The Fork In The Road


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Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 4, 2012 - 11:31am PT
So many great posts and thoughts here!

My story is similar to Rick A. He said:
I have known quite a few who pursued the game of constantly upping the ante in climbing accomplishment and risk. I played that game to a small degree, myself. One fork that I look back on is the summer of 1978. I was in the middle of my first year of law school, when Tobin Sorenson invited me to go with him to the Garwhal Himalaya, all expenses paid by sponsors, to attempt some beautiful, but objectively dangerous, unclimbed peaks. That trip got canceled, but had we gone, we might have accomplished some very daring and memorable first ascents (which would have led to further sponsored trips)…or it is quite possible that we would have died trying.

My sponsored trip that fell through was Peru. I was 21 years old and had been pushing climbing and dirtbagging hard for six years. Losing that trip, was a turning point for me. I also had two important partners who I shared work with in the Oregon coast range who had moved on to other things. I also had an adventure friend who had joined the Army Rangers and seemed to be loving it.
Thus, I ended up at the USAF Survival Instructor school. I still used every day of R&R and 30 days of leave and weekends for climbing at Smith, the North Cascades or the valley. It still ended up being around 100 days a year!! So the military wasn't as detrimental to adventuring as many would think! That carried me another four years to the next fork.
Working overseas is when the real security/money/family started to sneak up on me....

Now I have four amazing humans for children, a beautiful wife, a warm home, reliable wheels and not quite enough time to climb, but I still do.

Wouldn't change a thing. It's been a marvelous ride.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Dec 4, 2012 - 11:41am PT
“Me miserable! Which way shall I fly
Infinite wrath and infinite despair?
Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell;
And in the lowest deep a lower deep,
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
To which the hell I suffer seems a heaven.”

“A mind not to be changed by place or time.
The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heav'n of hell, a hell of heav'n.”

"Heaven is for thee too high
To know what passes there; be lowly wise.
Think only what concerns thee and thy being;
Dream not of other worlds, what creatures there
Live, in what state, condition, or degree,
Contented that thus far hath been revealed.”

John Milton, Paradise Lost
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Dec 4, 2012 - 11:41am PT
MikeL.........word!!! It's the first day of the rest or your life, make good choices.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
-A race of corn eaters
Dec 4, 2012 - 12:23pm PT

Then again, his philos and attitude, imo, leave much to be desired. When he confounds your push to achieve or to take the bull by its horns (in related posts), or he throws cold water on your passion (in posts, mostly on another thread) and you call him out on his incessant debbie downer nihilism or fatalism... he blasts your passion as excessive or condemns it as deplorable ideology; he may even reference your "nazi" proclivities. Sure, the art of living is a balancing act and achievement a struggle on too many fronts to count. But express them before MikeL and chances are he'll pick it at, at some side of the balancing or effort, and point out the pointlessness of it all. Don't be fooled.

Otherwise, many fine and thought-provoking posts here.

Trad climber
BackInTheDitch BackInTheDirt BackInTheDay
Dec 4, 2012 - 12:29pm PT
MikeL. . . if we're ever within a 100 miles of each other, I'm taking you out to dinner. . . JUST TO HEAR YOU TALK!

Nicely done!


Mckinleyville, Ca
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:28pm PT
Nice introspective topic and good replies; lends itself to climberthink; I enjoy your writing, BASE. Analyzing this particular aspect of history is classic mental exercise and art. I’ve got my own “farmers mix” of random thoughts to add: sometimes one might not know they had a choice of paths at all; sometimes the path chose them. I like MikeL’s view of it, which I take the liberty to interpret as: all being part of a cosmic destiny which is spontaneously creating itself one’s whole life.

The “choice of routes” just serves as a marker for phase change, like a builder’s set of plans often turns out to only represent an orientation device when drastic revisions are forced upon the project. Talking about the fork in the road to me means mainly a good opportunity to tell a good instructive tale, and I like a good tale and good writing.

All my major divergent path choices (from the conscious-academic-type to the sudden-violent-change-and-resulting-adaptive-choice-type) have led me from one moment to the next, and I really have no regrets about how I got here today, only temporary disappointments, or anger, or celebrations. But it would not be scientific to wish I could start all over again, or that anything might be any better as a result; it would just offer a new set of forks in the road. I might prefer wooden chopsticks, after all.

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:32pm PT your ST to ST email...unfortunately I'm traveling and my "portable electronic devices" are not friendly when trying to respond to ST to ST email. Michael and I would love chatting with you when I get back this week....keep that spirit alive....I feel you can't go wrong!


Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:38pm PT
Ah rrider-"Man who eats with only one chopstick has only one path."

Mckinleyville, Ca
Dec 4, 2012 - 01:47pm PT
Guido, that's the beauty of being a simpleton!

Trad climber
'cross the great divide
Dec 4, 2012 - 02:42pm PT
Very nicely written thoughts Base. I'm with Mike F. If one takes the fork where "its all about me", that's a dead end. The truth is, the supreme challenge in life is to find the balance. For those of us that always think of ourselves as "climbers", whether we're out climbing or trying to convince our wife that life can be lived less expensively, we will always feel the tug of a responsibility-free life.

I once read an interview with Colorado mixed master and pioneer Duncan Ferguson where he said of hard mixed and of raising kids, that the most committing things in life bring the greatest rewards. If we were all climbers all of the time, other than climbing some great routes not much of the necessary things would get done. I find myself happiest when I am struggling with the balance that I seek in life. I also seem to climb better too.

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Dec 4, 2012 - 02:51pm PT
Nice response, wbw.


Trad climber
a semi lucid consciousness
Dec 4, 2012 - 03:00pm PT
Very interesting responses & points of view... I agree with what you are saying, Mike Friedrichs :-)
Charlie D.

Trad climber
Western Slope, Tahoe Sierra
Dec 4, 2012 - 03:20pm PT
HFCS, hmmmm sounds like a lot of history. Again my mantra:

Live well
Love much
LET GO!!!!

Much to learn even from the people who piss us off!


Charlie D.

Bruce Kay

Gym climber
Dec 4, 2012 - 06:00pm PT
Guido, that's the beauty of being a simpleton!

There is much to recommend! My favorite, especially in terms of climbing:

"Strong like bull, smart like street car!"

Dec 4, 2012 - 11:48pm PT
They look like forks in roads, but they don't really exist, and there is no evidence that a person can point to that substantiates their existence. Everyone has a single arc of history

Simple determinism or fate, or something a bit more intricate? If one assumes that time is a pre-existent block and moments are slices of that block, then in a sense one has both free will and yet is trapped in a matrix of fate. But I suspect you are being both poetic and mildly mystical here.

If I flip a coin at an intersection of two roads and proceed according to the result do I exercise free will and contend with fate simultaneously, or in a linear cause & effect fashion? If time is a block, however . . .

In Stanislaw Lem's ergodic theory of history he proposes (in his theory of time travel) that under certain circumstances altering a detail of history could produce the same or a similar long-term result. E.g., if Hitler were killed at an early age another rabid and eloquent leader would appear and the Third Reich and its atrocities would follow.

Let's see. If Mark had made the alternate educational decision long ago, he could still have ended up in a typical, civilized existence, rather than feeling excluded from normal society like Walt. And what of Walt? Had he opted for normality, he could still have ended up as he did. Puzzles upon puzzles.

The Will of Allah . . . ?

Just musin'

An abstraction on Base's dilemma. No help for him here.

'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:15am PT
Wow. Lots of great thought-provoking posts here. I need to think about this one a bit longer before I can properly reply.

But I bet ol' Jean-Paul Sartré will have something to say.

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:43am PT
But I bet ol' Jean-Paul Sartre will have something to say.

I remember the dude from 1973. He (we) would be trying to sell "Libération", a newspaper now institutional but forbidden as it first came out.
Though a bourgeois, J.P. liked the "dirt", and I guess he helped out with his thumbs up for us kids.
Personally prefer A. Camus.


'Pass the Pitons' Pete

Big Wall climber
like Ontario, Canada, eh?
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:47am PT
Sacré merde! I rarely make typos, but TWO typos in ONE name. Yikes! ^

I fixed it.

Mountain climber
Ljubljana, Slovenia
Dec 5, 2012 - 12:52am PT
OK Pete

One more, LOL :

"Sacrée merde!"

Dec 5, 2012 - 01:31pm PT
Jogill said to my declaration that "forks in the road" don't exist:

Simple determinism or fate, or something a bit more intricate?

Jogill, your idea of determinism may need a bit more complexity.

Causality is a form of determinism. To wit:

(i) How does one define and articulate a universe that has an infinite number of variables, none of which can be accurately described, interacting with every other variable, across an infinite space and time? (That's quite a matrix.)

(ii) How can one account for a determination of Anything? How does Anything happen?

(iii) Reality / the universe (and everything in it) appears to be a mystery when you look at any of it closely. "It's turtles all the way down."

(iv) I'm fine with "the will of Allah" or XYZ if that does it for anyone. Just words; just pointers; no real findings that get to the core.
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