View from the Cornice


CorniceTypically, when you set out each morning, regardless of your ultimate destination, you have a specific route in mind.  When traveling in the backcountry, it’s important to know the snowpack and the expected weather. Typically, tests and safety precautions taken along the way help re-assess the risks. Yet, this all assumes we assimilate any new information being prepared to modify our behavior when necessary.  But this is where things become cloudy. More often than not, when we reach critical points we don’t think, we just “dive right in.”

In a fabulous post on the Utah Avalanche Center blog, forecaster Drew Hardesty highlights that instinctual tendency in a reference to the recent book “Free Will.”* Author Sam Harris makes the case that “our brains decide a course of action before we know about it.” The oversimplified idea is that we cannot, or do not, always consciously choose what we want to do.

This is a sobering thought when considering the risks involved in many activities. Whether traveling across remote snow fields, driving down the Schuylkill Expressway, or adjusting our investments, we assume we are processing information and making conscious choices that will influence our outcome. Perhaps, as Hardesty suggests, folks should pause, just for that fleeting moment, to combine intention with instinct.


*Drew Hardesty, “I Just Can’t Help Myself,” January 16, 2014, utahavalanchecenter.org