In August of 2000, I went on a rock climbing expedition to the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Asleep on the side of a mountain, my three partners and I were rudely awoken by some men shooting at us. We were subsequently taken captive and held hostage for a week before we conspired to grab our then-lone guard and throw him off a cliff. Actually, Tommy Caldwell - of the current Dawn Wall fame - did the tossing. My other two partners were Beth Rodden and John Dickey.

Although not exactly accurate in the strictest sense, this is the most concise version of the events that is currently available:

http://www.outsideonline.com/outdoor-adventure/climbing/rock-climbing/Fear-of-Falling.html

The book: http://www.amazon.com/Over-Edge-American-Climbers-Mountains/dp/0375506098

Clip from "I Survived": http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x118spu_i-survived-singer-and-his-friends-are-kidnapped-in-kyrgyzstan_shortfilms

http://www.hulu.com/watch/504428

The guy we threw off the cliff, Su miraculously survived (I will never understand how) and John and I saw him six months later in prison. He was overjoyed to see us because we were the nicest people he had seen since the last time he had seen us. The conversation itself was somewhat awkward and we both apologized to each other and exchanged well-wishes. * Imgur * Imgur

A year later, in 2001, I had an even worse climbing trip when I was struck by rockfall on a remote mountain in the Canadian Arctic (Mt. Asgard, accompanied by Cedar Wright). After 57 hours camp-to-camp with no sleep and an immobilized left leg, I was feeling pretty unwell. On the 50km walk back to the ocean I started experiencing hallucinations and nightmares and was unable to figure out what was reality. Two weeks after I got home the events of 9/11 transpired and I, not ready to see Americans lose their minds about terrorism, got on a plane to Asia, fell off the planet for over a decade. I tried to forget everything I thought I knew, asked myself a lot of questions, and read a lot of books.

Heavily affected by my experiences, I was not a ready or able to be a functioning member of society for a very long time and still struggle a bit. Finally, my wife dragged me kicking and screaming into a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu gym and my life has been steadily uphill since that first beatdown. I can now say that jiu jitsu saved my life. I don't feel like I have to be afraid of everybody everywhere I go, I can communicate and socialize again, and my confidence and motivation steadily grow as time goes by.

I am now available for speaking engagements to share my story with others and my current contact is: www.jasonsingersmith.com

I am happy to answer all questions that are composed in a thoughtful and respectful fashion.

EDIT Since a lot of people ask about how I afford to travel. I had money from the book and movie for about 6 or 7 year, maybe. Money that made me extremely unhappy and that I didn't want in my life. I used to work for a month or two here and there when I would stop in to stay with friends in different places. I am a builder of all things: fabric, wood, masonry, electronics, leather, etc. so I'm just a handy guy to have around. Especially if you have a lot of land that needs work or a house you're working on. I've been in Australia for the last seven years and basically do the same, various odd jobs. We can afford to travel (these days usually three months in the winter) because we are extremely frugal. We don't spend money on crap and we don't have debt. Debt costs a lot of money to maintain and ties you down permanently. So the short story is that we have goal, that we know makes us happy, and we save until we get it.

Ask me anything!

Jason 'Singer' Smith

My Proof: Imgur

EDIT: It's 3AM PST and I have to catch some shuteye. Thank you all for the mostly positive and kind words, I really appreciate it. I will answer more tomorrow. I put the book link up because I thought it was evidence and people would end up asking me about it. I'm not making money on the book and if it really offends people I'll remove the link. I really don't give a shit.

EDIT: Okay, Reddit. It's 10AM PST and I've got about four hours.

EDIT: I have to bail again. Will return later.

EDIT: Still responding

EDIT: 11pm on 17/Jan Thanks reddit! You guys were 98% really cool and supportive; even the skeptics, who I don't blame. I'm pretty frank about this stuff because it's my past and it is what it is, so thanks for being understanding even if my tone is a bit...unusual. I'm not hiding anything even though I'm really sensitive about some of it. People had been asking me for this for a long time and I was quite hesitant but you guys were great. I'll continue to respond if I see messages pop up. Continue with kindness!

Comments: 3123 • Responses: 89  • Date: 

nonplayer2006 karma

Every time I see documentaries/movies/tv shows about guys like you, people who spend their time climbing mountains, travelling around the world, being kidnapped by Kyrgystanians (?), the very first thing that comes to me is not how awesome it is (and it is), by how do you support yourself financially?

If I put a backpack on my back right now and go live some amazing life adventure on a foreign land, I know that one month from now I will be poor, hungry and with a lot of bills to pay. And on the top of some mountain, which is not the best place to be poor, hungry and with bills to pay.

