Monday 110926

Five rounds for time of:

35 Double-unders
Run 200 meters

Post time to comments.

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Cherie taking risks on Center Thumb on South Summit Wall, Lone Peak Cirque

Life is Full of Assumed Risk

I was lucky enough to head out into the great outdoors this week.  Hopefully, you too have had opportunities this summer to find yourselves engaged in some outdoor sport or venture.  On this particular day I was headed out on a climb in Eldorado canyon, with an old climbing partner.  I feel extremely lucky that I can do this on a whim, it is miraculous really considering it’s been over three years since I’ve climbed with any consistency, but this post is not about that. 

It’s about assumed risk.  I’m using this example, because you would think it is obvious the risk involved with climbing a mountain, using ropes, harnesses, gear and heading upwards where any uncaught fall would be fatal, right?  Nevertheless, I believe that we have created a society where we forget we have some assumed risk in all the happenings we engage in.

Take this headline for instance:  

Man Burned at Burning Man

On June 30, the California Court of Appeal held that a man who was burned by the huge bonfire that ends the Burning Man festival each year could not sue the festival organizers.  Anthony Beninati admitted he had intentionally walked into the fire, and that he had previously known fire was hot.  But he argued, basically, that the organizers were negligent because they should not have let him approach the fire so closely.

Shocking I know, but it illustrates a point that we all have come to “assume”, no matter what we do, ALL risk has been mitigated.  Regardless of the nature of the activity, or our desire to still do the activity.

I thought about this assumed risk multiple times while we were climbing that day.  The climb was easy (much easier then the climbs the two of us had done in the past) and relatively short. It took us two hours to climb ~600 feet and longer to get down.   Even so, the risk involved can not be denied and little reminders appeared throughout the day that this was in fact risky.  

My partner waited about thirty feet to place a piece of gear on the second pitch, I felt my safety knot slip and stopped while climbing to cinch it up, we didn’t exactly know the decent route, we did know that our rope was too short for the traditional rappel, the rope got stuck behind a boulder knotted under a flake 600 feet up(at which point I informed my partner that the only way out was to cut the rope), we only had 30oz of water at noon on a climb that was taking a few hours and so on.  

The risks were apparent and sometimes glaring.  But would we have chosen to remove all risk?  We could have; my partner could have placed more gear, lowering the risk of a dangerous fall, but if he had done that, he would also have been decreasing our speed and efficiency (possibly leading to not only a longer climb but potential thunder storms in the late afternoon).  We could have google-earthed the decent route, but where is the adventure in that?  We had both been on that rock before and assumed we’d figure it out once there.  We could have brought more water, climbing would have been harder and slower.  I could have tied a longer safety knot, but then it might have been too long and got caught up in the gear and on my harness.  You get the point.

We can’t mitigate ALL risk without other consequences, some of those consequences directly related to our health and or the desire results.  I could choose never to deadlift, or never to deadlift any significant weight,  but what are the consequences and are those even riskier?  A weak back and the real potential to herniating a disc while doing something as dangerous as bending over, not having the capacity to recover and now having a chronic back injury?  I could choose never to climb, bike, or drive a car.

You see the trick to mitigating risk is not by eliminating that which is risky, because if we eliminate all that is risky we eliminate not only fun, but all that is athleticism.  Instead, mitigating risk is about making smart choices and knowing when risk is necessary to achieve the desired result.  Believing in oneself, knowing ones limitation, understanding ones capacity, if you know this about yourself you will know when a risk is truly a risk.  If you can be honest with yourself about this, you will not only have less risk, but more fun and guaranteed better results.

Comments

  1. Zach :

    Amen!!

  2. Tara Tooley :

    Your story reminds me of when my brother was kayaking in Argentina doing a 1st Decent down a very intense river. We were all scared he wouldn’t make it back.
    He assured us that he was much more likely to die an early death if he were in a lazy boy chair, watching TV, ordering Domino’s delivery.
    AWESOME story, Keep them coming. GREAT PIC too!!

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