Are Mountain Climbers Crazy?
By Skip Sheffield
Are all mountain climbers crazy? You might think so after seeing “Meru” a documentary film about high-risk, big-wall climbing of the world’s riskiest, tallest mountains.
Meru is located in the Himalayas of northern India, 21,000 feet above the sacred Ganges River. The film is directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarelyi and Jimmy Chin, who was one of the climbers and is the husband of Elizabeth Chai Vasarelyi. The story is in two parts. The first begins in October, 2008. Three of the world’s best climbers: Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk and Jimmy Chin, planned a seven-day expedition to the never-conquered summit of Meru. Things quickly went amiss. Seven days stretched into 20 in sub-zero temperatures with high winds as food supplies dwindled and the men felt the ill effects of exposure. They had to admit defeat and retreated within 100 meters of the summit.
The guys went back to what passes for normal for professional mountain climbers, but they couldn’t resist another shot at Meru, which is referred to as the “Anti-Everest” for its sheer difficulty and elite group of challengers. This is not a happy story. Some are severely injured. Some die. All cheat death on a daily basis. I was given a mountain climbing class the summer I was 13 in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. My cousin John Huyler was an avid climber. I did not want to be seen as a coward, but I can admit now I was terrified; especially at the grand finale where we were told to belay off a sheer cliff, held only by a rope, controlled by one’s hand grip. What I did was child’s play compared to what these men went through. Why? I don’t know, but it is a vicarious thrill to watch.