I never had the honour of meeting Stephanie Grothe, Neil Mackenzie or Elena Cernicka, but I know them, in a way. There are those of us who stare out the windows of our classrooms and offices and dream of the wild. The adventure, the unknown, the adrenaline, the camaraderie and even the planning and the blisters, the hours spent in cold, wet clothes and the misery of sleeping in a wet tent. City life, the day bustle, friends, jobs, classes, family; these things are great, they make life what it is. But we crave adventure. We crave the wild. We need the unknown, the excitement, the adrenaline and the challenge. It runs in our blood like an incurable disease that flairs up every weekend. It drives us to explore. We can't turn it off. We can't decide not to climb the mountain, or run the river, or ski the slope, it’s the very essence of our being.
This life leads to dangerous situations and life-threatening circumstances. Classes are taken in first aid and wilderness awareness to prevent injury to ourselves and our adventure-family. There is endless practice to master the skills. There are summits turned away from, climbs aborted and runs walked when it is too dangerous or too difficult even though the defeat haunts us. But if you live your life in the wild, the inevitable catches up and someone gets hurt. The terrible truth of adventuring is that not everyone finishes the adventure.
The loss of three young, bright and potential-filled lives is tragic and heartbreaking, there is no way around it. A loss of an explorer seems to lead to two responses: one, at least they died doing what they loved and two, it was selfish of them to take such risks for thrills. The first camp always seemed like the right one, but when tragedy hits so close to home, it’s harder to see it that way. But Steph, Neil and Elena did die doing what they loved. They knew the risks they were taking and made the decision to live their lives as an adventure. Their friends, family, members of the VOC and the greater Vancouver and Canadian outdoors scene will honour their memories by having more adventures, making more memories and more friends and living life to the fullest.
Stephanie Grothe, Neil Mackenzie and Elena Cernicka, may the mountains be tall and your legs strong, wherever you are now. Keep adventuring.