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SENSATION SEEKING TENDENCY IN MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS: A 20TH CENTURY PHENOMENON Athiqul Laskar 2000 1st ed New Paperback Multiple Copies Available
By Laskar, Athiqul H.
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California, Writers Club Press, 2000, 1st edition. 89 pp, illustrations. New paperback.

Although mountain climbing is a sport for many enthusiasts, it also serves as a means for sensation seeking individuals to get their thrills.  The climbs of Himalayan Mountains are described as ‘Assault’ or ‘Conquest’.  The late Indian leader Pundit Jawarlal Nehru, once said, “How can you conquer a mountain when you cannot reach its peak at will, and cannot stay there, as long as you may like to.” 

To dominate and to be dominated seems to be two complimentary needs in human make-up.  The mountains meet both fundamental needs.  T.S. Elliot, the famous English writer once said,  We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we had started and known for the first time.  We are yet to discover and explore unconquered mountains in the Himalayas .”

In 1913, A British explorer John Noel sneaked into Tibet in order to get into Himalayas , which was closed at the time, and made a preliminary survey of the mountain’s northern approaches, where the topography is less varied than on the southern side.  In 1921, the British began a major exploration of the north side of the mountain, led by George Leighk Mallory.  Mallory’s expedition took place soon afterward, were unable to over strong winds, avalanches, and mountain hazards to reach the summit. 

In 1924, a third British expedition resulted in the disappearance of Mallory and climbing companions only 240 m  (800 ft), from the summit. Veteran Climber and Everest summiter Eric Simonson a team of high altitude mountaineers up Mt. Everest ’s North Ridge in a search of evidence of English climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine, who disappeared in 1924 just 900 feet below the summit.  So there have been many such risky attempts made through the 1930s and into the 1940.  However, the advent of mountain climbing phenomenon began during mid 20th century.  This followed the 1953 triumph of the accent of Mount Everest by New Zealander, Sir Edmond Hillary and Tibetan Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.  Norgay (1914-1986) was a Nepalese Mountain climber born in eastern Nepal . 

He hailed from the Solo-kumbu district of Eastern Nepal that nestled under the shadow of Everest Lhotse, Nuptse, Pumori, Ama Dablam and Cho Ayu with Namche Market as the center of those lands.  Norgey was known for his unbounded stamina and endurance.  During one of my interviews, while training with him in ice craft, he said, “Mountains are my darling and love them more than my child.”  I associated myself with him for several years to understand him better.  When I launched one of my routine Himalayan expeditions, he wished me,  May you climb from peak to peak.”   

When I was a youngster, I often dreamed of mountain climbing.  It was in my thoughts and imagination.  My earlier years have been devoted to introduction to potential leadership and advanced mountain climbing techniques in the Himalayas .  I acquired knowledge in scientific techniques of high altitude equipment while attending several mountain climbing schools around the country. 

I learned about crampons, nylon tents and ropes among other aspects of climbing. Mountain climbing involves perilous, grueling and muscles wrecking risk.  In higher altitudes, climbers face mountain hazards such as color blindness, loss of mental stability and other medical conditions.  The climate condition in higher altitude is unfit for human habitation.  Due to lack of oxygen, one cannot breathe normally.  The cold temperature averages about 36 degree and can drop as low as –60 C ( -70 degree ).  

The treacherous heights are always risky.  However, a challenge is a challenge.  When I decided to climb Mt. Koktang Peak, located at the altitude of 20,166 ft in the western Himalayas .  The Chourikian, 17,600 ft. a (Bhutanese name) the base camp was 70 miles away from Darjeeling (8,00 ft above sea level).  Within a few days we trekked almost 19,00 ft. to establish the fifth camp.  After a good day’s rest and briefing of detailed plans, we continued trekking to the advance base camp.  At this camp one can have a clear bird’s-eye view of Darjeeling , Kalimpong and the capital city of Gangtok , Bhutan.

Here our main task was to acclimatize for high altitude living and to prepare for few more advance base camps.  We established five more camps before the final assault to Koktang.  At the last camp VI , we prepared for the final assault.  At this camp we gathered enough strength, stamina, and day’s rest to make the final assault against all odds that included steep and prevailing avalanches.  The Koktang Peak was prominently standing at a long distance if you look to the sky.  However, nothing could dampen our determination, may it be mountain hazard or any other natural drawbacks.   

We scaled the peak after three longest hours of grueling struggle and life risk.  The high altitude peak I climbed with so much difficulty and risk, yet I did not understand why I had to do this.  This was definitely not my kind of bread and butter.  I will not go to heaven because of this achievement.  This neither helped me build my professional career nor helped me bring home a bag of gold.  To me, it was useless grueling and life risking adventure.  The big question is why I had to risk my life for a few seconds of thrill.  I had too many unanswered questions in my mind.  Probably a psychiatrist could answer them.

Nevertheless, each time I climbed a peak, I gained a new height of knowledge and experience, and self-reliance.  The Koktang was conquered.  The flags were planted, and we met the challenge.  The team felt a high sensation of glory.  Until that time, there had been no study on psychological aspect of mountain climbing.  No one realized the amount of risk it involved.  No account was kept for lost lives.  It uses to be called mountain climbing madness.  Yet, some people were willing to do so only to enjoy glory and adventure.  I cannot analyze this theory more precisely. 

It seems this madness will go into 21st century.  While voicing together with Hari Dang, a renowned mountain climber, once said, “the hazard and sensation seeking is the secret of mountain climbing”.  The mountain climbing will continue to grow and develop, despite handicaps, it lures climbers who seek sensation.  I left the Himalayas many years ago, and my thirst for mountain climbing was not quenched.  My mind always had a chronic question, “Why climb mountains?”

The purpose of this research study was to examine the sensation-seeking tendency of mountain climbers and non-mountain climbers, males 17 to 21 years of age.  Subject (n=34) volunteered from a group of mountain climbers (n=17), members of the Kansas University Mountaineering Association and a group of nonmountain climbers (n=17), students enrolled in Health, Physical Education and Recreation courses.  This study used Zuckerman's Sensation Seeking Scale Form V (with due permission) to examine sensation-seeking tendencies in two groups. 

Analysis of data utilized an overall score on Sensation Seeking and subdividing Zuckerman's SSS Form V into four subscales as (1) Thrill and Adventure Seeking (TAS), (2) Experience Seeking (ES), (3) Disinhibition (Dis) and (4) Boredom Susceptibility (BS).  A statistical summary was obtained by computing the means, standard deviations and t-test values for sensation seeking between the two groups of mountain climbers and nonmountain climbers.  Significant differences at the .05 level were found between the mountain-climbing group and the nonmountain-climbing group in each of the dimensions studied.  This study indicated that extremely high sensation seekers tend to take up high-risk activities such as mountain climbing more than the low sensation seekers.

Simultaneously, the research studies went in full swing.  In the final stages of this research study, I have completed the outcome of sensation seeking tendency between two groups of mountain climbers and non-mountain climbers.  The details of this study have been analyzed and explained clearly with raw data to outcome in stages with illustrated figures and statistics. 

This little book should be handy tool for those who are willing to undertake further research studies in this field.  It should be a primary guide for the research students of Psychology, Physical Health Science, and sports departments of all colleges and universities around the world.  I strongly recommend this book as a handy tool for Olympic games training centers for casual reading. Good luck to all readers.

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