So... whats the secret? Is there some organization paying people for travelling around the world? Are you a treasure hunter like Lara Croft? Are you super rich? Are plane tickets cheaper for you for some esoteric reason?

Thanks in advance.

singersmith1813 karma

Actually, I am into metal detecting but it has only netted maybe $1000 loose change and one gold ring.

I was a professional climber working for The North Face. They sponsored this trip. I also had a job in the RD&D department (I'm called Singer because I sew and build things). Afterward, we sold the story for a book and movie. Cheap countries made more sense.

mikhel312 karma

Wow! How did you net a sponsorship? I'd imagine they don't approach random climbers on a regular basis.

singersmith870 karma

I was basically insane.

nowontons1122 karma

Do you still resent your kidnapper? It seems like you took what he did remarkably well.

singersmith1858 karma

I never did. Of the four of them, three were super cool kids who were psyched to be hanging out with foreigners. They were actually having a struggle between being good kidnappers and being good hosts.

Even in the middle of it, I completely understood their position. The hard part was the reality that they had to die. It is pretty black and white as soon as people start hitting the ground dead.

pourlesgarcons703 karma

How did the other guys die?

singersmith1209 karma

Firefight, if i recall, when they went to kill a goat for us. And Adbul attacked a soldier taking a dump and got shot.

SoWhatIfImChristian200 karma

I don't know why, but just in the middle of all this seriousness, reading that Abdul attacked a soldier taking a dump and got shot made me laugh out loud. Although it really isn't a laughing matter for the situation as a whole, but just the way you put it almost as a foot note "oh yea and Abdul got shot by a soldier on the shitter"

singersmith278 karma

Yes, we had a good laugh about it with the special ops soldiers. Imagine the guy with his pants down wrestling with him.

sloppychris145 karma

Why did your kidnappers kill a goat for you?

singersmith371 karma

They were (they said) going to get one so we could all eat.

Uncomfortabletruth129 karma

Have you heard of Stockholm Syndrome?

singersmith27 karma

Yes. Not what we had going. Those guys were willing to run in front of police gunfire to protect those guys. I was using deception to kill them.

You can't judge a person's motivations by their actions. Just because you understand where somebody is coming from doesn't make what they do right, and doesn't mean you support them.

Bored_White_Kid611 karma

For what reason were they holding you hostage?

singersmith951 karma

Their story was that they just wanted to live in the mountains, herd goats and pray. There's a guy who is president in their country who is real bad (fact, he's called Karimov). Their boss was going to get on the phone with Bill Clinton and sort it all out. I didn't have a lot of faith in that so stuck with the plan of killing them and escaping.

duckduck60053658 karma

So did they think Bill Clinton was going to pay your ransom?

singersmith1135 karma

Yes. I did not.

jethroguardian305 karma

What...How does kidnapping some mountain climbers help them live on a mountain with goats?

singersmith309 karma

Money to devote to fighting their evil government, I assume.

pipeanddrum589 karma

I have often wondered why regular people like yourself wander so casually about in dangerous areas of the world that are rife with political turmoil, corruption, wars and populated with people whose religions are so against westerners. What were you thinking? Seriously, what outcome were you expecting and how did your overall experience meet up with that expectation.

singersmith1459 karma

First of all, thank you for you kind tone even though you're skeptical. People are people; if you treat them with kindness you'll usually get it in return. Oakland is way scarier than most places I've been and 4 people were robbed at gunpoint in the Mission last week. The idea that everybody hates us is an absolute myth. The Quran teaches that travelers are a gift from God and that it is their duty as good Muslims to take care of you. The hospitality is off the charts in many Islamic countries; you can't stop people from giving you everything. Also, they all have governments that they hate too and they don't tend to associate people with their government like we do. 15 years ago, I could never have imagined how much worse things would have gotten; it is really heartbreaking.

Obligatory double gold edit: Thanks! I just want to add that people don't normally do things to harm other people, they do things to help themselves. Here is one of the relevant verses (22:46)

"Do they not travel through the land, so that their hearts (and minds) may thus learn wisdom and their ears may thus learn to hear? Truly it is not their eyes that are blind, but their hearts which are in their breasts."

NorbitGorbit254 karma

can you tell a bit more about the hospitality of your kidnappers? looking back on it, do you think you could have won them over somehow?

singersmith491 karma

We did win them over; that was my strategy from the start. To close the distance that they were comfortable having us near them; to convince them that we were on the same side and working together. When we would get to rock that you had to climb up or down, they would call me up to the front, ask what to do, then give me their guns which I would wear and we'd all coach them through.

