Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

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Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by d_baker » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:04 pm

This is Part II because the original post was lost when the site went through a spring cleaning...

Years ago, I had posted about a personal incident about how I messed up in the mountains (in 2004), but walked away from it with only a bruised ego and some embarrassment. I won't go back into the details of that too much, but what it boiled down to was I climbed/scrambled up something (next to the trail to Island Lake after an ascent of US Grant) to a point where I was uncomfortable with my position and was momentarily stuck, unwilling/afraid to move up or down. A member of our group ended up walking around to the top and lowered a rope that I wrapped around my hand (awesome tie-in point) and climbed it out.
Well that was dumb. But I'm here today to talk about it!
From that I learned to try and evaluate the best I can if I can down climb safely what I'm about to go up.

Another more recent blunder, or lack of double checking myself/complacency, was climbing in the ice park in Ouray a few years ago.
After a good full day of climbing in the park, probably a little tired, I was in the School Room near the pillar area when I was being lowered by my partner, and something didn't feel right with my harness. I looked down and I was only tied through one point in the harness! I'm pretty sure there's a reason for redundancy...anyway, when I tied in I missed the leg portion of the harness and was only through the waist. Well s**t.
Sure, I was on top rope and a fall wouldn't be much load to that one point. However, it was still an unnerving moment. I happened to have a quick draw on me, so I back up the tie-in bight by clipping to the belay loop and into the bight.
What did I learn? Always double check my tie-ins! Don't (or try not to) get complacent.

Even more recently, this winter, me and a friend met up with Mad Dad at the winter Leavick mine lot to hike Peerless & Sheridan. Super windy, biting cold. This dumbass only wore my softshell pants that don't have a liner, and didn't bother with long underwear. Well, blunder maybe not, but poor planning! I thought I was going to chap my man parts. Not fun. I had some frogtogs in my pack for a "shell" layer and put those on and it helped but still...stupid mini-blunder. Rookie!! Noob. What do I know?!
Check the weather dumbass, and don't forget, it is winter after all. Wear long underwear!

I share this today because of a comment made earlier about a certain individual on the forum that is still being called out on his own blunder over a year ago. I wrote in another thread that I understand that at the time it happened, it got piled on because of that particular individual made some thoughtless unwarranted comments about someone else's blunder about a month or so before his own. I'm guilty of piling on a comment or two about that incident, but a year later? Is that necessary?
A poor choice he and his partner made (going down a different way, where it's not really a route) ended up getting them stuck out overnight when they got in a tight spot in the dark.
That aside, look at a couple of things he and his partner did right!
The one had told a family member of his plans, and when he was overdue, a call to SAR was made. How many of us tell someone our plans every time we go out? I'm guilty of NOT leaving an itinerary a lot of times.
Another thing they seemingly did well was they had the right gear to spend an uncomfortable (?) night out. I bet they cuddled. ;)
Did they learn from this? I hope so.

Ok, so what blunders have you had in the mountains and learned from? Have you repeated that blunder?
We have all made mistakes.
Care to share?
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by HikerGuy » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:48 pm

Crossing a snow slope with no ice axe. There was a bootpack, but the slope was steep and had a poor runout. Lesson, always make sure to carry an axe if there is chance of crossing snow slopes. I even bought a small, lightweight axe just for these unanticipated situations and since it doesn't weigh much I'm not likely to leave it behind. Summit fever also was a factor. Lesson, the mountain will always be there.

Pushing your significant other beyond their comfort zone. Lesson, don't be a dick, don't do it. I guess this applies to any partners.

