the north face bag All Men are Liars
Some of you may have seen the documentary Solo that aired on the ABC a couple of weeks ago about Andrew McAuley’s ill fated attempt to be the first man to cross the Tasman, paddling 1600km in a kayak.
Directed by Jennifer Peedom and David Mich Solo, utilises unsettling footage McAuley shot of himself with a camera mounted to the bow of his kayak. The vessel was recovered a day or so after he disappeared, about 30 nautical miles short of his destination of Milford Sound, New Zealand.
Solo is a distressing yet riveting look at what drove a father and husband to risk, then lose his life attempting something no one had then achieved and the conflict inherent in McAuley’s decision is stunningly captured in this piece of video (jump to the 3:35 mark and let it run).
When I watched the doco with my girlfriend, she said to me “you’re never doing something like that” and I agreed; I couldn’t understand the why anyone would want to leave behind their lover and family to risk death. Then a few weeks ago, I had the chance to meet and go rock climbing with another stone cold Aussie hellman Dr Glenn Singleman and, as I dangled over a 100m high cliff, the mindset of this type of thrill seeker came into sharp relief .
Singleman, if you’ve not heard of him before, is a Sydney based ER doctor who with his wife Heather Swan, holds the world record set in 2006 for altitude BASEjumping (highest exit point) and highest wing suit BASEjump, which you can suss here.
The thing that you don’t see in that video is that both Glenn and Heather have two children each so every time they head off on one of their adventures, I’d say there are some pretty tearful farewells with their sprogs.
(Seriously, take a look at that YouTube clip of their BASEjump. It took them 22 days to hike 6,600m up Meru Peak in the Himalaya and then they leaped off. It’s stomach churning.)
Last year Glenn and Heather were at it again with their Furthest Flight expedition which saw them climb 12,000m above Central Australia in a hot air balloon in an attempt to set the world record for the longest wingsuit flight.
On that occasion, with temperatures dropping below minus 60 degrees Celsius, there was a minor stuff up when Glenn switched from the balloon’s oxygen supply to his personal supply and the new flow rate was a little too slow.
Starved of oxygen, Glenn blacked out, tumbled off the balloon’s basket and free fell for about 1000m before his oxygen kicked back in and he regained consciousness.
Glenn didn’t seem too fussed about the incident when I chatted with him while climbing a cliff face at Sydney’s north head last month; he says all his expeditions are about confronting fear and what’s possible.
I hate cliffs having lost a school friend to the precipices near our local beach when I was a kid, I’m incredibly cautious around them. I was stunned to silence when the producer for this video told me she wanted me to abseil down this rock face.
I’ve jumped out of planes, , I’ve been in monster surf in Hawaii, but nothing’s got to me like searching for a toe hold on a vertical cliff face, despite knowing I was roped and secure. I was so freakin’ scared at one point I was hyperventilating.
But that’s the thrill (I guess) knowing you put yourself out there and did something you thought was impossible and I can only imagine what it would be like to do this and live to tell the tale like Glenn did in 1992.
I am not a parent, however, and it seems we judge this kind of behaviour more harshly when practised by people who do have children and could leave them orphaned if their adrenalin hunting ends with them smeared on an alpine ledge.
Last year, during an online chat, Singleman and his wife Heather responded to claims their thrill seeking was irresponsible and selfish.
Said Glenn: “I’m a doctor and I see people die every single day when I go to work. Over a long time I’ve learned that all of us must die, and the most important thing is to learn how to live before we die.”
“To some people that may seem selfish, but to Heather and I it’s an important part of the way that we live our lives. We think that it’s important to overcome our fears and pursue our passion in a safe way.”
“That’s a message we try to give to our children through example, not that we encourage them to be BASE jumpers or sky divers, we encourage them to pursue their dreams with passion in a way that is sensible and safe.”
Said Heather: “The kids love what we do and are proud of us. As they are young, they don’t have the preconceptions of adults who would think it is dangerous. The kids think their parents are cool.”
It’s an interesting debate, and one that many of you as parents would have an opinion on.
I’m sure we all know and tolerate mums and dads who smoke, drive drunk, speed, ride motorbikes, pick fights with bouncers or are eating themselves into an early grave, yet when we see a man like Andrew McAuley or Glenn Singleman put themselves so spectacularly in harm’s way, many see fit to criticise.
I did see the tail end of that doco. can someone fill me in exactly WHY no one got to him in time? I gather he had every location/emergency device under the sun. Listening to his widow was very, very sad.
I do have some difficulty with people placing themselves in mortal danger for recreational purposes, when their actions endanger the lives of others. Think Sydney to Hobart in raging seas, climbing Everest/K2/whatever trendy face of whatever the current trendy peak is. these actions are not to further science or the human race in some way, they are purely self gratifying, which is all very well until your misadventure kills a couple of rescuers as well.
Same argument goes for drunk and speeding drivers and Temporary Australians (aka motorbike riders), killing other road users/pedestrians. At least with TAs and speedsters, there is a chance if they do strike misadventure during their recreation, they might become an organ donor and benefit someone else.
I do think Sam’s right in that your priorities can change a bit when you have a couple of small life forms to take care of. the two reasons why my Dad declined Cloudbreak all those years ago, my sister and I.
I would be interested to read what others think on why the whole “adrenalin junkie sports thing” appears to be beloved by more men than women. have read somewhere is that it’s because women are more intimately connected (biologically and culturally) with death on at least a monthly basis.?? Had previously thought that the home life of most BASEjumpers and bullfighters must have been pretty ordinary if those pursuits were seen as a preferable option.
Its important for a person to learn their limits so that they can understand themselves. This can only be done by pushing one’s self outside of their comfort zone. Far too often people spend their lives just floating along :Ennui Emulsion.
I’m saying we should all do BASE jumping but i am saying that a bit of risk and adventure is neccesary to define us (and definition is a conduit to direction).