The Helmet King

Safe or Scary?

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I’m not particularly gnarly, but I’ve sure got some gnarly friends. Most of them concentrate their adrenalin exploits on one or two sports, and then there’s Scott Simper.

Scott climbs, skis, kayaks, mountain bikes, scuba dives, surfs, kite skis, and works more than full-time as a globe trotting cameraman for Discovery, the History Channel, and National Geo. That means he also regularly scales old-growth monster trees, hangs in tree blinds for days, and rides snowmobiles, crab fishing boats, helicopters, careening dogsleds, and even whale research ships where he’s hung from the bow of to get up-close footage of dolphins as errant waves slam him against the bow. He’s your classic guinea pig cameraman, a time honored tradition among adventure documentaries where the motto is “In event of emergency, press record.”

I’d characterize Scott as a cautious guy (for a 5.12 rock climber, unshakeable ice leader, and someone who’s soloed hard new aid routes on the vertical mud of Fisher Towers anyway), but he’s had more than his share of scrapes, usually on the job. He’s been charged by gorillas, taken long ice falls onto shaky screws, and been pinned on logjams in Class IV whitewater. He’s been in two helicopter crashes, torn a shoulder while kayak hole-riding , torn an ACL jumping off a 20-foot cliff on tele skis, and been nearly crushed to death between two icebergs while filming off the northern tip of Baffin Island. He’s contracted more hard-to-diagnose tropical diseases than most lifelong African missionaries.

Scott also holds the record among all my friends and acquaintances for the most helmets owned. At last count he had 12 actively-used brain buckets. By contrast, I own a paltry five.

Now, two questions here for readers – one theoretical, the other a challenge:

A) Is owning so many helmets a sign of a safe approach, or an overtly risky lifestyle?

B) Do you know anyone who owns more helmets? If so, nominate them and we’ll shower the winner in fame and symbolic glory as Backpacker’s Brain Bucket King or Queen.

Note: Only active sports helmets, personally owned and used, count toward the total. Motorsports helmets are eligible. Only one work hardhat per entrant, please. No rental outfits, NFL displays, war memorabilia or tinfoil.

The question is asked. The glove is thrown. Will the crown change hands? —Steve Howe