Critical mountaineering decisions: technology, expertise and subjective risk in adventurous leisure

Matthew R. Groves*, Peter J. Varley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Humans have developed strategies of varying complexity to augment their probability of survival and success in complex environments. In contemporary outdoor adventure scenarios, advances in knowledge, training and technology have been adopted to make us safer, or make us feel safer. Avalanche-prone terrain is one such complex environment where uncertainty is key. A small-sample pilot study was conducted during a 3-year trial of mandatory avalanche transceiver, shovel and probe use at Glenmore Lodge, sportscotland National Outdoor Training Centre. The perceived effects that the equipment might have on participants’ risk perceptions and risk-taking behaviour were investigated through semi-structured interviews. Patterns of avalanche risk perception and relationship with the safety equipment varied strongly between expertise levels, and a discrepancy between declared risk behaviour and action, demonstrations of optimistic bias and defensive denial were evident. Wider implications are suggested regarding subjective relationships with both risk and technology in adventure settings and, in our leisure more generally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)706-720
Number of pages15
JournalLeisure Studies
Issue number5
Early online date24 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2020
Externally publishedYes


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