they are indeed great pics as I am one of Wes’ FB friends. Wes was very proud of his climbing achievements, as he should be, in a short time he had climbed what others only dream of climbing… but did he really climb them? Wes’ wake-up call happened one weekend while he was on the “Goulotte Chèré, on the Triangle du Tacul. (For you techno-weenies it is rate D/II/P3/WI4/350m/85° see http://www.camptocamp.org/routes/54159/en/triangle-du-tacul-goulotte-chere) . Wes wrote to me of his experience with his guide:
Managing the ice was a piece of cake, but it was highly instructive for me to see him [the guide] managing the belays and screws and abseiling, which I’d not seen in that manner having generally been “lowered” in past climbs. So technically, it was useful, rather easy. The problem was acclimatization on the return! Crossing over the glacier and climbing back up the snow ridge to Aiguille du Midi was a real struggle for me and I slowed the guide down! He hadn’t calculated the depth of snow, and we didn’t have skis. Fortunately, one pitch from the summit, he realized we’d better hustle down asap. It took me longer than his other clients to return, he claims. But I really think he’s calculating this based on randonee skiers! He was deathly afraid we’d miss the last lift, which surprisingly was at 4:30! … He noted that, had we missed it, we’d have had to overnight in the Cosmic hut without food or blanket….”If you’d made me do that, I would have had to drop you as a client!” he said. I pointed out. Then he admitted that, since I hadn’t been in the mountains since October, he really should have expected the lack of acclimatization and compensated for it. He said that he only had very good clients: “I don’t have the patience….Other guides take less competent clients, not me.” Now, I understand from other people I know that the guide community are quite hard-ass and consistently tough in the France/Switzerland area until you are essential competent enough to compare to themselves. So in retrospective, I’m beginning to realize that almost all of the climbs I’ve done are really quite manageable and common by guiding standards – nothing outrageous like Frendo Spur. I read in Monte Viso’s Horizon the author’s comments on guides – that if you are learning from a guide they will actually hold your progress back. I’m beginning to suspect there is a degree of truth here: though I felt 100% safe, not sure about the quality of learning. He said he would devote the next climb to more training, “with the climbs that are more technical, your and my life will depend on it.” I need to undertake more acclimatization and will be able to do that with the weather warming up by means of some hikes, and hopefully more frequent climbs. But what to do? On the one hand, I feel like climbing with an acknowledged high-end pro (this guy is clearly super respected throughout the entire Chamonix Valley) is a privilege. On the other hand, I feel like I will always be held back as a “client.” Any useful remarks on this for me? I suppose a bit a realism is useful – could I safely tackle the Frendo Spur and other long routes? Wes
I wrote back (slightly edited):