Monday, May 05, 2003

I'm not sure just what to think of the climber who was trapped in a canyon for five days by a falling boulder, amputated his own arm to free himself, then applied a tourniquet, rappelled to the canyon floor, and hiked to safety. Certainly his courage, fortitude and presence of mind were extraordinary. On the other hand, it's worth noting that lots of climbers suffer such survivable accidents, and since the vast majority of them are not crazy enough to climb alone, they're fairly quickly rescued, and hence never make it into the news. (Others, of course, suffer unsurvivable accidents and die horrible deaths, but in this age of "extreme sports", when activities that routinely and predictably induce nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, headaches and cramping are wildly popular, faulting a hobbyist for mere risk-taking, as opposed to utterly insane recklessness, somehow seems petty.)

Incidentally, I mentioned this story to a couple of climbers I know, and both responded, to my horror, with something along the lines of, "now that you mention it, I've gone out alone myself--I don't know if I'd have been able to do what he did, though." I asked one if he'd consider carrying a satellite phone for emergencies when venturing into the wilderness solo. His response: "naah....those things are pretty heavy."

Let the record show that although I'm way too wimpy ever to go rock climbing--let alone rock climbing alone--voluntarily, I'm quite confident that if I were somehow (I can't imagine how) obliged to venture into deserted regions on my own, I would not be too much of a wuss to lug some kind of bulky communications gear with me. Call me a superhuman stoic, I guess.

(A side note on "extreme sports": I believe the time has come for "moderate sports". My proposal for a "moderate triathlon": a couple of laps in the pool, a leisurely bike ride, and a brisk walk. The median time wins.)

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