In Memoriam: Michael Reardon
Tragic news hit the climbing community yesterday when reports trickled in that famed solo climber Michael Reardon had been killed. Famous for his at-times audacious free-solos of hard climbs around the world (free soloists climb without ropes or safety equipment of any sort, preferring the pure style of climbing free), Michael had a law degree from Pepperdine and a family: his wife, Marci, and daughter, Nikki.
As a free-soloist, logic would say that Michael would most likely be killed climbing. But, strangely, that was not the case. He had just down-climbed the Fogher Cliffs in Ireland and, while he was celebrating his climb, a rogue wave crashed over him, pulling him out to sea.
It was a nonsensical tragedy, the quintessential "wrong place at the wrong time". Michael could not have anticipated nor done anything to prevent it.
I am often asked why I climb when I know there are dangers involved, constant risk of death and injury.
My answer? Life is dangerous. Risk is inherent in all we do in life.
We can no more avoid risk – the threat of injury, of death, of tragedy – than we can stop the sun from rising or the tide from coming in and going out again.
Certainly, I could minimize risk in my life by living a sheltered one, stopping those activities like climbing that have increased risk. But, to do that would be to stunt my passions in life, to silence the wellspring of my inspiration.
Would that protect me from risk, from tragedy, from death? Absolutely not. I could easily be hit and killed on the highway tomorrow. I would die not from climbing, but from circumstance.
Michael, I think, knew this. Climbing was his passion. He lived it, he breathed it and lived a full life because of it.
JM. To conclude, if the unthinkable ever happened, what would you most like to be remembered for? (This needn’t be climbing related – I personally believe that the reason I was put on this planet is for my son Sam).
MR. Don’t shed a tear, raise a pint and laugh because I’m living hard and loving harder than anyone has a right to. Besides, the devil won’t have me and we know the old man upstairs isn’t opening the gates so I’ll still be around and giggling right along with you until we meet again.
I think we all can learn lessons from Michael’s untimely death:
Life is an adventure.
Live it with passion, zest, and vigor.
If your passions involve risk, don’t shun them. Minimize the risk, learn to deal with it, and keep on living every day as if it were your last.
And, remember the words of Helen Keller:
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.
My thoughts go out to Michael’s family.
– Jake Norton
is an Everest climber, guide, photographer, writer, and motivational
speaker from Colorado.