The Hypocrisy of Risk

I am not here to convince you that soloing is a good idea.  I wouldn’t try to convince anyone of that.  Regardless of whether you approve of soloing or not, we can’t ignore that it is happening, and it will continue to happen.  I believe we all have a common interest that is served by seeing that it is not performed for foolish motivations.

To that end, I would like to explore attitudes of risk with you before proposing a solution. We climbers have been struggling with how to treat risk in the media in recent years, and we have arrived at a point where there are interesting contradictions within our collective attitudes which I believe are holding us back from finding a workable solution.

This morning a few local Boulderite average joes soloed one of the flatirons, and nobody batted an eyelash. I can feel fairly confident of this statement no matter when you read this article. Unless it was raining in Boulder this morning. Almost every single day the Flatirons are soloed multiple times by ordinary folks like us, and nobody writes scathing comments on Facebook to decry their insanity. Nobody drops the heartfelt line: “I’m so glad you survived.” Every morning they wake up, drink coffee, solo, head to work, and relax through a proper morning post-coffee bowel movement. Despite the coffee, soloing didn’t make our morning joggers shit themselves. Average joe, average solo, nobody gets in a fluff.

One Response to The Hypocrisy of Risk

  1. Ghaz Oct 25, 2017 at 9:00 am #

    Interesting concept. I guess the question is “how avoidable is death in the respective sport”. One could also question where the line is between poorly protected climbing and free-soloing.

    Nothing is without risk – plenty of people have died while sport climbing, between rockfalls, bolt failures, gear failures etc, and conversely people die by falling out of bed, falling down stairs, attacked by farm animals, car accidents, and many other means – so one can make whatever arguement one feels like making, and back it up with stats.

    To me, the important point is that Honnold climbed free climbed Free Rider with a rope a lot of times before he actually free-soloed it. He made sure he could comfortably climb the full route without falling before he went up without a rope. It’s not like he on-sight free-soloed it.

    The Meru example is an interesting one – many of the greatest mountaineers in history died on a mountain, anyone from Hermann Buhl to Ueli Steck comes to mind. Nonetheless – if I am driving on the highway and a truck pulls in front of me at 50km/h while I’m going 120km/h, and there is no way to dodge it, I haven’t done anything wrong, but will be just as dead as I would be if I was caught in an avalanche. And either way – I won’t still be alive in 100 years anyway.

    Everything in life is a risk.

Leave a Comment/Reply/Review