The Fork In The Road


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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.

Social climber
An Oil Field
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 7, 2012 - 09:24pm PT
Sorry to bump a dead thread of mine, but one of the biggest problems I had was the difficulty of finding true adventure.

I can't live without it. It's been that way since I was 14 and somehow grabbed The White Spider in the library, where I would hang out during the summers as a little kid. If you can imagine a 13 year old boy in Southeast Oklahoma, which is hilly and forested with oaks, but about as far from the Eiger as the nearest star.

I read that book over and over that summer. Man I had FOUND it. Then I found the local gang and the first generation of climbers here grew up together. They are still my closest friends, although I see them rarely, if at all. Everyone is scattered across the world now.

It was different from the California or Colorado climbers, who just had to wake up to go climbing. Our climbing was fun, and almost every route was an FA. We started spending as much of our time in Eldo as we could, and The Naked Edge was sort of our version of Astroman or Valhalla.

I think it was much easier for those who lived in California to make it. For many of us, it was a low paying job in Mammoth or Tahoe. No home to go to in the winter. The jobs paid little, but were cool as hell. That cat driving job was something I would have done forever.

So when I went to go work, I had to move a thousand miles east, and within a couple of years I had a baby on the way and a buttload of responsibility to learn and get ready for. Raising a child comes first. I don't care who you are.

I remember my last BASE jump very well. It was a bright day with a foot of snow around one of our favorite 1500 foot antennas. I had jumped the sucker at least 30 times. Anyway, I was foolish and jumped my skydiving rig with a super fast skydiving canopy. I opened off heading and flew through the wires, missing one by a few feet by a quick turn.

My old buddy John Hoover (rip) jumped a few seconds later and he saw the whole thing from above. Normally I would have laughed it off, but I had a baby at the house and it really scared me. I never made another BASE jump.

The last real climbing I did was coming off of the sofa and taking my brother in law up the Nose. It was lots of fun, although we were pretty slow as I had to teach him everything on the route. He led his half of the leads until Camp 5 where I took over just to get off by dark.

Anyway, ya know that crappy Class 4 traverse after the King Swing? We did that as it got dark, and even though I knew better, I lowered out the pig with a tag line, which got caught in that flake which has a thousand cut ropes on it. I had to go down to the pig then transfer over to the tag line and go down to free it. I remember the clusterfuk of changing over to the tag line in the darkness with my headlamp as the car lights cruised the road below. As I was going through all of the change over and stuff, I suddenly thought, "Man. What am I DOING up here. I've got a two year old boy back home." It all worked out fine, but when we topped out and untied, that was pretty much the last pitch of my life. I had responsibilities to someone other than myself, and if you are a parent, you know that those responsibilities lie with this little life, who is now 20 years old and off to school, making good grades and pretty much all self sufficient now.

Those years of raising my son were pretty hard. You have to be there every minute to be a parent, and you have to be very devoted. A baby isn't a puppy.

I remember teaching him how to piss outside when he was a kid. We went over to a tree, turned our backs to the women, both pulled out our junk and I let fly trying to paint my name with the little guy doing the same thing right next to me. Now those are cool moments. It is a lot of work being a parent, but they are great. Out of all of the crazy sh#t that I have done over my life, when they handed him to me in the delivery room was the most unbelievable experience of my life.

See the difference between me and Walt? My road was now one way with no exits for 20 years. I still took off for months and took off to explore the blankest and most inhospitable places on the continent for many years, but lately I have been totally sucked in to the dress up in dry cleaned clothes, shave, and have meetings with people who were not only groomed for the normal life, but excelled at it. Hell, they were as happy as the climbers in Camp 4 for that matter. It isn't like the normal life isn't a good life, it is just different adventures, mainly having to do with big sums of other people's money.

Right now I am steering a horizontal well which will cost 4 million bucks when done. We have had troubles with the mechanics of one of the directional tools and it got pretty hairy at one point.

Hairy in the sense that you had to make decisions that take a couple of days of rig time to fix, meaning a couple of hundred grand. Not my money, but I treat it like it is.

So the time flies by now. A year seems like nothing, but parenting was a great success and everything is finally on autopilot now. The marriage has lasted, mainly because you have to be stubborn and learn not to blow a fuse over little things that become bit things somehow.

I have led an interesting life, so I'm not complaining. I still need some adventure, so I am adjusting to a permanently hobbled knee and looking at something new, which I have done since I first read The White Spider.

I dunno. It was fun climbing, but the real adventures were the best part. Soloing a 5.8 for the 200th time was no adventure, but climbing in the mountains or doing a wall were. Best of all were the friends. Now and then I will spill the beans and start telling hilarious old stories, like showing an attorney how to do Walt's "jacket trick," but they just don't get it. That is another universe to them.

Ahhh. I wish that people could see what our eyeballs have seen.

Does anyone have memories of moments that were so intense that you can remember every second? The smell, the sound, the light, everything seared into our brains.

Sometimes I think that life is a collection of moments, and I have certainly been blessed with my fair share. Some of us collect these moments like coins. It isn't like we are better than other people. Not at all. People are people. Some are kind, some are not. Some are complicated and deep and it takes a while to soak them in.

Back to adventures, which are the moments that I crave like heroin.

I'm not done. I'm just planning ahead for the next set. The only thing that is different is that I have a mortgage and life insurance and am too round to fit in my old clothes.

All of the moments, the good and the bad ones, are not to be regretted. The only regrets are harming another. How we treat others comes easy to some, but I had to learn it. The best way to learn it is to have your nose rubbed into a pile of sh#t at some point. Then you learn the depth of human experience a little, and realize that everyone is living their own lives. I've learned to not judge others too harshly, or hurt them with a careless remark.

A few years ago, I contacted a few people who I had harmed in the past. A gay kid in school who I called a faggot when I was all of thirteen. I remembered and regretted that. He had no recollection at all, but that wasn't the point. I needed to try to make it right. I found him and apologized from the bottom of my heart. How we treat others is one thing that I have learned by getting older. I used to be a little prick. Ask a dozen people here.

Adventure and those moments of absolute clarity. I'm gearing up for my next round of those. It has gotten too quiet. Yeah, they are selfish sometimes, but if you can do a little planning, its fine.

All I know is that every second of our lives is important. Not so much for ourselves, but to those around us who are more gentle or brittle.

I gotta run. An email with the latest surveys and all that just pinged my inbox. Sorry to ramble.

Go read that story about Walt. It is pretty damn honest.

Man, I miss him, but when he died with Bill Russle trying to revive him, it really took a chunk out of my heart. I think about Walt's choices now and then, because he really made a hard turn in his life when he quit Lockheed. I know that he regretted it sometimes, but I would give a zillion dollars to see what his eyeballs saw. The good ones...not the ones where he got tossed into the cooler.

OK. Onward. I have no advice to give. Everyone's road is so complicated and unique. Just don't hurt people if you can help it. That will be the real thing that haunts you later.

Sorry for the rambling.

Can you all share a couple of those moments that our burned into your brains? Just the good ones. The bad ones are a drag, and we all have them.
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