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RTW Ruminations: Jan 1 – 401/05/2015

1/1/2015 – Thursday
This morning I accompanied my morning coffee with all 136 pages of Pat Ament’s Climbing Everest. It is an absolutely delightful little book that I stumbled upon in Trident a few weeks ago and bought simply because it was penned by Ament, a true pioneer and legend of North American climbing, who, as a 40+ year resident of Boulder did basically everything worth doing in the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon. Whenever Joe and I are out rambling about in the Flatirons and we come across a piton, we’ll invariably refer to it as “Pattie’s Piton”. There’s usually a pretty good chance it actually is.

This slim volume actually has very little to do with Everest—Ament never climbed the mountain—and instead is more of a simple, clear, articulate meditation on life and the value of mindful activity therein. “Climbing” could easily be interchanged with just about any activity that one pursues with intention. One of my favorite quotes has to do—as does the entire book—with one’s motivations: “Climbers who go before are always better than climbers who come after…this is one of those great axioms of life, and nothing works very well in life as long as you fail to respect such a principle. As you begin to embrace the idea (that you can never compare yourself to those who go before), you are rewarded with a conclusion—and it is a critical one—that you must climb for your own love of it and within the arena of your own sacred, individual experience.

Lest one think that Ament is only highbrow Zen, I also particularly enjoyed this line, specifically regarding Everest hype: “Whatever climbing is, it is not only slogging up a snow slope in arctic cold with a modified douche bag strapped to your face. (Ament’s opinion on the use of bottled oxygen at high altitude should be clear.) The way I look at Everest is the way I look at any climb—even a boulder problem. I am there to feel. I put a value on my life by placing it in a beautiful terrain, and I do so safely, as humbly as possible, and with as much perception as oxygen will allow.” Indeed.

Finally, I think Leon has the best “New Year’s” post I’ve seen so far.

1/2/2015 – Friday
At the climbing gym this morning, I was fortunate to fall into conversation with Jim Logan—another one of those towering legends of the mountains that casually populate Boulder.

(He’s really done too many significant things in climbing to be justifiably comprehensive, but I find two small footnotes on his crowded resume to be pertinent and impressive: 1) First climbing the Diamond at age 19 with 16 year-old Roger Briggs and breaking his hand and bivying on the wall…without bivy gear; 2) A decade later making the first free ascent of the Diamond…and doing it on only passive pro–nuts and hexes.)

Anyways, we were marveling at Tommy Caldwell’s and Kevin Jorgeson’s ongoing and historic attempt to finally free-climb El Capitan’s Dawn Wall. After seven years of working it, things are looking good for them this coming week to hopefully make it to the top. It’s really inspiring to see that kind of devotion to such a long-term objective.

1/3/2015 – Saturday
More snow today in Boulder made it an easy(ier) day to not be getting out in the hills. I’m looking forward to starting back up this week with some hiking and hopefully skiing, though. A logical day for the climbing gym, but I tend to aggressively avoid it on the weekends and after 5pm. Really thankful I have that luxury, for myriad and obvious reasons.

1/4/2015 – Sunday
Today I finished Thomas Pynchon’s Inherent Vice. I’ll admit that I have tried and am unable to be a full-on Pynchon disciple. Before Vice I read The Crying of Lot 49 (many years ago) and V. (only a couple years ago). I am ashamed to admit, however, that I didn’t try hard enough while “reading” either of those to really even be able to follow the plots. Pynchon is notable for his maddeningly complex writing style, but I feel like if I’m disciplined and truly read with full attention, I should be able to at least absorb the storyline.

So, I became interested in Vice only when I learned that Paul Thomas Anderson had adapted it for the big screen with Joaquin Phoenix as the lead character. I’m a fan of both PTA and Phoenix, but vowed to not go see the movie without reading the book first.

A number of reviews characterized it as “Pynchon-lite”—meaning that it’s actually readable—and I can now attest to that, but I might argue that it’s almost “Pynchon too-lite”. Pynchon’s tell-tale skill of producing prose that reads the way that people actually think and speak is fully on display, and it’s all highly entertaining, but there doesn’t seem to be too much point, overall. And maybe that is the point. Or maybe sheer fun is just the point. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn’t feel particularly enriched by it, beyond several laugh-out-loud moments. Having said that, my confidence is slightly restored, and I’m now definitely interested in checking out his latest, Bleeding Edge, and will maybe even consider giving V. a re-read sometime soon.

snow
sunrise
Unfettered rock ‘n roll:

22 responses to “RTW Ruminations: Jan 1 – 4”

  1. Andreas says:

    Pynchon, still on my list, a must-read I guess. But first there is a Pale King to finish.
    Apart from that, i enjoyed this post, and I hope you get back to serious running and stuff soon, so in this direction: good recovery!

