When I give talks at schools there are two questions (not counting “where do you go to the toilet?”) that I can guarantee will be asked every time. I have pretty set answers by now:
- Q: “Did you set a world record cycling round the world?” A: “No, the world record for cycling round the world belongs to Thomas Stevens, the first man to cycle round the world. He rode round the world on a Penny Farthing and was much cooler than me. But he’s dead, so you’ve got me today instead.”
- Q: “Are you going to climb Mount Everest?” A: There are lots of reasons why I don’t intend to climb Mount Everest. Here’s a few of the reasons I tend to choose from according to the audience:
- I’m not a climber. And getting dragged up the mountain by a professional guide like a gasping sack of potatoes does not appeal.
- It’s too crowded. I would rather climb a smaller peak and have it all to myself. There are still a heck of a lot of exciting, challenging, beautiful mountains that remain unclimbed. Read this article by the legend that is Janne Corax for more info.
- There is mobile phone reception at the mountain. Guilty as I am of frequenting Twitter, I firmly believe that some places should be off limits for sharing banalities with the world. The photo in this blog article sums up the distastefulness of all this.
- It’s becoming a gathering point for egos, celebrities, freaks, and the sort of nonsense that deems that the Death Zone is a suitable place for a 9-year-old child.
And so, although the yoof I speak to often see me as a bit of a loser for being neither a celebrity nor a World Record Holder, I have no intention of climbing Mount Everest. Kids today [Did I really just type that? How old have I become?!] are brought up, thanks to the X-Factorisation of our society, on the idea that Celebrity and Instant Fame are great, and if you can update your Facebook status on your way towards Glory then so much the better.
But there are other ways. You can serve your apprenticeship. Go climb Suilven. Have the mountain to yourself. Test yourself, challenge yourself, learn about mountains, learn about yourself. This is preferable to typing “I Want To Climb Mount Everest” into Google and getting out my chequebook.
What do you think? Am I totally wrong?
Was climbing Everest rendered obsolete the day that Irvine and Mallory stood on its summit? Or is the achievement as undiminished for each individual as it ever was?