Sunscreen!! Always have some stashed in your pack.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by GregMiller » Sat Feb 27, 2021 7:57 pm

This is the one that most readily comes to mind, but there have been others:
Back 7 or 8 years, decided to take some coworkers up Grays peak for a fun team-building outing. Was probably late June or early July. Hiked up the peak with the group, then for whatever reason decided to leave the group and glissade down from the Grays/Torreys saddle. Now, if I had paid attention on the hike up, I might have noted that there was no good single glissade line, or that there was no such thing as a runout present, or that by the time we were headed down it was much too warm to get good purchase in the snow to glissade safely. Also, while I had brought my ice axe, I had neglected to pack my helmet. Ended up making 4 separate glissades, traversing between them to get back over a good line of snow. Had to spend most of the glissades in the self arrest position just to get enough purchase to not go out of control. Yeah, whole lotta dumb going on there. I can only chalk it up to weird group dynamics brain behavior, and being young and cocky, and not wanting to 'back down' in front of my coworkers.
Still Here
been scared and battered. My hopes the wind done scattered. Snow has friz me, Sun has baked me,
Looks like between 'em they done Tried to make me
Stop laughin', stop lovin', stop livin'-- But I don't care! I'm still here!
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by CoHi591 » Sat Feb 27, 2021 8:39 pm

Three major blunders, all boil down to one overarching blunder of underestimating the easy peaks.

1. Crossing steep snow without an axe early season on Pikes. It was still dark, and there were foot prints across, and it didn't look that steep, and we had spikes. My partner made it across, I made it half way and panicked. Legitimately probably the most scared I've ever been in the mountains. it wasn't a certain death runout but it would have HURT, it was steeper than I'd thought. I was trying to use my knees and elbows as ice axes which is laughable, finally I backtracked. My buddy crossed back over without incident, I had bloody cuts all over both elbows and knees, and as the sun came up we saw it was remarkably easy to go up and around the thing. This wasn't my first time in Pikes, I had done if I recall correctly 46 of the 14ers at this point plus dozens of repeats, I have no idea why I mentally checked out and was like "ah it's fine this is just Pikes".

2. Got into a scary position on Columbia (lol) because shortly after leaving the summit to head back down the west slopes route (before it was improved), I needed to go to the bathroom. I was just trying to find a spot in between some rocks where no one would see me. Went down the face a little ways, took care of business, saw what I thought was a social trail shortcutting back to the trail. Wrong. Wound up on that steep face you're looking at from Horn Fork Basin, where every move I made seemed to make half the mountain move with me. Was pretty sure I was gonna get swept down in a selt-triggered rockfall. It was a harrowing hour or so until I could safely pick my way back to the trail. Absurdly stupid. That WAS early enough in my 14ering that I don't beat myself up as much as I do now when I do stupid s**t.

3. Lightning storm on Quandary. It was May or June, full snowshoe conditions still. A combination of feeling like snowshoes and afternoon thunderstorms were mutually exclusive and my arrogance over it being just quandary, probably my 10th or so ascent of it, led to some poor decision making and a roughly 9 am start. We didn't see how bad the weather was until we summited and the other side of the peak was black sky, but we still probably didn't move to get down as fast as we should have. Until it was "full sprint in snowshoes because I feel electricity in my beanie" mode. I took two friends with me on that and I don't think either has gone hiking since.
The days I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations, I have really good days.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by dpage » Sat Feb 27, 2021 10:05 pm

Trying to keep up with a couple of people who offered to give my wife and I a ride back to the 2WD TH if we happened to finish at the same time on Castle and Conundrum. Glissading down a rock covered snow slope, I ripped my pants and a huge gash in the back of my leg instead of taking time and just walking down the road.

Early on in my 14ers journey, I listened to someone on the trail early morning who was having a hard time finding their way to Harvard. Since they said they didn't know where to go but it wasn't the way we were heading, my wife and I started following them. A little after sunrise we changed course to where we were originally going only to find the giant stone H in a circle on the ground.

Trying to get to the upper TH for west winfield on bald tires and wet conditions I ended up stuck, drove down the hillside through the trees back to the road, parked and walked back to the TH.

