Satire is a narrow brush that can paint a broad streak of ambiguity. Recently in AJ’s Charting Adventure series, in which we have fun and often poke fun at ourselves and the sports we love so much, we published a graph displaying the fun-to-risk-of-injury ratio for various pursuits, and in it we said that mountaineering wasn’t very fun at all. In fact, we said it was the second-least-fun activity on the chart, with only shoveling snow being less appetizing.
Now, Charting Adventure is in no way scientific and it should be read lightly and with a sense of humor at the ready, but in this particular case it set off a firestorm of criticism that 1) mountaineering was indeed fun and 2) that we had no idea what we were talking about because we were most likely urban office dwellers who’d never even seen a mountain. To the second point, untrue. All of us here at AJ know the sharp end of the rope from the front point of a crampon, and we have collectively spent a tremendous amount of time in cold, windy, and steep places.
But to the first point, what of it? Mountaineering is one of the outdoor world’s most dangerous sports, and it takes place in the extremely volatile environment of the high peaks, where weather and temperature and conditions can change in the blink of an eye. It is almost never easy and usually requires tremendous physical effort and often comes with the bonus prize of extended periods of suffering. It’s gratifying and addictive, but is it fun? Is it only fun in the happy glow of looking back with short-term memory loss? Or is it the kind of fun that isn’t fun, of which there are plenty in outdoor adventure?
As I see it, there are two essential fulcrums to the question — the nature of mountaineering, and the definition of fun. No doubt you have opinions on the matter, so let’s hear them.
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Congratulations to Matt Lyall, who wins this week’s giveaway!