People must not create a myth, we're not different than other people
December 23, 2012 6:57 PM   Subscribe

"Edlinger began to climb. As the last competitor, everyone at Snowbird knew how high he must get to beat his rivals and win the event. With apparent ease, he climbed past their high-points, until pausing beneath a huge overhang that had defeated all-comers. At that moment, a narrow shaft of sunlight pierced the cloud cover and illuminated Edlinger. When he completed the route, the only one from the world's best to do so, the crowd erupted. Until this point, American climbers had been unsure about competition climbing. After Edlinger, they were converted." - Patrick Edlinger, age 52, died on December 10, after years of battling depression following a near-death fall in the nineties that prevented him from climbing at the same level.

"Life at his fingertips" - a 26 minute documentary is a fascinating account of Edlinger's simple lifestyle in his prime, and features him hanging upside down like a bat by his feet, or by one hand, without ropes, in the middle of strenuous free climb... to rest!

"Opera Vertical" is another documentary, where you can witness Edlinger's dedication to aesthetic climbing, as well as his inspiration from dance or gymnastics. [part 2] [part 3]
posted by Riton (10 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Just quickly skimming through that first doc - pretty awesome cinematography and music (did I hear Kraftwerk in there?) accompanying his amazing feats. Definitely going to watch these in full.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:19 PM on December 23, 2012

Incredible accomplishment. That said, there is almost - from my perspective - some kind of pathology at work, a certain kind of obsession, combined with laser point focus. Most are unable to block out what just one mistake means in that environment. Watching stuff like this creates fear just from the viewing. How does one block out fear in the doing? Edinger and people like him are definitely unusual, and gifted, but what they do is not for most of us. These climbs are one more way for our species to see how it's possible to overcome any obstacle, but at the same time realize that one had better be pretty damned well gifted and/or lucky to make that overcoming a reality.
posted by Vibrissae at 7:36 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

What's ironic is that after all that risk-taking he apparently died falling down a flight of stairs.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:56 PM on December 23, 2012

So he passed away in November, this obit is rather nice and mentions that he survived a fall that stopped his heart. I couldn't find anything about the cause of death, but if lupus is right then it's even more sad.
posted by daHIFI at 8:13 PM on December 23, 2012

there is almost - from my perspective - some kind of pathology at work, a certain kind of obsession, combined with laser point focus.

This is true of almost everything done at the highest level.
posted by incessant at 8:15 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Though not particularly hard for him at about 5.11, Edlinger in 'Opera Vertical' soloing that incredibly high and exposed pitch in the Verdon Gorge, and barefoot, is incredible to watch. His 'vertical dance' style, doing these fluid, exaggerated movements -while climbing easier stuff - is bit showy and OTT, but then narcissism is probably what motivates a lot of even mediocre climbers. Edlinger seems to have had a hard time adjusting to the stage in his life when he was no longer the golden boy, l'étoile.

This is an good clip showing two of the world's best climbers at the time, Patrick Edlinger and Wolfgang Güllich, climbing the same route (via split screen) at a competition in Münich in 1989. Incidentally, Güllich died in a car crash in 1992 (he is believed to have fallen asleep at the wheel), not long after he established a route in Germany that nobody was able to repeat for years, and still remains one of the world's benchmark 'testpieces'.
posted by Flashman at 8:28 PM on December 23, 2012

did I hear Kraftwerk in there?


Great, great split screen Flashman; thanks! I like that on one move (near 1:40) you can see them both trying the same foot placement, realizing it won't work, coming back down then figuring it out.
posted by Riton at 9:28 PM on December 23, 2012

I watched the 26 minute "Life at his fingetips" documentary. I don't understand a lick of French, but I can recognize talent and physically gifted people when I see them. That was amazing. What you can also "see" is his amazing focus, desire, and will power. It is him against himself and the mountain and he wins every time. I can see how when he was unable to compete at that level any more his life took a turn for the worse. Just as haters are going to hate, competitive winners need to compete and win.

Watching him sleep in his conversion van, get up, make a cup of tea and eat what amounted to a few large spoonfuls of Honey(?) Jelly(?) that is where not understanding French really confused me -- and work out was amazing. While I live in my nice suburban house and the only exercise I get is jumping to conclusions and running my mouth, he did more before a proper meal than I do in a week.

I also love how he takes care of his equipment. He keeps his climbing boots clean and his hands are his life line. I think his most important asset and equipment are his set of brass balls which you do get a brief glance of when he gets out of his sleeping bag.

Not an ounce of fat on his body either.

I am such a know nothing about climbing and what he is actually accomplishing, but even this couch potato knows a climbing stud. Wow.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:44 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

People must not create a myth, we're not different than other people

"C'mon," he says to me, pointing his finger at the entrance to Corbet's Coulier. "You can do it."

"Like Helll I can," I respond with supreme confidence observing that it had not snowed in a while and landing looked treacherous.

"It's easy," and with that my brother disappears over the edge with gusto, makes a perfect landing, cuts into the chute and in a moment he's pulled up to watch me.

I skied around, because my brother is different than me.
posted by three blind mice at 10:00 PM on December 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Couloir!!! Merde! Couloir!
posted by lalochezia at 9:09 AM on December 24, 2012

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