In high school I had an elective, Transformational Grammar, where we wrote papers weekly. The first time I or anyone in the class made a mistake, we weren't graded down on the paper. After that if I made a mistake that anyone in class made I would've failed that paper and the 3 people who proofread it would also receive a failing grade. For the mountains I think reading 14ers Disasters and either reading or listening to Accidents in North American Mountaineering is the same idea to me. Learn from mistakes others have made and don't make the same ones myself when presented with a similar situation.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by TomPierce » Sun Feb 28, 2021 8:45 am

Not sure if I've shared this here before...

Several years ago a partner and I climbed a desert mesa near the Utah border. The consuensus in the small adventure climbing community seemed to be that it hadn't been climbed before, but who really knows? Anyway, I'd been working on a route during a few recon trips, and we decided to give it a go. Turned out to be a relatively easy ascent, we topped out and headed down.

Part of the ascent route was up a narrow V slot with lots of loose rocks, so on the descent I didn't want to rappel down it, seemed like a recipe for getting pelted with dislodged rocks. So we cut laterally across a slope to a cedar tree, a good rap anchor but pretty high off the ground. We knew from the climb up that our rappel would be off the lip of a big incut face, we'd be fully airborne on rappel. On such "blind" rappels (where we didn't exactly know the terrain below) I'd always go first and rig a prussik knot "brake"; in the event I lost control of the rappel rope in my right hand, the prussk brake knot in my left hand would automatically cinch tight and stop me once I let go of it (letting go to let it cinch tight is key). Off I went, gingerly stepping right up to the lip of the incut face, looking down at the jagged teeth-like boulders far below.

Maybe it was the swing into the open air with a pack and a sweaty brake hand, maybe it was a momentary lapse in concentration, I don't know...but I lost control of the rappel rope (fwiw I've rappeled multi-hundreds of times, maybe a 1,000??, never happened before). In an instant I was hurtling down to the rocks. As I was plummeting down, I was so hyper-hyper-focused on stopping with my right brake hand that I was clenching my left hand, in which the backup prussik knot was now kept open by my grip. My safety prussik knot could not engage and bring me to a stop. I was vaguely aware as I fell that the rope I was desperately trying to slow down was sawing into my right hand, and the bottom was racing up to meet me. I'm not sure what brain cell eventually fired, but somewhere in the recesses of my mind my left hand got the counterintuitive signal to just let go. I came to a stop, hanging a dozen feet above the boulders on the desert floor. Swinging in mid-air, I eventually extricated myself with a knife and another sling (the fall had been so fast that my prussik knot melted onto the rappel rope..). I lowered to the gound, shaken but, except for my mangled hand, OK. For those curious, here's a report of the 2nd known ascent of this mesa with a photo of part of that rappel:

Play with snakes long enough, a bite is inevitable, blunders happen.

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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by tmud » Sun Feb 28, 2021 9:33 am

When I was in college, a group of us went hiking in the woods to do acid. After getting lost on the way to the trailhead and ending up at the area they filmed the movie "deliverance", we hiked in, at night, to a campsite to find that the tent we brought was actually a sunshade, and the full size guitar and 8lb metal kenyan decorative spear weren't useful at all for camping. We'd later find out that despite hiking for 45 minutes, we were less than 10 minutes from where we started when we setup camp.

After getting rained on all night with minimal cover, we awoke the next day to do the hike, we mixed all our water with a couple kool-aid packets and set out. The first time someone asked for water is when we realized our blunder. Kool-aid packets require you to add sugar, which we did not have. Without sugar, its straight up "poison water" and inedible. That was both a hilarious and rather concerning realization at the time. We continued hiking, without water, laughing hysterically, clearly tripping, through a boy scout camp with about a 100 occupants in our quest to find el rock, or "the rock" in broken spanglish, which years later I realized stood for ellicott rock. We didn't find it, and were probably extremely dehydrated by time we got back to camp 10 hours later to hike out to the cars to get water, which luckily seemed way closer on the way back than when we started.

Years later, I did the hike again. Its like 3.5 miles of clearly established trail to find ellicott rock.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by DeTour » Sun Feb 28, 2021 7:56 pm

Okay, dumb mistakes, here's a thread that I can contribute to!

