Monday, November 17, 2008

Climbing Ethics: The Krakauer Method

OK, rant time.

Not really, but I do want to point out something I see often, and in my opinion, too often.

For some reason, hiking does not get the same respect for turn around times that mountaineering does. Obviously, mountaineering is much more dangerous, and hiking is usually done on established, often heavily trafficked trails.

But I question those that push the envelope and summit late in the day. I've seen it at the Delaware Water Gap, in the Adirondacks, even at Haycock. (For those of you that don't know Haycock, it's less than 1000 feet tall, but has no trail, and is a boulder field-summit.)

In Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer writes extensively of the two o'clock turn around time on Everest. During the 1996 storm, those that turned around before two where relatively safe, reaching Camp 4 ahead of the storm. Those that pushed on and summited at 3 or even 4 got stuck in the gale. Some made it through, some died. Krakauer points out that all would have lived if everyone turned around when they were supposed to.

I'm not equating any of my summits with Everest, but when I climb, I climb with a turn around time. I think that I could survive a night in the woods, but there are two reasons I make sure that I do not.

1) I don't want anyone to worry.

2) I never want to make someone look for me in the woods.

In my opinion, if you are pushing to the point that S&R is called, I think that that is a problem.

It is what it is and I doubt it will change. Just climb smart. Remember Ed Viesturs:

"Getting to the top is optional, getting down is mandatory."

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