Commentary

When is pushing the limits too extreme?

Updated: October 5, 2011, 1:28 AM ET
By Duff McKagan | Special to ESPN.com

No doubt some of you reading here are the types who may fit the category of "active." You may snowboard, kickbox or train in mixed martial arts, skateboard, fly planes, surf, climb mountains. Or perhaps you simply run, ride a bike or go to the gym. A whole higher-echelon level of these types of people simply take things to the extreme -- and some even become a pro in any of these above-mentioned disciplines.

I, myself, go hiking from time to time with a friend of mine, Tim, who is constantly training for some high-altitude mountain someplace on this planet. He is a true mountaineer and has made the summit of some of the biggest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest and Mount Denali.

Me? Oh no, no. I just tag along on some minor peaks with him when I am down in Southern California. Last weekend we "bagged" the summit of 10,000-plus feet Mount Baldy, an arduous scramble but nothing to really write home about.

But we have done Baldy in the winter, too, and during that season up there you will inevitably hear about someone falling off. Falling off a mountain rarely ends up good.

I am an extreme guy. I like dangerous stuff and also like to test myself, from time to time, to see what I "have." Even on these little peaks, plenty of what they call "exposure with consequence" takes place. A nice way to say that is "if you fall, you die." I hope my wife doesn't read this column. …

OK, but that is just me. I am "bush league" when it comes to this kind of danger and just all-around putting-myself-out-there-ness. I am self-confident and fairly athletic. I trust to a certain degree that I can hold my balance and power through certain dodgy moments. I even sort of get off on this stuff. Again, the stuff I do is minor! Then, there are guys like Tim and his high-altitude colleagues.

As Tim and I were traversing something called Devil's Backbone up on Baldy, he was explaining to me that, when we do this in the winter, I would be roped in, and that we would use some ice-screws and etc. The fall from this trail is not a survivable deal. "OK," I thought to myself. "I won't be doing this in the winter." …

Tim went on to tell me a story about when he and a Sherpa were coming down the north face of Everest after his summit, they were traversing a 6-inch ledge, and the drop-off was one mile down to Tibet. Tim and the Sherpa had ice-screwed a rope into the side of the ice, and the rope acted as a sort of a hand-hold. Suddenly though, one of the ice-screws pulled out, then another, and another. They fell.

Hanging upside down, Tim lost the use of his bladder, and his heart was beating so fast, that he literally thought it would come out of his chest. Luckily for these two guys, the last two ice-screws held, and after they righted themselves they climbed back up and traversed the rest of that knife-edge trail to safety. Yet, he still climbs. He told me that he kind of got off on the experience.

There was a Swedish skier named Tomas Olsson on the north face of Everest on that climb. A kid, really. His goal was to successfully summit Everest, and then be the first man to ski down the north face of that mountain. This young man, Tim told me, had all of the self-confidence, athleticism and, well, balls in the world. But in the end, that "daring" and self-confidence did him in. He did summit, but the north face of Everest is sheer ice. This lad put on his skis, and that was the last anyone ever saw him alive.

This story got me to thinking. How can we gauge ourselves when we are going too far?

I think people pushing themselves to become the first to achieve something so physically taxing is a great and amazing thing to watch and experience. It is just when self confidence, athleticism, bravery and thrills gets pushed too far, they can turn caustic.

We work hard, and train, and get more and more in tune with our bodies as we push our physical limits. But when putting our skills to the test have we trained ourselves to fully understand when to tell ourselves "no mas"? How does one develop a "pride" turn-off button?

To Hall with them …

I was utterly surprised and a bit overwhelmed last week when I woke up in the early morning to my BlackBerry beeping without end. Guns N' Roses, a band I co-founded, was nominated for the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. I am very grateful for all of the well-wishes I have received here at ESPN, and everywhere else. Thank you.

[+] EnlargeEdgar Martinez
AP Photo/Donna McWilliamEdgar Martinez rocked the American League for 18 seasons and deserves to roll into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

But we in that band are relatively young dudes, and I was astonished to see just who hadn't yet made that Hall of Fame. Older artists who have paid their dues in full and have changed how we approach and look at music. Faces? Motorhead? It's a big list. Look it up.

And while I am on the subject of halls of fame. Rock and roll is all good and fine, but when you talk about baseball and football, it is, indeed, a whole and different other league.

How about Seattle Mariners legend Edgar Martinez? It's time, National Baseball Hall Of Fame voters. It is time.

I think Martinez, who hit .312 with 309 home runs, 1,261 RBIs and 514 doubles over 18 seasons, was by far the most effective designated hitter in the history of the game. Yes, I said it.

Martinez, who won two American League batting titles, also earned his impressive numbers in the steroids era, yet his name has never been linked with Bonds, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro, et al.

The AL's DH has been around long enough to reward players at that position who performed at an elite level with the highest honor. It's time to send one of them to the Hall of Fame, no?

Musician Duff McKagan, who writes for Seattle Weekly, has written for Playboy.com and has his autobiography out now, writes a weekly sports column for ESPN.com. To send him a note, click here and fill out the form.

Michael "Duff" McKagan, a founding member of Guns N' Roses, writes a weekly column for Playbook Sounds and is a passionate sports fan. McKagan is currently playing in Loaded and Velvet Revolver, is a prolific writer, including an autobiography, "It's So Easy: And Other Lies."