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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby TallGrass » Wed Dec 19, 2012 7:41 pm

Dex wrote:Climbing a class 4 14er when it is above your level and you haven't taken a class/with experienced climber ... Mr. Hankie and Merry Christmas. I would say that is a mistake because you are insensitive to those (not me) who you offended. ... "The Profit Muhammad"

Ok, time to "make friends" with Dex the old-fashioned way... ya know, by disagreeing. :wink: But hopefully re-railing this thread a bit.

Never had a class jumped in with a class 2, repeat, skipped to class 4, repeat. I did read a lot and also parlayed in skills developed elsewhere.

Believe people can't offend you, but you can let yourself be offended. Simple trick: consider the source. Sometimes that neutralizes it, and often it can turn it into a compliment.

Part of avoiding mistakes is not trying to control what you can't, nor not controlling what you can (or at least influence). Likewise, in parlaying outside skill, you gotta know where the piggybacking paradigm fits and does not.

"Profit" Muhammad? Well, yes, if your picture shows him collecting interest on a loan some would find fault with it two-fold.

Personal story? Well aside from some of the "learning" documented in my TRs, I'll share another. I was using a pick-mattock hoeing up new trail for N. Maroon. Trying to sink the mattock deep behind a rock in pile of dirt I choked up on the shaft. Problem was it wasn't a pile of dirt but a dirt-frosted rock surrounded by dirt, basically an anvil with the pick's shaft the hammer and my finger in between. *BONG* As I recoiled and took off my work glove to see a gash in the second bone of my left ring finger. Got up, walked over to a rock and sat to breathe. Another guy came over to check and I said I need to take a break (I could feel that adrenaline-induced head rush). He pulled a bandaid out of his kit for me (saving me the walk over to my pack). A little dirty but the bit of blood was keeping it clean. At the end of the day (early afternoon to get off slope and down into camp), I whittled a stick and used a couple bandaids to make a splint after rinsing it. I could still feel a little click each time I flexed it, like when you bend a tape measurer. It swelled a bit, but the color was good (no purple) and I saw no internal bleeding in the morning (dark spots). Worked on then hiked N. Maroon before hiking out to ride out (left hand works the clutch on a motorcycle). It clicked for a day or two at least. When the swelling went down and the skin healed over I had knot. Weeks later when it was fully healed, I could feel a distinct knot that the other ring finger didn't have and thus concluded I gave myself #-o a non-displaced fracture of my digitus anularis sinister's intermediate phalange (left ring finger, ok, maybe negligibly displaced). Considering the tools we were using and the environ we were in, there are a lot worse injuries that can occur. Still, it was a preventable "stupid" mistake.

Now that I've confessed, can I do my penance Church of England style? You know, drink five Bloody Marys, call Our Father for a ride home, and call it good? \:D/

You start with a full bag of luck and an empty one of experience. The trick is to fill the experience bag before the other runs out.
Not sure if I'll do more 14ers. The trip reports are too tiring. :wink:
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby 12ersRule » Wed Dec 19, 2012 9:26 pm

Brian C wrote:Once on a trip in the IPW, a buddy and I were scrambling off route and he took a 40 foot fall. It ended in being a full blown self rescue situation and made me think a lot about risk management. Accidents do happen with a wide variety of consequences so it seems like learning from it is better than ignoring it.

Wait, are you saying this dude fell 40 feet? And after a first rate bandage job, he kept it together and got himself out of there? That is one BAMF! :shock:

EDIT: he's a lucky MF too!

The best thing you can do about a mistake is to not be so hard on yourself about it. The inability to forgive yourself can inhibit the learning process.
Last edited by 12ersRule on Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:31 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby DaveSwink » Wed Dec 19, 2012 10:28 pm

Kiefer wrote:I view mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve from. I don't want to go into details or specifics, but I'm looking for others' opinions on what the whole process of making mistakes means for them. Whether that means "How they're important?", "Why they're important?", "What have my past mistakes earned me in terms of experience?" etc.

Nice topic, Kiefer!

I am sure most people are going to say that making mistakes are a good way to learn. That was my approach when I first started hiking and lots of small mistakes provided some discomfort and lots of lessons. Bring a headlamp. Bring enough water! Workout occasionally. :oops: Sunscreen! And so on. But I am going to offer a different perspective, not better, but working for me.

The learn-while-suffering approach to adventuring broke down for me as I began playing at more serious activities in the mountains, and the impact of mistakes from my headlong tactics began escalating. Example 1: trying to acclimate too fast on a Mexican climbing trip led to uncoordinated hiking down a rocky trail with a heavy pack, and a silly stumble that left me with a broken ankle 4 miles and 1500' from the nearest teeny village (know how to spell SAR in Mexico?) Example 2: The next year, my trusting of a more experienced climbing partner to know the approach route (my mistake, not his) forced an unplanned bivy in 20 degrees with just a thin shell (personal insight gained: I will spoon with another man in the right circumstances). Example 3: Two years later, frustration with getting off-route on a 5.x climb pushed me to trust pro in chossy rock. After the gear popped when I fell, I went down 26 feet to slam a ledge like a concrete sidewalk. After convincing myself that my ankles were not broken, we had 3 rappels and a 5 mile hike back the car and then onto the hospital for x-rays and stitches.

