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Paul Ryan, mountain man!

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.

Comments

  1. says

    What an amazing puff piece! How any of this is related to Ryan’s competency to be President is a complete puzzle.

    BTW, Steve, this seems to indicate that you ought to contemplate a run for the Presidency.

  2. cottonnero says

    Given Ryan’s marathon times, “Climbing Capitol Peak” probably means “Six-hour layover in Denver International”.

  3. Stevarious says

    The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite Valley

    Isn’t that the rock the Kirk fell off of in Star Trek V?

  4. Aliasalpha says

    If he walked up a hill & became a legendary mountain man, does my 5 minutes on the cross trainer this morning make me a champion skier?

  5. david says

    He hiked those 14-thousand foot peaks without any assistance from the government, in the form of maintained trails, and without the knowledge that government-funded search & rescue teams would pull him out if something bad happened.

  6. thompjs says

    I’ve hiked/climbed all of the 14er’s. Unroped on Capitol and Pyramid is pretty airy. When I did Pyramid I probably did not find the easiest route and did some 5.4 to to 5.6 moves.
    Of course to someone who has done the Nose it seems pretty trivial I’m sure.

    Zing- do you still climb?

  7. Reginald Selkirk says

    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.

    Really? You know who else liked mountains and shit? The Unabomber. I guess he had character up the wazoo.

  8. chrisj says

    Judging whether someone would make a good president by looking at how much they like hill-walking strikes me as a lot like judging whether someone would make a good astronaut by looking at how much they like the works of Jane Austen.

  9. raymoscow says

    I’ve walked up a few mountains here in the UK, a hundred or so. (Yes, here we call it ‘walking’.)

    So I’m qualified for what, exactly? Do I get a cabinet position or something?

  10. d cwilson says

    you have the most potentially transformative VP selection since President William McKinley put Theodore Roosevelt on the ticket in 1900.

    Is he saying he hopes Romney gets assassinated?

  11. sailor1031 says

    What about pathological lying as an index of character? And should we really believe that Ryan has actually done these hikes anyway?

  12. Ben P says

    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.

    Kudos on the true rock climbing, I’ve always been too big of a guy to try serious rock climbing.

    I did find myself taking issue with “tourist trails.” I do a fair bit of long overland backpacking trips and when you’re planning a backpacking trip on a trail with tens of thousands of feet of elevation change over 30-40 miles, I consider that a pretty serious physical challenge.

    And as far as Teddy Roosevelt, even Ryan’s greatly exaggerated mountain climbing story doesn’t hold a candle to TR. Teddy was legitimately a world class explorer. Pick up a copy of “The River of Doubt.” It’s roosevelt’s trip down 1000 of a tributary of the Amazon, including 400+ miles that had previously been uncharted.

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