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Armchair Mountain Climbing
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Today is the 55th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's conquest of Mount Everest. I don't know much about the actual event but news of the anniversary reminded me of the Everest board game I owned back in the fifties.

Game play consisted of the usual routine of advancing one's playing pieces by throwing dice and drawing cards. What made the game memorable was that the board was sectioned into triangles which folded into a pyramidical model of the mountain. The competing mountaineers clung magnetically to treacherous paths snaking upwards to a real summit.

I've never done any mountain climbing myself. In fact, I dislike heights, although I'm not quite as fearful as I used to be. These days I'll get on the sun porch roof to clean the gutters but my heart's racing by the time I've made it safely back down the ladder. Back when I was inching my climbers along the magnetic mountainside I wouldn't even walk across a bridge.

A lot of my life has been spent playing games, drawing and writing stories. I guess I'm more comfortable with representations of the world than with world itself. The representations are less unwieldy.

Maps are particularly pleasing in the way they reduce reality to a manageable size. Looking out the office window I can't see past the nearest mountain but looking at the right map I can see all the way to Nepal. Probably part of what fascinated me about that old Everest game was that the board was a simple, 3-D map.

Around the same period I kept in my bedroom a globe featuring -- wonder of wonders -- raised relief. The wrinkles and bumps gave that world a remarkable degree of realism. However, the most prominent elevation, the top of Everest, looked a bit smudged. I guess I ran my fingers over the roof of the world too many times.

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