Trash, Treasure, and Glimpses into Our History

by JAKE NORTON

May 2019
Bits of wire poking out of the rubble. Meaningless trash, yet a physical tether to our collective, inspiring past. I left this bit on an obvious rock. Hopefully someone will notice and dig out its past, it's story. And ours.

A simple piece of wire. Looks like trash, and in many ways it is, mere jetsam from days past.

But, it's also much more, and with a story.

In 1933, the 4th British Mount Everest Expedition ran telephone wire some 14 miles from Basecamp up to Camp IV at the North Col to enable better communications for the team. Bits and pieces of this wire artifact have been popping out along the route for the 20 years I've been climbing here. Trash, yes, but also a story, a connection to the past, a reminder of those quo came before.

I worry that, as the years pass, we lose touch with our mountain history, and the lessons and ethics the pioneers can teach. When we forget our history - or simply fail to engage with it - we not only run the risk of repeating mistakes made long ago, but we inevitably diminish the richness of the endeavor by ignoring the fabric of those who came first.

That little bit of wire carried the voices of legends 86 years ago. Whispers of Wager and Wyn-Harris, Frank Smythe and Eric Shipton can still be heard if you listen close enough, connecting our present to their climbs above 28,000 feet without oxygen in knickers and tweeds.

I wonder how many here on the mountain this year have given thought and pause to those who led the way, pioneered the paths we now tread or Sent the routes we only gaze at and shudder. High above me now, towering over ABC, the Pinnacles are raked with fierce, jet stream winds, the final resting place on this day in 1982 of Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker. Is anyone else looking up there now, remembering their story, their sad passing, and the path they paved both in the mountains and in mountain literature?

A small piece oif telephone wire from the 1933 British Everest Expedition lies on the trail en route to Advanced Basecamp, Tibet.
A small piece oif telephone wire from the 1933 British Everest Expedition lies on the trail en route to Advanced Basecamp, Tibet.

Bits of wire poking out of the rubble. Meaningless trash, yet a physical tether to our collective, inspiring past. I left this bit on an obvious rock... Hopefully someone will notice and dig out its past, it's story... And ours.

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