It’s funny how life is able to punish, or enlighten us with humility. It’s like the karma concept. I went on a trip to climb the East Buttress of Mount Whitney a few weeks ago, and I sprayed a lot about how my partners were inexperienced and unprepared for what we did. The result was a 24 hour car2car adventure, which I felt should have been 15 hours. While 15 hours is a long day, it is not 24. You hear people talk about working 16 hour days, it’s acceptable, but you don’t often hear about working 24 hour days. It’s just not right.
The basis of the problem was one of the “experienced” people in the group persuaded two inexperienced people in the group not to take ice axes. They had crampons, but they were not really crampons, they were some flimsy rubber things with some weak spiraled wire. I laughed when we headed out to ease my angst, and charged forward in the sake of disaster style!
This past week in the Winds we decided not to take any ice or snow gear, and that it would probably be dry and all rock. WRONG! Ha! I went in a pair of Chacos, and my partner wore a pear of half torn apart shoes, which I think may have once been bowling shoes, but mostly was barefoot. We had no ice axes, no crampons, no mountain boots, no bug spray.
As I said last time, “we live and we learn.” The main thing is finding a way to make peace with those situations and still being able to have fun. I think that if we waited for the ideal moment we would end up waiting our entire lives and never pursue anything. That’s what disaster style is all about. It’s looking at an objective that seems really doubtful and improbable and just going for it. And that’s what we did in the Winds, bug bitten with soaked wrecked feet; we charged everyday without rest.
We’d see a sketchy loose snowfield on a slab 400ft off the ground at the base of our descent, and if it looked reasonably disastrous we just went for it. And sometimes we looked and decided that there was too much risk and backed off for a more reasonable objective.
When we got to Lander and checked the weather it called for Thunderstorms and heavy showers throughout the entire week. We sat and evaluated our options, and almost bailed on the trip, but in the morning the forecast changed a bit, and we just went for it. And what do you think we found? A thunderstorm greeted us, followed by four flawless days, and a massive storm blew in as we pulled out of the parking lot on the last day.
The window of error is scary, but sometimes we just have to go for it no matter how scary it might seem or how bad we believe it might turn out. If we don’t, we might never leave the ground.