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robert

The Consequences of Climbing

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Since about 10 pm last night when my relief at the success of the Cooley rescue turned to sadness with the news of his death I have been thinking about climbing, my family, death, the whole deal. I imagine that there are others who lost sleep last night thinking about what if that had been them in the litter being plucked off of Rainier. I believe that it is my new daughter and the fact the Peter left behind three children that has caused this tragedy to hit me harder than any of the others over the years. I have been thinking about the consequences of climbing beyond my own enjoyment. While I am still planning my next trip to Rainier in July, and plenty of other climbs, I wonder what I will be thinking when I walk under an ice fall or climb an ice step. Fear and success in the face of fear have always been a part of climbing and always will be. How have others cleared their minds so that they could focus on the climbing at hand? I remember a thread a while back by a guy who was climbing without health insurance. Someone pointed out that he had better not be thinking about his lack of coverage while he was making a difficult move or he would be more likely to need that coverage. This seems to be the same concept on a much grander scale. Hopefully, when I get into the hills it will all just go away and climbing will be climbing. I hope that that is the case for everyone who is headed out this weekend, especially anyone headed up Liberty Ridge.

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be free and happy through detachment. surrender to self --your very being. the supreme-- and self-concern vanishes. worship strength for it is strength from which all other values are possible.

 

 

and i aint got any health insurance. thumbs_up.gif

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Robert, beware that you do not enter a self-defeating loop of second-guessing and worry. If these thoughts are in your head when you're out in the mountains, you should go home because you are not fully focused on the task at hand. This endangers you and your partner. For myself, I have done some of my best climbing in the midst of personal termoil (I don't know why) and have been able to put it on the back burner by meditating and visualization. For me, it's the same as forgetting about your last piece, 30' down, as you move onto a sandy ledge. The most important thing at hand is what is at hand.

 

Good luck.

 

Greg_W

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i agree...don't live just not to die...that shit'll never work.

 

oh, and i do have health insurance....feels kinda nice too bigdrink.gif

Edited by ivan

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Realistically, if you do everthing you can to be safe and it works for years until something weird or uncommon happens and you get killed, your wife will blame it on climbing. If you are driving down the highway and a log falls off the truck in front of you and you get killed, she won't say, "It's because he wasn't climbing."

She will continue to drive the same stretch of highway oblivious to the fact that she has the same risk denial that you did.

Suck it up. Learn from it. Climb on.

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I may entertain thoughts such as yours, Robert, when I am sitting in the comfort of my own home at the computer, but when I am climbing, I don't think of anything save what I am doing at the present time. Everything else disappears. My only thoughts concern the climb ahead and both my immediate and future safety and that of my party. I may turn around, I may continue. It's what I love about climbing.

 

Robert, you know that risk varies a whole lot depending on what sort of climbing you are doing. You may decide to limit yourself to just cragging and easier alpine trade routes out of concern for your family. I certainly wouldn't criticize you for doing that.

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I also thought about the same thing. I would hope that people don't and wouldn't quit doing something they love because they are afraid or because of what others want. I also think that to take out a huge part of what makes up a particular person takes away from that person.

 

Accidents happen anywhere, anytime, sometimes doing something dangerous, sometimes something not so dangerous, I guess that's why they are called accidents, in my opinion that's no reason to stop living or doing what a person likes to do.

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Rule #1 - It's a free country....

 

If having kids makes you too worried to climb more dangerous routes.... don't. If I had three small children I sure as hell wouldn't be climbing Lib Ridge. That being said I don't fault people who do. See rule #1.

 

When I do have kids I'll certainly still climb. But I'll choose more moderate ground and be much, much more critical of conditions. My choice.... and maybe yours.

 

Rule #2 - It's a big world out there.

 

It's a big world out there with lots to do besides climb. So instead of constantly raising the stakes as I get better at climbing I'm also fine starting to do something else... But aqain I don't fault people who only climb and do so at a level I'll never attain. Hell.. I love reading about their insane exploits.

 

Rule #3 - Life is long.

 

Nothing wrong with taking some time off from climbing and doing something else for a few months or years either... The hills and mountains and frozen waterfalls will still be there if you decide to come back...

 

-Fear

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My last couple of big climbs have been multi-day solos in Yosemite...albeit on relatively moderate and safe routes. I haven't been climbing much in the last year, but these routes made up for the lack of quantity with quality.

 

Anyway, when soloing a wall you have alot of time, and alot of opportunity to contemplate what the fuck you are doing, and the consequences should you blow it, or something unforseen happen. I tend to think about my wife and family alot, even my dog, shit sometimes on every piece on a scary pitch.

