Pushing the limits
By Charmian Christie
Boldly going where no hiker has gone before is not for neophytes or weekend walkers. While extreme adventures can be exhilarating and rewarding, they're also dangerous. Whether you choose to hike in the desert heat or dive into a cool cave, physical challenges, personal risk and extreme weather are all part of the excitement. For many outdoor-life enthusiasts, the risk alone makes any isolated area attractive. Even if Danger is your middle name, it doesn't mean Common Sense can't be your sidekick.
Regardless which extreme adventure calls to you, some elements remain the same. At the risk of repeating ourselves:
- Bring specialized gear appropriate to the conditions
- Check all gear to ensure they're functioning properly
- Bring appropriate supplies
- Never venture out alone
- Be physically fit for the expedition
- Understand the dangers and risks unique to your particular destination
- Leave a detailed itinerary with family, friends or park authorities
- Bring plenty of water or a water purification system
- Dress appropriately
- Bring a detailed map and compass (even if you bring a GPS)
Getting to the Edge
Extreme adventures require specialized knowledge, a high level of physical fitness, and a certain amount of psychological conditioning that comes from hard-earned experience. But how do you get from the edge of your couch to the edge of civilization?
- Join a club or national association. No matter what your experience level, you'll be able to find a group suited to you. Not only can you find out if the excursion is to your liking, you can ramp up your skill level with people who share your interests.
- Go online and learn. There's a forum for everyone these days. Find a forum or two that interest you and see what it's really like to climb a mountain or tramp in the desert. Lurk as long as you like, post questions or chat with those who make outdoor adventures their lifestyle.
- Find an outfitter. Sometimes a sport looks good on paper, but isn't as much fun in reality. Spelunking isn't for the claustrophobic and scuba diving can be hell on anyone with inner ear or sinus issues. If you're curious about a new outdoor venture, find an outfitter who specializes in your area of interest and see if it's something you wish to pursue more seriously.