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Risk Awareness Analysis of Adventurers

Last month trailblazerguide ran a poll under a post called When Adventure Becomes Disaster.

We received 22 votes. Well, to be honest 23: I deliberately voted a second time, and for the option “These safety disciples and doomsday prophets are really getting on my nerves. Leave me alone, I just want to get on with my adventure” just in case there were people who wanted to choose this option, but did not want to acknowledge it. I remained the only one to vote it. That’s good news, and it seems that at least the readers of trailblazerguide are not a bunch of ignorant hooligans looking for an opportunity to get nominated for the Darwin Awards!

20130708 risk and adventure

The poll came with a bit of a trick. You see, I wanted to gauge the risk awareness of adventurers based on four common pillars of risk awareness as acknowledged by rescue practitioners, but had to camouflage it a bit to get an honest response…

Unconsciously Incompetent 4%, one deliberately spoilt vote.

These safety disciples and doomsday prophets are really getting on my nerves. Leave me alone, I just want to get on with my adventure.

It’s a relief to find no one with these sentiments active on trailblazerguide.com, but it is also a concern. People that are unconsciously incompetent are injury prone because they believe that they know what they are doing, but in reality they don’t. There are unconsciously incompetent people in adventure. They are not few, but they do exist. Use caution and diplomatic skills when you encounter them! If diplomacy fails however, don’t feel bad removing yourself from their company as soon as possible.

The one spoilt vote was mine, a deliberate effort to break the ice. Fortunately nobody took the bait!

Consciously Incompetent 26%, 6 votes.

I know there are risks out there but don’t know how to deal with them, so I always tag along in a group with competent people.

Every beginner in any adventure activity starts here (except for the occasional psychopath). Adventure implies that uncertain outcome. Beginners are well aware of it, and are acutely aware of their inability to deal with unforeseen events. That is why they prefer hanging out with experienced adventurers. Occasional adventurers will frequently find themselves in this group too, and as soon as they realise that they can make useful contributions to the group they start finding themselves right at home among the experienced team members. Experienced adventurers have the responsibility to guide this group and teach them the skills needed to make the adventure a success.

Consciously Competent 57%, 13 votes.

I am aware of my risks, and trained to deal with them. I may be a bit rusty though.

These are your serious weekend warriors, and experienced adventurers who has been around the block a few times. Many of them probably went for formal training in one or more aspects of their adventure, first aid skills and other techniques to avoid and deal with disaster. They are not professional rescue team members, and when something bad happens they will probably respond slightly slower than a pro – but they can make conscious decisions based on a good foundation. Having one of these guys as trip leader makes for a successful adventure.

Unconsciously Competent 13%, 3 votes.

I am trained to deal with disaster, and have done more emergency drills than I care to remember.

These are our professionals in emergency and rescue services. They put their lives on the line for us when we get in over our heads (through stupidity, ignorance or chance). When they receive your call for help they don’t care how you got there, only how to get you back out safely. They are often volunteer workers that take time off their jobs to save the our lives when we get into trouble.

Professional Adventure Guides should strive to achieve this level of competency.

There is a risk to being unconsciously competent, being so good at what you do that you can do it without thinking. It has the potential to breed complacency, and there are a few blotched rescue operations documented that serves as an example of this. Anyone that achieves the status of being able to do something with “their eyes closed” need to focus on awareness to make sure that complacency does not sneak in at the rear entrance.


Although very few votes contributed, I believe the statistics to be accurate. The highly skilled practitioners are a minority, most adventurers know what they do, and there is a minority of newcomers and ‘social’ adventurers who know they need to associate with more experienced adventurers on their outings. It is not a surprise that the unconsciously incompetent group are completely absent either – I did not expect them to read such posts anyway!

After reading this analyses, what are your thoughts? Did I maybe over-romanticise some groups? Was the original poll’s questions well enough aligned with the end goal? Do you strongly disagree? Please throw your few cents worth in the comment bucket below!

by Franz Fuls. 8 July 2013.


About Franz Fuls

Adventurer Freelance Journalist Photographer Bunny Hugger Engineer January 2014 I depart on a 2,500km eco-expedition called Triwaters Tour. The website link is in my profile. Go check it out.

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