 

When climbing with a partner I find that I am much more able to get past these moments of doubt, feeling comfortable and confident in my partners skills to watch my back. But when you are on your own, it's all a different head trip.

 

Also, I think its harder to deal with this doubt when you only get a few big climbs in a year, or even if you manage to be a weekend warrior. When your on the wall every day it just comes much more naturaly.

 

Well I guess i don't really know what my point is, or if I have one. But I'll say this...alot of people here are saying, "fuck that, tune out the doubt or call it and go home." i really don't agree with that attitude. Doubt and fear keep me focused, they help me make good decisions, when I contemplate cutting corners to save some time I'll think about myt wife for a second, and look at the big picture...does it really take that long to tie some knots in the end of this rope...death is for ever, and losing a friend lasts the rest of your life. Now put that extra 30 seconds, or extra 1/2 hour for the safer route finding into perspective.

 

thoughts of my wife, and my new appreciation for how much it sucks to lose someone keep me safer in the mountains, and ya know what...I'm totaly cool with that. Cause i'd rather climb a few easy routes until I get old then many dangerous ones for the next few years. Ofcourse easy and dangerous are relative terms and subject to change bigdrink.gifwave.gif

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Well said Hikerwa. This is exactly what I have always thought. If I didn't climb I wouldn't be the same person. The more I think about climbing the more I remember the reasons that I climb and that just makes me what to get out and climb. I can't wait for the weekend.

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Doubt is what keeps me alive. If I was sure I could make that sketchy move or that the serac was stable I might not be here today. When I stop worrying about making it is when will stop climbing.

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It seems to me climbing is an addiction. The rush, the focus, the freedom, the beautiful images, it might as well be a good drug trip. Mix in good people and life doesn't get much better. It makes me appreciate the rest my life a little more too. Nothing gives perspective like a good trip into the high places. Everything a risk. Climbing maybe a little more so, and much less forgiving than many, so lets just watch each others backs, and keep thinking and evaluating. Those are really the only safety mechanism anyone has on climb.

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If I got doubts be it; ability, fate, route conditions and my head isn't in it 100% I'm not roping up with my partner because I'm not going to risk his life for my F'ed up head. I'd rather go home solve the problem and try it another day when I AM 100%. Not that I do this all the time, but we shouldn't be out there if we're not comfortable with what we are doing. And we absolutly should discuss the situation with your rope partner. Maybe he is willing to lead every pitch and drag you along. Had some friends die rock climbing near Boulder, took nearly 10 years for me to feel free and clear leading on rock again.

However, all said, I think about my 17 year old growing up without me. You hear something like this if you're not thinking about stuff like that you're pretty selfish and self absorbed, it's normal.

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Robert- there's an article in Alpinist 3 written by Kelly Cordes (titled "Painted Blue") and he does a very good job of examining why being afraid when it comes to climbing is not worth it. Granted, he is climbign some pretty incredible shit, but it applies regardless. Check it out if you've got that issue.

 

For me, I find that doubt and fear are what makes climbing so intriguing. Channeling my fear into a positive energy source that I can use to make my way up a route is a big accomplishment and leads to much personal satisfaction. Keep with it- just be sure to stay rational.

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I’ll admit my climbing life style has drastically changed over the last several years.

I used to free solo w/o a rope, climb at my very limits, overall had an attitude that if I was killed I died to something I love. My life has drastically changed now. I am married w/ a beautiful wife (who climbs). I still climb today but I not like I used to. I now have a career and my priorities have shifted. Although I will admit I long for the days when I had 500$ in my pocket and a tank full of gas and two buddies in the car on our way to climb for a month. I no longer push my limits and am satisfied with being a crappy climber.

 

When I was single I climbed w/ little or no fear I was at the top of my game. I climbed just as well 30 feet above my last piece of pro as I did on top rope hell if not a little better. I was so in tune w/ my body I knew exactly what I could do and could not do.

 

I would only say that I felt ( I’m not saying this is what everyone should do) once I was married my priorities shifted. I now have a responsibility to my wife I know that if something were to ever happen to me she could live comfortably and not have to worry about money (this always becomes a joke when she is belaying me) I do not know this climbers monetary situation but with three children will they be able to go to college if they want to do so? Will they still be able to afford their home or will they have to move in w/ Grandma and Grandpa.

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I used to free solo w/o a rope

 

Oh yeah I only free solo with a rope now cantfocus.gif

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I am in line with Lambone and Mr. Radon's sentiments.

