Waiting at my climbing gym I leafed through a magazine and came across a mention of a Boulder route in Switzerland called "The Practice of the Wild". This is also the title of one my all time favourite books: Gary Snyder's address of deep problems in simple-speech first published in 1990. Surely (95% certain) the boulder route is named after the book and Chris Sharma the climber who 'opened' the route in 2004 is a fellow Snyderian. The route is a cave climb rated 8c, which is extremely tough and it has only been climbed a few times. The shot above is from Tyler Landman's ascent in 2008.
It's great to see how a book's influence can show up in a completely different practise, even though it's not that far removed from Gary Snyder's own interests. The man has been an avid mountain climber all his life. Kerouac describes their trip up the Matterhorn in Dharma Bums, Snyder climbed Mount Everest when in his fifties or sixties.
There is also a deeper link that is more intuitive. As I was telling about the boulder's name my climbing parter asked me what the book is about and I blanked out completely. I have read it at least four times cover to cover and I read bits from it all the time but what is it about? I am not absolutely sure. It's about a way to live and it shows a way to think about the world and a way to be position yourself in the world in respect to nature from water to cow to human. It describes a moral core. It borrows a lot from anthropology, sixties commune experiments and Buddhism. But that description doesn't feel completely right, it's also something of a mystery book that circambulates a Escherian wordview in which nature is both in a perfect ecological order and unfathomably wild. A boulder route might well be a wordless koan in response to Snyder's challenges.
Climbing parlance talks about "opening" a route. What does that mean in ordinary language: is a climb discovered? created? recognized? divined? revealed? or all of those combined? Perhaps that is what the book is about.
One comment: I think life is more like the endurance of a lead climb than like the explosiveness of a boulder, but I wish it was a top rope problem within my more modest capabilities.
|The cover art IS terrible|