    A question: Did you read any DFW stuff? (Seeing Ulysses in your car in that movie o’ yours somehow makes me think so. Still have to read that in english, but it’s kind of hard I reckon, for a german guy)

    Cheers!

    • anton says:

      Yes on DFW. Saying so is probably cliche, but I’d likely call him my favorite author.

    • Jordi says:

      hi Andreas,
      haha, I’m with you. My girldfriend bought the pale king for me when she read a post in Anton’s blog. She knew I was an avid reader of this blog and that I used to read as many books in English as I could so as to learn the language, so she read the reviews online and they were all fantastic and she bought it… it looked like a great present..

      bufff… haaaard for me…

  2. Scott says:

    I can’t claim to be much of a Pynchon person, but I’m a big fan of Slow Learner, his collection of early short stories. His introduction, in which he looks back on the stories at a remove of ~30 years, is worth the price of admission alone. It’s really interesting to see his progression as a writer over the course of the stories. The last two or three are especially good—I remember thinking especially highly of “The Secret Integration” when I read it several years ago.

    For other Pynchon, Louis Menand’s review of Mason & Dixon (available free here: http://masondixon.pynchonwiki.com/wiki/index.php?title=Entropology) is so good that it almost makes me want to wade through that gigantic book.

  3. brett says:

    I recommend “A Night on the Ground, A Day in the Open” by Doug Robinson, another forefather of the type of climbing and mountaineering you enjoy.

  4. jsr says:

    I am going to have to check out that book. That is an absolutely amazing way to view your sport as he did. I dont climb, but I shall insert my movement into its place.

    I just read “into thin air” by jon krakauer, and was completey bored after a few chapters. The first ones were great, talking about the mountains history and the psychology of the people who looked at it and its godlike ora, but my god the 1 hour increment play by plays of the 200 peoples conversations bored me to hell and back.

    Currently reading “Run or Die” by Kilian Jornet, and it hands down the best book I have read about thoughts during competition.

    Appreciate Your “roadside geology of Colorado” feedback a month ago. It is a really good read and has taught me a lot.

    I don’t know if you get a lotta feedback on your recommendations, but keep the book recommendations coming dude. These books really raise my spirits and teach me a lot about purpose and inspiration.

  5. Justin! says:

    Oh! Also check out, Climb! (with the exclamation point). My ladyfriend found a copy of it in a bookstore somewhere near Driggs, ID. It was written in 1977, so it has a really cool perspective of what climbing in Colorado was all about and what was the state of the art, as it was 45+ years ago. Some great sketches of Ament (who appeared to be somewhat controversial with his first ascents?), Kor – all those peeps. Great overview of some of the first East Face climbs in Longs; a really wonderful (terrifying) photo of somebody aiding up the overhanging route of the Maiden.

    The evening before our trip to Mexico (to climb!), I was reading about the first attempts at freeing the Naked Edge in Climb! and they mentioned this guy “Magic” Ed Wright as being one of the partners of Ament or Erickson or somebody that gave it an early unsuccessful go. Guess who’s there to pick us up? The same Magic Ed! Talking about bolting multipitch 5.11’s on lead (“that last climb almost killed me!”). The whole area we went to is developed basically because of him – all these hot shot climbers in the camping area, humbled to get their beta from someone literally 3x their age. So many of those people *are* still around, and still crushing.

  6. Logan says:

    You know, its hard to find that perfect medium of an author/story that both capture you with their talent and style of prose without leaving you feeling lost, confused, and essentially ignorant(in regards to your literary IQ) to the point that you become disinterested in the book at hand. I dug into Infinite Jest after reading an essay DFW did on the tennis player Roger Federer after the aforementioned piece floored me with its on point description of a simple tennis match watched in his living room, and I was could not get through the first chapter. Writing, as with any form of expression, is art, and I am what you would call an artist in the form of painting, drawing, and graphic forms, so I can grasp most forms of creative expression, yet I was unable to grasp the way DFW mind worked and his articulation of his story. I put it down and have yet to pick it back up solely because I know I am not in the right state to continue the piece without wasting my time and undermining his obvious talent. I have pushed through many books just to simply finish them and I found in the end I could not find any linearity(is that a word? Prob not)in the story. Essentially it was a waste of my time.