When we escaped the major gunfight on day one there was still four of them and four of us. At the first point we got to where we could rest and consider that we were still alive, Obert pulled five pieces of hard candy (like Jolly Ranchers) out of his pocket and took a good long look at them in his palm. This was about the only food we had (we had 1/2 a Powerbar each for the first 3 days). He looked at us, looked at his friends, then took one and gave the rest to us. That when I knew they could be won over and we were going to beat them.

Techre200 karma

[deleted]

singersmith244 karma

tell us more about the gunfight: who was shooting who, who got killed...

The Army was shooting at us. Them on one side of the valley, us on the other. I don't know how many of the soldiers, if any, they plugged but none of us got tagged although it was extremely close with mortars raining around us.

Four in the beginning, then two left on the first night - after the hard candy exchange- and got killed. No English whatsoever.

JakeThePom98 karma

Were the guns they gave you loaded? If so did you think of using them?

singersmith202 karma

Presumably. Of course. Low probability outcome - too many variables, like not knowing if they were loaded.

Cloudy_mood90 karma

Jeez, and that split second decision to move the log from under Abdul's feet in the river or help him pass. But then you don't know if the other guy will shoot you. That was the hardest part of reading that story for me.

Glad you guys got out of that safely.

singersmith128 karma

Low probability. He may have washed up on our side of the creek 20 feet away, still with his pistol and hand grenade. Yes, Su standing guard on the other side.

SalientSaltine23 karma

I don't understand. Elsewhere in the thread you said they fired a few warning shots at you and you got the message and they took you captive, but yet here you're saying you were in a major gunfight? Were these two separate events?

singersmith75 karma

Yes. Capture vs 6 hours later and miles away in another valley.

AllOKinDPRK428 karma

There's a couple of Amazon reviews that point out other things.

A few are fairly convinced that this situation didn't actually happen like the book makes out:

"another version puts it this way: They got kidnapped, the kidnappers were not prepared to babysit four climbers and did not have enough food or water for everyone. They got no support from local villagers so they let the climbers go. End of Story.

The climbers say they pushed a kidnapper to his death and then ran the equivalent of a marathon across mountainous terrain with no food or water, after having had no food or water for days.... not likely. In Kyrgyztsan at the time, most ex-pats had the same opinion of these four: "Stupid rich kids in over their heads who greatly exaggerated their story." "

What do you think of these stories? how have they come about?

singersmith586 karma

People say crazy shit based mostly on what they want to believe and because it makes them feel good to spout negativity. News story are almost always incorrect, even though they contain some element of truthiness. Then people latch onto imperfections in what they read and suddenly the whole thing is fake. These kind of things used to really upset me but I've gotten over it. Nobody says that stuff to my face. Read the comment section of any newspaper story on the internet. How anyone else, like some guy who worked in Bishkek and heard us slandered at expat dinner parties, purports to know anything about what happened out there is sure a mystery.

username_the_next21 karma

I experienced this first hand in 1999; a family member drowned in a national park. Three different news stations ran to the scene, spoke to people who claimed they were witnesses, and ended up reporting three different versions of "how" she died.

I had to go to the park service to pick up her personal effects, and I spoke to the first park ranger to be on the scene, and the ranger who built the rescue rig to pull her out of the rocks. They both told me NONE of the three reports were true. These poor souls were very traumatized by trying and failing to save a life, and all I could do is be there to listen to their story.

Why wasn't their story on the news? Because the news crews weren't supposed to interfere with the scene, so they just grabbed passersby. Those passersby said whatever they guessed had happened without knowing for certain, and the crews beamed their "breaking report" back to HQ before any corroboration.

It really infuriated me for a time; 15 years later, I can put myself in the shoes of all the different parties a little better. The reporters were expected to send a report back ASAP because their bosses wanted it on the air sooner than the other stations. The passersby wanted to know exactly what happened themselves, so had their own ideas, and were encouraged to share them. And after the initial break, the facts were just inconvenient - and ultimately, didn't change anything.

You know in your heart what happened. If you misrepresented your story for profit, you have to live with that. If you have presented all things as objectively as you can, then anything other people say to challenge that is just noise.

singersmith18 karma

Thank you, you are exactly correct. This is how reading the news can actually make people less informed about the world because they get infected with the belief that they know what happened. Critical thinking is all too absent in society and not taught in school anymore. People are drone that are programed to work and produce so the government can tax eventing they they do and keep the machine going. Journalists have to sell a story, a story people want to buy, a story that looks good on their resume. You always have to stop and consider what a person's motivations are for what they are doing. Watch what people do, their words are nearly meaningless in interpreting their actions.

huws39ysjisef3suf8sf398 karma

When they shot at you guys, were they warning shots or fortunate misses?

singersmith544 karma

Two warning shots in the air. Then one into the rock between us, about ten feet above. That got the message across.

thelaxative340 karma

1) What exactly was going through your head when you made the decision to throw a man off a cliff?

