I was lucky enough to wrap up this years odd winter guiding season with one of he most fun weekends of guiding I’ve had. Good friend and Co worker, Tim Mijal, and I got to guide for two separate Brown University Outing Club ice climbing trips. Mooney Mountain guides has formed a great relationship with the university that we hope to see grow, as working with their students and trip leaders is a great time.
On Saturday we had ten intrepid climbers of various backgrounds and experiences from freshman to nearly finished med students. The ice was borderline but we were able to get ropes on a number of the more entertaining steep lines, including Hanging By a Moment which has a puzzling mixed finish. The gang was psyched and climbed well into the afternoon getting as many laps as they could.
On Sunday we had another group of ten. Arriving at the cliff, it was apparent that the lack of freezing temperatures the night before really did a number on the ice climbs. The two lower angled ramps were still climbable and safe but unfortunately we weren’t able to offer this group the same variety of climbs. Despite that, they showed their psyche by running lap after lap on the climbs, sometimes only with one tool or none at all. They said I was making them, but really I think they were excited for the challenge. This group also had a couple of trip leaders who were eager to learn more of the technical side of climbing, so we were able to make an anchor and practice clove hitches and munter hitches. Hopefully everyone not only had fun but learned something new and will remember this trip for a while to come!
Below are galleries from the two days. You can click on any image and it will come up larger and allow you to scroll through.
Big thanks to B.O.C for coming out with us yet again. A lot of you guys shared some exciting climbing plans for the coming year, (Joshua tree, red river gorge, learning trad etc.) I hope all goes well and perhaps on next years ice climbing trip (or Mt Washington?) I get to hear how it all went!
Much Like America in the 1920’s, what I need over the next month is a return to normalcy, however much I hate to use a republican campaign slogan. The past two months have been filled with a significant change from my past winters and lots of time thinking of the idyllic job of running a high school climbing program. This work, while awesome and very meaningful to me, has made me soft. Half Days in the field, not enough time to get above tree-line or on big terrain, regular sleep ins… What I need now is a concentrated block of activity and adventure to make me feel a little less sedentary. Luckily I got to kick off my March vacation in the perfect way, with three full days of fun adventure back to back.
Lake Willoughby – Friday
Heading Home. 20 Below Zero Gully on the left, Glass Menagerie on the Right
My friend Andy shot me a message Thursday night to try and talk me into going to the Lake with him. I was hesitant at first because I’ve only had one full day of ice climbing this season, and am feeling out of shape for the hundreds of feet tall pure ice lines of the lake. I had the day off, as my students were taking practice tog et ahead on work for Saturdays adventure. After first saying no, I capitulated and we ended up having an awesome day.
Andy getting to the belays on Crazy Diamond & 20 Below Zero Gully
We swung leads up Crazy Diamond and then 20 Below Zero Gulley. Between the pouring rain two days prior, and a long season of sitting in the sun, the ice on these climbs had undergone some serious metamorphoses, leaving it in an odd state and resulting in some funky climbing. I haven’t spent much time in the lake but its awe-inspiring for so many reasons. The size of the pure ice climbs are an order of magnitude bigger than anything else in the region, and situated above a wind swept lake, the sight of which makes the area feel arctic.
Andy on the final pillar of Crazy Diamond.
Beyond the ice climbs themselves, the cliff is of a foreign nature. Its limestone, which we have very little of around here, and the resulting affect on the soil means the top of the cliff, and even the sides of it, are covered in huge, gorgeous cedar trees. While I see Cedars when climbing in upstate NY, these ones seem massive, old, weathered, and like they could come alive as if some creature out of Lord of the Rings. Sitting at an ice screw anchor 200′ up puts you in another world at Lake Willoughby, surrounded by an unimaginable amount of ice, foreign looking rock and unique trees, and often times in the sun, while you watch the wind hammer the brave (or stubborn?) ice fishers below.
Big Ice, Limestone & Cedars. Andy on the second pitch of 20 Below
Mt. Washington- Saturday
My Ice Climbing/ mountaineering team has gotten a lot of good practice in over the past two months. The school schedule is ideal for this, as students get out of class around noon and I frequently have 5-6 hours to get them out in the field. That being said they hadn’t yet had a full day in the mountains. Luckily, I was able to get them out of class on Saturday to use a full day for our “culminating experience.”
While trail conditions were some of the roughest I’ve experienced with this odd winter causing the trail to basically be a 4 mile long luge run, the weather was some of the best. With the weather being so good, and my students moving very efficiently, we were able to come back down a different trail and get a great tour of the mountain and its awesome features. We went up the Ammo and across the Crawford Path to the summit. Came down the Tucks side, and cut back across the Bigelow Lawn. Not only were my students able to see all of the terrain and potential for fun in the presidentials, but we were able to see various mountains they’ve hiked or might hike while at Holderness, and could even pick out Lake Willoughby where I had been the day before!
View of the Southern presidentials with Mt. Carrigan just left of center. Many Holderness students will hike it during Outback, the schools 11 day winter backpacking trip.
Two of the girls in particular were unstoppable, no matter how steep of lines we set up!
Sunday was my first day back working for Mooney Mountain Guides since before the start of my ice climbing season at Holderness. It was a fun reentry into guiding. I’ve worked with Milton Academies Outdoor Program in the past and am really impressed with what they have going on. Making it even more fun, the trip was lead by friend and co worker, Todd Goodmen, who teaches there. It was a great day of catching up with him, getting 6 young ladies on ice, and hearing of some fun adventures a few of them have planned for the near future.
Milton faculty Matt Bingham taking a lap
Now I’m sitting back on the couch enjoying my hour long morning coffee time. The best part about it is that after 3 days on, waking up at 4:30 every morning, this time I feel like I’ve earned it!
Starting an ice climbing team during the leanest winter in recent memory has forced me to get creative. I have an opportunity 6 days a week to deliver an experience to 4 high school students that will hopefully leave a significant impression on them. When the weather doesn’t allow me to get them on ice, and the practice periods are too short to tag a summit, where do I turn? I’ve been faced with that quandary more than I would’ve liked this year, and I’ve had to get creative. Days spent practicing map and compass skills, sharpening tools, going over technical rope systems, and even learning how to sew their own stuff sacks. All worthy things but really just relevant ways to kill an afternoon. On a handful of days I’ve turned to areas of the map and oddities in the hills that I’ve been curious about.
Even pups have a sense of adventure
It turns out that while we don’t often have the time to get above tree line and tag a summit, we do have time to explore something in the woods that makes for a memorable day. There have been 3 days throughout the season where we ended up doing this, and they’ve reminded me a good bit about the feeling of adventure.
The first such excursion was before the snow had even fallen in November. I wanted my students to practice using a GPS to navigate to a coordinate. I had heard that there was a WWII bomber that had crashed into a mountain side above North Woodstock. I did some sleuthing on line and found the coordinates. Not knowing how it would go, I drove the team up and we headed down an old logging road. A few hours later, after following a intermittent heard path and our GPS, the students stumbled upon the wreckage.
The second day was well into winter, and I wanted to get winter hiking milage under my students boots. The smaller summits around campus that we can drive to and reach during an afternoon have become a little tired with how frequently our teams go there, so I looked north for an idea. Every time I drive through Franconia Notch, there is a prominent mountain pass on the right side, near a 300′ cliff that I’ve always been curious to explore. After referencing the map I noticed that the Greenleaf trail passes right through it. Not knowing what we’d find I led the team up the hill, wondering if the hike was going to be a dud. It turns out, Eagle Pass as its known, offers incredible views of Cannon Cliff framed by an impressive topography, and a playground of intricate boulder caves.
Cannon Cliff, from Eagle Pass
The third adventure was just this week, and arose from the same situation, looking for something new to do with my students. I had seen on line that there was a 3rd, and much more elusive cliff face profile in Franconia Notch which can only be seen from one small position atop a steep gully after a bushwhack. I didn’t know if we’d have the time to reach it, or the nerve to get up a loose gully, but at the very least we’d stumble around a cool hillside and hopefully walk past the Eaglet, a cool rock feature I frequently point out to my students. After turning off the Greenleaf trail at a cairn marking the climbers path to the Eaglet, we quickly lost the path. Using the prominent spire as seen through the trees as our guide, we bushwhacked through boulders and dense evergreens laughing at the absurdity. Walking on branches covered in snow, avoiding deep caves between boulders and putting are heads down and pushing through thick evergreens likes a running back through a defensive line. We finally found the talus slope sticking down from the alpine cliff and followed it up past the Eaglet and the cliff beyond. We encountered the multiple gullies leading to the ridge line and picked the least steep and exposed one, trying not to knock loose scree down on each other. We made the ridge line and bushwhacked to where we thought the view of the profile was, and then beyond, to what turned out to be an even more incredible view.
For a while now, my outdoor adventure medium of choice has been climbing. Hiking has some what lost its appeal to me unless its a big objective above tree-line. At the same time I feel the spirit of adventure less and less in climbing. More often than not I’m visiting the same cliffs. In that case climbing is more about the process, the movement, and the people I’m with, all of which still make it very much worthwhile. The days I feel adventure are exploring new climbing areas that are unknown, something that generally only happens when I’m traveling now a days.
Reflecting on where that sense of adventure went, and why it was so present on these three days with my students lead me to realize that a core aspect of adventure is a sense of unknown, and a strong possibility of “failure.” I put failure in quotation marks here, because, as part of the process its something to expect, but never something to feel bad about. Its motivation for future attempts, and keeps you on the edge as you explore. On any of these three days, we could have not made it in time, we could’ve been disappointed by a less stellar view than expected. The fact that I had students with me, and was anxious for them to have a good time as well, upped the stakes for me as the leader, and made the adventures seem much more real.
I feel that after rediscovering this feeling of adventure again, and realizing I can come across it so readily in what is essentially my backyard will lead me to explore the nooks and crannies of these hills more frequently.
I’ve included pictures of these three destinations to entice, but have withheld more detailed information in an attempt to inspire and help keep alive the sense of adventure for anyone who may read this and decide to check them out for themselves.
The Mount Washington Valley Ice fest is an institution in the New England climbing scene. Many others have come along, in New York, and Vermont, but this festival, held for over 20 years in North Conway is the biggest and baddest (or best?) Growing up as an ice climber in New Hampshire I always held this event and those who ran it in high regard, so I was thrilled to be asked to be a guest guide this year.
Jim Shimberg, friend, mentor, and clinic co-instructor amid the chaos of the morning meeting
Following will be a run down of my weekend, but first I wanted to reflect on a memory of of attending an ice fest during college. My good friend Paul and I made the trek up to climb, check out the apres hour and watch some slide shows. After the slide show we drove to the parking lot for Frankenstein. We figured camping there, in the back of my Forester, would give us a jump start on the crowds the next day. Being perpetually prepared and thinking ahead, Paul suggested we make Sausage Gravy and Biscuits the day before to warm up for breakfast before climbing. He woke a few minutes ahead of me and by the time my eyes were finally open he was bringing a pot of warm sausage gravy and biscuits back into the car where we sat in our sleeping bags dipping the biscuits in the gravy. Best start to an ice climbing day I’ve ever had.
Standard Route with Paul as soon as the sun came up
We were on top of the first pitch of Standard Route by 7:30 that morning, well ahead of the crowds. We also climbed Hobbit Couloir to the Pegasus Rock Finish. It’s fun looking back on early climbing memories. The bar of what was “adventure” back then was so much lower that it seemed every day on the ice or on a mountain was exciting and pushing the boundaries.
A favorite Link up; Hobbit Couloir to the Pegasus Rock Finish
I got to start off Ice fest 2016 on Friday the best way possible. I had been paired up with my former climbing instructor and mentor, Jim Shimberg, to teach an Ice Climbing for Rock Climbers clinic. The idea of this clinic is that participants have already learned the basics of belaying, tying in and putting on a harness, and perhaps understand some of the body mechanics of climbing. The benefit to these groups is it often puts together folks who will accelerate a bit quicker through the learning curve. We had a great group with a range of abilities and dreams of where ice climbing will take them.
Perhaps one of the biggest take aways of the weekend wasn’t about climbing though. One of the guests commented “Jim has such a great perspective on life.” I reflected shared with them how I had a rough time freshman or sophomore year of college and was talking with Shim about it. I mentioned how climbing was so helpful for me at the time as it provided a mental escape from “real life.” He sounded surprised and commented that climbing is real life, and encouraged me to approach it as such. That’s advice I took to heart and has substantially contributed to where I am and what I’m doing with my life today. Its hard to express how rewarding it is to share climbing with others, and even more rewarding when you help them realize, or you reinforce, a more positive way of seeing the world and its opportunities. In this instance I was sharing in that revelation with the participants, provided by my co instructor 7 years apart.
Kicking and Swinging. A big part of learning to ice climb is learning to use the tools
Eager students wanted to learn more about ice climbing than just the climbing
I consider myself lucky to have such good and generous friends in the climbing community. From Shimberg who taught me so much about climbing and more, to Mikey and Alexa who graciously offered me a couch for ice fest weekend. It was great to begin and end the chaotic ice fest days with familiar faces in a friendly cabin. Several other friends were crashing there as well, and it was a good opportunity to catch up and escape the hustle and bustle of the fest for a few hours each day. Perhaps the nicest part of the whole experience was the sunrise over Double Head mountain each morning, as seen from the couch where I woke up.
Saturday I was scheduled to offer an Alpine Style Climb. There’s two general ways of breaking down a day of guiding. The clinic style day, that is heavy on education and instruction, and the objective day where you’re getting people on a particular climb or mountain and trying to help them fulfill a goal. The Alpine Style climb was the latter. I ended up having two ice festers, Mitch and Tom, who I had just had in Ice Climbing for Rock Climbers the day before. Being relatively new to ice climbing, a link up of features ascending the East Face of Mt Willard provided a significant amount of adventure and challenge for these two. That being said, they moved quickly and efficiently on the ice and appeared to have a good time in the mountain environment. We were slowed waiting in line multiple times but their psyche never wavered, and we were rewarded with the incredible view down Crawford Notch.
Topping out Left Hand Monkey Wrench
Topping out Left Hand Monkey Wrench
Moving between the lower and upper tier on Willard
An AMC group was ahead of us in “The Cleft”
Topping out The Cleft
Topping out The Cleft
This view is the cherry on top of any fine day on Willard
Sunday was my final day and I was instructing Ice 101 with Tim Farr of Petra Cliffs in Vermont. Teaching beginning ice climbers always reminds me of the significant difference in rock climbing and ice climbing. Most of the time beginning rock climbers are following intuition and the way their body feels to get up routes. Ice climbing differs in that first you have learn how to use ice tools and crampons. Because of that, teaching it feels much more like teaching some one how to work with tools the right way. Once the use of the tools clicks, folks tend to take of and fly through the learning curve.
This was a fun group of folks, with a friend of mine in the clinic, as well as a young crusher and 6 friends from U.R.I. A diverse group of folks who all seemed to enjoy the experience equally!
Psyched on the steepest line of the day
Psyched on the steepest line of the day
A lap without tools forces students to gain confidence in their crampons
The URI contingency
James, the young crusher tackled every line.
Audi, James and the URI crew
Audi photobombing the URI gang
Climbers on every line
Thanks to the friends who organize Ice Fest for asking me to join this year, and all the participants and friends I got to spend the weekend with!
Just as winter was very much delayed this year, so too is my sharing of some of the recent highlights. The most exciting adventure I’ve had so far was actually back in Mid December, right before going on vacation. A friend, Kurt Schuler, and I decided to do the Presidential Traverse in a day. While we were half a week shy of it being a true “winter” traverse, the ground and rocks were coated in snow at least giving us a winter scenery.
The traverse is roughly 20 miles long depending on how you do it, with a good portion of that, perhaps half, being above tree-line and very exposed to the elements, and the views. Hiking isn’t my usual choice for a days activity, but with little snow or ice and a strong need for an adventure going into the holidays, I thought that a hike of this magnitude would fit the bill. We woke at 3:30 and shut the car doors at the Appalachia parking lot at 4:20. My idea was to start early, both to get a sunrise from a summit, and so that we would minimize hiking in the dark at the end of the day when tired.
We got to Madison hut, 4 miles up Valley Way, in a little under two hours. We dropped out packs and scrambled the short way to the peak of Madison. From here we could see glimpses of sunlight over the low lying cloud bank. It became just bright enough that we were were aware of the monstrous presence of Mt Adams behind us. We grabbed packs and started scrambling up Adams. For some reason i felt like I was sucking wind, and this was the hardest stretch for me. We made it to the summit in perfect time for a spectacular sunrise.
Generally, folks start the Press-Traverse in the north. here, in rapid succession you have the summit of Madison, Adams, Jefferson, and finally Washington. By the time you summit the biggest of the rock piles you have most all of the 8,800′ of elevation gain out of the way, and just have to tag a few more minor bumps on the way out. The northern half is also by far the most scenic with incredible views of the major summits, Great Gulf, Kings Ravine, Castle Ravine and more.
Washington and Jefferson in the Distance
Kurt in front of Great Gulf with Jefferson and Adams behind him
All in all we did just shy of 22 miles in about 11.5 hours. We summited Madison, Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Monroe, Pierce and Jackson, accidentally missing the cut off for Eisenhower in the fog. Ironically, since I spent 25 days in the presidential last winter alone, Mt Washington was the only one I had summited before! The best part about the trip couldn’t be described in numbers or names, but only conveyed in photos. The sun rise, exceptional undercast and contrasting blue bird skies above made for the most gorgeous day I’ve had in the mountains.
