I’ve been checking out Michael Yberra’s “extreme sports correspondent” columns in the Wall Street Journal. Yberra seems to get around, from Yosemite classics to Nepal. His work is crafted to fit the confines of WSJ column length and style, which I find interesting as it is quite a contrast to the bro/brah writing you find is more common than not on the web. (Not that I mind any style of writing, so long as I don’t overdose.)
One of Yberra’s more recent WSJ items is a little ditty about K2, the second highest peak in the world and possibly the hardest 8,000-meter peak to climb.
The piece is actually a book review of No Way Down, by Graham Bowley, which details the ‘savage mountain’ by describing in vivid detail the scores of deaths that occur on K2 with disturbing regularity.
Yberra comes up with some pretty good one-liners in his review. For example, he writes that “almost any idiot, willing to spend enough money, can climb Everest.”
That’s probably true for Denali as well, but I won’t get into that as I’d have to share my budget, which was scary even without guides.
Suffice it to say that what kept popping into my head while reading was how different it is to plan and execute your own expedition as opposed to hiring a guide service and/or porters to do nearly everything but the actual placing of one foot in front of the other (which they’ll do as well, if necessary).
Not that I’m against guides (sometimes it’s fun to just sit back and let someone else do the work), but I’d like to see more honesty and transparency about guides versus no guides by those individuals who tout their mountaineering feats in print and public speaking engagements.
More than once I’ve read an account of a climb that basically ignored the guides who made it happen. Leaving that big a part out of a trip account dishonors the guides at best — at worst it is disingenuous. Conversely, those who do climb or do a ski descent of a big, commonly guided peak without guides should consider communicating how that made their trip different, for better or worse.
Your thoughts? If you’ve gone on both guided and unguided mountain trips, what was the difference? And just how easy can they make Mount Everest before it ceases to be a resume topper?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.