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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Difficulty vs. Risk - Two Different Perspectives On The Ocean's Seven

MOUNTAINS. In a fascinating exchange between two heavyweights in the sport, Lewis Pugh and Simon Griffiths present two perspectives on the article, Seven Summits vs. Oceans Seven - Which Is Harder?

Lewis, who uniquely combined both mountaineering with open water swimming when he swam 1K in a glacial lake in the shadows of Mount Everest at 5,300 meters, commented.

"Oceans Seven is considerably easier than the Seven Summits. You only have to look at the death and injury rates on the mountains to realize that. In 2010, I watched as all the bodies were being brought off Mount Everest. The same does not happen in Dover."

Simon, the founder and publisher of H2Open Magazine, expressed his viewpoint, "I don't think we should necessarily confuse risk or danger with difficulty. It would perhaps make more sense to look at the failure rates (number of finishes/number of starts) as a measure of difficulty. Obviously, in mountaineering the consequence of failure can be more severe as Lewis points out, but the risk of failure may be lower. Lewis' swims excepted, the consequence of most failed swims is a boat ride, although sadly people do also die while swimming."

Lewis refers to the dangers of Everest that include avalanches, crevasses, winds up to 125 mph, sudden storms, temperatures of 40°F below zero, and oxygen deprivation. In the death zone in the upper reaches of the mountain, the air holds only a third as much oxygen as at sea level, heightening the chances of hypothermia, frostbite, high-altitude pulmonary edema (lungs fatally fill with fluid) and high-altitude cerebral edema (oxygen-starved brain swells up).

Yet despite these obvious dangers, the allure of climbing the highest peaks draws many more thousands than swimmers attempting channel swims. That is, the dangers are greater, the risks are more obvious, the costs are significantly greater, the requisite time is much longer, the travel distances from Europe and North America is far, but Mount Everest has been climbed by more than 4,500 people - or nearly three times as many people who have collectively swum across the seven channels of the Ocean's Seven. And this number of Everest climbers has grown in a period of time less than half the time since the English Channel was first swum in 1875 (note: Everest was first climbed in 1953).

This may mean one or a combination of things: mountaineering is more attractive to people, swimming is less enjoyable or swimming channels is more difficult.

Let the discussions continue.

Copyright © 2011 by Open Water Source

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