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Filmic Friday: Survival Stories

The spring semester begins for me next week, and for the past month I’ve been keeping busy with daily and weekly checklists of things I want to get done before I head back to teaching – everything from class prep to research projects to target workouts to mundane errands and appointments.

On Wednesday, I finished the last big thing on my list – a formal book proposal turning my academic dissertation into a published narrative history – and to celebrate, I declared yesterday a day of adventure.

First up – a 6:30 AM snowshoeing date with Laurie in the Wissahickon Gorge.  Our 2-ish hours in the woods was more of a fast hike than a run, because my lungs weren’t having any of the biting cold (Brent’s perpetual advice: wear something over your mouth… it warms the air going in, and “it makes you feel like a bandit, which is pretty cool.”)  But we had a blast bushwhacking from trail to trail, scaling boulders, crossing creeks, and sliding down small cliffs.

At 10:30 AM, after an unsuccessful attempt to warm up with piping hot oatmeal, I met my friend Val at the same trailhead, for a second round of snowshoeing.  Our course was a little more tame, but just as much fun.  There’s no better way to catch up with a friend than with a running or biking or hiking date.

I came home and crashed hard after nearly four hours in the snow, but by 7 PM, I was good to go, and Brent and I linked up with Laurie and her husband, Bill, for a night at the local rock gym.

It had been more than a year since any of us had been climbing, but over the two and a half hours we spent there, we shook off the rust and gradually made our way up and down the craggy walls – and I finally got the hang of belaying!

All in all, the perfect day.  And I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to crawl into bed.

While Val and I were running around in the woods, we got to talking about past adventures.  She recounted some of her experiences hiking the AT, and I recalled the trek Brent and I made up Mount Greylock a few weeks ago, where we’d forgotten half of our food and most of our water, and failed to stow any extra warm clothes in our packs.

“It ended up not being an issue,” I said, “but if anything had gone wrong, we could have been in trouble.  It’s like the start of any outdoor survival story you read.  I’m not sure we’ve ever been that ill-prepared for the treks we’ve done together.”

Brent and I recently went with friends to see the movie 127 Hours.  As we were sitting around afterward talking about the film, Brent said, “These stories sometimes drive me crazy.  I hate how the people who get the most attention for these things are the ones who are the most irresponsible.  It’s always the guys who don’t bring the right gear, don’t have the proper training or experience, take unnecessary risks… Why do we glorify their stupidity?  I guess the stories of people who do it safely just aren’t that interesting.”

We all agreed that Brent had a good point.  Sure, these survivor tales that become award-winning movies and best-selling books are compelling, but should we really be lionizing the actions of people who put themselves in these situations by their own ill-preparedness, irresponsibility, or showboating?  (Obviously, not all survival stories are about people like this, but when you start thinking about which stories make headlines, you realize that a lot of them fit this bill.)

Have you seen (or read) 127 Hours or movies (or books) like it?  What do you think about publicizing these experiences?


15 responses to “Filmic Friday: Survival Stories

  1. Mallory January 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve read articles about it. I know some people who felt the very same way about the story. The guy was being really irresponsible and is now famous. Hopefully it just causes some awareness so people don’t do such dumb things in the future.

  2. Kari w/ Jogging with Fiction January 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    You had a seriously intense day! That’s awesome.

    I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I did see the special they did on him on 60 minutes (I think it was 60 minutes) a couple of years ago. His story is ridiculous. While I agree with Brent, at the end of the day, I have all of my limbs working and I’d rather that than fame and $$…so it’s a tradeoff, you know?

  3. Bill January 14, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    I did not see the movie, but I have read the book. I liked that he fully acknowledged that he was irresponsible in many of his outdoor adventures that often endangered the lives of others and that he is lucky to alive after his ridiculously rare adventure in the slot canyon.
    When it comes to outdoor/adventure survival stories I wonder how much the “irresponsible” story is a relatively new phenomenon. George Mallory died climbing Everest, but he might have been the most experienced person who attempted the mountain at that time. Krakauer’s book Into Thin Air reports irresponsibility leading to death on that same mountain. The “commercialization” of the mountain played a role.
    When it comes to narrative, we can blame the Greeks (or at least Mr. Bowen, my 10th grade English teacher) for whom a tragic hero was a great man, who was good, who through an error in judgment or a fatal flaw, combined with external circumstances beyond control, leads to tragedy.
    For myself, I am no hero, let alone a tragic one. I’ll stick to arriving home with wet socks and oatmeal.

