Judgment And Experience

This book outlines the basics of equipment and techniques and suggests how to learn from practice. But judgment, the most important of all mental qualities in climbing, develops from how we integrate our knowledge and experience.

Much of what we need are coping skills—the ability to deal with adverse weather, long hikes, thick brush, high exposure, and the like. As we endure these situations, we become better decision-makers, and the experiences we gain are useful for comparison the next time the going gets tough.

New situations, however, will still arise for which we have no trustworthy precedent. We won't be able to make an automatic, confident response, so we will have to exercise careful judgment. In this uncertainty lies much of the charm and challenge of mountaineering—as well as the potential for tragedy.

Many years ago, The Mountaineers club of Washington State devised a set of guidelines to help people conduct themselves safely in the mountains. Based on careful observation of the habits of skilled climbers and a thoughtful analysis of accidents, it has served well for not only climbers but, with slight adaptation, for all wilderness travelers. It is not inflexible doctrine, but it has proven to be a sound guide to practices that minimize risk.

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