Making Tough Decisions in the Mountains: Success vs Failure and Life vs Death

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The more time I spend outdoors and the more I push myself, the more I find myself second guessing my decisions and double checking my safety. To be honest, I get freaked out a lot. More times than I’d like to admit, I have been standing somewhere far away from help and safety looking ahead and thinking… “Should I keep going?”

It’s weird that I feel this way because in the last few years I also begun to feel more confident in my own physical abilities than I ever have.

I started hiking and backpacking very young but started really pushing myself in the last couple years. Climbing peaks and getting comfortable with dizzying exposure have been a large part of my free time.

The more I go into this terrain the more confident I feel. Coincidentally, I want to push myself harder.

Sometimes, as a natural consequence of this cycle, I find myself in spots were I have pushed to hard and end up in a situation that is more intense than anticipated.

It is in these situations where adrenaline starts to pump and your very basic instincts being to play a large part in decision making. It is in these moments when you have to clear your mind of the frantic fight or flight mentality that starts to work its way between you and your ability to make a rational choice.

Times like these can be the most important decisions and you have to take a step back from the chaos that your mind creates and decide, based on your experience and the path laid in front of you, whether you give into the flight and turn back or whether you harness your racing heart and use it to drive you forward to success.

It almost seems like motivational speech about being an adrenaline junkie and pushing through no matter what because that’s the only way to success. Fighting through difficulty and taking risk is how you become better. Right?

Sometimes this is true… Other times it isn’t. And choice has so much more to consider than whether you want to succeed or not.

There is a quote I once heard about traveling in the backcountry. I don’t know it exactly, but it goes something like this: “Everyday I go out, I grab a pebble from the luck jar and put it into the experience jar.”

It has kind of stuck out in my mind and goes hand in hand with another excerpt from a book I have been reading called Alpine Climbing. There is a whole chapter in the book about decision making and risk management. The excerpt I am thinking of has more to do with risk management and again, luck. It say something like this:

~ You should always climb in such a way where you aren’t leaving your chance to succeed to be based on luck.

This means that if a large margin of whether you succeed is based on being lucky.. Then you are doing it wrong.

The book gives examples like traveling in a storm or having to cross through areas prone to large rock fall at the improper time of day.

The choices you make during the tough times can be discouraging, but for me they usually tell me my weaknesses and what I need to work on.

Summer has usually been my time for adventure. It started with backpacking, then rock climbing and peak bagging. Originally, these began in the spring and ended in the fall.

However, because I am overly active and can’t sit still during the winter, I have begun trying to get out during the winter in the form of skin-touring and more recently ice climbing.


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