2) What was it like being out of society? Peaceful? Stressful?

Glad to see your improving!

singersmith517 karma

1) What exactly was going through your head when you made the decision to throw a man off a cliff?

It took us about four hours to figure out that we were hostages. After that realization, it took me about 30 seconds to realize that at least one, and probably all four, of these guys had to die. My partners were completely opposed at first and Tommy was completely until the moment he snapped and did it. It was a complex situation that is hard to describe briefly, but John and I had been looking for the right spot for two hours as we moved up the mountain. When I knew it was happening that night the feeling was pure elation. The hard part was that I liked the kid.

2) What was it like being out of society? Peaceful? Stressful?

You can never understand yourself, and your own culture, fully until you step completely outside of it for a significant period. That's the difference between holiday/vacation and traveling. I went where the wind blew and had no plans whatsoever. I was all about getting to know people, their families, their villages, there children, helping in the rice fields, asking a gazillion questions. Cutting loose like that for years is pure peace. I used to sometimes travel for a few months with all my stuff in a plastic bag from 7-11 [one extra shirt, toothbrush/paste, sarong, iPod/headphones, current stock of books).

Thanks! Rock on!

Nutella_Sandwich155 karma

How does it take four hours to realise you were kidnapped?

They were shooting at you, then you sat down and had a chat for some reason, then you tried to leave and they stopped you? I'm having a hard time comprehending all this?

singersmith459 karma

How can women not know they are being raped, when they are actually being raped? The human mind is very powerful and can rationalize just about anything (take Dick Cheney, for example). When you're dealing with an even that is completely outside of anything you ever thought was possible for yourself, and it's something that's extremely unpleasant to accept, you can tell yourself lots of things that simply are not true. We weren't tied up and they weren't poking us with guns and saying, "Dirka muhammad dirka dirka." I was in a boat once with my wife that was clearly sinking and none of the other 12 idiots wanted to accept it and start helping us bail it out even though we were screaming at them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_are_known_knowns

"Psychoanalytic philosopher Slavoj Žižek says that beyond these three categories there is a fourth, the unknown known, that which we intentionally refuse to acknowledge that we know"

heshotcyrus307 karma

Who would you cast to play you in the movie of your life?

singersmith772 karma

Bill Murray

drive-by_wiseguy255 karma

[deleted]

singersmith206 karma

Haha. I'd definitely go that route! He was nice, but the other two who got killed were cool as shit. The commander Adbul wasn't the worst, but he could have been if he wanted to.

MissingOly193 karma

What are the next three things you want to accomplish, see or learn?

singersmith298 karma

Very good question, thank you.

I want to spread my story though speaking. The message is centered around how to understand the world, other people and why they do the things they do. Everybody does what is in their own best interest and understanding leads to mutual kindness and benefit. You can't judge other's motivations by their actions.

The Horn of Africa, by foot.

I study languages and would like to be fluent in Arabic.

DaxtotheMax45 karma

I love this specific question/answer, thank you for answering it and for the AMA.

I just poured through this entire AMA, so, what books do you recommend reading? (Not climbing-related)

Also, as a fellow lover and student of languages, Arabic is really freaking fun. Weird constructions, but they're fairly easy to grasp and sound really nice (eloquent). Be careful with correct pronunciations! Goodluck!

singersmith42 karma

The classics of Greece and Rome. Roman history. Shooting at the Moon, about Laos. Will teach you a lot about the bad things our government does that people have no idea about. The first 10 or so chapters of Human Action.

Von_Schlieffen160 karma

Holy crap Jason, it's Jason from Pangnirtung this summer! I had found a Telegraph article about your story, but you definitely know it better than anyone else!

Do you have any tips on becoming a better climber? I've gotten much more serious about it after I got back, and had a great trip down to Joshua Tree National Park in California for some bouldering with my friends last month. I'd really like to improve my skills to one day make it up Mount Thor (though not solo as you did...).

For anyone who doesn't know, Mount Thor's main face is the world's largest natural vertical drop at 1,250m! I've been told that Jason climbed this face when he was just 19!

singersmith141 karma

Hey dude!

Man, it was epic up there this year after all the sea ice and bad weather. I soloed Asgard in around 3 hours but didn't take a rope to get down and had to wait for 18 hours for my friends to catch up. Almost froze to death, again.

