An Expedition Philosophy

Members of an expedition need a common code to live by during the weeks they struggle together. A good one is summed up in three promises you and your teammates can make: To respect the land, to take care of yourselves, and to come home again.

Every day, your expedition will have the chance to put the health and beauty of the land ahead of your immediate comfort. The easy way out might be to burn wood fires or set up camp in a virgin meadow or abandon heavy gear. But if you've promised to respect the land, you'll be able to do the right thing.

If you and your partners have promised to take care of yourselves, you've made a commitment to group self-reliance. You may have no choice in the matter, anyway, as you will likely be a long way from rescuers, helicopters, hospitals, or even other climbers. You can prepare by thinking through the emergencies the expedition could face and laying plans for saving the day. You'll be happy the plans are ready if you have to use them, and grateful if you don't.

The third promise might be the hardest to keep because it can conflict with that burning desire for the summit. It's really a promise to climb safely and to sacrifice dreams of the summit before laying your life on the line. But expedition climbing is, after all, about pushing limits and testing yourself in a very tough arena. Each person and each team must decide what level of risk they wish to accept. Out of that flows daily decisions on how fast to ascend, what gear to carry, when to change routes, when to back off. Most climbers would rather return home safely than push for the summit under unsafe conditions. But how do you define "unsafe"? You'll keep the third promise by being sure you find the definition that is just right for your expedition.

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