Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Year in Review. Non-work

A verbal selfie, illustrated with portrait selfies. North Teton Park. March
Whew... 2017 was intense. And in tents. I camped out 46 nights, total. More than most years, though, the truth is between the numbers. You'll find the familiar numbers way below. But first, the non numbers.

I also traveled a ton. The longest I stayed in any one place was 20 nights in a row, once. After that, the next longest stint was 12 nights. Short of that, 8 nights. Many months I slept in 12-15 different places. Like a rolling stone. Four trips to Latin America. I hopped back and forth between Wyoming and Colorado through the first half of the year. A trip to California, and twice drove across the country. I scored almost 7 weeks with family in New York. That is the longest I have spent there since I was in college.
Failure number one of 2017. Fitz Roy. February

I worked a lot. Most of my mountain time was for work. I did one personal expedition, but otherwise didn't take a ton of personal mountain time. I spent a total of 177 days in the mountains. 139 of them were for work.

That one personal expedition reigns as a highlight. Check out the full report here. Watch Backcountry Magazine in the future for a photo or two and some background info.
All alone in the High Sierra. April. 

The latter half of 2017 was likely the most disjointed and stressful six months of my life, so far. Priorities got "reshuffled", to put it mildly. The upshot is the impending settlement of a long-building, clouded mess (pardon the vagueness... like I said, it is still "pending"). The downside is ongoing, profound uncertainty.  And an understated "relaxation" of mountain and training motivation. Priorities reshuffled.
"That look on your face put a pit in my stomach". High Sierra. April. 

I did a lot of things well in 2017. My joints are healthier and happier at the end of the year than at the beginning. In work, I did great, supporting multiple households in comfortable fashion. I stored equity, professional development, and retirement savings. I found the motivation and means and time to do my first ever dedicated service trip. This time, to Puerto Rico. I don't see why I wouldn't do at least a week of service every year of the rest of my life.

Other things, by the numbers:

* 1001 hours of action in 2017.
* 266,200 vertical feet skied
* 470 climbing pitches
* 35 days alpine climbing
* 305 hours of action on alpine climbing days
* 78 days backcountry skiing
* 411 hours of backcountry skiing
* 5 days bicycling
* 8.5 hours bicycling
* 15 days in the climbing gym
* 24 hours climbing gym
* 24 days hiking
* 98.5 hours of hiking
* 102 days of rest
* 17 days rock cragging
* 30 hours of rock cragging
* 23 days of multi pitch rock climbing
* 80 hours multi pitch rock climbing
* 9 sick days
* 1 swimming day
* 2 hours of swimming
* 30 travel days
* on two travel days I also did a total of two hours of exercise
* 28 days of weight training
* 40 hours of weight training

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017. Year in Review, Professionally


It's time for the annual review of my guiding agenda. First, a look back to previous years. Each year links to its full report:

  • I've been guiding since 2005, but only in 2012 did I start collecting info this way
  • 2012 (132 guiding days) 
  • 2013 (94 guiding days)
  • 2014 (79 guiding days)
  • 2015 (86 guiding days)
  • 2016 (111 guiding days)

The highlight of 2017 was three work trips to South America. Argentina in January, Peru in May, and Chile in October. In total I spent 71 days out of the country for work. The "days" counts herein refer only to field time. Much of an international guiding trip is not field time.

Of 140 guiding days, I spent:
  • Notably, zero on ice
  • 55 alpine climbing
  • 27 rock climbing
  • Skiing has steadily increased over the years. 
    • 2012- About 12 days ski guiding
    • 2013- About 25
    • 2014- About 15
    • 2015- 22
    • 2016- 42
    • 2017- 58
Another notable development, but one that I sadly have no past stats on, for 2017, was the amount I worked with other guides. I'm pretty sure I worked with others almost twice as often in 2017 as I have in recent years. I worked 17 of the 86 trips with at least one other guide.

More of what it looked like, by the numbers:
  • I worked 86 guiding trips 
  • Of those, 57 were single-day outings. 
  • 17 were two day commitments. 
  • 7 were for 3 days 
  • 2 trips went for four days 
  • 1 trip was 5 days and one trip was 6 days 
  • I did a 9 day trip to ski in Peru with an amazing group in May.  
  • Of all those trips, I camped in the backcountry for work about 31 nights. I also slept away from home, but in hotels and huts, a great deal. 
  • For instance, I spent 11 nights at the Exum hut at Grand Teton National Park's Lower Saddle. 
  • I did a total of 14 trips to the Grand Teton. We summitted 11 of those. 
  • That adds up to 140 guiding days. 
  • Of course, for every 2-3 guiding days, there is an average of one day of administrative work that includes packing, unpacking, food prep, etc. 
  • I did 10 trips with folks that came directly to me. These fine guests were not the customers of another guide service nor had I climbed with them prior. They somehow found me, usually through word of mouth. 
  • 41 trips were with returning clients. 
  • A total, then, of 68 days (just under half the total) were with clients that came directly or returned to me. 
  • Many folks come to me for a specific route or peak. In 2017 43 trips were initiated with a specific peak or route in mind. Of those 43 we made the summit as planned on 27. That 63% "success ratio" is almost exactly average. (The 6 year average is 62% summits)

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

2017 Puerto Rico Pics

In no particular order...


