'The truth is, I like an unforgiving climate where if you make mistakes you suffer for it. That's what turns me on. It's like the difference between windsurfing on Lake Como in the summer and off the coast of Maine in winter. One is a challenge, the other is a soft option, something you do at weekends when you want to have a good time.
|Alpinist D. on La Ruinette, Valais Alps|
(Photo by Alpine Light & Structure)
That's why I like feeding the rat. It's a sort of annual check-up on myself. The rat is you, really. It's the other you, and it's being fed by the you that you think you are. And they are often very different people. But when they come close to each other, that's smashing, that is. Then the rat's had a good meal and you come away feeling terrific. It's a fairly rare thing, but you have to keep feeding the brute, just for your own peace of mind. And even if you did blow it, at least there wouldn't be that great unknown. But to snuff it without knowing who you are and what you are capable of, I can't think of anything sadder than that.'
Al Alvarez, Feeding the rat: Profile of a climber, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2003 edition.