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Postby maverick » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:58 pm

All of us have confronted some terrain that made us have to go outside of our comfort
You may have now come to deal with it much easier, or it may be something you try
to avoid when ever possible.
Which of the following situations have you experienced in the past or present (it can
be some similar situation to the ones listed here) that still makes you feel uncomfortable:

1. Crossing a river the bottom drops a little so the level of the water is now half
way up your thighs, the current seems to be much stronger and faster than when you
decided to go for it.
You think about turning around but your on unstable rocks and the shore seems miles
away, so you just tough it out and make it to the shore.

2. Climbing a peak you reach a catwalk that looks pretty wide so you go for it
but as you get a 100 ft in the width of the ledge suddenly becomes narrow and the
fall off on both side is straight down almost 1000 ft, and signs of acrophobia starts
to over come you.
You control your breathing and refocus after a few minutes making to the other end.

3. You've climbed this pass before, though is was hard you made it over fine, it is
spring this time and it is covered with ice & snow.
It would shave off at least 1/2 day from getting to your favorite lake so you go for it.
While going up the snow is soft and easy to ascend and you making good time but
the steepness of the route seems much more than you remember yet you continue on.
Less than 100 ft from the top suddenly the snow is hard you have kick step and in some
places it is icy and you cannot make a dent in it.
Looking down makes things worse because of the steep angle and the thought of
slipping and sliding several hundred feet into he rock at the bottom may have dyer
After an 1 1/2 and very slow going you finally make it to the top.
Variations on this thyme could be: descending steep slick granite with leaves on it
that are slippery like ice, or crossing a steep granite slab with slippery moss in sections.

4. Steep scree, talus or boulder fields with car sized boulders.
The kinds of scree or talus where take one step up and slide back two, or the kind
that if you cannot keep your balance it could turn out pretty bad (Pants Pass just to
name one) coming down.
Or boulders that you have to negotiate slowly because if you slip you could get wedged
between the rock or break you leg or worse.

I have experienced each of these condition since the 70's, most I have learned to deal
with after overcoming numerous times.
Number 3 is the one I have not have had to deal with often and would still be a terrain
that would take me out of my comfort zone.
Earlier in my backpacking days I had my first experience with this type of terrain on
Southfork Pass, which is quite steep on its western side.
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Re: Terrains

Postby rlown » Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:28 pm

not fond of exposure anymore; unless roped. cols, not so bad, as it's rock to rock.

river crossings don't bug me at thigh deep. above that, it's an issue and i'll wait until the river comes down.
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Re: Terrains

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:15 pm

There is "comfort" zone and the there is "safety" zone. I rarely get out of my "safety"zone - I retreat if things get unsafe. I have a very low tolerance for stream crossings. My "comfort zone" is pretty rediculous. So, I usually go across once without my pack for practice and to find the best route and then come back and do it again with the pack. Darkness is also out of my "comfort zone"- I will stop and bivy before I will walk in the dark. I have a pretty high "comfort zone" on snow since I have done a lot of steep snow mountaineering. My comfort zone is also affected by hearing of other's problems. Just after I heard about the guy that had to cut off his arm, I was really freaked out going up the loose talus on Frozen Lake pass. I came down that same talus this year and it was not bad at all. Before, all I could think of was being pinned under a boulder. If someone I know dies in the mountains, I am a quivering bowl of jelly for several months. Unfortunately, as a climber, a few friends have died in climbing accidents. Exposure per-se does not bother me, but at a certain difficulty I want a rope. I always have to come out of my comfort zone, in any terrain, when I meet a bear when I am alone. And also regardless of terrain, I am out of my comfort zone if I get lost. How do I know when I get out of my comfort zone? It is when I say "dear God, get me out of this one and I promise I will not do anything so stupid again". Particularly since I am not a religious person at all!
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Re: Terrains

Postby Mike M. » Sat Mar 05, 2011 9:49 pm


Regarding your #3: I have been up to the top of Southfork Pass from the west side and chose to turn back and find another route. From the top, looking down toward Brainard, there was just too much ice and snow in that steep gully for my comfort level (I had no crampons or ice axe and I was hiking solo). Moreover, there were parts of the route that I couldn't see. So I chickened out.

