Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into - that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.
During my three seasons at Mount Rainier I learned a lot about mountain climbing and rescues, about politics and camaraderie in the mountains, and about what being a woman climber means. Now I know in all certainty when to bring my toothbrush and when to leave it at home, and, all things considered, that kind of confidence is hard to come by. The greatest skill I ever had, though, was the one I started with: being able to suffer for long periods of time and not die. In exchange, I got to see some amazing things.
STRAUSS: Have you ever thought about putting those experiences into a book?RICHIE: I did decide to write about what i experienced in climbing to the top. And finally when I got there, I discovered what was at the top. You know what was there?STRAUSS: No, I don't. RICHIE: Nothing. Not one thing. What was at the top was all the experiences that you had to get there.
How to get the best of it all? One must conquer, achieve, get to the top; one must know the end to be convinced that one can win the end - to know there's no dream that mustn't be dared... Is this the summit, crowning the day? How cool and quiet! We're not exultant; but delighted, joyful; soberly astonished... Have we vanquished an enemy? None but ourselves. Have we gained success? That word means nothing here. Have we won a kingdom? No... And yes. We have achieved an ultimate satisfaction... Fulfilled a destiny... To struggle and to understand - never this last without the other; such is the law...
People ask me, 'What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?' and my answer must at once be, 'It is of no use.'There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron.. If you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won't see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.
So he bought tickets to the Greyhound and they climbed, painfully, inch by inch and with the knowledge that, once they reached the top, there would be one breath-taking moment when the car would tip precariously into space, over an incline six stories steep and then plunge, like a plunging plane. She buried her head against him, fearing to look at the park spread below. He forced himself to look: thousands of little people and hundreds of bright little stands, and over it all the coal-smoke pall of the river factories and railroad yards. He saw in that moment the whole dim-lit city on the last night of summer; the troubled streets that led to the abandoned beaches, the for-rent signs above overnight hotels and furnished basement rooms, moving trolleys and rising bridges: the cagework city, beneath a coalsmoke sky.