Climbers Come Together

The long hike up to Mount Washington’s Henderson Ridge this past weekend gave me a lot of time to think. In between trying to keep up with fast-moving friends, catch my breath, and ignore the damage inflicted to my legs by an overly ambitious workout earlier in the week I marvelled that the climbing community rallied together to raise almost $200,000 for the emergency rescue of Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson. I used to joke that I loved everything about climbing, except climbers, but more and more actions like this restore my faith in the sport of climbing and the people participating in it.

Most people reading this blog will never have heard of Kyle Dempster or Scott Adamson. In fact, I imagine most climbers at the local rock gym will have never heard of them either. Surprising considering Kyle had won two Piolet D’Or awards (what is considered by some to be the loftiest honor bestowed on an alpinist) and Scott had pioneered first ascents on iconic peaks in Alaska and the Himalaya. Despite their personal achievements, neither of these individuals attained the universal recognition of other big name climbers like Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, or Chris Sharma.

Reaching the base of my alpine objective, I thought about the modest goal I had for the day, that being, to climb an easy route I had done many times before, and hopefully be done with the climbing before the forecasted rain began. A humble goal that most likely wouldn’t amount to more than a walk for established alpinists like Kyle and Scott. Although we differed in ability, talent, and commitment, people like Kyle and Scott shared a passion for being outside, in the mountains, and climbing, things that any climber will find relatable. I think because of this, climbers (a notoriously cheap group and originators of the dirtbag lifestyle) so easily parted with their money to help their brethren in need.

Sifting through posts on the internet, I found it incredible to see people finding it in their hearts to give to the cause but also taking the time to write touching tributes to these two men living at the forefront of alpinism but in the shadows of the larger climbing world. From moving first-hand accounts of climbing, adventuring, and being close to these people that are willing to put so much on the line for something as silly, audacious, bold, or valiant depending on your perspective as climbing a far-away mountain. Other tributes came from people that knew these climbers in passing, having shaken their hand at the bar, met them at the crag, or saw a slideshow they presented. Lastly, there are people like me that never met Kyle or Scott but know them from their exploits, articles in the Alpinist, and the occasional video that surfaces on the internet. Inspired by their courage, their climbing, and the way they lived their lives, I donated.

In a now haunting article about spending a month soloing a peak in Pakistan Kyle talked about what he was willing to give the mountains, in this case, it was a fingertip. I am sure that if we could ask Kyle and Scott if they would give their lives for to pursue their goals in the mountains, they would tell us they would prefer to live and climb another day. However, it’s through the climbing they did that inspired everyone from the people they shared a rope with to the people they shared a room with to people they never even met. While we don’t know how Kyle and Scott spent their last days in Pakistan, it’s nice to think that back home they continued to inspire, bring people together, and show the climbing world what is possible.

As for my day in the alpine, I luckily finished my route just before it began to pour. Hiking across the Mount Washington’s alpine garden to the auto road as the rain picked up and wind increased I knew I was in for a long uncomfortable walk. That was until a truck stopped and offered us a ride in the bed to the parking lot. Another example of strangers helping strangers, and how maybe we aren’t all that bad.