My friend David shared this on Facebook and I couldn’t help but put my thoughts on paper as my brother and I were just discussing this last night! I have included the link to this article from the Denver Post below.
I am by no means an expert and I am still learning and relearning many things about the mountains and climbing. Please take these words as just that, words from a novice climber and his limited experience and knowledge.
I think part of the solution has to come from the climbing communities attitude toward the mountains. Just like avalanches during the winter there are serious dangers with climbing even though its relatively easy access and sunny.
We need to balance our ambitions with the realities and risk benefit analysis. Inherently everyone has a different amount of acceptable risk. Having that risk is part of the reason why we pursue these sports.
We need a way to accurately evaluate how much risk we are taking on a climb or ski. Then we can decide if that risk is within the parameters of our acceptable amount of risk.
I believe that the Peak Ascent program would be a great way teach people how to set up a basic system for evaluating and planning climbing trips.
After this system has been taught the next question is if the amount of risk is acceptable to all parties.
The acceptable amount of risk is a deeply personal question, and it is one that needs to be discussed more openly. It is dynamic and very difficult to truly evaluate.
This evaluation of this how much risk acceptance you have can be distorted by many different factors including ego, mob mentality, peer pressure, lack of information and or lack of experience and many others. Therefore I believe this is truly the crux of the problem.
The system for planning and executing a trip is systematic and easy to follow once it has been learned. However, the “human factors” as they are called in avalanche awareness are dynamic and where problems start happening.
We can teach what the most common pitfalls or mistakes in perception and thinking are. However in practice these things can and do happen. I am guilty of almost all of them at one point.
The risk acceptance problem is the big question in my mind. We should have some education such as the Peak Ascent’s program. However, the water gets murky after this, and when it comes down to it we should not take away or look down on anyone exercising their freedom to take their life in their own hands and take large risks if that is what they truly want to do.
We should instead educate and provide support, kindness, and patience to our fellow climbers so that we may have an open and informed community that puts cooperation ahead of competition. If we support our fellow climbers at all ability levels and don’t put so much emphasis on beating one another records and trying to look cool on social media we may avoid some of these caviler attitudes towards risk.
Yes everyone wants to push the limits of their abilities, however competition has no place in the climbing group, (or in the majority of our society, but that is another discussion). We can achieve much greater heights and faster speeds without losing our self identity with cooperation. After all climbing is supposed to be fun right?
The pioneer of the freeride world tour of big mountain skiing and snowboarding Shane McConkey illustrated this brilliantly by his alter ego of Saucer Boy. If you have a few minuets to kill this clip from the documentary of his life is truly excellent!
Thanks for the read guys I hope this was not all smoke blowing!