Der Letzte Mensch oder Übermensch?

The Last Man. In his philosophical novel, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Friedrich Nietzsche saw that nothing great was possible for the Last Man. It was Nietzsche's contention that Western civilization would continue to move in the direction of The Last Man, an apathetic creature, who had no great passion or commitment, who was unable to dream, who merely earned his living and kept warm.

Not so the last man on the mountain. In 1939, Boston aristocrat Dudley Wolfe set out to become the first person to summit K2. Inexperienced at high altitude, overweight, middle-aged, and unfulfilled in a life of leisure, Wolfe traveled thousands of miles to try and impress his ex-wife, only to be abandoned by his German-American expedition mates at 7000 meters. After almost two weeks languishing in his tent in the Death Zone he perished from acute AMS. A huge international scandal subsequently developed: it was Wolfe’s friend and expedition leader, alpinist Fritz Wiessner, and his deputy Jack Durrance who came under close scrutiny for inviting him solely on the strength of his bank account. His body remained in the clutches of the savage summit for 63 years.

Until Wolfe reappeared after K2’s unusually high snowmelt in 2002 exposed the remains to author and film-maker Jennifer Jordan. Walking along a remote stretch of the Godwin-Austin glacier near Base Camp, pieces of human bone, canvas tent, cook pots, and finally an old mitten with “Wolfe” written near the cuff appeared strewn about the glacier as if waiting for Jordan’s keen eye to discover them. And so the story began.

The Last Man or Superman? You decide after hearing Jennifer Jordan’s presentation at the American Mountaineering Museum on August 11th. Her novel, The Last Man on the Mountain, is fresh off the press and she’s touring the country helping unravel the mystery that’s prevailed around this controversial expedition. Whether Wolfe had aspirations driven by spiritual apathy or rampant ego, Jennifer will offer well-researched and compelling facts with photos and discussion beginning at 7 PM.

K2 is Übermensch territory, more foreboding than almost any other 8000 meter peak. It bears the second highest fatality rate among the eight-thousanders. Italian climber Fosco Maraini concluded that K2 was “all rock and ice and storm and abyss. It makes no attempt to sound human. It is atoms and stars. It has the nakedness of the world before the first man - or of the cindered planet after the last."

I’m sure Dudley Wolfe would agree.

No comments: