Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Next Step

When I am climbing a technical route on a mountain this is roughly where my mind is at, mostly the next step. The number one cause of death in the mountains is "falling while climbing unroped". That's why I added the "perfectly" to the bottom of the pyramid, it is critical to me to do one move, one step at a time, perfectly, because Christina Castagna died in 2009 on Broad Peak because of one misstep on the way down. I don't want to repeat her experience.

I feel this perspective applies to most tasks in life. I can think about being a great runner, going to the world championships, the races I will run this fall and this summer, and the workout I need to do in the next few days and weeks, but I need to run today and get the most out of my workout, whatever that may be. Similarly, after articulating this thought, I think this is part of why I get so much done in most things that I do. Take one task, and finish it. We talked about this at Everest base camp this spring, the focus to do the next step is common among Everest attempters but within the world at large there does not always exist that drive, patience, and focus to do the next step. I am still working out what I think about that, but I think it's a big deal. In other words, how do we teach that direction to work on the next step?

Focus on the Next Step, the Next 10 Steps, and the Big Picture
A fair amount of time is spent looking about 10 steps further. I refer to it as micro-route finding. You have to prepare for any upcoming obstables or challenges that may cause you to change the style of climbing, perhaps from flat footing to front pointing. You are constantly monitoring the need for water and food, the risk of avalanche, and upcoming terrain changes, but certainly not as much as doing the next step perfectly. Often times, even on very big mountains, the hardest part boils down to a 20 foot section of the route. Up to camp 3 on Broad Peak there was basically only one steep 75 degree slope for about 20 feet just above camp 2 around 6400 meters. Otherwise the route was pretty easy. (Okay, there is a steep step at 6150 meters just before camp 2 and another at 6900 meters, but those two aren't quite as steep maybe 60-70 degrees.) Same for the Casual Route on Longs Peak, one hard pitch of 5.9 to unprotected squeeze chimney to 5.10a, otherwise basically 5.8.

A relatiely small portion of time is spent thinking about the big picture. That's the fun part to think about. That's the part people think about the most when I am talking about climbing. Yet when actually climbing, precious little time is spent worrying about the summit, the overall logistics, or the sacrifices and opportunity costs to get there. It's still an important part, but on a percent of time thought about the big picture during climbing basis, it only marginally factors into the climbing.

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