Monday, July 16, 2007

OUTSIDE POLITICS - Michael Reardon

I arrived back from holidays yesterday evening to learn the shocking news that Michael Reardon, the American free climber was missing, presumed dead, after being swept off a rock on Valentia Island in Kerry.

I went to Reardon's slide show in Dublin early this year (see my posting on that event here). Despite his outré and flamboyant image, he was actually quiet-spoken, self-deprecating even. My climbing friends in Kerry, especially Con Moriarty, had struck up very strong friendships with him, as had Damian from Outsider magazine.

Many great mountaineers died in simple accidents, including the great French climber Lionel Terray. Reardon climbed without any protection. One of the things that impressed me about him was that he said he never climbed up anything that he could not back-climb down. In the end, it was a force majeur (a freak wave that swept him out to sea) rather than a fall or a climbing error. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Postscript following Red Mum's comments:

His own site freesoloist has his blog entries from Ireland which make for very poignant reading. You need to go to the link for his pro blog for Climber magazine to find it. But here's a little taste of what he wrote:

Michael Reardon - Pro Blog 5

Blog #5 – Ireland, Pt. One

Chaos follows me everywhere. I arrived in Killarney, Ireland, barely rested from the ten-hour plane flight, and surprised my friend Con Moriarty by showing up two days early. Big smiles and bigger hugs came from everyone at his outdoor shop. It had been too long since I last shared a pint with everyone, and Con suggested I spend an evening camping in a beautiful location before crashing at his house. Reacquainting myself with the land of my ancestors, is something I cherish every chance I get.

Three hours later, I’m wandering the hills of the Macgillycuddy Reeks in a gentle breeze, following a babbling brook to a lake at the base of Corran Tuathail and reminded at how green everything is! A slight shower kicks in, making everything glow with the moistness and by 9:00 pm I’m at the campsite. Two hours later the sky darkens into night, allowing the gentle breeze and slight shower to change into one of the worst storms I’ve ever experienced. My tent, made for Patagonia winds, thrashes about and threatens to tumble me into the lake frothing the shoreline. Lambs bleating sound like women in pain in that darkness as they mix with the howl of the winds. I should be scared, but instead I smile at the memory of my father telling me of the Banshees that howl among the hills of Ireland. I now believe those stories more than I ever could as a child, and sleep soundly with the knowledge that not all things are myths.

I wake with the morning mists and spend the next hours finding my path out, that includes wading waist deep in the former babbling brook, with my backpack over my head. By the time I made it to Con’s house, and grabbed a much-needed shower, the weather completely changed with the sun streaming out between the thick clouds. The next two days were spent climbing at the Gap of Dunloe.


Red Mum said...

I saw that over the weekend and checked out his website and stumbled across his blog here where he talks about Kerry. Very poignant indeed particularly with his motto 'life without limits'.

And congrats on the domain, at some stage over the summer I'm going to do the same hopefully. You should ask people to update their links to you. Doing mine now.

Harry McGee said...

Thanks for that advice. H.

Dave said...

Welcome back, Harry. I've updated the link on my site.