Adventure and risk rant
I am hugely passionate about adventure and the benefits it can have, but what exactly makes an adventure?
A quick Google search of definition of adventure brings up the following: “an unusual or daring experience”, but I feel this does not do the term any justice. I’ve also heard it defined as “an activity or endeavour through which the outcome is uncertain” (or something along those lines). The latter is certainly a broader definition – I’ve gone for a few birthday drinks with friends and ended up in A&E. Was the act of going for a few drinks then an ‘adventure’?
Spot the abseiler in the following shot in Yosemite National Park – is that risky enough?
We associate the term ‘adventure’ with explorers, mountaineers and round-the-world sailors but oftentimes the undertakings with far greater risk and potentially disastrous outcomes, are those more close to home.
I recently listened to a podcast with one of my idols Tim Ferriss (@tferriss) interviewing a world-renowned climber named Alex Honnold (https://twitter.com/AlexHonnold). Honnold is an extremely good climber but what he has become most famous for is free soloing huge cliffs, which means climbing without ropes or equipment. Now this may seem to many (myself included) as unprecedented risk as the consequences of a slip or fall is without doubt, death. If we are to take the stance of statistics, you are far more likely to be killed driving to work today, but then again, there are not many people in the world that free solo the face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.
So is the question of adventure based entirely upon risk?
A few years ago I wrote an article about the comparative risks of road cycling and climbing. Once again, statistically road cycling is more dangerous than climbing (even though one mistake climbing can end in death), but the consequences of an accident on a bike can be cataclysmic. Cycling through a busy city leaves you very exposed, especially as the only protection between you and the asphalt is lycra and a polystyrene lid. You’re putting huge levels of trust into drivers protected by a big metal machine, which is why it infuriates me to see people using mobile phones whilst driving.
I do feel that this is largely the crux of the adventure/risk argument. If you’re solely responsible for your own actions (for example, Alex Honnold soloing Half Dome), with no influence from any other human being, and the activity in which you’re choosing to undertake has an inherent risk of serious and/or death, then you’ve only yourself to blame if things go wrong. For that reason, road cycling is a far riskier business. I’m far happier hanging off a couple of ice screws that I’ve placed in a frozen waterfall than ride on a rollercoaster at a funfair. Does that make me a control freak? I don’t think so, after all, there is always a risk of human error, even at the safest of funfairs.