    For my money, as of now, Dave Eggers is leading the pack in regards to touching on the public and secret lives of our America. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius I still feel is a masterpiece. Anyhow, enough of my gibberish.

    Enjoy the winter.

    • anton says:

      I mostly agree with this comment, but not on the specifics. I find both DFW’s fiction and nonfiction to be brilliant. A Broom Of The System is a bit more digestible than Infinite Jest, and though I loved IJ, I can see where it could be overly laborious for some.

      Eggers, on the other hand, ultimately annoyed me with his relentlessly self-referential style in AHWOSG. At first I was a bit wowed, but then it quickly began to feel too gimmicky and recursive. Both A Hologram To The King and The Circle are on my in-the-not-too-distant-future reading list, though.

  7. Logan says:

    Yeah, I can be the first to tell you that I probably fell short in giving DFW the individual attention both he and IJ deserved. In regards to AHWOSG, I had recently lost my sister the year prior to reading the book so it obviously struck close to home in regards to subject matter. But what I have found with some of Eggers work is his ability articulate a dark side that lies within the Generation Next’ers. I found he had a way, at least in my opinion in both AHWOSG and How We Are Hungry(a book of short stories), of illustrating the anxieties of American men in both color and shape. I tend to not reach out to new authors just by word of mouth so I usually stick to a small herd of writers and their work. BTW, I also am a huge Paul Thomas Anderson fan. I believe that There Will Be Blood was one of the best films of the last decade easily. I too have not read any Pynchon but in due time I am sure it will make it to my bedside. In closing, A Hologram For The King was excellent in my opinion in many ways. The Circle, fell well short for my liking. At least that is my two cents.

  8. Val says:

    If anyone in those tall mountains out west is interested in hearing tales of the first mountains in the continental US that were really explored I’d recommend “Not Without Peril: 150 Years of Misadventure on the Presidential Range of New Hampshire” by Nicholas Howe. A great bit of US history, adventure, and mayhem combined.

    Sure, we have the 4000ft club out here not the 14,000ft club, but the insanely variable weather and straight-up-rocky terrain makes it horribly difficult trail running. We often consider it more ‘boulder hopping’ than running. No single track to be found, just more rocks :-)

  9. Paul B says:

    I know what yoou mean about Thomas Pynchon, I read Gravity’s Rainbow some years back and indeed it was an epic to follow the plot. Its such dense prose and so tangled… Like the snowy pics btw. Keep on moving on and thanks for the continuing inspiration as i chase my own dreams…

  10. Kim says:

    I truly wish there were more men like you in the world.

  11. Jennifer says:

    I love your words Anton, but I have to say thank you for sharing Leon’s as well! His New Year’s post is phenomenal :-)

    Hau’oli Makahiki Hou from Hawaii!

  12. Javier says:

    Hi Anton,

    nice blog! May be is off topic…but..did you now you have a stunt double in Spain? take a look. It was in a trail running race.

    Best regards
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/113785151@N02/15565702264/in/set-72157649684392179

  13. Nathan Rouse says:

    Read Against the Day

  14. courtney says:

    that sunrise (or set?) reflection on the snow though….

  15. Matthew says:

    anton — have you read Finnegan’s Wake?

    I had no idea ultrarunning and epic tomes of (post)modernist literature were so linked.

  16. eric morris says:

    hey anton,

    i remember seeing a post a while back on facebook about acquiring some used books, one of which was mailer’s ‘executioner’s song.’ i was wondering if you’d had a chance to get into that yet, and if so, what’d you think? obviously its reputation probably precedes it, but i’m curious as to your take on mailer.

  17. Court says:

    Yay! A post with tons of mountain-nerd inspirational reads!

    Pat Ament is seriously awesome! Rumor has it that he had also dabbled in trying to become a beat poet during and after his Yosemite days, and still writes quite a bit of poetry to this day. I tried to ask him about it once and had 0 luck (he totally evaded the question). I also stumbled on his (I think self-published?) book “5.10” at a bookstore in Longmont but it was upwards of $70. If you happen upon a copy, it’s a pretty sweet read (and charmingly bound in bright red canvas)!

  18. Barry Bliss says:

    @Anton
    Thanks. I’d never heard Ty Segall before.
    Here’s one of my recent favorites:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nviTjk9Lm-w

  19. jsr says:

    Hey Anton,
    I am doing the LV100 and RRR100 this year and have another stinkin gear question.
    What light do run with at night? Especially here on the western slope in the extreme cold winter. Price Range 0-400

    Once again, I am sorry for asking you too many gear questions.

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