The Continued Glorification of Danger in the Adventure Community.

Via on Oct 19, 2010

Beyond the Edge.

{A Deadly Fascination}

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover. ~ Mark Twain

Fuck that. ~ me.

Should sponsors support “heroes” (in quotes because we’re not fighting wars or curing cancer or teaching children, here) who sacrifice their safety and, too often, lives, for the momentary bliss of adrenalin and extreme risk and, in so doing, inspire the next generation to do the same?

Living in Boulder, I read about a death a month either in these here parts or elsewhere. What goes up doesn’t necessarily have to come down—if we employ commonsense safety.

But the adventure community, while safe-as-can-be as a whole, is beset by a tendency to glorify danger. Ironically, it’s the elders like Yvon Chouinard who question that needless danger—his famous quote about there being nothing brave, only stupid about going over one’s edge, pushing one’s envelope comes to mind.

Doing risk sports had taught me [an] important lesson: never exceed your limits. You push the envelope and you live for those moments when you’re right on the edge, but you don’t go over. You have to be true to yourself; you have to know your strengths and limitations and live within your means. ~ Yvon Chouinard, pioneering climber & founder of Patagonia.

Tell your brave friends you’re concerned. Don’t become used to a culture that romanticizes or glorifies “bad-ass” danger and “No Fear!” risk. We don’t have to live on the edge in order to truly live—we can live in the moment. You can find the glory and freedom and in-the-moment-ness you find when you challenge your edge through meditation, though it’s a little more boring and results in less impressive muscles. From a Buddhist pov, the reason to live is to be of benefit. Please grow to be old women and men, bear children, become bodhisattvas working for the benefit of our world and society that’s in dire need of hard-working fun-loving heroes. Let’s not mourn any more “expected tragedies.” Let’s not mourn any more good souls. ~ me.

So why does North Face and many other companies (that we love for their commitment to environmental responsibility) continue to sponsor athletes who regularly cross that line? How many good souls will fall, broken or lifeless, before we grow up and redefine our love for adventure?

Take car racing, for example. It’s inherently dangerous—just like adventure. That’s fine. We all know there’s a certain amount of “managed risk.” And yet…the racing industry has done everything they can to minimize mortal danger. And if engines were blowing up, consistently, they’d fix them. It wouldn’t take more than one or two deaths before the industry as a whole rebooted. And yet…in adventure, we glorify those free soloists, kayakers, tightrope walkers and base jumpers (etc.) who put their precious, wonderful lives in extreme danger regularly.

I’ve lost too many friends. I call for sponsors and filmmakers and all other leaders to stop glorifying danger. For  the next seven generations’ sake.

“Youth didn’t bother its head about the sharp tongues of the wordy warfare that flared up after the first tragedy on the Eiger’s face. It only heard in the mountain’s threats a siren call, a challenge to its own courage. It even invented the pious untruth that it was its own duty to fulfill the bequest of the men who had died. Perhaps it even believed it. But the real spur was that inexplicable longing for the eternal adventure.” ~ Heinrich Harrer, “The White Spider,” 1959.

So many have died on the face, you don’t know how to begin to count. ~ re: the Eiger.

How to Survive a Free Solo from Pete Baertsch on Vimeo.

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6 Responses to “The Continued Glorification of Danger in the Adventure Community.”

  1. pauloone says:

    There is an epidemic of climbing deaths because too many new climbers are climbing way over their abilities. Also, there is very little emphasis on safety in climbing publications and a lot of emphasis on the hard climbs.

    • elephantjournal says:

      Amen, great points. There's also a fair amount of accidents and deaths from very skilled adventurers…because they embrace the high of danger, instead of staying within the bounds of relative safety.

  2. Allie Bombach ajBombach says:

    "I’ve lost too many friends. I call for sponsors and filmmakers and all other leaders to stop glorifying danger. For the next seven generations’ sake."

    I totally agree. Thanks for the reminder Way. Glorifying risk is s a driving force in the industry right now. I think we need to step back and take some responsibility for what we are putting out there. Just because it sells doesn't make it right. I hope to always tell stories about the lifestyle and passion, not bigger, better, faster, more dangerous projects just to please sponsors. I think thats a horrible way to portray why people do what they do for adventure.

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