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Go Back. You are going the wrong way

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Re: Go Back. You are going the wrong way

Postby SSSdave » Tue Jan 31, 2012 11:06 pm

Interesting question that has shed light on the fact I might not have ever had to turn around on a planned route I was trying to make while backpacking. Looked at all my web gallery images and then went down a long list of backpacks over the last 4 decades, and on none of them do I recall having to turn around because a route was difficult or too long to cover and return say because of darkness or weariness. And that includes some difficult creek fords we managed to find ways to cross at. Even decades ago I carefully analyzed topo maps for my routes so rarely have gotten caught in blocked out steeps. There are certainly many of those everywhere. To some extent I have simply been lucky. As a twentysomething I pushed some routes further than I should have and was lucky to survive and gain wisdom.

What I do recall looking at that list is a lot of rather difficult episodes I figured out routes for and persevered. But don't see any where we turned around. Like the time late August 1980 I traveled the shady south side of Wanda Lake and at one point where the shore is steep glaciated monolithic bedrock came to a steep icy snow filled gully maybe 30 feet across. Falling was a quick slide 50 feet vertical right into deep water without an easy way to climb out. To turn around would have meant a few hours of backtracking. Instead I spent about an hour building flat footholds in the icy angled snow by banging the surface with big rocks. After the scary crossing, I made a point of understanding why I should expect cold icy snow in such a place by just analyzing topos. Also on a few occasions due to weariness I have camped short of where I'd planned to reach and then continued on to a destination following days.

In the huge El Nino year of 1995 three of us were on a 9-trip up Bear Creek. On the JMT/PCT at 9600 feet creek crossing dozens of groups were stuck on each side of the creek. Story was one or two groups had crossed the previous day with difficulty. Something about getting wet. Well before a big crowd on both sides, all 3 of us managed to cross using big bracing sticks for balance but I nearly lost it just where I had to grab the far shore. And the cold on my feet was oh so painful. From there we climbed cross country up to Orchid Lake. To reach the East Fork Basin a couple days later, we went further upstream to a secret log crossing of the South Fork and then a big log jam I'd used before on the East Fork. The latter was a wet slippery endeavor we looked quite awhile before proceeding. Each such episode and there are several more have made me wiser.

Oh on a trip we did into the Great Western Divide from Mineral King, we had planned to optionally try and reach the western slopes of the Red Kaweah Bench on our fourth day out and did not. After reaching our third day's destination in Little Five Lakes, we were stressed enough that continuing on across Big Arroyo the next day would have required more effort than we wanted to expend. Instead we had found another area nearby off trail that would be productive place for for our photography base camping and turned out to be so.

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Re: Go Back. You are going the wrong way

Postby calipidder » Fri Feb 03, 2012 5:02 pm

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Re: Go Back. You are going the wrong way

Postby gdurkee » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:45 am

I thus made my way into a wilderness of crumbling spires and battlements, built together in bewildering combinations, and glazed in many places with a thin coating of ice, which I had to hammer off with stones. The situation was becoming gradually more perilous; but, having passed several dangerous spots, I dared not think of descending; for, so steep was the entire ascent, one would inevitably fall to the glacier in case a single misstep were made. Knowing, therefore, the tried danger beneath, I became all the more anxious concerning the developments to be made above, and began to be conscious of a vague foreboding of what actually befell; not that I was given to fear, but rather because my instincts, usually so positive and true, seemed vitiated in some way, and were leading me astray.

At length, after attaining an elevation of about 12,800 feet, I found myself at the foot of a sheer drop in the bed of the avalanche channel I was tracing, which seemed absolutely to bar further progress. It was only about forty-five or fifty feet high, and somewhat roughened by fissures and projections. The tried dangers beneath seemed even greater than that of the cliff in front; therefore, after scanning its face again and again, I began to scale it, picking my holds with intense caution. After gaining a point about halfway to the top, I was suddenly brought to a dead stop, with arms outspread, clinging close to the face of the rock, unable to move hand or foot either up or down. My doom appeared fixed. I must fall. There would be a moment of bewilderment, and then a lifeless rumble down the one general precipice to the glacier below.

When this final danger flashed upon me, I became nerve-shaken for the first time since setting foot on the mountains, and my mind seemed to fill with a stifling smoke. But this terrible eclipse lasted only a moment, when life blazed forth again with preternatural clearness. I seemed suddenly to become possessed of a new sense. The other self, bygone experiences, Instinct, or Guardian Angel,--call it what you will,--came forward and assumed control. Then my trembling muscles became firm again, every rift and flaw in the rock was seen as through a microscope, and my limbs moved with a positiveness and precision with which I seemed to have nothing at all to do. Had I been borne aloft upon wings, my deliverance could not have been more complete.

Above this memorable spot, the face of the mountain is still more savagely hacked and torn. It is a maze of yawning chasms and gullies, in the angles of which rise beetling crags and piles of detached boulders that seem to have been gotten ready to be launched below. But the strange influx of strength I had received seemed inexhaustible. I found a way without effort, and soon stood upon the topmost crag in the blessed light.

How truly glorious the landscape circled around this noble summit!--giant mountains, valleys innumerable, glaciers and meadows, rivers and lakes, with the wide blue sky bent tenderly over them all. But in my first hour of freedom from that terrible shadow, the sunlight in which I was laving seemed all in all.
-- John Muir, The Untouched Summit of Mt. Ritter

Well, ok, a little off topic in that Muir kept going.

I am happy to hear all these stories of turning around! I think they also give "permission" to other people in shaky terrain to turn back. There was a rescue last September near Thunderbolt peak. Three guys were climbing in the area. Two of them decided it was getting too dangerous and turned around. The third one dismissed their concerns and kept going. He ended up falling about 60 feet and -- a total miracle -- landed on a sloping ledge but stopped. Another miracle is that someone heard him shouting for help. It took hours to locate him. He was hauled out at last light in a truly gnarly rescue. He survived but, I think, lost a foot. Small price, I guess.

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Re: Go Back. You are going the wrong way

Postby Jimr » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:04 pm

I've had to aport Mt. Haeckel once I reached Wallace Col. due to 40MPH winds. Sitting on the col was enough. Other than that, I don't recall aborting. I've had to do minor re-routes from time to time, mostly because the snow field was too risky without proper equipment, but the re-route each time was to move higher up the talus toward the top of the snow field where the crossing was manageable.
None of these constitute "going the wrong way". More like adjust as the conditions warrant.
Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead, let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?
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Re: Go Back. You are going the wrong way

Postby ndwoods » Tue Feb 14, 2012 11:25 pm

I've retreated cuz of weather, terrain over my capabilities, route finding etc etc etc. I always have an escape route. I am talking off trail hiking of course. Altho I do remember retreating once on trail....too much darned snow!:)
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