On Adventure – 1 (Backyard World)

I’ve spent a lot of time gazing into my navel and pondering the meaning of adventure in the last couple of years – perhaps as I get old and soft and gray I wonder more. Perhaps my eyes are gradually opening to the world and the various ways we approach life.

As for sheer unmitigated adventure, I’m sure we can all agree that little can compare to Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 mind-blowing epic journey to Antarctica. One of the most abso-fucking-lute badass adventures of all time. Reading the amazing story in Alfred Lansing’s book Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, a read that you should not miss, left me slack jawed, with shivers on back of my neck, and realizing that I – and everybody I know, including the most badass climbers – are all complete and total wussies.

But few things in this world exist in black and white, and I believe adventure exists on a spectrum.

To a child, for example, the entire world holds potential for adventure. Everything is new – the ultimate beginner’s mind. Who guides that potential, and how?

My friend Jason Albert knows adventure from a variety of angles. He was my first steady climbing partner, some 15 years ago, and, as I alluded to in my article in Alpinist 28, the very fact that he put up with “Sketchy Kelly” shows he had a tremendous sense of adventure, though I’m grateful that he drew the line and refrained from his fully justified fantasies of putting an ice axe through my head (“Hey Kelly, look over there, it looks crazy burly but I’ll bet you can climb it!” Thwack!). He’s an active and experienced outdoor athlete, and nowadays his biggest adventures come as a stay-at-home dad.

In a recent Cleanest Line piece, “Backyard World,” about guiding his young boys through adventures close to home, Jason puts it powerfully and eloquently: “My adventures now are at once more complex, subtle, and wrapped in penetrating challenge. The challenge is to make close-to-home adventure the real deal.” He also wrote an excellent article, The Big Red Island, about a year spent living in Madagascar villages (his wife does ring-tailed lemur research) with their then two-and-a-half year-old son.

Anyway, here’s to adventure in its various forms, from cradle to grave. Click on Jason’s terrific narrated “Backyard World” slideshow, embedded below (if it works; if not, click here for the original site; embedding this taxed my tech skills beyond previously known levels – also, I don’t know how to make the “play/pause” buttons appear, but just click on the image to start playing, and click again to pause). It’s only two minutes long, and worth every second. That’s what she said.


Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Backyard World“, posted with vodpod

2 thoughts on “On Adventure – 1 (Backyard World)

  1. I had seen the “Endurance” movie a few years ago. Guess they must have made a book out of it as well…

    The saddest part of the whole Shackleton saga (to me) is that so many of the returning bad-asses in the crew were immediately drafted into the army during WWI and got killed in these new, impersonal ways, like U-Boat torpedoes, nerve gas, etc. After fighting for so long to survive against elements at the South Pole it seemed especially tragic.

  2. I hope the guy above was joking since “Endurance” was written in 1931. If we used Shackleton’s experiences as a gauge most of us have even come close to an epic. I’d love to see the word “epic” stricken from our day to day vocabulary. Nobody ever had an “epic day” sport climbing, even a shivering man-spooning unplanned bivy is not epic.

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