Sunday, February 9, 2014

Ropes and Risks

"The distinction between what is dangerous and what is difficult is often subtle. Climbing an overhanging rock face in Yosemite Valley is very difficult, but the rock is sound, the weather is generally good, and for skilled climbers who use proper techniques, the risk is relatively small. On the other hand, though walking across a flat glacier may be easy, it can be very dangerous if there are unstable ice towers overhanging the glacier" (90).

The line between danger and difficulty is thin and blurry. As is the distinction between risk and consequence - as we learned in an interview with free-climber Alex Honnold. What strikes me as the most tricky part of these lines is that I imagine they must be defined differently by each individual. The danger, difficult, risk, consequence of a situation will vary with every minimal difference in strength, skill, experience, confidence between climbers.

Each adventure and each scenario has it's own line-- it's own level of difficulty and danger, risk and consequence. As adventurers, is part of the adventure not knowing where the line is and pushing that uncertainty? -- Or, as adventurers is it necessary that we must constantly be updating, adjusting, and evaluating where the lines are in order to adventure "safely?"

How can we gage where these lines are for ourselves or for others? In terms of a large-scale expedition like the female Annapurna team-- is it each team member's responsibility to find and hold true to these lines for themselves? Or is it the leaders job and does one persons line then become the entire teams line? Rightfully or not...

Arlene struggles continuously with what it means to be a leader. She wants to be a friend but also the strong and steadfast leader that people look to. No matter what decision she makes, between sherpas and opinionated team members it seems there is never unanimous agreement. Therefore, will it come down to Arlene's personal lines between danger and difficulty and risk and consequence that determine the fate of the entire expedition?

This brings us back to... IS IT WORTH IT? And can we really know until after it's over?


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  2. I was shocked how little the topic of death was discussed throughout the book. It seems as though there is a climber-to-climber understanding that the life risk is very real. However, all of Blum's team is so full of life and passion AND she makes it clear that they have a lot of family and close relationships to lose at home if they perish on the mountain. Why don't they acknowledge this more often? Why is Annie so against even discussing the possibility of an avalanche tragedy? It is almost as if they ignore their own mortality until they absolutely must face it-- a tact that cannot be soothing for the people who are back home.