The inspirational levels of sarcasm and vitriol displayed in Ernest Runaway's previous piece for LEGEND proved popular. His bitter point of view seems to have struck a chord, so we asked him to write for us again. This time he tears at the very fabric of life's rich tapestry.
“I’m not doing that.”
“It won’t be that bad. It's probably alright once you’re on it. It just looks a bit meh from here.”
“No, it looks meh because it probably is meh.”
“How do you know, unless we give it a go? It might be ace!”
As this conversation shows, there are two camps when it comes to experiences; those that are willing to give things a go and mark it down as all part of the great learning tapestry of life, and those (like me) who know the difference between valuable experiences and stuff that really did not need to happen. This conversation also shows how easy it is to make up dialogue to support your point.
There are many things I do not need to do to know I will not enjoy them.
The Marathon Des Sables is one. Many people will try and tell you it is a life-affirming journey of self-discovery. The toughest challenge that you, a sentient human, could undertake. A culmination of a life-time’s passion and effort. These people, though numerous, are of course wrong. It looks shit, therefore it most probably is.
Chaffing your knackers to a bloody nub while getting burnt to something resembling a Tyrell’s Vegetable Crisp, all for the sake of a glorified sponsored walk?
No, thanks. That is not this humble correspondent’s idea of fun.
Now, there are those that will say that even if you don’t enjoy something, as a result of doing it, you then know that you do not enjoy it and so the sum total of your knowledge has increased.
But this too is wrong.
I am fairly sure that I would not enjoy licking a cow’s arse but the philosophers among you would argue that, until I actually do it, I cannot truly know.
And any physicists among you will recognise this dilemma as Schrodinger’s Cow; in a quantum universe, until the bottom is licked, you simultaneously both enjoy it and do not enjoy it.
Now I am not a philosopher, nor am I a physicist; I am but a man. A simple, bitter little man and I know that in the same way I have no desire to lick a cow’s bum (quantum or not), I have no desire to fill my shoes with sand and abrade my inner thighs to jerked beef. And if a route looks rubbish, it probably is. And a splitboard is not a viable alternative to touring skis or a snowboard. It is an unacceptable compromise, fight me.
Another truth that I have learned is; if the author of a guidebook gives a route 4 stars and just so happens to be the first ascensionist, then it is very likely to not be a 4 star route, I do not need to do the route to know this. The same can be said if these words appear in the description; “future classic” or “needs traffic”.
There are of course exceptions. By this I don’t mean there are experiences that look rubbish but aren’t, rather, experiences that look great but are in fact, rubbish.
A splendid example of this is rock climbing in the Dolomites (note I said rock climbing, not via ferrata so don’t give me any backchat). The Dolomites are some of the most spectacular mountains I have ever climbed on and among. From the valleys, the spires twist to the blue sky with promises of great climbing. But the reality is, those big classic routes are often made from a material akin to freeze-dried cauliflower (interestingly cauliflower rice and [Lord forgive them for they know not what they do] cauliflower pizza are two things that fall into the definitely-don’t-need-to-try-to-know-I-will-dislike category).
Reaching for what looks like a great hold, only to see it crumble between your fingers, as your partner tries to avoid the slimy drainage line that the guidebook suggests you belay in, while hanging from a selection of pegs and “bolts” placed when the area was probably still ruled by an Austrian duke is not what I look for in an “experience”, no matter how many times you say “type 2 fun” or “character building”.
Ultra Running and Extreme Skyrunning are more great ideas that, in reality, suck the very soul from your body. Racing up and over ridges and miles of wild land is a fantastic concept. What lets it down is that what it translates to is about 10km of decent running and then 50km or more of alternately throwing up gels or shitting them out into your netball shorts while weeping and humming a Sugababes medley that has become inexplicably lodged into your tiny mind.
I too, was once like you. No matter the route, no matter how outlandish the race; I would agree. Hungry for experience, keen to push myself and wring as much life out of the universe as I could.
But after a number of frankly exhausting years, I have learned that most things just aren’t worth the hassle.
Luckily for you however, you have time. All is not lost. Learn from me, stop wasting what opportunities you have and follow these simple rules:
- Do the lines that actually inspire you, the races that appeal.
- Don’t get led along by new route hype or guidebook enthusiasm or what social media decides is cool now.
- Trust your instincts.
- Splitboards are an aberration.
- Leave the cows alone.
Ernest Runaway boasts a mountain CV to make even your grandmother weep. He has raced and climbed all over the world with several FKTs, FAs, FFAs and many FFSs to his name. In the interests of safety his identity has been protected. Some of the names, places, events, facts, opinions and words have been changed and/or fabricated, because we can.