Slacklining and top-roping hard stuff over and over again until you have it wired.

Great to hear you're getting after it! Stay in touch.

StarbuckPirate135 karma

Wow, what a story! Let me ask a basic question - like how did you guys get to go to the bathroom? Did they let you pee and poop? Not kidding, I am always curious. Is it like the movies where they watch you or did they just expect you to defecate on yourself?

Thanks for the AMA!

singersmith170 karma

We didn't shit for over a week because we weren't eating. We had half a Powerbar a day for the first three days then nothing. We only got water once a night, usually, so we wouldn't have been peeing a lot either. Anyway, six people fan out over 10 or 15 meters hiking so it's easy to step aside and they were quite decent guys.

Jaegerbombastic193 karma

What did you you see in your nightmarish hallucination?

singersmith226 karma

I was back on the mountain when we were literally passing out from hypothermia and seconds away from death. The ice was closing in around me and I knew I had to break it to get out. I started screaming, running forward, and windmilling my fists.

In reality, the ice was the window in the emergency shelter we had got to that Cedar was sleeping under. So imagine his surprise.

BillieSC67 karma

Holy shit dude. That is an intense story. Thanks for doing this AMA.

I know by your 2001 story that you hiked after your kidnapping. How did the kidnapping affected your hiking experiences?

Also, how was your life before the kidnapping?

Thanks again for doing this. Hope your life is only filled with happiness from now on.

singersmith90 karma

How did the kidnapping affected your hiking experiences? I appreciate the journey and the people I meet along the way rather then being focused on my own goals and an arbitrary summit.

Also, how was your life before the kidnapping?

Pretty good, as a sponsored athlete. But also self-absorbed and unable to see it, like many people, so I would never go back. Climbers need to stop and look around a bit more often because they go to such amazing parts of the world and pass most of on the way to their goal

Thanks for the kindness and take care.

Dolphin_Noises57 karma

What did you take away from this experience that you'd like the world to know about?

singersmith149 karma

People are all basically the same and always have been. Everybody does what is best for themselves based on the information they have available and their cultural background. Romans threw their kids in the river in winter to weed out the bad soldiers early. Having a bad soldier was bad for them, bad for the child, and bad for society; they were just trying to do the right thing for everybody.

Peguinz44 karma

How did Turat's family respond to you telling them what happened?

singersmith85 karma

With gratitude. His mother said she wished I had used him for a bullet shield because he would have been proud to know that he could save our live after he was dead.

ilikejellybeans142 karma

How do you feel personally about Caldwell's recent success at El Cap and do you think it will change climbing?

singersmith54 karma

Tommy blows my mind. I don't have the capacity to understand how he does it. His free climbing on El Cap has already changed climbing in the sense that he's 10 or 20 years ahead of the game.

snakeEatingItself35 karma

What did you do for 10 years in Asia? Where were you? What did you learn?

singersmith53 karma

I was all over Asia and Europe mostly for about 6, then I moved to Australia with my wife. I was in Laos for a year, Cambodia for a year, Thailand for several. We've been places like Albania, Kashmir, and Kazakhstan. All over.

Treat others with kindness and generosity. Do more than your part with a smile. Take a course in economics.

TheGeneral15925 karma

how do you even afford all this? how can you afford to travel whilst hiking all the time in so many places? I work 40 hours a week and barely have money to get to the next state and enjoy myself let alone go to asia, europe, greece, south of china, australia and back to san franciso...

singersmith85 karma

My wife and I are extremely frugal. We make all our food from scratch. I repair my minimal clothes. We live in a shoebox. No car. No alcohol. No kids. No entertainment. Restaurant once a month. We know what we want, and eliminate all kinds of other stuff. People think we are crazy but we don't have debt and they have lots. Debt costs money.

Awkward_Caption_bot29 karma

First: Do you think your kidnapper looks ridiculously photogenic?

Second: Have you stopped climbing? Seems like it's bad ju ju.

singersmith31 karma

Yeah, a bit I guess. He was pretty happy to see us. I think he thought we were there to get him out of prison.

I don't climb much.

SlinginService7 karma

I gotta say... This is a fucking amazing story. What was the end game for the kidnappers here? Do you know where they were taking you and what their intentions were?

singersmith23 karma

Probably Tajikistan or Afghanistan. We could have been on our way to chill down with bin Laden. Who knows? Their story was that their boss was going to get on the phone with Bill Clinton, sort it all out, and we'd go home. Yeah, right.