Panorama of the traverse from Monroe. Washington to the right, and the bump of Eisenhower to the left.
My next real winter adventures didn’t come until the last week or so. My first day on ice was a bitterly cold one with friend and long time partner Alexa. We went for linking a slew of pitches on the East face of Mt Willard, which coincidently is where i took her for her first ice climb years ago. We had to bushwhack around the crowded lower tier to get up high, and then ended up doing The east Slabs, upper Hitchcock and the Cleft before rappelling back down and doing Elephants head gully on the way out. The next morning I got to climb at Echo with Spencer, and then had one more morning on Ace of Spades with Alex. All in all I’m way behind on past ice climbing seasons and ready for the climbing to pick up!
Love the view of Cannon from Ace of Spades
Alex T topping out Ace of Spades
Alexa on the crux of the Cleft. Using a drop knee to surmount the chockstone
High on some random slabs on the south-east face of Willard. Adventure time
Kelly Joined us last year for an intro to mountaineering course. The original plan followed our usual weekend set up, intro day saturday, summit day sunday. Unfortunately that weekend we saw a huge storm that made an attempt on Washington foolhardy, so we ended up on Lafayette instead. After a year of travel and more mountain forays abroad she came back to moan her training again in the white mountains, hoping for a successful bid on Rainer.
On Tuesday we kicked off her 3 day stint with an ascent of Mt Washington in the most hospitable conditions I’ve yet seen on the old rock pile. The winds whispered at a maximum 15 mph gusts, with temps rising to the 20’s and the abundant sun turning my face a crisp tomato red. On top of the incredible weather we had awesome summit guests, from a dog sled team, to an 80 year old couple who had also hike the mountain that day!
Towards the end of Presidents Day Weekend a search was initiated for an overdue hiker. The hiker, Kate Matrosova, had triggered her personal locator beacon which triggered a call to her husband who then called 911. A bare bones search party was organized for that night. This group undoubtedly had the worse conditions of any of the groups with a 2 hr long bushwhack that took them all of a 1/4 mile. This group and another were called back for the evening, getting back at 3:30 AM, and another few teams were organized for Monday morning. I was in a ten man team that ultimately located Kate, while 2 other teams struggled up Madison and King Ravines to check out other possible locations for her. Over the past week I’ve stewed over many thoughts inspired by this incident and wanted to share them below. Here’s the most researched article I’ve found on the incident yet: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/02/21/the-young-woman-and-mountain/SEBPucaGpA1Fun4R5uoj7K/story.html?event=event25
In the past week there have been a lot of discussions regarding this incident. Most of those espousing a certain position or feeling about the incident are filling in a lot of gaps in the story with assumptions. The general consensus from the the coffee shop quarterbacks is that she was reckless and negligent, one such individual I overheard even compared her to Guy Waterman who went out in similar conditions with the goal of committing suicide. When some one dies in an incident like this it is all to easy for the assumptions we make to be ones that explain her death, and why the one passing judgment would not have died in a similar situation. It’s part of our human complex that makes us feel invincible, and we fill in the gaps of the story in such a way that explains to ourselves why this wouldn’t happen to us. I wanted to frame her decision making process in a couple of ways that reflect how we all take risks in the mountains. In doing so I’m making the opposite assumptions of so many, that she was reasonably experienced and knew what she was getting her self into. They are still assumptions, and serve more to illustrate mountain decision making than to truly justify the decisions she made in particular.
AVSAR carrying the litter up the Valley Way trail
The first thing that is important to understand is setting goals for a day in the mountains. So many go into the mountains with a singular goal. This leaves the margin for what one considers a successful day to be rather thin, which often pushes people past their own or the mountain conditions limits in order to achieve that success. Any basic mountain training should teach the lesson of setting multiple goals for a given day. This way there are many levels of success. Certainly hitting the summit would be more success than hitting tree line, but if you orient your frame of reference so that hitting tree line is still some level of success, than you leave yourself more room to make the decision to turn back if conditions or your personal condition are not optimal for the summit.
Gearing up for harsh conditions in the lee of the wind at Madison hut
On the night that Kate was out struggling to stay alive I was writing about this very lesson on the Mooney Mountain Guides blog. Not long after writing it I got the call from AVSAR to report for the search the next morning if at all possible.