I wish I could say those are my only brushes with injury or worse, but there are a few stories I will reserve to maintain a modicum of pride. :-D After thinking about mistakes (and consequences) a LOT, I have adopted a paradigm borrowed from my professional work that proposes that almost all mistakes are avoidable with sufficient preparation and forethought. That certainly does not mean I believe I can do anything I want without making misjudgments. Sometimes, it means I will decide not do something because the odds of complete success are not good enough, and I gotta be happy with that. :-k

I now ponder my adventures carefully ahead of time, looking for potential pitfalls, planning contingencies and "what-ifs". I try to think through the best solution for challenges ahead of time, so I don't have to figure it out under stress. I read accident reports and climbing adventure books with a rapt fear and engrave the pitfalls in my brain. Yah, I am one of those who believes they can learn by analyzing the mistakes of others. :shock:

I ask myself what new skills, techniques, conditioning are needed to take to to the next level, while trying to maintain near total control (yah, not possible but that is the goal).

For example, many more class 3 & 4 14er climbs are in my plans for 2013, so this year I significantly increased my volume and level of soloing on solid class 4 & low class 5 rock (over 100 pitches), to prepare for climbing on the less-than-solid rock on some of the 14er routes. I know there is going to be some risk climbing semi-technical routes, but I am working to minimize the possibility of mistakes with practice. I worry about bad situations like being caught by weather on a Class 3+ route or climbing off-route at 13K, so I practice downclimbing at speed (oxymoron?) in the gym and rappelling off a 5mm rope with swami belt and Munter hitch. Note, this is definitely not a rush approach to climbing more technical routes and no one is gonna climb the 14ers in a year like this. I take time and enjoy the process.

Again, I plan more winter routes, and more technical winter routes this season. To improve safety in winter climbs, speed is so important, so my plan is to improve my conditioning (ran at least 20 miles/week and a race almost every month in 2012) To improve my fast winter travel technique, I have invested in two sets of skis, a season pass, and lessons.

Conversations on this subject with some of my "young gun" buds from this site who use a very different risk assessment for themselves, has left me feeling like a fuddy-dud sometimes, and that is OK. We still connect because we share a passion for adventuring in the mountains. For me, getting closer to self-mastery in the mountains has been very gratifying, and to me that means serious effort at avoiding mistakes altogether.

I hope this has not come across as a criticism of bolder climbers. I just wanted to share how some of the old, cautious guys come to mistakes.
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby RoanMtnMan » Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:16 pm

Kiefer, for me the key point is that mountaineering skills aren't something that can be learned without a lot of trial and error. Of course we have all made mistakes and when we walk away we are that much better for it. I think one of the best things about the sport, and perhaps what keeps many on the sidelines, is that being in the mountains takes a tremendous amount of skill and courage which can not be regularly picked up from a high school coach or a day lesson. Learning in the mountains is like getting thrown into the middle of the big game with little time left on the clock. You should speak about the risk/reward aspect in your epilogue. At the end of the day, it's pretty much a risk management game with a lot of physical work along the way.

One can take as many classes as they want, which is positive, but until you have done it by yourself several times, it probably won't be totally ingrained. Personally, I have made many mistakes and paid for them one way or another, and I hope they have made a large enough impact that I won't make them again.
Last edited by RoanMtnMan on Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby mtngoat » Wed Dec 19, 2012 11:37 pm

I do not believe people intentionally make bad decisions. We make the best decisions with the information we have at the time that we make them. That's not to say we don't change our minds as we get more information or upon reflection, but at the time, we work to make the best decision we can. That being said, mistakes are simply decisions made without full information. Whether that is an awareness of the conditions, knowledge of a future event, or awareness of our own bias, we still make the best decisions we can.

Mistakes are only determined so after the fact, so indeed they are learning opportunities. We've gained new knowledge (either of possible conditions we can prepare for, our own limitations, or reasonably predictable events that require modest planning.) And while the gain of new knowledge may increase intelligence, the application of it is wisdom.

No regrets, just opportunities to increase intelligence and enhance wisdom when it comes to wilderness travel.

If your life's work can be completed within your lifetime - you are not thinking big enough.
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby Mindy » Thu Dec 20, 2012 5:56 am

Mistakes – Mountaineering

My perspective, as someone newer to the addiction, but clearly not a new perspective on mistakes.

I continually remind myself that it is important to be humble enough to expect mistakes. Equally important, intelligent enough to identify them and learn from them. It obviously takes strength, mental and physical, to set out to attempt to summit a mountain, but even more so (to me anyway), it takes strength to know that I don’t know, for sure, what I will experience or what choices I will have to make. It takes strength to accept that I am going to make mistakes.

