Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Old Guy At It Again

John Roskelley, arguably the greatest American climber in Himalayan history, is back at it—this time with his son, Jess. In 2003, the father-and-son team summited Mt. Everest via the North Ridge, and this year they’ve raised the ante sky-high, attempting the steep, unclimbed Northeast Face of 23,400-foot Gaurishankar in Tibet. John Roskelley climbed the peak’s West Face in 1979, considered one of the most technically difficult Himalayan ascents ever. His list of other major ascents in the the region since 1973 is mind-boggling: K2, Makalu, Uli Biaho, Tawoche, Dhaulagiri, Nanda Devi and on and on. Now, at 56, Roskelley is back in a Himalayan basecamp, acclimatizing for an attempt on Gaurishankar’s 6,000-foot rock and ice ice wall with only his 22-year-old son as a partner. “I had to manufacture my own climbing partner," John writes on the expedition website. "I wore too many of my generation out.”

Follow the climb with written and audio reports here.

What I wonder is this: How do these old guys get it up for climbs like this? I’m much younger than John Roskelley, and my taste for really dangerous climbing has definitely waned. Charlie Sassara once told me: “The courage is the first thing to go.” Here’s a thought: Maybe some climbers had more courage to begin with.

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