Anticipating the Edge

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Mountaineering, Trad Climbing, Sport Climbing, Toprope, Ice Climbing, Big Wall, Mixed
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Anticipating the Edge
Created On: Feb 5, 2008
Last Edited On: Mar 4, 2008

Anticipating THE EDGE... where it BEGINS and where it ENDS

--by Alpinista Hombre

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Speculate for a moment, on the various risks that exist in wilderness travel. Ponder for a moment, the potential of the wilderness and high country to take a life, or many lives. Without the need to mention these natural factors, there are wildlife, harsh weather, rockslides, avalanches, seracs and crevasses, earthquakes, flash floods, icefalls, cornices, moats, high altitude, exposure… and the list goes on. The developing of your instincts for sensing too much danger, or “the edge”, will give you greater advantage in your adventures. “The edge” may be defined as: the line that, if surpassed, may separate a person or a team from the bounds of calculated risk. The concept of “the edge” differs between each person. It is the responsibility of each climber to know his or her own sphere of acceptable risk. When building an expedition team, or if traveling by alpine-style in a small group, special considerations must be made in order to have a balanced group. A potential conflict may arise when the individual goals of a group or team are not communicated before an adventure. When a team has balanced goals and purpose in a climb, hike, or other such adventure, the level of calculated risk is greater than the unknown risk… and “the edge” is kept in check.

It is appropriate to quote a very well-known mountaineer, and extremist of sorts, when mentioning “the edge” and having more equal skill in a team or group. Mark Twight is known for his great abilities and die-hard personality, and displays it in his various books. One such book is Extreme Alpinism wherein he stated, “As an alpinist who carries a long list of dead friends and partners, I approach the mountains differently than most. I go to them intending to survive, which I define as a success. A new route or the summit is a bonus.” He makes his goals very clear, so it is up to whoever is contemplating travel with him to weigh-out their own risks.

Making small errors in judgment on your adventures and escapes will only add to your personal experience, and in knowing “the edge” as an individual will assist you well in avoiding the big mistakes. The mountains and wilderness can be quite unforgiving, so our objectives on our various adventures should be to assess, weight-out, detail, measure, calculate, and above all… THINK... when we are “visiting” Mother Nature’s domain.

Instincts are our natural, internal sensory that exists to aid us in our survival. Experience only enhances our instincts. These “sensory” impress upon our centers of judgment. They may be felt in our innermost core, or “gut’. Other instinctual feelings may come as increase in pulse, sweating palms, random thoughts of “common sense”, etc. Our five basic senses also assist our instincts. Our brains, being capable of processing and calculating information gathered from the various sensory, give the storage, strategy, and quick reaction to survival situations. If you are good with your own condition on an adventure, make it your purpose to sense the condition of your fellows. One person will always have greater survival instincts than another in any given situation, so share your senses and perceptions with your crew.

So speculate for a moment, on the various risks that exist in wilderness travel. Ponder for a moment, the potential of the wilderness and high country to take a life, or many lives. We adventurers travel the mountains and wilderness because it is in our souls to do so, because it enchants us and feeds our desire for the unknown, and because it continually answers our questions to life’s challenges. Hence it is necessary to know your personal limits, your own sphere of risk, your own “edge”… and balance yours with the others you adventure with. After all, the idea is to live to see many more adventures in the future… is it not?

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DrJonnie - Feb 22, 2008 6:46 am - Hasn't voted


Thought provoking article. It might also be interesting if you added a short discussion on the differences between objective and subjective danger and how the mind can handle the different risk factors between these. i.e dangers inherent in the environment vs self inflicted dangers.
cheers Johnnie


alpinistahombre - Mar 18, 2008 1:19 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Dangers

Thanks for the supplement Doc... it always helps


DrJonnie - Mar 18, 2008 4:27 pm - Hasn't voted

Re: Dangers

No problem matey, nice article !
cheers Johnnie

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Anticipating the Edge