Year 2008, attempted the El Diente-Mt. Wilson traverse on our second trip from the Midwest to climb 14ers, the first having been Longs Peak the year before. After summiting El Diente from Kilpacker, we were pretty exhausted mentally and the day was getting late, so we decided to descend without trying the traverse. But when we got to the top of the descent gully, we reversed our decision and started across. That was actully mistake #3 or 4. We had underestimated the difficulty of the traverse, overestimated our readiness (hey it's class 3 and we'd done class 3!), didn't research the route well enough, and started too late. We got spooked by the exposure crossing the gendarmes; we got across them but by then we were done and knew we had to descend.

That's when we made the really big mistake - I did basically, and brother followed. We didn't want to go back across those exposed gendarmes, so we dropped down the semi-trail/gully east of them to get below them. That part was fine, but instead of traversing below them and re-ascending to the standard route, I just kept barreling down that gully because it looked like it went right down to the basin below. Until, of course, it didn't. So there we were, cliffed out, 500 feet above the basin, clock ticking past noon, mentally and physically exhausted. We scrambled over a rib to see if the next gully went. It didn't, of course, nor the next one or the one after that. If we had held any sense of orientation we would have realized we were above a jagged headwall that we'd passed beneath on the ascent.

Eventually we figured out we had to ascend to try to find the standard route. By then we were out of water, adding dehydration, panic, and some altitude-induced struggles to our exhaustion and disorientation. We were scrambling steep rugged piles of horrendously loose boulders, an avalanche just waiting to happen. the only thing that saved our bacon was that the late-August weather brought no afternoon rain. Eventually we did find our way back to the descent gully(only to get lost again on a lower shelf for a while), but it was a nighmarish experience.

Ten years after that, I read with many of you the tragic results of multiple people trying to bypass Capitol Peak's knife edge by descending a gully that looks from above like it goes down to Capitol Lake, only to cliff out. We had made essentially the same mistake they did, but Capitol is even less forgiving than El Diente.

The lesson is simple: it's the standard route for a reason, newbie. There are no shortcuts.
The only thing that matters is the quality of the light.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by justiner » Mon Mar 01, 2021 2:56 am

Yesterday I decided to summit Longs an hour before sunset, knowing full well I decided not to bring a head lamp. Good thing the moon came out. Welp, good night.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by pvnisher » Mon Mar 01, 2021 3:38 am

DeTour wrote:
Sun Feb 28, 2021 7:56 pm
The lesson is simple: it's the standard route for a reason, newbie. There are no shortcuts.
For sure. If there was an easier way, people would do it.
Same thing with taking side roads to skip traffic. Sometimes it works, but rarely. If there was a better way, everyone would take it.
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by headsizeburrito » Mon Mar 01, 2021 5:06 am

Not long after moving to SoCal I was doing some solo off trail peaks in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park and was pretty new to that kind of hiking and terrain. Had a great time with some fun class 3 to a peak then went down a gully back the trailhead, seeing a bunch of desert bighorn in the process. Gully was a little steep in places but it worked. The next time I was there I did a neighboring peak in the same way. Of course this time descending the gully I nearly got cliffed out, sliding/dropping down some near vertical drops I would not have been able to reverse. I had no idea if it would go through and was getting increasingly anxious but had to keep moving forward because I couldn't really get out any other way. My wife was scheduled to pick me up at the end and I was sending text messages that I would be late, hoping one would get through and she wouldn't worry. I eventually made it down, but it was very sketchy and I got to the road right as my wife drove up with perfect lucky timing. Of course only now out of the gully did I have signal and all my messages went through. Since then I learned that is a very dumb way to get down a peak and that descending the ridges or slopes is much safer, plus I got an inreach.

Did get a nice picture of the vegetation on the way up that I liked, didn't really take any on the way down because I was so stressed about just getting out...
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Re: Part II: Personal Blunders in the Mtns

Post by shelly+ » Mon Mar 01, 2021 7:09 am

the many times i stumbled through cacti on a bushwhacking mission.
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