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Did Socrates say "Know Thyself", or was he misunderstood, as all are. Show Thyself is all we can do. The knowing is unknowable.  

I am filled with joy.  It can't be helped.  

Became a Farmer, Builder, Musician, Tank Commander, Librarian, Lawyer and Minister. I have failed at many things. And now retired.  Filled, just filled, with Joy. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Climbing - vocabulary

Definitions / words to help keep the climb in perspective. Note that climbing or exploring, like culinary activities, is dominated by French words:


Apparel - Outside, a durable, breathable, alpine soft shell with moisture-shedding doubleweave polyester, glued seams and stretch. Inside, wool, with layers of cotton.

Ascension - Ideal term for describing the upward climb. Contrast with "the Fall".

Big Wall - said of climbing a rock face.

Bivouac / bivouacked - temporary pitching of tent, with an intention that it is a place of rest and protection in the course of an ordeal. What is usually abandoned in the "last ditch descent".

Bottleneck - a geological feature that limits passage to a tricky and dangerous passage. On the Abruzzi route on K2, the B. is a 60-degree couloir at 27,100 feet.

British Paratroopers on Mt.McKinley (qv) climb - On June 4, 1998, a 10-man team of British soldiers set out to climb Mt.McKinley. The rangers at Talkeetna recommended the West Buttress (Grade 2), because some team members had no experience with glacier crossings and ice climbing. The rangers also told them to acclimatize for several days at 16,200 feet. The team ignored the outsider advice (see Groupness qv). They chose to climb the West Rib (Grade 4), and attempted to summit after only one day, and split the group 7 times in rescues required in attempting a highly technical finish. Found themselves on the mountain for three weeks, partially exposed in wet bivouc bags during bad weather.

Climber's Elbow - tendinits of the Medial Epicondyle (qv). Can be prevented with stretching and strengthening of the forearm.

Couloir - a deep gorge, where a gorge is a deep gulley. The big drop.

Everest - [None of the local names were established before British scientists named it after one of their own who had himself made every effort to use local names -- but see also Sagarmatha (Nepali: सगरमाथा), Chomolungma or Qomolangma (Tibetan: ཇོ་མོ་གླང་མ) or Zhumulangma (Chinese: 珠穆朗玛峰 Zhūmùlǎngmǎ Fēng)]– the highest mountain on Earth, as measured by the height above sea level of its summit, 8,848 metres (29,029 ft - first established by theodolites, then in 1999 by GPS unit embedded in the rock). The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range in High Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China. 3,681 aspirants have summitted, with a death toll of 210. Note K2 is 4 times more dangerous -- qv.

Fixed ropes - clip lines and rappels anchored to the rock or with ice screws left in place by previous teams.

Frostbite - with hypothermia, frozen body tissue. Usually to ears, nose, fingers/hands, legs and feet. Appendages may be visibly curled, dysfunctional. Regarding the 2006 David Sharp controversy, although still living, he was climbing solo and already suffering from severe frostbite when first located by other teams ascending Everest.

Groupness - the downfall of many a good corporation and climbing team. Study by MIT Sloan showing relationship between how long a group has been together and how well it communicates with outsiders. New groups perform better than older groups which become insular and technically dysfunctional over time. Example: 1998 British paratroopers set out to climb McKinley, Alaska (qv.)

Hard go - a difficult climb or descent; cf. the euphemism, "highly technical climb".

K2 - 28,250 feet, in Pakistan's Karakoram Range, a much harder and deadlier peak than Everest. August 1, 2008 saw 11 climbers killed on the Abruzzi Ridge. First ascent was in 1954. By 2007, only 284 climbers had summitted, while 66 died trying.

Medial Epicondyle - inside of the elbow. Used to describe flat ridge leading up to a rock face.

Motivator - The dangerous condition on the climb, such as an oncoming storm, or a geological feature such as an overhanging serac above a bottleneck.

Rappel - a descent of a vertical cliff or wall made by using a doubled rope that is fixed to a higher point and fastened to the body.

Road - "A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be, to where it is futile to go." - A. Bierce.

Prolotherapy Injections - Anti-anti-inflammatory: re-ignites the natural anti-inflammatory response with injection of glucose. Note that anti-inflammatory drugs reduce pain, but impede healing, by stifling the flow of regenerative proteins or even blood supply to damaged areas.

Serac - A pinnacle of ice among the crevasses of a glacier; also, one of the blocks into which a glacier breaks on a steep grade.

Sloughed off -- as when a serac that had hung in place for decades suddenly collapses off the mountain, and may cover the trail with freshly broken impedimenta. May refer to the natural removal of fixed ropes you counted on.

Summit - reach the top.

Technical - euphemism for a climbing difficulty.

Top out - reach the top.