There is no time where you’re too big to fail, or too good to fall. On a personal and physical level you’re apt to fall sometimes, and with that understanding we have to learn when to get up, dust off, and keep trudging forward, and when to get up, dust off, and retrace our steps back to the car.
One of the best critiques I ever received was from an AMGA Guides Instructor in Joshua Tree, and he assigned us with difficult and uncommon anchoring tasks for a top managed site. Long story short, we failed. He pointed out that he saw the moment when each one of us realized that our idea wouldn’t work, but we continued on with our broken plans. Our systems were complete failures, and couldn’t be modified or salvaged. We were better off just breaking the systems down completely and starting from scratch. Sometimes we need to do this with our lives.
That kind of humility and self-awareness is so simple, so powerful, yet so hard to accept and implement. Who ever wants to admit failure?
I was out in the alpine a few weeks back and when we got to the base of the climb my party was falling apart. Last time I stood at the base of the very same climb, although with only one partner that time, I was in the same exact position. I was on point and feeling great, but she was deteriorating, but I went up nonetheless.
This second trip I had the chance to say, “Sorry guys, but I’m not going up with this guy because he’s too sick.” I didn’t. I was too busy in my head about disappointing the people I was with, so instead of backing down I marched forward. When I look back on my irritation that inspired that post it was because I knew they were in danger. I wasn’t. I’m just as guilty as that dude because I knew he was wrong. I guess social role really does precede individuality…
I was pretty harsh in my judgement towards the others in that group. One much more than the others. In truth, my arrogance was just as dangerous as their ignorance. I should have bailed on the climb the minute they refused to bring ice axes. I’d been up the North Fork, and I knew what the conditions were like.
We live and we learn, until we run into a situation that isn’t so forgiving, and then we die, and our loved ones are left wondering just what really happened. It might be as simple as being too arrogant to pull the plug on a shit plan in a hopeless situation. I’ll try to be more attentive next time, but eventually it will be “do or do not,” and there will be no “try” (Yoda).