That Moment


Every climber starts out believing in their own invulnerability. Death and injury happen to other people, because they are fools, suckers, or just don’t have the luck, like you do. Believing oneself impervious comes in very handy, especially during the formative years. In that era, every risk and critical action is still new.


The other ‘O.S’ route, North Ridge of the Grand Teton

You will take big run-outs whether you plan on it or not. You will make potentially fatal mistakes along the way. If you think nothing bad will happen to you, then you will march on past those moments of critical danger and learn the game. Of course, other outcomes are possible. Some people get the chop during the formative era. Some get bored with their apparently inevitable success and abandon the sport.

For everyone who sticks with it, there comes a moment when the belief in one’s invulnerability gets wiped away. For me, it was watching people die, and nearly being killed by the falling bodies. After that, there was no wishing my way back to the last age, where it couldn’t happen to me, no matter how convenient such a wishful belief may have been.

We can’t pick and choose what we believe in the end. No matter what, those moments come to spoil the utility of our delusions. Yet after the disappointment fades, you begin to understand: what you do after those moments is what really matters.



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6 thoughts on “That Moment

  1. jim- says:

    That smile has to be because what else can you do. The face looks bad, but you should see the rock!

    • keithnoback says:

      The cut was not that bad, really. It just caught the little artery above the orbit.
      Hazard of ice climbing; you hit the ice and sometimes it hits back.
      I always look that way after WI6, minus most of the blood. It never really gets easier.

  2. N.S. Palmer says:

    Climbing could be a metaphor for life: If we knew what we were getting ourselves into, most of us would hesitate to leave the cradle. But if climbing is your thing, then climb.

    The original version of the book “You Only Live Twice” had James Bond die at the end. His obituary attributed a quote to him that I’ve always considered wise:

    “I will not waste my life trying to prolong it. I will use my time.”

  3. Samir Chopra says:

    Wow, that is some photograph. I take it that’s you with the bloody face? Hey, we should climb together sometime!

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