Two White Guys, Caldwell and Jorgeson, Conquer El Capitan

Extreme sports is a context for implicit Whiteness:

Extreme athletes exist in an implicitly White world where they associate only with other White men—“a racially and gender exclusive place” where White men “can un-apologetically perform an ideal masculinity which they cover by taking death-defying risks, enduring the pain of participation and displaying an unwavering confidence and coolness in the face of apparent danger.” …

White men jumping off buildings and sky surfing are reenacting a fundamental script of Western culture—the same script that underlies Western energy, inventiveness, exploration and creativity. “Extreme Sports as a Context of Implicit Whiteness

As Domitius Corbulo notes in his comment on the vast overrepresentation of Europeans as explorers:

Exploration is not only a popular subject, but one filled with fascinating stories of human greatness, heroic will, and stamina against immense odds and hardship—exactly the sorts of traits that, according to cultural Marxists, should not be found to be unusually common among Europeans. …

Roughly speaking I counted about 75 great European explorers in the period from about 1800 to the present, men (and a few women) who dedicated themselves to the discovery of the unknown, reconnoitering every place of the planet, climbing the highest mountains, penetrating into the deepest crevices of the oceans and high above in space. This history is rarely taught in our schools and universities; it has been virtually banned, or slandered by charges of imperialism.

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson exemplify these traits, with a strong dose of perseverance and incredible bravery. They have succeeded in a free climb of El Capitan, in Yosemite National Park. “Free climbing” is climbing from ledge to ledge using only the natural features in the rock, using ropes only for protection in case of a fall, and not relying on gear for upward progress. The photos below give some idea of the challenges involved.

It was the first ascent of the 3,000-foot Dawn Wall in a single expedition with the use of only hands and feet to pull climbers up — a challenge long considered impossible. Ropes were merely safety devices to break the occasional fall. For Caldwell, a 36-year-old from Estes Park, Colo., it was a goal that he could not shake since he first seriously conjured the idea a decade ago. It became his life-bending quest, a personal Moby Dick. Could every inch of the blank, vertical face of the Dawn Wall be climbed with nothing more than bare hands and rubber-soled shoes? He was not sure. He never was, really, until Wednesday…. (New York Times)

Caldwell and Jorgeson see their feat in a wider context:

JORGESON I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will. We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context. …

CALDWELL For me, I love to dream big, and I love to find ways to be a bit of an explorer. These days it seems like everything is padded and comes with warning labels. This just lit a fire under me, and that’s a really exciting way to live. And this has driven me for a really long time.

JORGESON I wanted to see what I was capable of, and this was the biggest canvas and the most audacious project I could join and see to the finish. Like Tommy, I don’t know what is next. New York Times

Jorgeson’s girlfriend, Jacqui Becker, told the San Jose Mercury News

“To call them thrill seekers is to minimize the profundity of their passion and commitment,” Becker says. She adds, “There is absolutely nothing thrilling about spending six years hauling thousands of pounds of gear up and down a mountain in freezing temperatures. There is nothing thrilling about leaving loved ones to tackle a distant dream. There is nothing thrilling about rehearsing and practicing and studying the same holds over and over until you dream them.” (NPR)

The Washington Post article gives a good feeling for the difficulties involved:

A storm defeated them in 2010. And in 2011, Jorgeson broke his ankle during their second try, according to the Los Angeles Times. But this year, they were ready for the challenge.

About a third of the way up, they set up camp — a hanging platform tenttethered to the wall. They rappelled down with ropes to sleep after each night’s grueling climb. They made coffee and sandwiches — whole-wheat bagels with cream cheese, cucumber, red-bell pepper and salami, Jorgeson told National Geographic. Then they set out again.

They climbed in the dark, using headlamps to light the way. Climbing during the daytime would be too risky, since the sun would heat the rock, causing their tired hands to sweat and slip from the coin-thick nooks and crannies.

Indeed, the climbers had some setbacks along the way.

The 15th pitch proved most hopeless for Jorgeson.  For seven nights, he fell — eight times, nine times, then 10 times. He texted his girlfriend one word: “Devastated.” …

“I’d pull back from the ledge, having split my finger yet again, and then realize I have to take another two rest days. You’re thinking about the timing, the weather, whether or not you’re going to have another chance to do it,” he told National Geographic. “But then, you know, 30 minutes goes by and you’re back to that state of resolve.”

On his 11th try Jan. 9, Jorgeson cleared the pitch and, the following night, he was on to the 16th — where he had to make an 8-foot leap from one small, slippery crevasse to another. …

“This goes beyond what has been done, and it goes into completely new territory,” Timmy O’Neill, a professional climber who has climbed with Caldwell on El Capitan, told the Denver Post. “He’s standing on his own shoulders when he stands on the shoulders of giants to get this done.”

Unfortunately, the spirit seen in these men is all too rare among us now — destroyed by affluence and overindulgence in food and drink, and seduced by the mind-numbing pleasures of a life squandered in front of television. The corruption of the culture of the  West has many effects, but one of the most important is that it’s so easy to give into the life of passive consumption. Passive consumers will not make a revolution.

So it’s good to be reminded that there are still those among us who possess the psychological traits needed for great deeds. These lines from Beowulf capture well the Faustian spirit apparent in these men that is so central to understanding the West — and, I suggest, Caldwell and Jorgeson:

As we must all expect to leave
our life on this earth, we must earn some renown,
If we can before death; daring is the thing
for a fighting man to be remembered by. …
A man must act so
when he means in a fight to frame himself
a long lasting glory; it is not life he thinks of. (See “Extreme Sports as a Context of Implicit Whiteness“)

 Let us honor them now.

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