Back to boot reviews soon, but today we finish up our “10 Things to Know series.” The ultimate part of any endeavor is perhaps how your mind interacts with the day. In terms of mountaineering, using mental processes to avoid pride and resulting bad decisions is key. I’ve messed up a few times in that area, and also had some success, but thought it would be nice to hear some other people’s words about this so I trolled my celebrity address book for likely helpers. But don’t let the celebs have the last word, I know you blog readers have some ideas about this, so fire a few comments to complete today’s backcountry skiing blog.
“When I head into the mountains for a day of ski-touring or even an expedition I try and keep my hopes up but my expectations low. Although I will have defined goals and a plan of how to achieve them, I always try and “let the mountain come to me”. I love starting off in the pre-dawn hours and saying to my friends, “let’s just put one foot in front of the other and see what happens today”. With low expectations I’m never bummed when I have to turn back or choose an easy way down, but am always thrilled when everything goes my way.
Last June on Denali my team and I had a wish list of descents we thought would be amazing, but we ascended the mountain with open minds and to have a good time, and that approach paid off in spades. I can’t say enough about being humble and respectful in the face of Mother Nature. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times and take it all in. It is totally up to us as humans out there to absorb all the signs and signals that nature throws out way. Listen to your intuition, and learn to trust it. If you do
your homework with regards to conditions, avi danger, weather, and your team mates, chances are you’ll give yourself a great chance at success on your next mountain adventure.”
“I do sometimes make a point of centering myself on hikes and climbs by praying that my friends and I will act respectfully during our time in the mountains. It’s like an introduction process, of saying ‘Hi, I’m Aron, these are my friends, this is what we are here to do, help us understand what we can do to be safe and be respectful. We still get hit with adverse weather, conditions, moods and mis-preparation, but at least I’ve started a dialogue with myself to see a larger picture of what’s happening and what I can and cannot control. It’s a process of reminding myself of a basic humility.”
“To me, there is a big difference between taking the sport seriously and taking myself seriously. Taking the sport seriously means getting as much education, training and mentoring as possible and treating the mountains with respect. Taking myself seriously is harder, as you have believe in yourself and push yourself to succeed in the mountains, but at the same time not lose sight of the fact that skiing is supposed to be fun and enhance life, not shorten it.
In practical terms, I try to keep my options open by going places where there are multiple options for “success” rather than focusing on one set
objective where I feel a lot of pressure to do or die trying it. It may just be semantics, but “skiing in the Elk Mountains” keeps my options for success open, whereas “skiing Maroon Peak” narrows my options and I feel like it forces me to take more chances, even though the end results may be the same. If I’m skiing in the Elk Mountains and Maroon looks good – go for it. If not, I don’t like to feel any pressure or shame for backing off.”
The list — 10 things to know:
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.