As I am an experienced and enthusiastic armchair climber (I've lost count of the number of times me and my sofa have been up Everest), Captain Butterfly kindly took me to Worthing on Tuesday night to see Sir Chris. Now 80 years old (and still climbing!), he is on tour talking about his mountaineering life - with slides and some videos.
He mentioned the moment that Joe Tasker and Peter Boardman disappeared from view behind one of the Pinnacles on the N.E.ridge of Everest - at that time it was the unclimbed route - and were never seen again. Though this happened in 1982, you could see it was still a very distressing memory for him.
Sir Chris, and Charles Clarke, tell the story very well in "Everest, the Unclimbed Ridge".
Pete Boardman's body was found 10 years later, lying peacefully in the snow, where it lies to this day. Hardly anyone ever goes up there - not by that route! And no sign has been found of Joe Tasker.
So many of the young men Sir Chris climbed with died on the mountains. Which is one reason why I won't be more than an armchair climber - life is too precious. Plus of course, age, arthritis and general wimpiness. If you must climb, a calm temperament is best. Apparently panic can accelerate the deadly process of frostbite.
Sir Chris almost broke down when talking about the recent death of his wife Wendy. They had a long and happy marriage.
He confirmed something I had thought when I read about climbers and climbing - that being on the mountains is freedom. Since our first parents cut themselves off from their Creator, we, their damaged children, have found ourselves enmeshed in a sticky web of pains, stresses, troubles, endless laws, endless paperwork. They had only one law - not to to eat the fruit of one tree in the Garden. Their bodies and minds were perfect - naturally set on doing the right and loving thing. No other laws were needed. They lived in Paradise.
And it seems that, when climbing, all the stress and clutter falls away, all is narrowed down and focused on the one thing. (Sir Chris put that a lot better I have.) And I think I can understand. And sympathise. However, the way to get real freedom and meaning back into our lives is to follow the way of the Christ. It truly is. It can make us so happy, even now, stuck in our dying bodies, failing minds, and living in a world ruled by Satan, tangled up in stressful things.
And we probably can only begin to imagine how happy we will be in the restored earthly Paradise. Our lives will be full of meaning. We will wake up in the morning, full of energy and joy, looking forward to everything we have to do that day.
Talking of mountaineering and stressful things - a mountain of butterfly paperwork has landed on me - I can feel the panic and the frostbite setting in. No time to do it yesterday - I did some more route calls (and Christine gave me a box of chocolates!) - shopped - cooked the lamb curry - studied - went to physio (and was signed off) - made the Captains's tea (omelette and oven chips) and went to the Meeting.
Maggie is back. Hurray!. We always sit together, but she was struck down with this awful fluey thing that is doing the rounds.