This brought a good lesson back to the front of my mind. A lot of hype for mountain trips is to “summit, or bust!” This despite the fact that summits are often allusive, and when gained, are only done so at the will of the mountain. A saying that frequently comes to mind is “expectations lead to disappointment.” Of course this comes with a caveat about reasonable expectations. If you take off on the trail for Mt Washington expecting to get a great work out and enjoy the natural beauty of nature, then you will never be disappointed and you will often be rewarded with accomplishments that exceed your expectations. If you take off with the expectation of summiting with no other intermediary goals, then you are setting your self up for a very likely disappointment.
A lot of folks can’t understand Kate’s goal of doing an arduous above tree-line hike with the given forecast. A lot of us live here, have found the limit of wind speeds we find acceptable and know that there’s always next weekend to try again. Kate likely planned this day far in advanced, was on a vacation from NYC that could’ve ben a rare thing for her, and may not have had another chance to try this in a while. I think in similar situations many of us would’ve gone for it, even if deep down we knew that we would most likely be turning back. Hopefully, most of us would have had a trip plan in place that included multiple scenarios for success, short of the full traverse, that would have made it easier to bail in harsh conditions. Most of us will not know for sure if Kate took these precautions, or if she truly thought she was going all the way that day. However, her GPS indicates that she was reversing course and returning to tree line when calamity befell her. In my mind we should be giving her the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming she was being irresponsible because she died, we should put our selves in her shoes and try to be sympathetic and reflect on our near misses.
The second thing I’ve been reflecting on is her personal level of preparedness. In hiking and mountaineering the layers of protection we have are more ambiguous than in technical roped climbing. There’s hiking solo versus with a partner, bringing enough bivy gear to be self reliant for a night, and brining the appropriate clothing layers for what ever weather you may experience. All of these add up to the greatest amount of protection, but on any given day we may weigh the risks and go up with out a partner or without bivy gear based on our own risk assessment. Finally there’s bringing communication in case all other measures fail and you need help. Kate’s kit was rather stripped down to the bare essentials. No partner, no bivy gear, and even relatively light on essential layers in my opinion. This in itself is no sin. What it means is that she was operating with no room for error. I think we can all relate to a moment where we’ve put our selves in similar situations, calculating the risks and finding them acceptable. Because she did so and paid for it, it is all to easy to say she was negligent, and not look at our own actions and feel lucky that this wasn’t us. If anything, it may be that she stripped away these layers of protection, with a false impression that her technology (Satellite phone, PLB, GPS) were building those layers of protection back up. In this terrain, that’s simply not the case. If she tried to use her SAT phone, it didn’t work, which to any one who’s used them before shouldn’t be all that surprising. Her PLB reported far more incorrect locations than it did correct, although we ultimately found her very near the first signal location. And it should’ve be realized that in these mountains rescue is hours or days away, while in those conditions death can be much more imminent.
It was relayed to us that Kate had serious mountaineering experience. Rumors included time on Elbrus, Denali and Kilimanjaro. An assumption that I jumped too quickly was that she had been guided up these mountains. In that process she would have built up the necessary technical skills to summit these mountains, without the equally as important decision making skills that goes on behind the scenes. Whether this is true or not, the thought of it has caused me serious reflection on my role as a guide. Our job is to enable our guests the greatest success we can on any given day, most of the time that means an ascent of Mt Washington. But in doing so we take on the whole load of safety precautions and decision making. Unfortunately I feel this shields our guests from the potential danger, and from the true skill that goes into climbing these mountains.
At Kate’s final location, a few hundred feet off the Star Lake trail
On a typical intro to mountaineering weekend we talk about what our guests should bring. The conversation is heavy on their own personal safety and comfort, but short on what we bring for group safety. Last weekend a guest was hesitant to bring a large puffy jacket as she’s never needed it before. I had to explain that it provided her a margin of safety in the case that some one was injured and our pace slowed. That would’ve been a great opportunity to talk about the bivy gear, emergency shelter and extra food and drink that I brought for the overall groups safety. Moving forward I feel the need to work this into our training, while balancing it with not making our guests feel like they aren’t carrying their weight. How do we illustrate the work they need to put in in order to do this on their own (first aid, trip planning, navigation, camping skills…), while at the same time celebrating and congratulating them for what they were able to accomplish under out guidance?
Another avenue altogether is to buy a hike safe card from NH Fish and Game. This is a rescue insurance card of sorts. Even if you don’t intend to ever use this your self, buying it supports the state agency that organizes and runs SAR missions, and is currently struggling with funding. http://wildnh.com/safe/