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The Flame of Adventure

 The Flame of Adventure

by Sean Hudson

October 11, 2002

In THE FLAME OF ADVENTURE, British Climber Simon Yates gives a personal account of his earliest days of climbing--the wild adventures and amazing climbs, living life on the edge. THE FLAME OF ADVENTURE is a mountaineering travelogue, moving from little-known peaks in the Tien Shan to the north face of the Eiger, from a motorbike ride across Asia to hitchhiking 2,500 kilometers across Australia with a crazy, pill-popping truck driver. Through such anecdotes, Yates reflects on the meaning of adventure, what it is, and why he and so many others find it crucial to a life well lived.

Among Yates' adventures, mishaps, and reflections:

  • Yates is probably the best known, much to his chagrin, as "the guy who cut the rope on Joe Simpson" during the descent of a new route on the West Face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes (a story recounted by Simpson in Touching the Void). He explains how the event impacted his thoughts of mortality: "I had heard of, and even witnessed lives being lost in the mountains, but somehow the events had always seemed a little distant, somehow removed from my own life. What had happened in Peru was very immediate and very real. I was now truly aware of the ultimate penalty that mountaineering could exact, but at the same time my desire to climb was undiminished."
  • Yates exemplifies the life of a free-spirited climer. In his quest never to live a "normal life", he does only what is necessary to get to his next climb. "I climbed because I loved doing it. I had little interest in money or material things, which I saw simply as tools to enable me to climb."
  • Climbing the Eiger with a friend, Yates reflects upon his personal philosophy of the sport: "We neither wanted nor needed recognition from others. The climb was simply a shared personal ambition...The Eiger's daunting North Face towered above, looking strangely out of place. I struggled to tip my head back far enough to see the summit and to comprehend the enormity of the sight."
  • On a journey to Pakistan, Yates portrays the up-and-down world of climbing when he stops short of the summit on Lobsang II, where he is content to stay put instead of continuing to the summit: "A knife-edge ridge stretched out from where we were sitting for two hundred metres to a slightly higher pinnacle. It would have taken many hours to reach, besides it was nicer to just sit in the sun and take in the view."
  • Yates also likes to climb the lesser-known peaks, such as Leyla Peak in Pakistan: "At 6,300 metres in height, Leyla Peak was no giant by Himalayan standards, but it was one of the most beautiful mountains I had ever seen. The bulging granite walls at its base guarded a symmetrical icy pyramid above. It looked like a sculpture. Ever since I had first glimpsed it through a gap in the clouds, I imagined somehow breaking through the granite walls to climb the perfect snowy ridge which lay above. That moment, along with many others on my first visit to Pakistan the previous year, had made a lasting impression which had compelled me to return."
  • Scaling the North Face of Pik Pobeda with his Russian cohorts, Yates hurts his ankle and is helped down the mountain by another team of Russian climbers. He begins to understand the "communal nature" of the Russians' mountaineering as they descend: "I had always been attracted by what I perceived as the feeling of independence [climbing] gave...The Russians by contrast relied on sharing many things...But it was a system that had been carefully throught out and modified through experience."
  • Working on a construction site in London, Yates reflects upon our need for adventure: "Watching painters wandering around on girders and scaffolders swinging around inside insecure lattices of tubing, I could see that they were quite happy to take risks at work because their lives outside lacked them."

About the Author

Author Simon Yates is a British mountaineer of worldwide renown. He has climbed with other mountaineering greats, including Greg Child, Doug Scott, and Andy Cave. He has worked as a mountain guide, and now lectures and runs commercial expeditions. His first book, Against the Wall, was shortlisted for the Boardman-Tasker Award.

For more information, visit the Mountaineers Books website.

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Live To Climb