Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Everest Dash for Cash (and gloves)

I'm over the pig flu and back training, hopefully climbing a lot more soon!

My bud Kelly Cordes put some info on gloves here, with comments from various people. It's good, different perspectives, interesting.

I recently had a long discussion with a group of friends about types of climbing, ethics, and what accomplishment in climbing means. In sport climbing it's pretty simple; you climb harder than anyone else, or you win the big comps. Either way you're bad-ass, and there's an obvious record of it. There are still disagreements and bitching, but by and large it's clear who is climbing at a very high level in sport land. Or you could be the person who climbs 200 days a year for 20 years; that would be cool and a major accomplishment to me too, maybe the coolest. I don't think you have to be having the most fun either; climbing is nonsensical, but it's often not fun, and that's fine with me. But what if you wanted to find out, say, who was the "best" alpinist? Would you look at summits climbed, new routes done, articles written or times on popular routes? All of these things to me are markers, but they are not direct forms of comparison because of varied conditions and a hundred other variables. Alpinism is a weird game because a lot of people are vying for the public's attention as being "noteworthy" without having any sort of empirical comparison method. No, if you wanted to compare alpinists you would have to have them all compete on the same objective at the same time, as in any other form of sports competition. This would put a group of people in a true competitive environment, and would produce meaningful results. So, if I had an unlimited budget, I'd have the following event:

1. Everest Dash for Cash. Invite 20 of the "best" alpinists in the world to Everest by offering all expenses paid. Have a start line, and a guy sucking oxygen on the summit with a stopwatch. First one to the top wins a million dollars. First one back to basecamp wins another million dollars. No oxygen, use the fixed ropes, don't, whatever, haul ass up. Most alpinists of course won't show up, as they don't actually compete. They just write articles and pose about their accomplishments with little to no data to back the claims up. It's easy to "win" an event where you define the rules, the time, the participants, the place and the objective. In fact, incompetency or bad planning is often rewarded or celebrated in alpinism. A few alpinists climb at a very high level (Ueli Steck comes to mind--nearly onsights El Cap, excellent Himalayan climber, and my friend Steve House finally climbed solid 5.13 so he's definitely trying). Steck holds the record on the Eiger, Matterhorn, etc. I'll bet he would play the Everest Death Race game. This is all hypothetical and a little bit sarcastic, but what if? Second place is of course a set of steak knives.

2. The Mountain Decathlon

A lot of us take it easy on ourselves by saying, "Well, I'm a generalist, not a sports-specific kinda guy." Bullshit, sucking at everything and claiming to be a good generalist still means sucking at everything. But, in the interest of finding the best generalist (and I know a few men and women who could give a solid showing in all of the below), how about a comp with:
1. Mountain Running
2. An AT ski race.
3. Sport climbing.
4. Crack climbing (use an artificial crack).
5. Ice climbing.
6. Mixed climbing.
8. Kayaking (creek race).
9. Mountain biking.
10. Heinous road bike climb maybe, but more like likely would be a Loppet-style ski race. Road biking is not really a mountain-specific sport (Hell, look at the road-bike capital of the world, Holland--the place is flat).
I'm leaving out paragliding 'cause nobody but weirdos do that sport, but if we could get enough of us together that would be cool to have too.

Anyhow, I'm thinking about all of this as I look at a few events I'm planning for the next nine months. My "events" are about heading off into new mental or physical zones, pushes to the convoluted edge of my own physical and likely mental limits. In a way I'm coming up with "Alpine" objectives, in that I'll define all the variables I can. Hmmm, what if I write about it too? You know, I really over-think the hell out of things sometimes.

Right, back to "real" work, the computer calls...


Tom Payne said...

Mountain decathlon?

Seen this?

Sure we could get a few more sports in there.

See you there in 2010?

Evan said...

I don't have the details in front of me now, and you've probably read about this before, but back in the 1970s and 80s there were many comps similar to your Everest Death Dash hosted in the USSR, with competitors from all over the world. The Soviet climbing system was set up as a hierarchy to reward success in such events.

I think some details are in Bonington's autobiography.

Brendon said...

Not quite the mountain decathlon, but it adds a bunch more disciplines:

matt dadam said...

Third place is your fucking fired.

Kim Graves said...


You're probably too young to remember (don't you hate when notes begin that way), but back in the 80's there was a TV show that pitted athletes against each other in the sort of generalist comp you describe. There were sprinters, football players, pole vaulters, marathon runners. The person who won year-after-year was....Lynn Hill!

Will Gadd said...

Chamois race looks fun, but too easy, grin...

Brendon, just sent them an email, I'm up for it.

Kim, that was Survival of the Fittest. My wife, Kim, won it once or twice, as did her brother, Pat. The SEALS did poorly, as did most of the "fitness" types. Cool event, wish I could have don it (I would probably have lost to Kim's brother, that guy was a beast, also won American Gladiator a few times...).

Unknown said...

Too funny Will. When I get tired of my fellow cubicle rats telling me what an athlete Tiger Woods is, I outline a mtn decathalon similar to yours and suggest they put Tiger up against my friend Will and see what happens - and golf can be one of the events ;-)

PJG said...

What do you mean 'was'? Something happen to Pat?

Will Gadd said...

Jim, Pat is alive and well, and still likely a beast! Just meant he was dominant in his era.