Where I work we were encouraged to write a safety commitment letter. This is what I penned out based on my work experience and our most recent mountaineering adventure to New Hampshire in February 2017.
As most of my co-workers in the 2440 building know I traveled to New Hampshire at the end of January 2017 to climb in the White Mountains. It has become a favorite spot for me and the climbing team I go with. We partake in classic alpine ascents on the Presidential Range in some of the worst weather imaginable as well as partake in the more technical side of climbing called “ice climbing”. This technical climbing involves ascending frozen waterfalls sometimes hundreds of feet vertically with wild exposure for the climber. We spent time on Frankenstein Cliffs and on great frozen routes called “Standard” and “Dracula”.This year I made an observation with a close climbing friend. The two of us noted that the climbing party had several jokesters and more than enough smiling faces. However, we observed that as any one of the members began the climb up a column or frozen face the smile would instantly be replaced with a very serious expression. With this observation in mind I did a self-check: what was I feeling while climbing with hundreds of feet below me on a frozen waterfall? I can tell you I felt no fear, but in its place a steady, grinding, intense focus realizing that what I was doing was very thrilling and dangerous and needed all of my attention!
The party did not lose track of keeping safety measures in place in all of these excursions and verbally and physically checked on each other’s wellbeing and equipment. We would examine the figure-8 knots attached to our harnesses; critique each other’s placement of anchors; provide feedback to belay positions; teach new alpine belay techniques to aid the newer climbers. We all recognized that alpine and technical ice climbing is a very serious business, and we all consciously chose not to take the gift of life for granted.
Working with this logistics company has opened my eyes to what we often take for granted–driving. Statistically speaking driving is the single most dangerous activity in which any American can be involved. Thousands of people die every year in automobile related crashes…but, wait; that great tune just came on the radio so let me reach over to turn it up and take my eyes off the road for just a few seconds… With all of this in mind I wish for myself, my driver group, and my family that we all would assume that same sense of danger inherent in ice climbing when we get behind the wheel of a vehicle and recognize that life is a fragile thing!