The Joy and Tragedy of Climbing

The three climbers on the Tilly Jane trailhead on December 8th, beneath Oregon’s towering Mt. Hood, left behind a simple note at the warming hut at the ranger’s station: “We are a party of three attempting North Face,” they wrote. And that was it.

Up they went, to the summit it appears, never to come down. There were 100-mile-per-hour winds, intense storms, and ten feet of snow. On Sunday, the body of James Kelly, 48, was found in a snow cave on the mountain after a desperate cell phone call. A fleet of aircraft, search and rescue volunteers, the National Guard – all called out to find his mates. Yesterday, the searchers surrendered.

This hour On Point: we go to Mt. Hood and then ask great climbers, despite it all, why they climb.

Quotes from the Show:

“It was supposed to be a two-day, quick up and down climb.” Christian Foden-Vencil

“When you get to the top of the mountain …, you get to indulge your sense of ego.” Clint Willis

“The appeal of climbing is the opportunity to engage in the way life is …” Clint Willis

“The whole issue of what [gear and equipment] to bring with you lies at the heart of extreme mountaineering.” Clint Willis

“There’s something intrinsically satisfying in mounting the insurmountable.” Brian, a listener and climber


Christian Foden-Vencil, reporter with Oregon Public Radio;
Joe Owens, climber with Portland (OR) Mountain Rescue;
Clint Willis, author of “The Boys of Everest.”;
Phil and Susan Ershler, first couple to climb the Seven Summits.

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