The Rap on Risk

Climbing is a dangerous sport. There is no getting around it. Risk is involved, and accidents happen. People are killed. It is scary to take off on big expeditions knowing this. I am a sister, a daughter, and a friend. There are people whom I feel extremely responsible to come home safe for. But where do I turn when the thing that keeps me whole is the thing that could cause everything to be obliterated?

There is a line of risk that I am not willing to step over, and to hold myself to that, ego must be put aside. I’m not trying to say it’s easy, because standing on the top of a mountain and going home to show pictures and stories about it is pretty damn cool. But in this sport, it is so completely necessary.

“Acceptable risk” is a pretty ridiculous phrase. At what point does risk become too risky? It’s different for everyone. But as I talked about in my last post, learning to separate yourself from fear by feeling in control is very important. In the ideal situation, the only dangers would be human error. Of course, this is extremely unlikely if not impossible. So we must decide how close to the edge we are going push it for the things we care about. And I am discovering my limits. There are natural, primal instincts that tell us to turn around, to run away. And learning to listen to that, to simply be able to access that intuition is priceless.

Two nights ago, battling -30° C temperatures and 45 mph wind in true Patagonian winter conditions, I had to make the decision to turn around. My eyes were frozen almost completely shut, and the sun wasn’t going to come up for another 4 hours. Cold is not a strong enough word. It would have been pushing the risk out of my control. And that is really hard. To have trained for weeks, trekked for days, only to turn around before you can achieve your goal. And I am still learning how and where to push myself, and what it too far. But learning to take the 180° spin and head back downhill is what teaches me the most. About myself, and about the mountains.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Granny Max says:

    happy to hear that you are doing well and enjoying. You may be taking risks but here I am with a broken arm that I got standing stlll at home. Love, Granny Max


  2. Maya Olin says:

    that´s so awesome, elliot. i´m thinking of you from bolivia where the nights are wintery cold as well. hang in there!


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