Wasn’t going to write a post about the day in question. But it’s misleading to only write about the successes. So here’s a trip report where some wrong decisions and timing got us into a slightly spooky situation and we bailed (thus making the right decision).
We headed out a little late (left Squamish at 7am), since we were heading up the Duffey and it was supposed to be an unseasonably warm day. We efficiently found our objective though, and were soon climbing steep slopes onto an interesting ramp. This allowed us to bypass a lower couloir that had wiped itself clean and exposed a 30-foot rambling icefall. Snow quality was a nagging concern. People have recently found the snow in the ‘interior’ parts of the Coast to have pockets of very hollow facet layers. I managed to wallow through some of that on my exposed ramp. Furthermore, we weren’t in the sheltered couloir that was imagined. There were lots of open slopes with wind slab. A pre-Google Earth session could’ve told us that. As we neared the upper couloir, it was disturbingly apparent that we were under large cornices. The wind was picking up . . . and what about the sun’s rays lighting the spindrift on the cornices? The couloir had been avalanched pretty high up, and the skiing looked marginal.
Time to bail. It took a bit to make that decision, since we certainly could’ve climbed and skied without incident. But none of us were comfortable so we turned around. It’s easy to observe the signs that should convince you to turn around. But making that decision and being satisfied with it is often the hard part. Any avalanche course can teach you to read the signs. But how do you reign in the ego? The past week has been boring . . . it’s sunny out, and you want to take advantage. You don’t want to be the one in the group to spoil the party.
After 15 or so years of playing this game, I guess I have acquired the ability to flip the switch. Emotions, ego, aspirations, all bullshit ect is turned off, the realities of the situation are addressed, and I turn around. No lingering thoughts trouble me, or goad me to continue (call it an amazing ability to make excuses and stand by them). I guess it’s my own experiences that have led me to my current state. Early rogue missions where youth and a head-strong attitude got me into trouble. But is it possible to learn these skills without having to make a bunch of horrible decisions for experience-sake? Probably wishful thinking, since no amount of training can prepare you for the nebulous nature of mountain ‘logistics’. Conditions, scenarios and partners are always entirely unique and possibly changing while you’re climbing.
So where to start? Well this subject is too complicated for a short blog post. I haven’t really taken time to flesh things out. But start with meditation. Practice being calm, being mindful, being in control of your emotions. As this post’s title suggests, learn about the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. Eliminating your attachment to the emotions, motivations and ideas that fuel all-or-nothing missions in the mountains. Being robotic might kill a bit of the glory when you do succeed, but it’ll potentially keep you alive when the conditions demand logic and reason.