CheckMatingSeason7 karma

Did he let out a satisfying "AAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaa" going down?

singersmith26 karma

He looked straight at me and was very confused. I was his friend who kept him safe and he couldn't figure out what happened. He hit the ground right in front of me and his whole body let out a crack like a gunshot. I felt bad.

AnyasCat7 karma

Damn. What a story!

So, what would you say is something every person needs to do or experience, or, what piece of advice is your favorite?

singersmith27 karma

Cut loose from your life and travel for at least a year. Get on your own two feet and walk into really remote places and pedestrian societies.

You cannot judge a person's motivations by their actions.

Treat people with kindness and generosity.

AellaGirl7 karma

I want to do this, but I'm a little more hesitant due to being a woman and being unable to defend myself. Would learning self defense adequately offset being weaker?

singersmith35 karma

1- Good self defense is situational awareness and avoiding situations all together. Simply being aware of your surroundings makes you not the best target. Rule #1 Never, ever, let somebody take you to Location "B"!: if somebody is trying to force you into a car or down an alley, you have to fight for your life right there and then.

2- Choose you destinations wisely when you're alone, and travel with others when it's appropriate.

3- As a woman, dress more modestly than even the local women do. It sends a message to leave you alone.

4- Carry an expanding steel club if you're scared or in a weird place.

alban9876 karma

Hey man, don't know why people are giving you so much shit other than they're fedora'd neckbeards with nothing better to do but you seem like a pretty decent dude to me, so, fuck em. As a fellow "jump in front of a car" person, how do you deal with your depression? Meds helped for a bit but I'm off all of em and don't really give a fuck anymore. What works for you?

singersmith10 karma

Thanks, dude, I really appreciate the kind thoughts. I don't deal. I was a pretty heavy pot smoker for along time but quit recently and don't feel a change. I've never done meds. Jiu jitsu is good for me and getting outside into the mountains. I try to generate a lot of kindness and generosity toward others and that makes me feel good.

victorievida5 karma

This is a truly amazing story. My question is, what are you doing now? Before this happened, you were obviously a very interesting person, and then you continued that with traveling. What do you do with your time now?

singersmith8 karma

I was back in the Arctic climbing this summer and then spent a few months walking around the mountains in the States. I'm cross-stitching a picture of the King of Thailand feeding his dogs. I go to jiu jitsu and get really good at breaking legs. I'm working on my speech and a book when I can. Writing it causes my significant stress-realated problems so it comes in spurts.

scozio5 karma

Looking back at what happened, would you have done anything differently?

singersmith13 karma

After we threw Su off we should have run for a couple of hours and hunkered down until daylight. Instead, we were ambushed by the Army and ended up dodging bullets like in The Matrix. I can't believe we're not dead.

jethroguardian5 karma

Why was the army (which army?) only a few hours from your location in the remote mountains?

singersmith4 karma

Pedestrian traffic through the mountain passes. Securing their borders.

OrbitalPete5 karma

What kind of books did you immerse yourself in, which were your favourites and why, and did they actually help you in your isolation (for want of a better word)?

singersmith27 karma

Reading shapes your character and offers perspective. Aristotle wrote that the mark of intelligence is to be able to understand and idea, mull it over, without taking it on. The literatures of Greece and Rome cover a span of thousands of years covering nearly everything that the human mind has been busy exploring. Read these and you'll absorb that perspective.

LOTS of war/history. Classic literature, heavy on the Russians. Memoirs for awhile. I went through an oil/petroleum geology phase which ultimately led to my passion in economics - which is the single most valuable tool for understanding everything in the world. I'll read just about anything; I learned neat stuff in a book about breeding carrier pigeons.

jcsimpson4 karma

Who's your favorite Pokémon?

singersmith18 karma

What's a Poke Man?

nekineznanec4 karma

How easy is life with so much money that you can go on a 10 year long holiday in asia?

singersmith3 karma

Not at all. I have severe metal problems and think a lot everyday about jumping in front of a train or off a bridge. So thanks for your contribution to that, it's very kind and thoughtful.

amrcnpsycho3 karma

Hey man, as someone who has been exposed to the lesser sides of the world I just wanted to say I am proud of you guys making the right decision that permitted you to get out of that situation. I'm glad you are all safe and hope that you can adequately cope with your new view of reality. You'll be changed forever, but think you will be more complete people because of it. I had actually heard your story a while ago and had been telling lots of my friends about it since the incident as an example of regular civilians making the right decisions and fending for themselves. Lots of guys are proud that you handled yourselves so well. Take care out there!

edit: apparently I have to ask a question since this got removed by the mods, so what's your favorite pizza?

singersmith3 karma

Thank you, that is very kind and thoughtful. I'm very troubled, however, by the man I was not able to save when he asked me to help him.