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Re: Terrains

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Mar 05, 2011 10:07 pm

I don't like steep loose rock: particularly loose class 3+ (think Kaweahs, Ritter Range.) or very large steep loose talus (also think Kaweahs). I am not someone who revels in exposure, but if I am forced to deal with it I will. My level of discomfort with air under me is certainly keyed to the reliability of the rock.

I was nearly killed on a steep toe of a rock glacier in 1991 by a rolling boulder, so I tend to me more aware of big loose steep talus than many others, plus my dad took a very bad fall on big loose steep talus on Goddard in 1977 that I believe eventually caught up with him as his hip degraded years later. I tend to actually like giant boulder hopping still, though, which tends to be a big minus for a lot of folks.

I don't like wet slimy, high-angle slabs, but I don't know anyone who does. My worst memory of this is associated with fishing, rather than climbing, and making a high 3rd to (more likely) 4th class move on wet granite above likely fatal air trying to get around the "far" side of Big Blue Lake in the Russian Wilderness to go after the big browns there (the near fatal boulder dodge above is also connected with fishing rather than climbing). In 1979 I thought the "waterfall pitch" on LeConte too slimy for my tastes so I opted for a more difficult, higher, but drier variant.

As far as stream crossings go, if the water looks questionable I just abandon thoughts of crossing unless I find the convenient log. I've done them up to about crotch deep in very rapid water which is about as far as one can go and maintain balance.

I have encountered some steep snow and/or ice. I usually try to take the proper equipment to deal with it and in the absence of the equipment (ice axe and/or crampons), execute plan B. My dad hated steep snow, even if it had a decent runout and we had the requisite equipment. I haven't tended to be as bothered, although I had a scary fall in spring snow (self arrest took awhile to work) on Brewer's east ridge in 1979 that could have easily been my last. Perhaps my worst snow/ice experience was Graveyard Pass in 1995. Before getting to the headwall I realized my crampons were useless because I hadn't pre-adjusted them properly to fit my boots. There was ice beneath a thin veneer of snow. It was supremely steep and in the two days since we had crossed from S to N, enough snow had melted so that the benign runout we benefitted from going N to S (when Judy took a spectacular fall) was no more---lots of threatening rocks sticking out. I really needed my crampons but instead had to rely on the little crust of snow holding together. Certainly an adrenaline pumping moment, but one that could have been avoided but for some carelessness with my equipment.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Terrains

Postby oldranger » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:22 am


1. Just before the 4th of July 1983 (big snow year) I was fording Sugarloaf creek on the way to Roaring River. About midway the current pushed me around and I plunged my long handled ice ax (which I had with me in anticpation of an early season hike up to the top of Brewer) into the bed of the creek with both hands on the head of the ax which sucessfully stablized me but my arms were into the water above my elbows. I gradually eased my way across the remaining distance across the creek. A few days later on my return trip I chose to completely avoid crossing the creek by taking a high route from Roaring River to Box Canyon and not crossing the creek until near Commanche Meadow. In the subsequent years on my early season trips into Roaring River I used a tree that fell across the Creek about 1/2 mile downstream. Now I always have trekking poles to maintain 3 points of contact when fording but much prefer log jams and logs to fords.

2. When I was a kid I tried to climb Unicorn peak a couple of times but always chickened out at the same exposed point. I have no Idea if I was taking the proper route but even 45 years ago I didn't like exposure. As I have described in a TR my wife laughed at me when I got nervous at the exposure when hiking up to Angels Landing in Zion even with the large chains to hold on to.

3. Never experienced that.

4. I go out of my way to avoid talus now that I'm a little older than I used to be. My least favorite routes that I have traveled more than once include the aptly named Talus lake to Table Creek. And the N side of the pass just w. of Thunder Mt. between Cunningham Creek and Table Creek. Though the bad part is not long it seemed particularly steep and unstable. The upper stretch between Sphinx lakes and Brewer Creek was particularly tedious and was much more enjoyable when covered with snow.


