Monday, May 14, 2007


I was reading an article this morning about yet another group that got in over their heads during a climb on Mt. Hood. The group of 5 apparently had all the needed equipment and the latest electronic gadgets for a successful summit; but didn't understand the basic operation of the gadgets, didn't take time to familiarize themselves with the terrain of the mountain, didn't take into account an approaching storm that would produce whiteout conditions, and generally did not have the combined experience to be attempting a summit of the peak.
Sound familiar? While big winter swells seem to have been replaced with summer knee-high ripples already on the Oregon coast and while surfing in Oregon requires only a surfboard and rubber...I am still struck by the number of people that decide that the possession of these two items somehow qualifies them to strike out into the Pacific to ride waves.
The reality is much different...and while I am sure that there are plenty of beginners who take their time, stay within their limits and gain experience slowly but steadily, there are also a handful that overestimate their ability, paddle out into heavy conditions and get in way over their heads. In the best cases, someone's there to help the worst, their bad decision is their last.
Obviously, there's only one way to gain experience in whatever you do...and that's by doing...but you have to start at the beginning and work your way up in skill...whether it's mountain climbing or surfing...and experience always trumps gear in my book.
The painting is by French Romanticist Theodore Gericault...The Raft of the Medusa...this is the story of the Medusa from Wikipedia:

In 1816 the new Bourbon government of France sent a small fleet to officially receive the British handover of the port of Saint-Louis in Senegal to France. The fleet consisted of four ships; the storeship Loire, the brig Argus, the corvette Echo and the frigate Medusa. Medusa was to carry the passengers, including the appointed French governor of Senegal , Colonel Julien-Désire Schmaltz and his wife Reine Schmaltz. In addition there were a total of 400 passengers, including 160 of the crew.
The French Ministry of the Marine made the mistake of appointing inexperienced Frigate-Captain Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys to lead the fleet. He had mainly worked as a customs officer more than twenty years previously and had worked against
Napoleon. His crew did not particularly appreciate him, because they had served with Napoleon during his reign.
The fleet left Port de Rochefort on
June 17. Medusa sailed quickly away before the rest of the fleet. On July 17, Captain de Chaumereys ran the ship aground in shallow water off the west coast of Africa.
At first the crew tried to release her by throwing heavy items overboard, but de Chaumereys stopped the effort. Eventually he decided to abandon ship. Because there were only six
lifeboats, he made a raft out of masts and crossbeams to carry the rest of the crew. Dignitaries – 250 of them – took the lifeboats and attempted to tow the raft. The raft was too flimsy to keep all the rest (149 men and one woman) afloat. Seventeen men decided to stay on Medusa. The rest were left with no food and water to speak of.
Those in lifeboats soon noticed that the idea of towing the raft was impractical. De Chaumereys decided to cut the rope and leave the rest of the crew to its fate, four miles (6 km) off shore. (According to other sources it was Governor Schmaltz's boat that was first to drop the tow line to the raft.)
On the raft, the situation deteriorated rapidly. Men began to throw wine and flour out of spite and fight among themselves. On the first night 20 men – whites and
Africans, soldiers and officers – were killed or committed suicide. Rations dwindled ever more rapidly and on the fourth day some on the raft resorted to cannibalism. On the eighth day, the fittest began throwing the weak and wounded overboard. By that time only fifteen men remained, all of whom survived until their rescue a
week later.