Words of George Mallory

I just stumbled on this book called “Everest – The West Ridge” which details, with beautiful illustrations, “American Mount Everest Expedition” of 1963. Among many quotes and beautiful photos I found a quote that really resonated with me.

The quote below is thus far the best attempt I’ve seen to explain why humans climb the highest peak in the world. (side note: I’ve already posted once about my take on this question).

The first question you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘what is the use of climbing Mount Everest ?’ and my answer at once must be, ‘It is no use’. There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behaviour of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to live. That is what life means and what life is for.

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