February 19, 1996
How is his family doing? Where is the scholarship fund?
If you'd given him a ride, what would you have said to him?
Q: Jon, if you were driving through Alaska and you picked up a hitchhiker like "Alex," who was heading into the wilderness with only 30 pounds of gear, what would you say to him? Would you try to dissuade him?
A: Had I picked up Alex Supertramp hitching to Alaska, I would have gently tried to offer him some advice, tried to convince him that he was perhaps underestimating the seriousness of the challenge he'd created for himself, but I think I would have soon come to the realization that attempting to talk him out of his plans would have been an exercise in futility.
Actually, I have encountered a number of McCandless types over the years in the backcountry--usually brazen, impetuous young climbers with unrealistic schemes to attempt some crazy ascent or another--and I have tried to persuade most of them that maybe they should reconsider their plans given current avalanche conditions, or the weather forecast, or their lack of experience, or whatever. But I don't think my words of caution have ever had any effect. When you're young and cocky and self-absorbed, you are quite sure that you already know everything you need to know, thank you. You're disinclined to listen to advice from some clueless middle-aged dweeb like me who reminds you way too much of your old man.