There is a thin invisible line which separates adventure, from misadventure. When your playing with the elements and tickling the edge of your comfort zone, you can stumble over this line without any warning. Consequences can be serious, but the learning can be invaluable.
This week I have found myself stumbling over the misadventure line more than once.
Experience is the accumulation of several near misses. We learn from mistakes, it's a natural process. If you touch something hot you get burnt, lesson learnt. When you learn to walk you fall, but you get back up, and try again. As we get older, specialise and learn more specific skills this process still takes place, but on a different level.
In the outdoors you can find yourself looking up at a gigantic breaking wave, down a very steep cliff, or over the lip of a waterfall. Whatever the environment the process still starts off the same.
Definition of calculated risk: A hazard or chance of failure whose degree of probability has been reckoned or estimated before some undertaking is entered upon.
We sift through our log of previous experience and judge whether we can handle the environment we're about to throw ourselves into. We ask ourselves questions like..... Have we paddled that grade before? Did it go well? Have we skied this angle of slope without falling? If I fall here what are the consequences?
Our adventure brains then churn up the sums and calculate a measure of risk. It's then up to us to make the right choice. If your 90% sure of success, it's an easier decision, your pretty sure your going to make the move. If you feel there's a 10% chance of success then it's a mega risk, the odds aren't good, hopefully you'll back away and live another day. Your calculated risk might be 50/50, more of a gamble. Then agian it might come down to your tossup between self belief or self preservation.
Everyones accepted risk is different, its a personal calculation of your own capabilities. Beware of the grey area. Peer pressure can be a dangerous addition, however sometimes a little nudge from a friend who knows you well is all you need to up your game.
Misadventure is usually when you haven't actually had a chance to calculate the risk before you've ended up in that situation, and now you have to deal with it.
Today I found myself looking down a steep gully into the abis bellow, infront of me was a steep, exposed and snow loaded slope. A place which filled me with fear. Behind me were several hurdles I had already leapt with quite some level of commitment, not expecting to have to reverse the manoeuvres.
I was now stuck in the world of Misadventure! A place where mistakes can be punished potentially with life, but the learning opportunity is immense (so long as you get it right). Going backwards is often as hard as going forwards, and your committed now, whether you like it or not.
I curse myself for ending up in this situation. Adventures are fun, and the level of challenge is what makes them a trill, but the misadventure zone is a dangerous place to be playing. My skill level may not be good enough, and my mental strength certainly isn't when mistakes are not an option. There's no room for error, clumsiness or loss of concentration. On occasions I struggle to stay focused and calm when consequences are so high.
When misadventure hits you, it's like a tone of bricks. Normally you don't see it coming. It's something you can't really plan for. You can merely dig deep, use every inch of skill and strength you poses, and believe in yourself. You'll will nearly alway surprise yourself with what you are capable of.
Once back on solid ground be sure to log that experience in your memory (although I'm sure you'll not forget it in a hurry). You'll forever be using it as a reference to calculate future risks and adventures. Now you can relish in your survival, and tell one heck of a story in the pub later. A story otherwise known as an 'Epic', often worn like a badge of honour.
Remember; everyone is different. What may be misadventure for one, may be a walk in the park for another. Even the pros will have been in the misadventure zone before. The most experienced mountaineer, paddler, skydiver (whatever the sport) have gained their experience through previous adventure and misadventure.