Short memory

In 1982, German alpinist, Reinhard Karl, had made multiple unsuccessful attempts on the Supercanaleta, Fitz Roy in Patagonia. Anyone who climbs knows this is a very serious route, especially in the 80s. His last attempt apparently was so scary and dangerous that when he finished the descent Karl buried all of his climbing gear in the glacier and promised never to climb again.

But then a couple weeks later he was at the base of the Supercanaleta again, digging up all his gear so that he could go climb again.

Sadly, Karl ended up dying a few months later on Cho Oyu.

The running joke for alpinists is that they have short-term memory. Because when you put yourself through 20+ hour straight attempts, you get done saying, “I’ll never do this again.” And yet, soon enough climbers are back out there. There seems to me a few lessons to pull:

  1. Having a short-term memory can be an asset. When all the aches and pains go away and when we focus on the best parts, we remember why we put ourselves through adversity in the first place. And…
  2. When we don’t learn our lessons, they can be fatal.

That is really the game for more serious climbing. But really valuable application in other aspects of one’s life.