That is a video of Fredrik Ericsson. He was an extreme skier. His dream was to summit the 3 tallest mountains in the world and ski down.
I was forwarded a story about Fredrik Ericsson’s death last Friday by a college fraternity brother. Ericsson was making a final push for the summit of K2. He and 2 companions left base camp at 1:30 a.m. and were a few hours into their climb when Ericsson fell 3000 feet to his death.
Typically, I would have only a mild curiosity about this event until I learned that one of Ericsson’s climbing partners was another fraternity brother of mine, Trey Cook. Trey, it seems, had returned to base camp shortly before Ericsson fell.
I wasn’t real close to Trey in college but I knew him and admired the way he lived his life. Always smiling, brimming with confidence. He had an irrepressible joie de vivre. He seemed oddly out of place at TCU. Noone ever asked Trey the usual questions about jobs or careers because, deep down, everyone knew there was no degree that could constrain Trey Cook.
I lost track of Trey for many years. Once in awhile someone would receive a dispatch from some exotic place and pass it along to the rest of us. More recently I saw, through Facebook, he landed in Chamonix France, a ski village in the shadows of Mont Blanc. That is where he met Ericsson.
In a piece of eerie foreshadowing Trey wrote on his blog about the death of a climber that happened just a few weeks ago. As part of his post Trey addressed the pathology underlying a Type T person. A thrill seeker.
Trey suspects that many people will ask “Why?”. And his answer is beautiful and heartfelt.
I never thought to ask why. I have great admiration for people who push the limits of human endurance-people who have such passion about something they will put their own life at risk. These people show us what is possible. In an age where thrill seeking is commodified and commercial, Fredrik and Trey were wrestling with something so raw, so vast, so frightening. My experience with thrill seeking involves Mr. Freeze or Space Mountain. Or zip lining. Or riding four wheelers.
If you’ve read Into Thin Air or Touching the Void you might have some idea. Both books describe failed attempts to climb Mount Everest. The closest I’ve come to pushing the limits of my endurance on a ski slope involved carrying 3 sets of skis to ski school at the base of Beaver Creek. And yes I thought I was going to die (or kill one of the 3 kids I was carrying them for).
Here is a photo of Ericsson ascending K2 with his ski gear about 2 weeks ago.
I suspect Trey took this picture (it’s on his blog) and was going to film the event. I always wonder about the cameraman. When Bear Grylls is running from a tiger, so is the cameraman. But the cameraman is running backwards and trying to get a good shot. I can’t get my Flip camera to get a decent shot of a little league hockey game. Come over and I’ll show you.
Psychologists have identified 2 types of mutant genes which most thrill seekers possess. About 30 % of the population possess this gene. Another group of psychologists posit that this type of behavior results from elevated levels of dopamine and that world class athletes in the midst of potentially lethal situations have a feeling of transcendence which they describe as a timeless and deathless realm where everything stops and goes silent. And that this feeling is like a drug.
I cannot relate but I wish I could. Instead I’ll just wait for the “Extreme Ski Ride” to come to Six Flags. And continue to admire the Trey Cooks of the world from afar.