When you are learning, how do you know what is a mistake (outside of the clear and obvious choices that lead to the undesirable or injury)? I have yet to attend formal training re: winter mountaineering, yet I have been getting out with several different people the last few weeks. I am very observant on my outings with others, paying close attention to what they are carrying, techniques, etc. I have already witnessed differences, how do I know what is “correct” or the safest?

To be able to identify a MISTAKE, truly, I will have to make them and experience them for myself. I don’t care how many posts I read, books I read, classes I attend. Only experience will equate to skill. To me, mistakes will equate to experience. The best I can do at this point, is try to mitigate the seriousness of my mistakes.


“Are you all right?”

~Hermann Buhl, who had just taken a 200-foot leader fall, yelled up to his partner.

“Yes! Are you alive?”

~The reply to Buhl.

(The Quotable Climber – Waterman)
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby winmag4582001 » Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:40 am

Two biggies for me... Getting married and staying married for over thirteen years and wasting the best years of my life working twards the "American Dream".
Lessons learned; If she doesnt have anything in common with you, it probably wont last and school is designed to brainwash you. IMO :lol:
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby Brian C » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:30 am

Dex wrote:I read that page - it reminds me on how a drug addict gets started - just some beer, just one toke, just a snort, mainlining that I can quit anytime.

Pretty much what happened! Never have wanted to quit the mountains though...
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby GeezerClimber » Thu Dec 20, 2012 2:48 pm

Climbing mountains is a lot like running a business. You will make mistakes. One key factor to being a successful biz owner is the willingness to admit mistakes and learn from them. When making a decision, we also look for ways out if it goes bad. So the first step in mitigating mistakes and learning is to admit you will make them. If you read about accidents, either in the mountains or elsewhere, they almost always result from a series of mistakes. Rarely will just one result in an accident. It follows that if you have your guard up, you will recognize your first mistake before it leads to more. Hubris kills.

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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby bergsteigen » Thu Dec 20, 2012 3:44 pm

Eventually everyone will make mistakes in the mountains. The only thing you can hope for is that you live through them, and learn from them.

It took me almost a decade to write the TR on a near disastrous situation I was in, very early in my career. The analysis, even harsh on myself, was a big part of the healing & growing process. http://www.otinasadventures.com/index.php?trip=triangle
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games."
- Ernest Hemingway (or was it Barnaby Conrad?)

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Mistakes...not respecting weather conditions

Postby Marmot72 » Fri Dec 21, 2012 12:45 pm

One of the most basic lessons is to recognize adverse weather/potentially dangerous weather conditions and avoid them. I usually have a healthy respect for Mother Nature, and I've backed off several summit attempts when the thunderclouds materialize. Recently, however, I persisted in going along a ridge to complete a desired combo, instead of accompanying my hiking partners down from the first peak. Fierce winds brought in thick clouds that limited visibility and brought more snow. This was a big mistake on my part. What was supposed to be a long day became a long night, and I'm just very thankful that I had two great partners who forgave me for the error and didn't give up on helping me to get back down to the trailhead.
I have phenomenal route-finding abilities. Specifically, I have an uncanny knack for selecting the path of most resistance.
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Re: ...Mistakes

Postby bergsteigen » Fri Dec 21, 2012 4:19 pm

Dex wrote:
bergsteigen wrote:Eventually everyone will make mistakes in the mountains. The only thing you can hope for is that you live through them, and learn from them.

It took me almost a decade to write the TR on a near disastrous situation I was in, very early in my career. The analysis, even harsh on myself, was a big part of the healing & growing process. http://www.otinasadventures.com/index.php?trip=triangle

I just finished reading that.

I got the impression that there wasn't a plan to count heads at the trail head, to make sure everyone was out. Correct? I get the impression that if someone was in need of help they could have gone unaided because no one knew it or they may have gotten lost.

You had a GPS but, didn't anyone have a PLB? What was the plan for an emergency?

"I screamed and I yelled with all my might - STOP, PLEASE STOP! WAIT FOR ME! HELP! Johnny turned around, but kept on going, did not wait." OK this is serious - did you ever talk with Johnny and ask why he didn't wait for you? Do you carry a whistle now?

Nope, no plan to count heads. No emergency plans either. Everyone one was personally responsible for themselves. This was in 2003, and definitely before SPOT and maybe before consumer priced PLB's. Every backpack I own now, has a whistle on it.

I asked Johnny why, and he said he was so focused on his own suffering, he didn't think to stop. It was a pretty cold night, by Colorado standards.

The disgusting thing is, the mentality of the AAC, when I was in it, was very much an "every man for themselves" group. I was looked down on by the leader, since I couldn't keep up with the group. My pace then was on par with what most have here in CO, and the average of the class. Worse yet, on a trip the year previous, a geology grad student died from falling into a crevasse, since the AAC lead didn't think they needed to rope up. She "just disappeared", before anyone knew she was missing. My last year or so up there, it was said that the mentality had changed, but I had moved on to solo backpacking in summer.
"Auto racing, bull fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all others are games."
- Ernest Hemingway (or was it Barnaby Conrad?)

Your knees only get so many bumps in life, don't waste them on moguls!


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