I recently came across Yvon Chouinard`s (founder of Patagonia) basic philosophy of life, in his book, Let My People Go Surfing:
The basic tenets of that philosophy are: a deep appreciation for the environment and a strong motivation to help solve the environmental crisis; a passionate love for the natural world; a healthy skepticism toward authority; a love for difficult, human-powered sports that require practice and mastery; a disdain for motorized sports like snowmobiling or jet skiing; a bias for whacko, often self-deprecating humour; a respect for real adventure (defined best as a journey from which you may not come back alive — and certainly not as the same person); a taste for real adventure; and a belief that less is more (in design and consumption). Pg. 150
I found that many aspects of his philosophy describe my own. Considering that, it was hard to swallow his definition of `real adventure.` Go ahead – go back and read it.
I find this particularly sobering on a day when the climbing world lost one of its best mountaineers, Tomaz Humar. Living in The Rockies, I rub shoulders with some of these guys (and gals) that seem to be lucky to be alive. Every year at the Banff Mountain Film Festival I somewhat rudely joke with my own climbing partners that some of the climbers featured at the festival may not be back next year. But, it`s completely true, and these people would admit it.
I thought I had a sense of adventure, but compared to these climbers, I may as well be hiking through a mall. Perhaps then, adventure is relative to the adventurer. My first stab at multi-pitch trad climbs this past summer was an awakening for me. There is nothing that compared to the level of focus and the mental battle I had going on some of those days, particularly on Grassi Ridge, a route up Wiwaxy Peak in Yoho National Park. Hanging a few hundred feet off the ground, I fully realized the dangers of what I was doing, and yet I needed, for self-preservation`s sake, to ignore them.
The route up Grassi Ridge follow the left sky-line
Though I try to tune out these dangers, my awareness of them also comes indirectly through my precautions against them. I tie the rope in a figure-eight knot and double it back, I grip the rope a certain way when I`m belaying, I put my protection in the rock on a certain angle, and I equalize my anchors. Each precaution represents an inherent danger to climbing – otherwise, we wouldn`t do these things in the first place.
Yet, there is so much we cannot control, and this is why I believe Yvon Chouinard defines `real adventure` as a journey from which we may not return.
Some, like me, pursue increased risk and adrenaline in adventure – and this is arguably `real adventure.`Furthermore, there are those who reduce even their precautions (climbing without a rope, being a prime example), and we may call this `pure (and perhaps stupid) adventure.` There is a good chance they will not come back alive.
Still, adventure, even at its most basic level, can be found in many places and situations. Some find adventure in a new job or starting a family. For many it is a matter of time and place. Something that wasn`t adventurous before becomes adventurous in the future. My great aunt and uncle even made an adventure of going to the hospital when their health turned for the worst, just to make it more fun for eachother. Likewise, as I get older, my threshold for adventure may weaken.
I turn back, then, to the end of Chouinard`s definition of `real adventure.` He defines it also as a journey from which you may not come back as the same person.
And this is 100% true of all adventure.
© Meghan J. Ward, 2009.
Further reading (that I`d like to do, too):
Maria Coffey, Explorers of the Infinite and Where the Mountain Casts Its Shadow
Steve House, Beyond the Mountain