Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Trundler Talks

The young man who threw a rock off a Wind Rivers cliff and killed NOLS Rocky Mountain Director Pete Absolon (photo, right) earlier this month has spoken to the press, giving an interview to the Casper Star-Tribune. It's a good read, and it does make you feel a little sorry for the fellow, who looked over the edge of the cliff just in time to see his errant missile strike and kill Absolon. He clearly didn't intend any harm, and he was not charged with any wrongdoing. (He was lucky: In the mid-’90s, three guys pled guilty to negligent endangerment and paid large fines after killing a climber in a similar trundling incident on Granite Peak in Montana.) While I can feel some pity for the guy, I sympathize more with the NOLS leader quoted in the story, who said, "We recognize that he is hurting, but we are also working on filling a big void in our community and a family here in Lander." Throwing rocks off a cliff, he said, is just plain irresponsible.

And yet...and yet.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I was high on a cliff in the popular Indian Peaks, hucking off huge rocks all day. A friend and I were climbing a new route on a 500-foot face, and loose rocks lined the cracks and lay on the ledges. We had to chuck them off or we might kill each other with a careless placement of our feet or errant tug of the rope. But what if one of those rocks had bounced all the way to the trail below? What if a hiker decided to take a shortcut and started up the gully leading to our route during a quiet spell in our bombardment? Would we have watched in horror as a rock plunged toward its unwitting mark? Without intending any disrespect toward Absolon, many of the decisions we make in life do tread the "fine line between clever and stupid," to paraphrase David St. Hubbins. I can only hope I never cross that line like the Wind River trundler did.


Wendy said...

Am new to your blog...have checked out maybe the last 5-10. Am enjoying the mix of wit (i.e. the joggling, I believe it was called) and the contemplation of serious things. This is exactly what I tell my students about: the right kind of writing will keep you rapt, even if you, the reader, are not a climber, etc.

Al-Ozarka said...

I noticed your blog on Blogger's sidebar.
Have you ever had a chance to do any climbing/adventuring in the Ozarks? Though we don't have many 500ft cliffs, there are some really cool places up here in these hills!

Enjoyed you post.

Oberon said...

.......shrinking dick.....that's funny.

Bob McKerrow - Wayfarer said...

I enjoy your blog. I am a mountaineer from NZ and have climed all around the world. Keep at it brother for you may inspire someone not to throw rocks.

Bob McKerrow

Unknown said...

From Sunny South Africa - I love the mountains of Lesotho and you will find some stories about the work there in my blogs - Groenie and Along-The way.
You travel up and down about 1000 metres at a time when driving with mountain on mountain. There are hikes and trails by pony up into the mountains, even a 4x4 cannot get into some places. Lesotho is also called the Mountain Kindgom. It also has a 204 metre vertical absail next to a 195 metre single drop waterfall, the highhest single drop waterfall in South Africa. You can also look up Semonkong Lodge for details. Happy mountaineering.

Unknown said...

My heart goes out to both victims and perpetrators in these kind of accidents.

I was always telling our children--when hiking in Wales and England's Pennines--not to throw stones, but they usually laughed it off, and the next day couldn't resist the temptation of watching a rock soar through space and thud far below.

Makes me shudder thinking of what could have happened. Thanks for this reminder. Think I'll email them all so they can stop their own kids from making stones fly.

Anonymous said...

World must hear about this.

An incredible but true story: Spanish authorities prosecute child for terrorism when he e-mails companies requesting labelling in Catalan language, using Phoenix Army monicker from Harry Potter books. Police accuse him of organizing an Al Qaeda cell. Case goes all the way to Spanish High Court.

Video 1

lady macleod said...

A tragic story. Yet as more climbers attack the mountains around the world I fear it may become a more common story. When last I was at base camp on Everest it was so crowded as to not be believed by climbers like me who were climbing there in 1970. It is more crowded now in the foothills outside Siringar as well.

A nice blog. It is my first visit.

Karan Saini said...

You have an interesting blog and good information. I also share the passion of mountain trekking. Recently i've been to the valley of Manali, India. They are incredibly beautiful. Have you ever got a chance to visit northern part of India?

Very soon i'm gonna release the pictures taken on the Rohtang pass, Manali on my blog.

Jamie Boyle said...

Nice blog but tragic story, its unfortunate that happened but no harm was intended. Wrong spot at the wrong time.