Indoor Adventure New releases offer a look at who makes it and who doesn't in moments of crisis; a journey to a special climbing spot in India; and a sick run down a cybermountain

October 12, 2003

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
By Laurence Gonzales
W.W. Norton, 301 pages, $25.95

Before Laurence Gonzales was born, antiaircraft fire brought down
his father's B-17 bomber over Germany. Astonishingly, Federico
Gonzales survived the crash, two crushed legs and a three-month
captivity in a POW camp, and he went on to become a biophysicist.
Perhaps Federico's harrowing experience lies at the root of his
son's lifelong fascination with, as he puts it, "that boundary
region between life and death, that place where, to stay alive,
you have to remain calm and alert."

Deep Survival is an examination of the character, psychology and
physiology of survivors, told through riveting accounts of
avalanches, mountain accidents ("What we call accidents do not
just happen...people have to assemble the systems that make
them happen," Gonzales writes), sailors lost at sea and the
man-made hell of 9/11.

Gonzales is no armchair adrenaline junkie. He has been a stunt
pilot, and he rides motorcycles. He worked in his father's lab
when he was young, and he has more than a layman's understanding
of the biological mechanisms of survival. He also mines sources
as diverse as the Tao Te Ching ("The rigid person is a disciple
of death; the soft, supple, and delicate are lovers of life" )
and World War I novelist Erich Maria Remarque.

Survival is something of a paradox. Flippant bravado can be
useful in extreme situations (The Right Stuff's "Shut up and die
like an aviator"). On the other hand survivors must possess what
Gonzales calls "Zen humility." Some qualities may be far more
important than physical strength; Adm. James Stockdale tells how
a love of poetry helped him to endure his trials in the POW camps
of North Vietnam. Gonzales suggests that enduring a great ordeal
can give the survivor "rare and precious knowledge of the world."

Deep Survival is in part a how-to, with an appendix of useful
"Rules for Adventure." But the book is also a wise philosophical
meditation on the good life. Gonzales reminds us that survival
"is nothing but an ordinary life lived well in extreme
circumstances." As a Lockheed engineer, interviewed after the
Columbia space-shuttle disaster, reminds him, "S---happens, and
if we want to restrict ourselves to things where s---doesn't
happen, we're not going to do anything very interesting." The
author puts it more poetically: "To love everything at the edge
of such glorious eternity is far sweeter than to win by plodding
through a cautious, painless, and featureless life." --Stephen
Bodio

Pilgrimage
Directed by Josh Lowell
Running time: 84 min. www.bigupproductions.com, $30

Climbing star Chris Sharma needed an antidote to the pressures of
competition, and he found it in southern India, in the village of
Hampi. Indians make pilgrimages to Hampi to visit its ancient
temples, but that's not what drew Sharma there in 2001. He was
attracted by the fields of never-before-climbed boulders and the
chance to test his skills in this remote place. He liked it so
much that he went back this year with his climbing buddy Nate
Gold and with Katie Brown, a former prodigy who had quit the
sport.

Pilgrimage, a chronicle of the second visit, doesn't play like
your average adventure-sports documentary. Its pace is unhurried,
and the climbers never seem to be risking their lives. Most of
the boulders are between 15 and 30 feet high; the climb that
challenges Sharma the most never takes him more than a dozen feet
off the ground.

Given its setting, it's inevitable that the climbers indulge in
some blather about the sacred aspect of their journey. Pilgrimage
keeps such talk at a tolerably low level. And the video is honest
about the poverty and filth that define the lives of Hampi's
residents. From the first shots of the boulder fields, Pilgrimage
also makes clear why Sharma and friends found this place
renewing, and in so doing, it offers its own measure of what they
traveled across the world to find. --Bill Syken

SSX3
Electronic Arts Available for GameCube, PS2 and Xbox, $50

EA Sports Big comes up big indeed with its extreme snowboarding
video game SSX3. The sequel to SSX and SSX Tricky takes place on
a huuuuge mountain. Think Everest on steroids. There are three
peaks, and the more "ubertricks" you execute, the more fresh
powder you unlock. As you progress, you open up the higher runs.
A seamless descent from the throne lasts up to 30 minutes.

Big air-to-fakie tricks aren't all that makes SSX3 better than
its predecessors. The game has a more user-friendly interface
menu, making it easy to grab your board and shred. The recovery
feature is also a bonus. In challenge mode, when you compete
against another player, a faster recovery after a wipeout is
crucial.

The graphics are sick, too. What really sets SSX3 apart from
previous versions is the attention to the powdery stuff. Subtle
shadowing on ice patches and crisp snowflakes make the game more
realistic. --Y.Y.

COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF W.W. NORTON & COMPANY (BOOK) COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF BIG UP PRODUCTIONS (DVD) COLOR PHOTO: COURTESY OF EA SPORTS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)