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It's all about choices: the Matrix is real. We Are Spiritual Beings having a Human Experience.

It's all about choices: the Matrix is real. We Are Spiritual Beings having a Human Experience.

About Me

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Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina, NY/NJ, Tennessee, Washington...the U.S., and Southeast Asia & China, United States
With a B.A. in psychology and a masters in education, I'm a psychological counselor-advisor, college professor-academic adviser, writer, music journalist: a Cosmic Tuning Fork; LightWorker; Intuitive Mentor. I Activate People in understanding their Life Goals, individual Soul Lessons, and Inner Truths to achieve personal growth & happiness, and have fun too. I am called Starman by my tribal family; the turtle is our totem animal. mitchLOP8@yahoo.com / skype mitchell.lopate

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ghosts of the Ascent: Mt. Everest deaths

This story and the song on the video that accompanies it is about death, pride, and the price paid for fame.
It is perhaps one of the most profound ones I ever heard, considering how fragile Danny O'Keefe's voice can be, backed by just an acoustic guitar.  It is about the men and women who died trying to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, known as Jomolungma to the people of Tibet.  And hearing his words and the ideas he is sharing always brings a very deep and sad awe to me, no matter how many times I have played this. When I saw Danny play this song in August 2010, it brought a lump to my throat because I knew the lyrics and their terrible, frightening meaning.


George Leigh Mallory is mentioned here; he vanished in 1924 in a climb with another man.  Mallory was making his final attempt to reach the top, and it was never known if he did.  His body was found in 1999, and it appeared that the fall he took did not kill him outright.  His body was so pale and preserved that it looked like alabaster marble. 

Rob Hall, after a heroic effort to reach the pinnacle of the mountain, also lost his life from severe exposure and dehydration on Everest in 1996, and managed to call his pregnant wife via satellite to reassure her.  His countrymen in New Zealand were so proud of his accomplishment...only to lose him at his moment of victory.
 
And then there was Marty Hoey.
Marty Hoey was a climber on the 1982 expedition to Mount Everest.
She often said she would not live to be 30.  It was her choice to pick one man each year when she climbed:  he was hers, and she shared his life and tent.  The other climbers who knew her wanted marriage, but she declined.  She was killed during the climb when she plunged over the edge of the Great Couloir. The cause of her death was an unsecured harness.  She had leaned back, trying to get a better balance.  Following this, a new, more secure, knot was developed for climbing ropes and named the Marty Hoey knot in her honor.  She was 31.

 Marty was the first woman mountain climbing guide to be hired at Mt. Rainier Mountaineering. Master climber and mountaineer Lou Whittaker at first was convinced that a woman could never have the strength and endurance required for the job. Marty had to take a job as cook for the climbers at 10,000-foot Camp Muir for a couple of years before being given the opportunity to prove herself.

I can only imagine the horror and shock that those men felt when they watched her body fall.

These are songwriter-author Danny O'Keefe's comments:
 
I am not a climber. I have climbed only one, rather small, mountain. I climbed with a couple of friends in order to see the mountain goats that live in the area of the peak. I am not particularly brave at heights and sometimes the fear grabs me with the feeling that I will leap out of my body and it will fall, plummeting, as I watch it from some timeless place.

This feeling was particularly strong after we had climbed the peak, visited with the goats (hand- feeding these wild creatures who were attracted closer to us by the salt in our urine), and then prepared to glissade down the snow-covered slopes. Some of you may have had the experience of glissading, but I imagine most of you have not.

When climbing, as opposed to walking, up a mountain, you need crampons and an ice axe to assure your footing. Kick your toe into the snow and plant your axe on the ascent, but on the descent the thrill is to slide on your backside down the snowfield until you need to slow or stop by using the ice axe. When desiring to stop you abruptly roll over and forcefully plant the ice axe into the snow. Ideally, this brings you to the desired arrest.

I dream of the mountains and have lived surrounded by them most of my life. When I read Jon Krakauer's account of the disastrous Everest Expedition of 1996, "Into Thin Air," I was overwhelmed, as I assume were all who read it. It is a tragic, overwhelming story. The telling of the guide Rob Hall's last hours close to the summit is a story that will make you ache long after the words have faded. It does me. That he was able to communicate from near the peak of Everest with his pregnant wife in New Zealand via satellite phone says more than words about the times in which we live. The song "Ghosts of the Ascent"  carries all the emotion and insight I can bring to the idea of the conquest of the Earth.

I remember my father telling me the story of George Leigh Mallory's ascent of Everest in June of 1924 (he never mentioned Mallory's climbing companion, Andrew Irvine), and how it was never known if Mallory actually reached the summit because he (they) became enshrouded in cloud and was never seen again, until he was discovered, still on the mountain, in 1999. In this attempt the myth was born. Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay would ascend Everest by a different route in 1953, and others would and will follow. The nature of myth is mystery, however, and it remains to Mallory, as the original defier of the gods and the odds, that all who contemplate the ascent of Jomolungma, the Mother Goddess of the Earth, must eventually return.

But there is more here than just a story, as profoundly moving as the two, somehow intertwining, stories are. The first story of the 1996 tragedy did not affect me so profoundly until I had read the second story about Mallory and Irvine. In the imagining of their ascent I had a most palpable feeling of being there in some strange way: Again that feeling of my soul leaping out of my body at those terrible heights.

Eric Simonson, the leader of the Mallory/Irvine Expedition, says, "climbing is not about death, it is about life?" That may be so, but why then all the references to combat and death: "Assaulting the mountain; the death zone; conquering the summit, etc."? And why didn't the people of those awesome mountains ever consider climbing their peaks? I doubt it was because they were not capable of doing so.

Why were the Europeans, with their intense compulsions to explore and conquer the world, the first to attempt the assault of the Mother Goddess of the Earth?

I realize there is an intense thrill of life that occurs when one pushes the envelope closer and closer to death. The past is prelude and perhaps all this "conquering" has a real purpose written deeply into our genetic mission.  Perhaps not.

I was searching for a photograph that would speak to the voices of inner longing that accompany "Ghosts of the Ascent" when I stumbled upon Wally Berg's beautiful photo of Everest as the obelisk of the Earth. The amazing pyramid that the shadow of Jomolungma makes at dawn says something far beyond my simple ability with language.

Wally Berg knew Rob Hall well and climbed with him to the top of Everest. I also suspect that he knows George Leigh Mallory well, though not in the same way. He is a great climber and photographer. I am honored that he allowed me to present his photograph with "Ghosts of the Ascent".
I hope to make "Ghosts of the Ascent" a work in progress: Changing it from time to time by adding other players' contributions. It is a gift to you. Please feel free to download it and please pass it on to your friends. It is as deep a gift from the heart as I can give you. The greatest mountain lies within. Climb on. Peace.

Danny O' Keefe
September 2000
©2000 Bicameral Songs



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