Of late, there seems to be a preponderance of Climbs For X, be X cancer, AIDS, MS, or any other number of acronyms representing feared afflictions often discussed in hushed tones. While I certainly don’t begrudge any of the participants their—often devoted and intense—efforts to raise awareness of many of these terrible conditions, I am slightly, well, puzzled, I guess, as to why climbing has been added to the list of activities that can be quantified, graded or given a specific value in some way.
Puzzled instead of surprised because it’s becoming increasingly obvious with every passing month that that is precisely what climbing is becoming as the media becomes more comfortable spinning it, reporting it, wildly speculating about it and generally pushing it further into the forefront of the American consciousness.
Perhaps it is simply an inability on my part to separate climbing from the purity and intensity of the natural world—as apart from the ideas of medical clinics, drug trials or battles against pharmaceutical companies as one could ever possibly go—that makes these events seem slightly odd.
Yet, somewhere, hopefully within the very groups of people summitting the fifty high points of the American states to raise awareness of pediatric AIDS, or “encourage[ing] adventure travel as a means of supporting dental and oral health education and treatment initiatives in developing countries”, there grows a sense that climbing is ultimately an activity that increases one’s connection to the beauty and harshness of the mountain world—and is more about the act of the ascent itself than any summit, number, tick list or dollar sign.