There are moments in every campaign when a biased hack makes such a fool of themselves that mockery becomes obligatory. So it with this sad fluff piece on Paul Ryan by John Andrews:
Denver Post— Add to this the hard-charging congressman’s love for the Colorado high country (he has climbed 40 of the state’s 54 peaks over 14,000 feet) and you have the most potentially transformative VP selection since President William McKinley put Theodore Roosevelt on the ticket in 1900. (Not the genteel Roosevelt, squire of Hyde Park, but his “strenuous life” cousin who ranched in Dakota and hunted bear in Glenwood Springs.)Why does it matter that Paul Ryan is a mountain man, at home above timberline on the fourteeners? Because there is no better index of character. It tells of someone’s backbone under pressure, resourcefulness in facing adversity, and trustworthiness for power. Conservative or liberal isn’t the point. The high peaks simply test your mettle. Declinists and defeatists need not apply. Excuses are for flatlanders.
Describing the summit approach for Capitol Peak near Aspen (14,130 feet), the Colorado Mountain Club guidebook says with jaunty understatement: “Scramble around a pinnacle or two, stroll along the knife edge,” and you’re there. Ryan told me last week that Capitol and nearby Pyramid Peak (14,018 feet) are his favorite climbs so far.
Can you imagine Vice President Joe Biden even wanting, let alone being able, to stroll the Capitol knife edge? Or forging to the top of a “very rough and steep” Pyramid, with its “precariously poised rocks” warned of in the same guidebook?
OK, non-flatlander here. In the pic above I’m at pitch 20 on a route called The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley. One of the many classic routes I’ve done. The Nose is over 3000 feet of dead vertical to overhanging granite and usually takes climbers at least two days or three days to complete. Meaning we didn’t just climb it, we fucking slept up there, not to mention at one point we did several pitches at night using headlamps while it was drizzling.
John, listen to me for a sec: hiking up a tourist trail to the top of a mountain in the Rockies is not climbing, its walking. Depending on what trail we’re talking about it can range from a mild cardio warm up to a fairly good body pump, but it’s nothing like you’re trying to portray it, such a hike should pose no significant challenge for a youngish middle-aged man in decent shape.
Even real technical rock and ice climbing, with actual ropes and biners and really, really cool climbing shoes, is not that big of a deal, not any more. It’s mainstream, I used to teach it to beginners back in Texas every weekend and by the third class most of them could lead, or at least follow, multipitch routes in the 5.6 to 5.9 range — and if the rating is unfamiliar it basically means you could get killed real easy if you don’t know what you were doing — any of which are way, way harder and way more demanding in every way than hiking up a tourist trail.
Seriously, I’ve known 14 year old girls and 70 year old grandfathers to do that kind of stuff, because on the right route, with the right knowledge and training and gear it’s, neither terribly dangerous nor particularly difficult, and it does not really depend much on “character”. What a hopeless hack, this clown must be shooting for this year’s Rich Lowry starburst prize.