John Muir's Commentary on his First Ascent of Mt. Ritter

That is so cool. Mt Ritter is the only peak I've ever climbed. My friend and I were back packing in the area in 1978, and decided we needed to scale at least one peak. At the top, there was a small monument of stones placed together with an old film canister, a small pencil and piece of paper with list of names. Most recent from previous year had been a troop of Boy Scouts.

Posted by stephen barron at November 30, 2016 12:28 PM

I've had similar experiences, although not in such dire circumstances. It is as if some part of my mind decides the conscious me is going to f*ck up and kicks it out of the way to take care of business.

Posted by chuck at November 30, 2016 12:38 PM

I chalk some of that up to youth. Other than the challenge or, "it being there" why would one put themselves at such risk?

More than a dozen years ago I was not climbing but scuba diving, going down to and inside underwater caves near Anilao Philippines at 150 feet. Deepest dive was 205 feet. No way in hell I would do that now, especially with a wife and family.

Posted by Snakepit Kansas at November 30, 2016 4:54 PM

I recently had a similar experience. I took my girls, (24 and 12) on a backpacking trip through a slot canyon. There was no elevation change, so I didn't think it would be too difficult for my old knees. We met up with a flooded canyon and wall-to-wall mud and quicksand. The ground never stopped moving beneath our feet. By the final 2 days, we spent most of the day climbing over giant boulders -stepping into and out of mud with full packs. I still marvel that I did it. Something "other" took over at times. So thankful.

Posted by Leslie at November 30, 2016 6:23 PM

A pretty good description of "flow." Flow is attained when the mind/body connection is optimized and we perform at our fullest potential.

I've experienced it while rock climbing, as John Muir did. I've also experienced it while flying and skiing.

Flow can be attained through hours of practice that train the mind/body connection although it seldom occurs unless the mind is rid of doubt/fear. On the other hand, fear of certain death can sometimes clear the mind of that fear, as in Muir's case. The very best athletes can summon that optimal fusion of the mind/body connection for competitions almost at will. However, injuries, mistakes, criticism, and other negative factors can make it increasingly difficult to clear the mind for them to arrive at flow.

Flow occurs when we experience some of these factors as we perform a task:
1. Clear goals that, while challenging, are still attainable.
2. Strong concentration and focused attention.
3. The activity is intrinsically rewarding.
4. Feelings of serenity; a loss of feelings of self-consciousness.
5. Timelessness; a distorted sense of time; feeling so focused on the present that you lose track of time passing.
6. Immediate feedback.
7. Knowing that the task is doable; a balance between skill level and the challenge presented.
8. Feelings of personal control over the situation and the outcome.
9. Lack of awareness of physical needs.
10. Complete focus on the activity itself.

Muir seemed to experience 2,3,4,5,6,9,10.

More about flow here:

Posted by Jimmy J. at December 1, 2016 11:03 AM

It's a fine list, Jimmy J. and a good method for unexplaining where Muir was going with this. But I thought he was amazingly clear. Getting into the moment is not the same agency as that which may appear as you are about to die.

Posted by james wilson at December 1, 2016 12:11 PM

james wilson, I was in a similar life or death situation while rock climbing. It's a long story so won't go into the details here. Suffice it say, I was in fear of my life, but my mind cleared and I was able to save myself by climbing at a level I had never experienced before. Seems miraculous, but it is a fairly common experience. As mentioned by other commenters here.

Posted by Jimmy J. at December 1, 2016 9:01 PM

To continue my previous comment. I wondered what had happened to me when that happened. I explored the issue further and discovered the concept of "flow." That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. :-)

Posted by Jimmy J. at December 1, 2016 9:13 PM

What Muir imparted was music, not the lessons of music theory. He seemed to be telling us that guidance did not come from within himself, but from outside himself. That was exactly my experience in 1965, but I did not figure that out for forty years.

Posted by james wilson at December 2, 2016 1:32 AM

Hey, very nice site. I came across this on Google, and I am stoked that I did. I will definitely be coming back here more often. Wish I could add to the conversation and bring a bit more to the table, but am just taking in as much info as I can at the moment. Thanks for sharing.
Rolling Bedside Commode

Keep Posting:)

Posted by Rolling Bedside Commode at December 9, 2016 10:13 PM