A Man's Life
Live To Fight Another Day
By Mark Jenkins
We went out for breakfast, a great heap of eggs and bacon, and talked about kids and guilt and climbing and Asia. About loss and lessons. We talked straight into the afternoon. We left the cafe and went to his house in the country and sat for hours drinking tea in a living room filled with mementos from Nepal. I told him about my own shadows of Everest. And Guy told me how, in 1995, he guided a client up, Doug Hansen, to the south summit of Everest before making the decision to pull the plug. Hansen died with Hall the following year.
It was a painful subject, and we quickly moved on. But the conversation circled back. It had to. Guy Cotter had spent his entire adulthood trying to determine when to push on and when to turn around. One of his best friends had died on the crux of the dilemma. His wisdom was hard won.
We are fed heroic slogans from an early age. A quitter never wins and winner never quits. Never give up. Never cry uncle. Never say die.
But encouraging kids to excel in schoolrooms and on soccer fields, in careers and team sports, doesn't impose mortal stakes. Mountains do.
Let me be hypocritical and blasphemous and honest.
The truth is mountains aren't worth dying for. Democracy, social justice, the environment, these are causes worthy of your life. A mountain is not. Your death on a climb does nothing worthy for the world. It merely scars your family and friends forever.
Yes, mountains are worth climbing, which admittedly entails risk, but the important thing is to clearheadedly recognize when the tables have turned and it's time to do what we all have been brainwashed to never consider: accept defeat. Turn back. Give up. Go down. Go home.
Sleep with your beloved, play with your kids or your nieces and nephews, take your parents out to dinner. Accept that quitting was exactly the right move.