Thursday, December 9, 2010
Lone Wolf, the John Waterman Story
Chapter Three of In the Shadow of Denali tells all about "the other John Waterman". The author of this book is Jon Waterman, and the remarkable crossings of paths without actually meeting each other is surprising. The father of John taught ice climbing skills to the author, they both loved and climbed in Alaska, moved in the same circles.
John disappeared after heading up the east face of Denali, climbing alone, in 1981. He is presumed dead, only the trail gods know for sure.
I took a lot of notes reading this chapter, most of them dealing with our inner demons that drive us nearly to madness, and beyond. Hard to remember the race is only with our self, and cut our greatest enemy some slack. Even after death defying feats, the Lone Wolf feels a disappointment and continues in his self distructive mode. Why is it never enough?
Jon writes , " If going mad didn't kill you, and you survived collapsing cornices and tent-ripping storms, you would forever walk twisted among your peers, changed irreparably by a stark and surreal world beyond most people's earthly experience."
Sounds like what long distance, and thru hikers especially call Re Entry.
I live not in myself, but I become Protion of that around me;and to me High mountains are afeeling, but the hum of human cities torture. -Lord Byron
John, the Lone Wolf received his trail name because of his propensity for long spells alone, among them 145 days soloing on and summitting Mount Hunter in 1978. His chosen route had never been climbed. In spite of his vast experience and daring, he'd end up washing dishes in Fairbanks instead of capitalizing on his feats and writing books and lecturing.
He lost many friends due to mountaineering accidents, never had a long term girl friend, and was given to volatility.
People who are afflicted with this kind of obsession for their chosen extreme sport understand the spirits that haunt until we go out to meet them again.
I recommend this book, this chapter being one of memorial, respect and warning.
The mountain climbers who reach a fine old age have been able to say "its enough."