Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Adventure tours: An oxymoron

This post is triggered by a promotional email I recently received titled 'Some XYZ Adventure Tours'. The term 'adventure tour' is an oxymoron. Rather, it is a marketing bullshit trying to capitalize on the mass needs of doing something 'cool' that is 'share-worthy' in social circles, digital or otherwise.

The feeling of adventure should be discovered, not planned. Adventure includes an element of chance occurrence, and we wish that our adventures turns out to be a positive one. However, there is a likelihood that it could also turnout to be a painstaking one. And it is precisely this uncertainty, this element of chance that makes it worthy of being called as an 'adventure'.

We strive hard to make our undertakings a successful one. And it is in this bid of ours that we indulge in the process of detailed planning. We heavily tilt the probability of our undertaking being serendipitous and not a painstaking epic with type II fun.

Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that we should be unprepared and clueless about our undertakings. We should plan and be prepared so that we don't die out there. And to a lesser extent, we don't have to lose our gear and partners (at worst!) for those unplanned bails high on the route.

But today, with the detailed topos, accurate weather reports, trip logs and high resolution close up photos, I can plan my trip - heck, even the moves on individual pitches to such an extent that I can virtually visualize the alpine route - like I do at single pitch sport crags.

Is it a good thing? Bad thing? I don't know. I just don't feel the thrill of adventure at such a detailed level of planning. The joy of discovering things for oneself and making in-the-moment impromptu decisions as against pre-programmed ones definitely adds spice to the entire undertaking; and it is this spicy flavor that is sorely missed from an undertaking marred by the ultra-detailed level of planning. I have been guilty on more than a few occasions of indulging in such detailed planning to make it safe and successful. {Super Topos anyone? Do I really need a pitch by pitch description with details about the size of crack fist jam, lie backs and that hidden crimp behind the bulge? May be not, just the correct ridge and the line to be taken would have been enough.}

Now, the definition of success if an altogether different topic of debate and demands at the very least a separate blog post in itself, if not the whole book! It is  very much about the process vs product orientation. Anyway, don't we spend 99% of the time on planning, packing, approach and climbing and one or probably less than one percent on the summit?

Well, put yourself in the shoes of these tour operators (adventure companies?) and try preaching this to your prospective clients. Hell, yeah! All your clients and your potential revenue will go to another tour operator down the lane. The truth remains that your clients will want you to assure them of putting them on the summit and make every penny they spend worth it.

So these 'guiding services' are reduced to nothing more than a 'tour operator' who must employ all their logistical prowess, planning and manpower to ensure the 'success' of their clients, even at the cost of literally raping the mountains with fixed ropes, ladders and porters. As a tour operator, you will not leave the outcome to a chance occurrence. You will do everything possible to ensure that the summit bid turns out to be a successful one for your clients. I feel dissonance between the terms 'guide' and tour operator; a dissonance that is unwelcome in the sanctity of the wilderness.

These tour operators (a.k.a. guides) don't have much options either. Either they can do it (lug them up the mountains?) for their clients, or someone else will. Hence, I am not rambling to vilify these adventure tour operators, though at some level I feel they do their part to abet this soulless pursuit. However, with this post, I am throwing a larger tantrum at all the clientele who want to be guaranteed a successful outcome, come what may.

Having said that, I do understand that not everyone desires to have their asses whipped on their hard earned vacation after years of dreaming and planning. But, just realize that what you are doing out there is no adventure. It is a planned tour, a service guarantee that you buy in exchange for cash and someone else's expertise. They do the homework for you. Heck, not just the homework but also the fieldwork. Their expertise and planning attempts to remove all possible uncertainties that you may otherwise encounter along the way. And, the moment you remove this element of uncertainty to skew the probability away from the type II epic fun, then your outing no longer remains an adventure. It's a planned tour on vertical terrain.

Be glad. Go ahead and share that photo on social media. But remember, for God's sake think twice before abusing the word adventure in your next post riddled with a ridiculous number of hashtags. It was nothing more than a tour, far removed from adventure. The term adventure tour, truly is an oxymoron.

1 comment:

  1. "it's not an adventure until something goes wrong" - Yvon Chouinard

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