Whatever my wife's mother makes.

PRGrl7183 karma

  1. What made you go back to visit your kidnapper?
  2. How young were they and why were they doing it?
  3. How did it all lead up to Tommy throwing him off the cliff? Did you guys book it afterwards or what?

singersmith6 karma

  1. Book research. I liked him. The idea of being able to talk with translators was interesting.

  2. Three were 19 or so, commander maybe late 30's. Money, $500, I hear. Because their lives are in a desperate situation because of American cotton subsidies -long story there.

  3. John and I were trying to move in closer and Tommy snapped. It's probably best to read it in the article. Yes, ran for 4 hours, got ambushed by the Army then fed sardines.

NeodymiumDinosaur3 karma

How did you feel when you found out su had survived?

singersmith9 karma

Absolute disbelief and shock. Do I think he would have been better off to die there in the mountains than in prison with a bullet? Yes. But he may still be alive in prison, I don't know.

MasonNowa3 karma

How is your jiujitsu training going?

singersmith9 karma

Currently, it keeps me sane. I train at 10th Planet in San Francisco with Denny Prokopos.

Blujay123 karma

What did you feel before after and during the throw? (before you knew he survived?)

singersmith2 karma

I felt very little before, and extreme exhilaration after. But we still had a big adventure ahead of us.

WordBlade3 karma

Jason, I am a man of mountains, as well. Growing up, I spent summers in Mineral King, CA and I love the wilderness forever. Now I live in Colorado. I am lucky, mine is a beautiful life. I work with kids and teens in adventure camp settings. My question: Around the world, what are powerful life lessons that mountain people teach their children and how do they do it? Thank you.

singersmith2 karma

I think the powerful lessons come out in the nature of the lifestyle, hard work, and inherant responsibility. Personal responsibility is falling off in this country as well as the willingness/duty to help those around you in need. You are lucky, take care.

mikeevans19903 karma

This is the first time ive ever commented on anything on reddit, and it isnt even a question for your AMA. My bad..

I would just like to state that this story youve told is amazing. Speaking for groups will be what you recognize as a corner turned when you look back - Lets say, a sort of closure, the last few steps youve needed to finish your pursuit of happiness. You wont just recover from your past experiences with battle scars youve learned to cope with, but you will find yourself improved, evolved and brilliant. You will see life panoramically and confidence building wont even be a concept you think of anymore. If your life follows the path youre taking now everything wont be okay it will be even better and richer than you imagined. So yeah, no questions but just a congratulations to you, and youve inspired me to keep my life together.

--reddit deleted my comment due to it not being a question but thats easily fixed with this:

?

singersmith3 karma

Thanks very much for you kind words. I really appreciate it and hope you are right.

Take care.

daninmn3 karma

I heard on NPR that this experience was extremely troubling to you, yet this post seems almost whimsical. What up with that?

From what I heard on NPR though you do sound like one of the best climbers in the world so good for you. You are the guy with his finger sawed off right? I'm not thinking of someone else who threw a kidnapper off a cliff?

singersmith11 karma

No, Tommy is the finger cutter. I'm not that great of a climber, I just didn't care if I died.

Nobody has touched on the horrible parts yet. I'll cry soon enough, don't worry.

daninmn7 karma

What horrible parts?

singersmith9 karma

Looking a guy straight in the eyes when he asked me to help him save his life and telling him, "No". Spending the afternoon sitting on his body. Meeting his mother and whole family and telling them all about it.

Theappunderground3 karma

Why did you tell him no?

Im a climber trying to get into alpinism. Knowing what you know now, do you think the risk outweighs the rewards? Either way, what are your feelings on that, especially now that it further in the past.

Thanks, and good luck on your travels.

singersmith3 karma

Because he wanted me and him to take two tent stakes and charge three guys with rifles from 45 feet. Also, I had just moments earlier worked out that we were indeed hostages and was still adjusting to that reality.

Adrianxxv3 karma

Wow! Helluva experience! Thanks for sharing. You described these 2 very intense events, to me you seem like an interesting person, so what would you consider your third most intense moment in the past years?

singersmith8 karma

My wife and I were almost literally eaten alive by sheep dogs in Kurdistan. It was fucking horrific.

Runner up would be a car chase through Inglewood after my friend almost lost his eye trying to repo a Cadillac.

BigTimStrange5 karma

You really need to stop visiting countries that end in "stan".

singersmith4 karma

But Tajikistan and Afghanistan are so high on the list right now...

