Mountain hazards can be avoided by two methods. The first is the scientific, or textbook, approach that monitors conditions through the use of thermometers, hydrometers, barometers, wind meters, inclinometers, snow pits, shear tests, and other carefully plotted observations. This approach is very appropriate and should be carefully studied and adapted.
But the scientific approach to avoiding hazards should be viewed as an adjunct to, rather than a replacement for, an intuitive rapport with the mountain environment. No matter what your instruments and rational observations say, if you have a deep-seated feeling that conditions just are not right, then do not go on. At times you will find you have misinterpreted your feelings and turned back for the wrong reasons, but eventually you will learn to separate those unfounded feelings of dread from the genuine subconscious, computerlike accumulation and evaluation of data bombarding your senses from all angles and perspectives.
Falling rock, collapsing cornices and seracs, storms, loose rock, hidden crevasses, weak snowbridges, and avalanches are often termed "objective" hazards, since there is apparently little the climber can do to
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alter them. But such hazards, as well as cold and altitude, are often used to excuse accident or tragedy. However, haven't we chosen to expose ourselves to these possibilities in our decision to spend time in the mountains? Should we not accept the responsibility for our decisions and their resulting consequences? If we do admit that a skull broken by a falling rock or a life smothered by an avalanche is our fault, then aren't we more likely to be extra cautious, scrupulously avoiding times of excessive danger, doing our utmost to learn all we can about the rhythm of the mountains and inserting ourselves into that rhythm only at appropriate times and places? Shouldn't we have the patience to wait if necessary and never to go in those places that are always unsafe?
We should cross the zones of rockfall only when the rocks are frozen solidly in place, avoiding the morning thaw and evening freeze. We should allow enough time for new snow to settle and stabilize before we commit ourselves to the avalanche slope. We should rope up when snow hides the crevasses, unrope to move faster when that is appropriate, be prepared for freezing temperatures and storm, allow time to acclimatize adequately, test our holds before weighting them, all the while listening to and trusting both our intuition and intellect, never gambling recklessly.
Absorbing the Mountain Essence
Ambition feeds on itself it can never be satisfied, you can only let go of if,
Success in ice climbing depends as much on attitude as on the mastery of individual skills. Whether you can gain the maximum enjoyment of the sport by advancing as rapidly as possible depends to a large extent on how you view yourself. Leave preconceptions behind,- open up all your senses and feelings,-try to do something new without passing judgment on your own or others' efforts to learn,
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