“So here I am again in this game with the mountains. Could you get the thrill of your life and feel truly alive if you knew they were perfectly safe? Would it be a game worth playing at all if the outcome was certain?”

Andreas Fransson 1983 – 2014

It’s been on my mind for a while to try and put into words how I have come to realise that my happiness seems dependent upon a certain amount of personal, physical risk.

Risk, as with most abstract concepts, is very subjective. To some the act of crossing the road away from a marked crossing carries a high amount of risk, whereas to others, this act is deemed without risk and risk isn’t really encountered until there is a real possibility of a fatal injury should something not go according to plan. Examples of the latter could be base jumping, cliff diving, free soloing or any other activity deemed to be an extreme sport.

As I explained in my previous blog, I have realized how much I come to rely on the mountains as a place to ‘reset’, to reflect internally and to slow down and become more mindful. Having spent the winter in Chamonix learning to ski with a little more control and with a view to trying to ski some steeper objectives, I have again discovered, as with most of the sports I do, I need a certain level of risk in order to feel fulfilled. As my confidence and ability build, so too does my perception and thus assessment of risk change.

Learning that steep isn’t so bad. A miss-calculation in rope length needed for the ab meant we had to ski the second part anyway. Although far from the neatest or steepest skiing anyone has ever done, having the confidence to commit was a good step forward for my skiing.

A stolen morning at a crag with friends before departing for an offshore trip had me questioning where I was going with work. Laughter and some good friends as a sounding board showed me that only I can change how I enjoy and use the time I have in life. With the prospect of a year long contract on the horizon and a spring season just getting started in the mountains. It was a very easy (though some would say foolhardy) decision to leave the job I was heading to and go home. As I made the decision, a level of desire and psyche for pushing myself emerged that I haven’t felt before. Sometimes I think it’s easy to let your mind be the keeper of the key to your happiness, and it doesn’t always unlock the door when it should.

Back in Geneva airport, waiting for a transfer, having just watched the film ‘Steep’ on the plane, I’m full of excitement for the times ahead.

Doug Coombs put it so eloquently when he said of the mountains that they are,

“totally alive and they’ll make your more alive….or they’ll make you dead”

I don’t think I’m an adrenaline junkie, I think I thrive on the feeling of being in a scary or dangerous position and working my way through it. Knowing that what I am doing could have the most serious of consequences if I lose concentration or don’t approach it correctly ignites the fire in my belly. It affords me a level of pride in my self that I struggle to find anywhere else in life. It fuels the internal smile and that to me is what happiness is about. Smiling on the inside.

The moment of no return. The feeling of complete freedom as you leave knowing you have prepared as best you can for the jump and now it is time to just smile and focus on the moment.

I have a list of what, to some, will be crazy endeavours and to an equally large group of people, will be considered relatively tame. In that respect, what others think doesn’t matter, what matters is that I will continue to ask questions of myself mentally and physically. To put myself in situations that I perceive to be risky and control my mind and body to reduce the risk and ultimately safely complete whatever the challenge may be. This is why I think, ultimately, I will always get the most pleasure from solo excursions. There’s only me to blame if something goes wrong, but equally only I can be responsible for making the good decisions and correct choices to keep the fire burning.

I guess the important thing for me to keep learning is when to back off or walk away thus controlling the risk well enough to be able to continue to enjoy the happiness it brings for a long time to come.