Adrianxxv4 karma

I'd watch a movie about you. Follow up question, totally serious now that I touched the subject, who would you want to play you in a movie? EDIT: You should stop doing things.

singersmith4 karma

Bill Murray. This answer has been the same for 15 years.

claireybobeary2 karma

I'm so thankful that you all survived; I just read all of the articles you posted, and I have so many questions but guess I shall stick to one. My best friend and her then-boyfriend were held hostage in Mexico and survived. Thereafter when trying to explain to me how it altered the way she lives, she finally concluded, "it's like you go through your whole life oblivious to danger, and now on every corner, and with every person I meet, I see the potential for darkness and death." My question is, has this fundamentally altered the way you interact with others on a day to day basis? Does time heal something this extraordinary? Is it with you all the time or do you ever forget it happened and get to simply exist?

Okay that was a deluge of questions so feel free to answer one/none. Thanks so much for doing this ama.

singersmith5 karma

Your friend hit the nail on the head. There is danger and darkness everywhere. I won't even stand a crosswalk after I push the button; I take several steps back to the corner of the nearest building so I can watch traffic in two directions. It boggles my mind to see people step into a crosswalk simply because the green/white man popped up and never bother to look. There are a lot more people who came really close to getting themselves killed and actually succeeded than there are people who came really close, realized it, learned something, and manage to convey that to others. We are all one stupid mistake away from lights out.

I'm much more attuned to considering what other people's motivations might be, and observing everything other than what they actually say. Time can heal a bit, but some changes (innocence, ignorance) never change back. I'll never forgot some things. I think about Turat almost everyday of my life and it makes me cry pretty easily sometimes. I really struggle with that one.

Thank you for the kindness, ask all the questions that you want.

sayitaintsoap2 karma

Did you suffer from traumatic brain injury due to the rockfall?

singersmith3 karma

I was hit in the leg, right on top of my knee. Loaf of bread sized chunk of granite. It hurt a lot.

TinFoiledHat2 karma

Sorry for what you experienced, but I feel like you came out of it a better, more knowledgeable person than most of us will be. Also, as an immigrant from a Muslim country, I'm glad that those events did not completely taint your perspective of the whole people.

Two questions:

  1. Have you been climbing much since you escaped to Asia? If not, have you considered restarting?

  2. Before your trip, did you guys do any research that suggested something like this could be possible? If so, did you take any precautions?

singersmith2 karma

  1. I climb on occasion, almost never with a rope so it's really hiking. It's just hiking that would scare many climbers.

  2. Early in the internet era, there wasn't a ton of info available and it's always hard to really understand the situation on the ground. There were loads of other climbers there (Australians, Germans, Russians, Ukrainians) some of which were captured and released the same day and there have been climbers there every year since. The precaution was taking a helicopter into a remote place and assuming that we were up in the mountains, surrounded by Army (who gave us a permit), and out of harm's way.

UncopyrightTNT1 karma

Were you given anything to eat while you were kidnapped? If so, what did you eat?

singersmith3 karma

We had half a Powerbar each for the first three days. Then we pantomimed eating whatever we wanted.

CercleRouge11 karma

Wow, an entire powerboat? You guys must've been stuffed.

singersmith2 karma

haha. Powerbar.

Chocolatewilkestooth1 karma

You mention that your kidnappers were kids. About how old were they?

singersmith1 karma

Three were nineteenish, commander was late 30s, maybe.

DarkPasta1 karma

I do BJJ too, you mentioned it changing your life. To a certain degree Jiu Jitsu has forced me to face a lot of personal issues as well. Apart from the obvious physical aspect, what does it do for you?

singersmith1 karma

Controlling emotions and ego; not caring about getting tapped. Being comfortable and relaxed in really uncomfortable spots. Being able to speak my mind, calmly and politely, when somebody needs to be told they're being a dick.

SakiSumo1 karma

Any idea what happened to Abdul?

singersmith2 karma

A soldier was taking a dump and Abdul popped up in front of him with his pistol. The soldier jumped on him, wrestled the gun away and emptied it into his chest.

Miserycorde1 karma

Hoooooly shit Tommy Caldwell threw a guy off a cliff? That's insane.

What's been your favorite place to climb and why? Are there any good, lesser-known paths in SEA?

singersmith1 karma

I like cracks and mileage: Indian Creek for the solitude and desert, and Yosemite for what it is.

Angkor Wat is mind blowing no matter how many people are there; the place is huge, walk away. The Laos/Cambodia border region and the areas out East of Attapeu. Waaaay off the path, awesome jungles, mountains, and intact sections of the Ho Chi Minh trail.