You should move this to a Forum thread...it will spur some healthy debate.
How do I do that???
Cut and paste this into a Forum thread.
I am concerned about the can of worms it will open... I don't want to get involved :-D
I think you have hit a point, but when and where does "risk" management become self-fulfilling? I think that there is a fine line, and often times its boundaries are blurred. This makes it hard to define and justify, but I see your point. Very Interesting.
I won't deny climbing is self-fulfilling, anything that one does to enhance skills to survive will be self-fulfilling. It is a by-product of making yourself more self sufficient.
Great article! Not just about mountaineering, but the basics of "how to become self-confident" manual (in good meaning). Well done, man!
Thanks man, be safe!
I have to say I find your justification for alpinism really fatuous. You start by stating that the sport isn’t selfish, then defend it by saying that it teaches survival skills that are valuable in the non-vertical world. This is still selfish. The rap against danger-courting sports is not that the participant is endangering himself so much as the pain and suffering his or her loss will inflict on his or her loved ones. This issue, the crux of the problem if you will, is something you completely elide. Since you start by confessing your ignorance of the topic at hand, I’d suggest reading more deeply on the subject and more importantly thinking through the consequences of high-risk climbing on those left behind. A couple of authors who have actually deeply pondered this problem are Maria Coffey (Where the Mountain Casts its Shadow) and David Roberts (On the Ridge Between Life and Death). I don’t mean to be overly harsh and I don’t apologize for my own selfish pursuits but specious self-denials such as yours only muddle the issue. If the mountains teach anything, it’s the necessity for clear thinking.
When I said I haven't read much, I was trying to be modest... apparently I passed myself off as an ignorant 25 year old who doesn't read much. Well, I do read quite a bit, but since I have only been alive for twenty five years I haven't read as much as someone who is 40 or so.
As for the article, I guess this article applies more to those whose job requires constant environmental awareness and attention to detail to stay alive, and not those who have safer more civil jobs.
In my career field if I allow my environmental awareness and attention to detail atrophy during the periods I am not in danger, these skills will not be there when I need them later.
For me, not doing something to keep these abilities sharp would be irresponsible. To broaden the picture a little, this irresponsiblity would not just affect my family and me, but my passengers and their families as well.
But don't worry, Im still impressed with your vocabulary.
i'll second michael's comments.
the author needs to be more reflective on the nature of exactly why individuals continue to practice high-risk activities. it's fallacious to claim that the reason individuals confront death in the face is to "give him the greatest chance of survival in combat, and in other dangerous situations in life."
the issue of personal loss and the consequences of death due to climbing are completely circumvented. in trying to argue that climbing makes one more successful in surviving, how would the author reason with the reality that many climbers, skilled or not, die every year. the real threat in our everyday lives, believe it or not, is NOT the threat of dying in combat - we do not share the same environment of evolutionary adaptation as our ancestors did thousands of years ago.
still, however, i think we should respect the author's background as a military personnel and that the views he espouses are perhaps a reflection of his unique experiences that most civilians never encounter in their lives. it would be fair to say, that the article says more about why the author climbs rather than why we all climb, and i don't see anything wrong with that.
Well done Matt!An interesting article and food for thought. I agree that being at "ease" and knowing risk is important.
I think that the mountains teach us to analize the risk that we can perceive and also include the risks that we can't immediatly see. This skill carries on to every other aspect of life. Great write up
...did you ever loose a friend in the mountains or see a partner fall?
Just out of curiousity, is this a loaded question?
I fully respect your point of view and agree to the point that what you have written is true for medium-risk acitivities. I also see that you need a good dose of risk management skills for your job (I would not have the guts), so for your personal level all you said is certainly true.
But this collective attempt by the climbing community to justify high-risk climbing is in my opinion a pure look through rose-coloured glasses. We can find this and that explaination to make climbing in our minds a rational thing.
Climbing – I am not talking about hiking – IS a pure selfish and egotistical thing, but I must also stress that I think that only a person who is personally satisfied can be a good contribution to society, his family and a relationship.
Enjoying the outdoors, finding some balance there, moutain biking, skiing, hiking, people getting together to be out, staying healthy and fit etc. are all things I enjoy and I think everybody should enjoy.
But climbing hard alpine routes, skiing steep faces or climbing hard high-altitude peaks is a different story. These are goal-related, high-risk activities, and I personally have stopped to justify these activities to my family and girl friend. They all respect it, and that is all I can ask for – but I do carry a heavy responsibility, that is, my life.
When I mess up and bring much grieve over my family, saying “he died while doing what he loved” will be of little meaning then. I do these all these things too but I do not justify them.
I learned a lot during my climbs and journeys but this is one side of the story – the other is that I celebrated additional birthdays more than twice so far and and it could all have ended very differently. Standing at the grave of my climbing partner last summer and two other climbers I knew and that inspired me dying in 2005 plus seeing anotther parnter fall caused me to think “what the hell are we all doing?”
Yes, indeed, I learned skills and different things during climbing I could use in daily life, no questions, but I could have learned these things also through less dangerous things and other sports, and justifying my activities out there with skill-learning sounds lame (even to me) given the high price I and those around me could have to pay.
For myself, I question things each year more, and I think I will stop in three years the latest. The question “is it worth it?” becomes harder to answer each year and I discovered the joy of other things in life. The saying from the paragliding community – “there are wild and old paragilders” says it all.
That many people do not understand why we put ourselves at risk has a good reason. If we try to find these reasons in their ignorance, lack of vision or whatever we are ignorant ourselves.
The industry helps us to negate the irrational aspects of high-risk activities by making things cool - or worse – "normal", or explaning them with the “flow”, “spirit” or other nonesense (these are things have to find ourselves and that should not be served to us in pre-made over the media), and climbing still has this pseudo-heroic character to it; and I have to admit - I fully participate.
On purpose this was a bit over the top and quite specific for the high-risk takers among us, but I guess you get my point.
Keep climbing, and be safe!
Good thoughts in your article. However, I think that one truly vital point is missing. I don't know about you... but I climb mountains because it is my passion. I do it because I love it. I feel alive when I am in the mountains, working with a partner to accomplish a given task. I do not climb in order to "maintain my senses and skills of preservation." This comes as product of spending time in the mountains or other risky environments such as war or inside a buring building. We develop these senses and preservation skills through our experiences in these environments when our senses are heightened and a lack of them would mean the end to our own existence.
For you to "defend our beloved hobby" seems to me to be defending something that doesn't need defending. Whether selfish or not, I climb because I am passionate about it... not in order to cultivate greater self preservation mechanisms. These come as a product of this passion.
here here....I agree! It is my passion as well. When I climb it makes me smile, and feel all “goofy” inside, almost like blushing, my cheeks burn, my heart soars, and I feel unbroken, stronger. Sometimes I cry at the top of a mountain or climb (ok, call me a girl if you must) from shear emotion bursting from my core. I can’t contain it. I think about climbing more than I think about s*x. Obsession, passion, call it what you will. I am selfish because I want to feel this great and wonderful emotion as often as I can. I don’t feel the need to defend that. It is only the ones who don’t share our passions that ask us why, and to defend our decisions.
Avidwanderer, I wonder, with all your heightened senses.....do you see the magnificent beauty that surrounds you when you climb? Do you let it permeate your soul?
“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted”
Ralph Waldo Emerson