Not really, but it’s a bit of a theme this week in the media (think Wikileaks).
I have a contract with NCIC to do videos of outdoor fun about Coös (click here to see some), and the latest one, which I posted on here earlier this week, raised some questions within the organization about liability.
I totally get that. In fact, the first video I made I raised that same question. Outdoor fun isn’t boardgames—it can be dangerous. The part that gets me, however, is the perception of danger versus actual danger. Fear versus danger would be more accurate, I guess.
The roads were bad from Berlin to Dixville last week, with slick patches and slop. We were in real danger of getting hurt making the drive to the climb. More danger than on the climb? I don’t know. All I can say is we made it through the drive, and we made it through the climb. I can say I’ve got more friends that have been in car accidents than climbing accidents, and I’ve never had a friend die climbing (I can’t say the same for in a car).
The first video I did, where I climbed up Pinnacle Buttress on Mount Washington, raises the same concerns. So would a winter hike of Mount Washington. There’s a whole book of people who died up there. But a day skiing at Bretton Woods should raise the same questions. I ski patrolled for three years, and I carried many people off the mountain. I had a ski partner break both arms in a ski accident, and another friend hit a tree and require a helicopter rescue. But skiing is safe?
A good friend broke his femur riding his bicycle last month. He didn’t get hit by a car—he just fell off his bike. What does it take to get outside and stay safe these days? I guess I’m just not sure.
I am afraid to go to Iraq, but I’m not sure what the danger is. Fear is natural, but it isn’t always right. Danger is real, but it isn’t necessarily measured by fear (just think of most people’s reaction to speaking before a crowd). The two are always playing off each other in my head, and I’m constantly trying to measure “is this fear, or am I in danger?”
And, quite frankly, 200 feet up without a rope, adding fear creates danger. If you are confident in your movements, you may be in danger, but if you are tentative the danger only increases. So how can I say whether I was safe up there, or whether I was in danger? I can’t. The individual becomes part of the danger equation. They contribute to their own safety or peril, by their mounting or diminishing fear. I was as safe as I could be, considering the circumstances. That’s as good as I’m ever going to get.
But, I have to admit, I have no idea what that means for liability. Luckily that isn’t my purview.