October 2018 archive
My second favorite state motto is that of West Virginia: Montani semper liberi (Mountaineers are always free). Taken literally, it is arguably untrue. To be obsessed is to be a slave and mountaineering is definitely an obsession for some. But mountaineering/climbing has moments of attention to nothing but the task at hand and many of us find that experience liberating.
And for those of us who are easily amused, West Virginia's motto is great because when you ask Google to translate it into German, it renders "free" in the sense of "gratis": Bergsteiger sind immer kostenlos.
Most climbers on long hard routes use rope for safety. I've come across the occasional unroped climber but not often. I get that a climber's family and friends will miss them if they die but I don't presume to know better than someone else what they should be doing. I don't know what it's like to be a parent, much less a parent who loses a young son or daughter to an unroped fall. But doesn't every parent have to make peace with knowing that their progeny will make choices on their own?
I've climbed Bear's Reach (a 400+ foot granite route) a few times, always roped and in a party of two. It takes us a few hours, a good amount of that time spent on placing and removing protection. Accomplished climbers have done it in under five minutes unroped, Dan Osman for example. Why didn't he use rope? It's not the same experience. You might just as well ask why he didn't hike the trail to the top of the rock instead.
My favorite state motto is North Carolina's: Esse quam videri (To be, rather than to seem).