The quote from David Roberts, a long-time mountaineer, describes how the appeal of mountaineering, in part, stems from the fact that the real focus is the challenge of climbing the mountain. The magnitude of that challenge makes interpersonal relationships seem insignificant by comparison. The challenge also makes people into comrades...
The quote from David Roberts, a long-time mountaineer, describes how the appeal of mountaineering, in part, stems from the fact that the real focus is the challenge of climbing the mountain. The magnitude of that challenge makes interpersonal relationships seem insignificant by comparison. The challenge also makes people into comrades pursuing a shared goal together, even if they have little in common when they are not on the mountain.
In other words, the shared goal of getting to the top of the mountain creates a bond among climbers even when no other apparent bond exists. Krakauer refers to “the freedoms and pleasures of the hills,” that can create short-term friendships just by virtue of people being together on the mountain.
However, even within the book itself, this concept is disputed. One example is in the description of one of the climbers: Sandy Pittman. Krakauer paints Pittman in extremely unflattering ways:
An indefatigable seeker of public attention, Sandy made her name and picture regular fare in New York society columns.
He also depicts her as egomaniacal, oblivious to how her behavior impacts others, and completely out of her depth. He writes:
Upon arrival in the Himalaya, Pittman appeared to adhere as closely as possible to the proprieties of high society. During the trek to Base Camp, a young Sherpa named Pemba rolled up her sleeping bag every morning and packed her rucksack for her. When she reached the foot of Everest with the rest of Fischer's group in early April, her Pile of luggage included stacks of press clippings about herself to hand out to the other denizens of Base Camp. Within a few days Sherpa runners began to arrive on a regular basis with packages for Pittman, shipped to Base Camp via DHL Worldwide Express; they included the latest issues of Vogue, Vanity Fair, People, Allure.
Having Pittman on the mountain is a source of amusement or entertainment at first:
The Sherpas were fascinated by the lingerie ads and thought the perfume scent-strips were a hoot.
Many of her teammates are nonplussed. Krakauer even says,
Scott Fischer's team was a congenial and cohesive group; most of Pittman's teammates took her idiosyncrasies in stride and seemed to have little trouble accepting her into their midst.
This would seem to support the thought that mountaineering creates bonds with fellow climbers. Yet, in the way that Krakauer describes her, the reader comes away with a sense that had it not been for Sandy Pittman, many other people could have been saved. She fatigues Lopsang with her trivial needs (he has to bring her a phone and he "short-roped" her to help her ascend). There is no sense that differences between people were erased on the mountain.