In Defiance of "the Edge"Story and photos by "AlpinistaHombre" (Aaron McAdams)
Through our pursuit of adrenal achievement, we mountaineers seek to surpass the average. Disregarding predictability and comfort, we aspire to attain the unattainable. To succeed on any ascent, when climbing a big-wall route, or when exploring unfamiliar wilderness, an adrenal explorer seems to borrow unknown forces from his or her spirit to surpass The Edge.
No concrete explanation of The Edge exists; however, the abstract knowledge appears when one surpasses its threshold. When we approach this fine line via our adrenal quests, the sense of risk is near, and, naturally, fear arises. At that moment, we know that we cannot manage on the easy-go, half-do mentality. As the outspoken mountaineer and training advocate Mark Twight put it, this is when we must "ascend above mediocrity."
It is "self against the self," long before the involvement of any team dynamics. More often than not, upon our failure to reach our goals — finding ourselves locked down by ailment, bad weather, or otherwise bad luck — there is nothing to do but breathe, sleep, fiddle with gear, babble, or simply stare at your trail-soiled companion. You either find your soul in rallying the grit and fortitude for a second attempt, or terminate the endeavour altogether.
Our dreams are key to our adrenal adventures — picturing oneself on a challenging summit, overlooking a breathtaking ridge while hanging by a cold and sharp tool, on the morning after the achievement, soaking in the view of a sunlit cloud floor below. To those who understand the allure of the dangerous, and the powers of nature, dreams are our torture when trapped in our home or office setting. This much I've learned.
It is perhaps a common mistake of many adventurers to recount their most difficult mountain encounters as definitive and perceivable. Does one ever truly come to know "the mountain," when in reality it is the gatekeeper we are so avidly coming to know? Nature surrounds us, and we are its guests when on our adrenal missions. While on our undertakings to defy The Edge, if we were all in a state of total reality each time we "borrowed" a summit, we would halt in humility. To be in defiance of The Edge means just this — that we recognize the mountain as unconquerable in its essence, but in our pursuits to fulfill our adrenal appetites (and our desires to advance the human spirit), we are in fact only conquering…ourselves.