Video: Climbing Big Peaks with Style

Wonder what it's like to climb a really big, technical mountain? What about turning around before you reach the summit?

You can get a glimpse in this video by climbers Dave Morton and Melissa Arnot, who attempted 8,481-meter (27,825-foot) Makalu, fifth highest in the world, this spring.

Watch for the climbers' thoughts on the peak, the expedition, decision making, and some spectacular scenery. (I'll note that Arnot was my guide on Rainier last year during a Summit for Someone climb, and that I think she's pretty kick-ass.)

After Makalu, Morton and Arnot headed straight to Everest base camp (via helicopter) for another big climb, but ended up turning back from that peak's summit at Camp 4. The pair already have nine Everest summits between them, but it was still a "heartbreaker" of a season, wrote Morton in a First Ascent blog.

Wrote Arnot, "It is especially hard to end an expedition like this when your goals remain elusive, but we are both content. We put in an amazing amount of hard work, and we arrived back from the mountain safely, which is always our first goal."

Good reminders that while goals are important, success isn't only about reaching a glorified summit, but also about how you climb or hike or ski or whatever. Character and style count too.

via The Adventure Blog

Filed under: People & Organizations, Places


1,711 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts
July 9, 2011 at 2:40 p.m. (EDT)

I really enjoy videos like this. Regardless of whether you are on a summit push or any other endeavor knowing when to accept not being able to make it and turning around can be hard to swallow.

The mountain will always be there. You on the other hand you may not be if you don't realize when its time to turn around. Good stuff.

102 reviewer rep
2,995 forum posts
July 11, 2011 at 3:51 a.m. (EDT)

I can see, Alicia, why you enjoyed your time on Rainer under Melissa’s guidance.

As the video first started rolling I thought, God not another "look at me being super human demonstration."  But the more this documentary rolled, the more I respected their ethos and style.  This documentary would make good PR for a competent and responsible guide.    

Four things impress me, regarding their attitudes on mountaineering:

  • They defined what level of risk and sacrifice they were willing to accept – and adhered to that parameter.
  • She had the wisdom to read her body cues and turned back, thusly preempt a possible crisis.  Failure to respect what one's body is telling them accounts for many dramas and tragedies up high.
  • He did not let summit fever dictate crucial decisions near the summit.  150 meters sounds like a small gain on an 8KM climb, but it is still almost 500 vertical feet, up an apparently steep incline, at great altitude with no bottled oxygen.  I had only summited a couple of 6KM peaks, and was turned back four times as often as I have summated.  Whenever I had to turn back I rationalized the view is pretty damn good enough from here, today.  Even if the view was only a white out!   
  • Climbing with style was their overarching ethic, which in their case included a light, self supported attempt.  But they also understood style includes state of mind, that in part defines the place mountaineering has in one’s life.  For them it is both a process and a goal within itself; nevertheless whatever other objectives may be considered, all possible outcomes are subordinate to coming home safe.


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