How do you reconcile yourself to the risks you take when climbing?
I think risk has always been an important part of humankind. Ten thousand years ago we were gatherers and the occasional hunter. If you think about it, going back 100 yearsrisk [was] always part of life. It's kind of to me ironic or silly that in our society, people that take risks are frowned upon. We're still programmed as a hunter or a gatherer. But yet our society tells us, 'No, you shouldn't do that.'
Do business pressures ever affect the decisions you make on an expedition?
Twenty years ago there [weren't] paid climbers in the United States. Now it's possible to be able to make a living at it. I think it's a good thing. The person that does this work needs to be aware that their decision-making is still theirs. Just because you're being paid, that shouldn't influence what you need to [do]. You shouldn't think, "Well, I've got to make it to the top because then I'll make more money." You need to be there and do it from your heart.
In something like baseball or golf, it's numerically quantifiable if you're good or not. You have to perform. If you're not performing, you're not getting paid and you're out the door. Climbing and exploration is a more cerebral thing. There's writing that's involved with it, story-telling, being able to share things. It's a combination of all these skills that people can then put together.
You're active in a number of environmental and international development organizations. What motivates that interest?
The progression is that you climb mountains. You go to the top. It's neat. It's a goal-oriented type activity. But it's very self-centered because you're basically doing it for yourself. It's always been my dream to take this little two seconds of notoriety that I have and parlay it into doing greater good [on a] humanitarian and ecological [level] to make a difference in our world. I'm trying to do that through climbing.
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Little Sister, Big Mountain: Climbing the Himalaya's Cho Oyu
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