On July 3, 2015 J, our guide Ossy, and I stood on top on top of Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, blithely ignoring the sulfur fumes that had fortunately blown in a direction away from us. And on August 14, 2015, that very same volcano sent a two mile plume of ash, hot glass and fumes into the air, creating an ash shower for all the surrounding villages, some of which are now being evacuated. (Apparently it is called a “pyroclastic flow.” Great name.)
This same weekend, I’ve read about a mountain guide who suffered a serious spinal injury while rock climbing in Ecuador. I believe that he’s someone we crossed paths with when we were in Ecuador – he was one of the guides working with the Climbing 4 My Donor team that we met both at Rucu Pichincha and Illiniza Norte. (The Climbing 4 My Donor team consisted of heart/lung transplant recipients from the U.K. who were climbing in honor of their donors. They were pretty inspirational.) There is a GoFundMe page for his medical expenses (Sebastian Carrasco).
But recent dangers don’t appear to be limited to the summit. Down here in the swamp, this past week in Central Florida saw an absolutely horrendous accident — a woman swimming at a popular spot on a local river was pulled under by an alligator and lost her arm.
I tend to ignore the fact that my particular version of swamp to summit carries with it some degree of danger. Even these recent events really only affect me in the sense of “oh wow, can you believe we were just there” or “we were just doing that.” I think that’s part of the journey – the danger is a given and it just becomes part of the landscape. It certainly helps ratchet up the adrenaline, but when you’re on the mountain, you’re not thinking danger; you’re just thinking the immediacy of the moment and how to handle that which is in front of you. Rock climbing up Illiniza Norte was a particularly good example of that. In fact, I usually end up feeling more fear of physical failure than I do of external, more objective dangers.
For various reasons my Saturday run this week took me from downtown Orlando along a service road that parallels the now constantly under construction interstate. It’s becoming increasingly overgrown, with many vacant lots. I did briefly wonder whether this was actually the best place to be running by myself. But the answer wasn’t to turn around. I simply ran a bit faster.