When to Follow


Those who choose to live THPL often find themselves searching and seeking adventure and challenge – which translate into a wonderful intersection of life, learning and fitness.  And in my experience the best adventures have an additional dimension of unpredictability to them.  A bit of the unknown to test your skill and mettle.  And with the right prep, partnership and spirit these adventures can create memories and experiences that create layer upon layer of foundation for THPL.  So, after years of taking on such challenges (mountaineering, rafting, ice climbing etc) and finding some to be more successful than others I have learned a few lessons that bear noting as they will be enablers of success (THPL) and not routes to failure.  You see the DNA of THPL can cause conflict with wilderness wisdom, it can allow hubris to trump experience and this is called not good (that is the technical view).   Thus we need to be active in defining “guard rails” along the way to make sure that when THPL pushes us forward, beyond where we should go, good judgment can prevail.

In 2005 I was hiking in the Tetons (Wyoming) with a good friend of mine and a mountain guide.  We set out to climb Disappointment Peak (11,618 ft).  The hike up was spectacular and was made even better by our Himalayas experienced guide.  He had climbed 8,000 meter peaks and was a man of the mountains.  He spoke of staying alive at 8,000 meters and it came down to two simple rules.  Follow the “flow” and always return to camp at your scheduled time.  We were sort of unsure of what the “flow” was but we hiked along and decided to act on rule two and made a pact that that we would turn around by 3 pm regardless of our progress.  With the rules set we continued upwards.  We got past the technical section of the climb and were working hard to keep up with our mountain goat friend (who at this time was 100 meters ahead of us).  We stopped for a water break about 300 meters from the peak.  We looked up and saw the guide frantically shaking his hands, around the same time we started feeling tingly and uncomfortable.  In what seemed like a few seconds we saw our guide running towards us and he implored us to high-tail it down mountain.  We ran and scrambled for about 1,000 meters and we stopped.  Struck by the suddenness of our escape and the drama that ensued all we could do was to stare at our guide.  After a few minutes he offered an explanation –  simply put, he told us “the flow” was all wrong.  He stated he had a bad feeling about the way the mountain felt, that an electrical storm was gestating and had we stayed, we might have just been the best conductors the sky’s had seen.  We looked up, no storm clouds above, no unnecessary wind, no visual clues to confirm what he felt and believed.  But even without anything to validate his “flow” , we believed.  And we believed it deeply.  So two guys and a guide living THPL did not reach the mountain’s peak that day  - Disappointment Peak did not disappoint (pun intended).  Yet, we learned so much more from not summiting.  We learned that the “flow” is real, that if you are with an expert and you entrust them – you follow them, and that you always, and I mean always, set out the rules before you go – and you live to them.  Tragedy, in many an adventure situation, befalls those who decide in the moment when, more often times than not, compromised systems and judgment cloud good decision making.

A lifelong lesson, played out for real.  THPL enhanced not by achievement but through learning and experience.  The two latter points are sometimes harder to get.    

Green Sally up, Green Sally down - yes indeed (Ok, I use that word a lot) till the end +25 seconds - 196 pushups on 4:17

Loving Life and the Flow!

See you in the mountains….