 

I lost a friend a decade ago in a kayaking accident. That event provoked a lot of contemplation about my outdoor activities and how they effect the people I choose to be acountable to (my wife being primary among them). I chose to continue to paddle and climb, but I do have a different attitude. Instead of trying to attempt things that are probably pushing the end limits of skills, I am more content to attempt routes or rivers that have less exposure but still allow me to work on my technical skills in a more controlled setting. I am now more interested in the quality of how I did the activity than the sexiness of the end result. If that makes any sense.

 

I still push myself and try to advance to doing harder routes. I am just not in as much of a hurry to bag a harder route even though I would like say I've done it.

 

If I am not comfortable with the situation I am content to turn around and have no regrets.

This attitude will probably always restrict me to a maximum potnetial of mediocrity in my paddling and climbing and make me look like a fruit.gif in most of your eyes.

But its the balance I have found that works for me.

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These would be easy questions to answer if we could look into our future and see the consequences of our decisions and how they influenced our fates. One one hand I am in agreement with Bug, inasmuch as you could conceivably eliminate all risk from your life, hole yourself up Howard Hughes style and still die at an early age. However, if one looks at the probabilities involved, it is clear that the more risk you expose yourself too, the greater the probability that you will die as a consequence of the said risks. So, in the end, I think that most people strike a balance between the risk that they will shorten their lives engaging in the activities that they love and the risk that they will squander their lives, forsake their passions, and suffocate their spirits in an effort to reduce the probability that they will lose their lives doing some of the very things that define what living means to them. I suspect that these competing imperatives are constantly in flux for most people, as is the level of risk that they voluntarily adopt. Tough call.

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Improbable as it may seem, the truth lies in the fact that people do die as a result of climbing. We want that risk and cannot be fully engaged in life without it. It defines our life and friends. I do not want to get so close to dying that I get an adrenaline rush every time. I just want to know that I have to meet a range of challanges just to survive and that I have to be ready to handle the adrenaline causing events should they occur. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that we evolved as hunter/warriors for 3 million years.

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I use to work a job that the expression "near miss accident" was something you used once a month. Worked that job for 11 1/2 years (thankfully no more). People die everyday while driving 2 ton weapons at each other at 110mph and coming within inches. Odd coecpt when you think about it.

I was still motorcycle road racing when my 1st daughter was born. My wife desided it was too dangerous. I thought about my family (and everything else) until I entered the track. Then life became very simple and focused at 160mph. But I still have climbing.

My wife bought life insurance for the whole family recently. I am worth 221K if something happens to me. I also have excellent health insurance which has been great over the years (BBBS has paid more than I have paid them).

That does add a bit of piece of mind.

 

But it just comes down to my passion for climbing and being somewhat selfish when is comes to climbing. Just the way I am built. Once on a route. Family does not come into my mind. If they did, I think it would cloud my mind. A distraction. No one wants to die but I think you want to better your chances of survival, stay off the road.

If you lived in the mountains and took trips to drive a car, driving would seem much more dangerous.

 

Dangerous? you know 200 kids a year die just playing baseball. I bet we would all be surprised how dangerous some NON high profile sports are.

Jedi

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Many good comments here.

 

I just saw the new movie, Troy. Although I thought the movie was OK it made me think alot about my life.

 

I think that part of the allure of climbing IS THE RISK that is inherent. If it wasn't risky it wouldn't be as meaningful or fun. Not everyone wants that to push things that far or even climbs for that reason, but I do. Having real consequenses in a world where it seems everything is so fake and unreal is my draw to climbing. I recently had an "in your face" kind of experience with the realities of the dangers of climbing. Pulling rocks off in your face and down on your belayer is scary but I feel the same about my climbing.

 

I by no means have a death wish but have a life wish. As the saying goes, a life without risk is no life at all. May you all chose your risks carefully and may the gods favor yall.

 

Oh, and Liberty Ridge is on my agenda in 2 weeks.

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you know, i don't find risk all that alluring or i would drive around without a seatbelt, smoke 2 packs a day, have unprotected sex while being tattooed with a recycled needle, eat raw cow brain and walk 13 black cats under ladders while breaking a mirror......

 

what i like about climbing is not the risk but the challenge. i don't dislike the fact that sport climbing is less risky than trad climbing but i do dislike the fact it is less challenging to clip up a line of pre-placed draws than to search out a series of gear placements while route finding up a featureless alpine face.

 

some challenges have inherent risks (loose rock, seracs, weather, commitment) and some challenges don't (pulling a low v4 with 4 spotters and 6 mats) but the challenge, not the risk, is what appeals to me in climbing.

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I agree Dru. I hear all the time that people who climb are addicted to the thrill of cheating death. I tell anyone who will listen that for me, and the people with whom I climb, it is about challenging yourself mentally and physically.

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