  4. Abby January 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for visiting my blog! And yay for another Abby, there are not too many adult Abby’s!

    Your day sounded awesome!

    I haven’t read that book or seen the movie but I did just watch one of those “I survived” stories the other night on tv. It’s always amazing how things end up working out for them. But I WAS thinking that this guy was crazy for heading to an isolated part of the grand canyon in the middle of winter!

  5. Nellie (The Midlife Cruiser) January 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    First of all, I want to say how much I love being able to comment on your blog by emailing a reply. Score one for wordpress!! Is there a reason you went with wordpress vs blogspot?

    I love how active you are! I wish we lived near each other so we could have girl dates doing active stuff! I SO miss that!! In the RV parks, my neighbors are all geriatrics and have no desire to test their fitness limits 🙂 heehe! Don’t tell them I said so! HA!

    • Abby January 14, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      Hey Nellie!

      I was actually on blogger for two years (abbyperkiss.blogspot.com), and just a couple months ago decided that I want to spruce things up and blog more regularly, so I switched over to wordpress. Overall I’ve found that there’s a lot more you can do with it in terms of personalizing, but it’s not always completely intuitive.

      Do you guys have any plans to drive to the northeast? I’d love to link up!

  6. Nellie (The Midlife Cruiser) January 14, 2011 at 8:38 pm

    Ok, let’s test it out. Here’s a question for you to reply to:
    How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 🙂
    Now let’s see if I get your response in my email inbox!

  7. Nellie (The Midlife Cruiser) January 14, 2011 at 8:40 pm

    P.S. We don’t have any plans to hit the NE in the near future. I think we’re gonna explore all the stuff we can in the west before moving on. Bummer! I would have LOVED to hang with ya!

  8. Anne January 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Yay for hopefully publishing your dissertation as a narrative history! Good luck with that 🙂

    I haven’t read the book or seen the movie. I’m not sure what I’d think. I strongly agree that irresponsibility should not be rewarded…it always amazes me that these stories get so much exposure.

    Sounds like you had an amazing day…wow! I would have slept like a log after a day like that 🙂

  9. Jill January 15, 2011 at 12:58 am

    I didn’t go see the movie, but my son, the big rock/mountain climber, couldn’t have been more excited about it. I guess we all make stupid mistakes now and then but I was actually glad that Brendan went – he loved it, and learned so much. How do learn if we don’t make mistakes now and then….unfortnately, that was a very costly mistake that guy made and hopefully he isn’t trying to make a monster profit on his stupidness but rather educate young, impressionable mountain climbers like my son :).

    Glad you got a big chunk checked off your to-do list before you head back next week, I’m certain you really enjoyed the time off (I know I did with my two weeks :)).

  10. Laurie January 15, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Geeze, Bill, in academic paper writing mode much? I still like you though.
    Great question, Abby. Bill and I discussed it over dinner, in fact!
    I started to type out this giantly long response but didn’t want to leave a 1,000-word comment. To me, what it comes down to, is that, say, in the case of Aron Ralston, the kid was a bit arrogant (or a lot arrogant), forgot to leave a note, but still managed to survive in a chilly, wet slot canyon for 5 days, living off of a burrito and pee, then decided to save himself by breaking his arm, cutting it off, belaying out of the canyon, drinking water out of a putrid puddle and then hiking for 8 miles. He made some bad decisions that led to him getting stuck but also some good ones to get out.
    Not sure if I am playing devil’s advocate or if this is what I actually think, though. Just trying to sort it out. Didn’t see 127 hours but read the book in three sittings. Bill got it for Christmas a few years ago and we passed it back and forth!

  11. Christina January 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie nor do I want to. I wish I could say its because I don’t want to support people who are unprepared (he does have a good point) but I don’t want to see, hear, feel, his cutting off his arm. I’m a wimp.

  12. Runtothefinish January 15, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    one i totally want to go snowshoeing, maybe I should come visit next winter!
    two yes I will change HBBC next year for snowshoeing points
    Three i realllly want to see that movie. I love those stories because they inspire me

  13. janae@hungryrunnergirl.com January 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    AHHHHH I could not agree more with you about 127 days!! Why do we glorify them going out and doing things in a stupid way!! Snow shoeing and climbing…you are so active, it is inspiring. Hope you are having a great day!

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