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Re: Terrains

Postby sparky » Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:13 pm

I have been stuck like a cat on a screen door on some pretty steep uncooperative snow on glaciar pass. Actually I have been on all kinds of very dangerous snow without the proper equipment, but that was one time I was sure I wasn't going to walk away. Was on a road trip with some buddies and me and a friend got stuck on an arch at arches national park. Took a few hours to muster up the courage to climb down on that one. I have climbed myself into some dangerous situation, relying on crumbling rock or plants to get out of there. I can be a little reckless I guess, but its all a learning process.

I learn something new every times I go out there and push my boundries. I wouldn't want to live any other way.
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Re: Terrains

Postby John Dittli » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:24 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote: So, I usually go across once without my pack for practice and to find the best route and then come back and do it again with the pack.

Upon descending Ward Mountain after a ski traverse of the LeConte Divide, we needed to cross the San Joaquin River (to return to the Eastside). My buddy crossed first (without pack) and he looked a bit desperate at the far side. When he got to the other shore he was shaken and hollering that there was no way he was returning that way for his pack.

Not knowing [i]how[i] far he would have to go to find a better crossing (it was May and it's a big river), I decided to cross with my pack (less buoyancy). It was sketchy indeed, but I spent the better part of a few hours sitting in the hot springs at MTR while he went down stream a few miles before finding a log jam.
john at mtr 1.jpg

Lucky for me I got the better deal that time.

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Re: Terrains

Postby Jimr » Mon Mar 07, 2011 4:49 pm

3 and 4
In 1985, I was at Martha Lake. We were heading over Reinstein pass into upper Goddard Creek. I had the bright idea of traversing the talus slope from the left instead of moving straight up to the pass thinking I’d take the elevation at a gentler angle. I was committed about 4 5ths of the way through the talus when I got rocked. The only way out was via two very large (larger than a van) boulders. The bottom one was flat on top and the other was round and sitting right on top with a little ledge underneath the top boulder. I took my pack off and pushed it onto the ledge, then pushed it ahead of me as I shimmied on my stomach to the other side to quickly come across negotiable snow cover on the other side. I thought I’d learned the lesson; never go by choice into large talus fields. I guess I didn’t learn my lesson well enough because last year my buddy and I went over Alpine Col from Goethe Lake and we decided the left side of the lake, the talus side, didn’t look too bad even though I read it mentioned that it was the talus for which all other talus is compared to. We spent 3 ½ hours negotiating class 2 and 3 talus when we could have avoided the whole thing and saved 2 ½ of those hours. Once over the col, we easily made our way around the highest lake between the col and Darwin Bench when we hit a very steep snow field. Unable to move up it, we moved up the talus along the side until we got to an area that was a narrow traverse to the other side of the snow. We didn’t have crampons or axe, just a ski pole each. I got about 6 steps in, taking 10 kicks each to carve a foothold and realized that my legs would not hold out even half way across this field and it was a precipitous slide down into the lake with no way to self arrest with merely a ski pole. I opted to back out and we went higher up where the snow field was flatter and the sun cups were abundant. We made it across easily from this point, but had to down climb back to the lake to further our progress. I hate gaining elevation just to lose it again.
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Re: Terrains

Postby mokelumnekid » Mon Mar 07, 2011 10:04 pm

Unlike like WD, I have a real allergy to steep snow (when I'm not packing ice equipment). My worst moments have been on steep snow especially up here in the Washington Cascades where I've had the crap scared out of me, looking down at death run-out's crossing a steep, sketchy snow-filled headwall, etc. My wife took a bad fall on snow coming off Mt. Stuart and went ass-over-teakettle into a bergshrund head first. We stopped doing much technical stuff in the Cascades after that (where snow is on almost every route), as she didn't have the stomach for it anymore. But we are pretty comfortable on steep rock, and even steep talus as long as it is reasonably locked. So that's when we started doing some back country climbing in the Sierra, where the objective hazards are minimal. In fact we met John Dittli on Aug. 14, 1994 as we were heading back in to climb west ridge Conness. He was out there with his camera gear setting up for a later afternoon shot. It was a joy to reconnect with him here, and marvel about how things have turned out for all of us.
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