"The Plot", before lots of digging. 

The view from the fruit forest. 

Piedra Escrita. "Written Stone".

It wasn't all toil. 

Improvisation. In the rain and fog.

Sammy and Michelle have a Christmas-themed car. All year long. 

Newark Airport layover

FEMA roof. 

Landslides and down power lines. Everywhere. 

The meaning of the word "amazing" must have been lost in translation.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Staying Alive in the Mountains: A Glossary

Mountain, ski, and climbing pursuits are athletic exercises in risk management. Much of what we do in the mountains are efforts to keep us alive in this unforgiving environment. Staying alive is a thought process. A thought process is simply application of a vocabulary. The more sophisticated your vocabulary, the more sophisticated your thought process will be. Wanna stay "safe" in the mountains? Improve your risk management vocabulary.

Likelihood of something bad happening here? Consequences? 

A strong analytical thinker, free-soloing on bad rock,
in a storm. Ian has cultivated his balance. 
  • Bilateral thought process. Decision-making can be broken into two major types of thinking. We all think, at times, intuitively or analytically. We each certainly have our strong suit. Those that are strong intuitive decision makers owe it to themselves to cultivate, no matter how uncomfortable that cultivation may be, their analytical side. And, of course, vice versa. 
  • Intuitive Thought Process. Thoughts, preferences, and ideas that come to mind quickly. Your "instincts". You make intuitive choices when you ski powder in the trees and when you climb the moves of a boulder problem or between the cams of a trad route. In these cases, application of intuitive thought process is appropriate and the best choice. Intuitive choices are most effective either in low-consequence environments or when the practitioner has a very high level of expertise. Intuitively interpreting the weather ("I feel like the blue window will be long enough") in an unfamiliar range is a bad idea. Intuitively interpreting snow stability ("Feels good to me") in your first decade of backcountry skiing is a bad idea. Other good things to do intuitively include: 
    • walk 
    • adjust your clothing layers
    • assess your own and other's motivations
    • most rock climbing moves
    • trust your feet
    • swing your ice tools
    • most things you literally have a decade of experience analyzing
  • Analytical Thought Process. The intentional breakdown of a complicated subject into its component parts for your own review. Analytical thought processes are inherently slow, but very thorough. Analyzing which brake lever to pull on your mountain bike is a bad idea. Analyzing whether to smear or edge while run-out trad climbing is a bad idea. Analyzing whether to ski left or right of that microwave sized rock is a bad idea. Good things to analyze include 
    • the weather (past, present, and future)
    • rock and ice quality
    • snowpack history
    • group dynamics
    • time plan
    • map, terrain, navigation
    • environment impact
    • financial costs and travel considerations 
    • likelihood of success and failure
    • patterns and statistics in mountain accidents
    • your packing list
I dug long and hard through a deep photo library to find a shot that illustrated someone applying analytical thought processes. Best I could come up with is this shot of a map and a guy picking his nose. It's just not sexy to develop or celebrate analytical thinking. I am a huge champion of analytical thinking, and I could find one picture in thousands that illustrated it. 

  • "Ignorance is Bliss". "I've never seen that slide". "I've never had an accident. I'm real safe". The crutches and mantras of strong intuitive decision-makers. Cultivate your analytical side. You are not invincible. 
  • "Statistics never lie". "I am a very safety conscious climber". "I read Accidents in North American Climbing, cover to cover every year, for my own safety".  The crutches and mantras of strong analytical decision makers. Cultivate your intuitive side. You deserve it. 

  • Hazard. A condition that presents a risk or threat. Avalanche hazard, for instance, exists whether we go there or not. 
  • Danger. The power to cause harm. A hazard can be dangerous, or not, depending on our exposure to it. That avalanche isn't dangerous unless someone is there to be hit. 
  • Risk. The chance that someone will be harmed by the hazard. With consideration given to the degree of harm. What are the chances you will be hit, and degree of harm sustained, by an avalanche under certain conditions? That is your risk. Risk is a function of likelihood, consequence, and exposure. 
  • Reward. That which you serve to gain. Some rewards (summits, powder turns, mental and physical challenge of a certain pitch or move, etc) are worth great risks. Others are not. Each person's assessment of the risk:reward ratio is theirs, is sacred, and is fluid. 
  • Fear. What is scary is not exactly the same as what is dangerous. Intuitive thought processes muddle the difference between that which is fear-inducing and that which is dangerous. Analytical thought processes help separate that which is dangerous from that which is scary. 
  • Failure. A myth. Coming home intact is success. Coming home dead isn't a failure. 'Cause you don't know the difference. 
  • Priorities. Write yours down. My mountain "mission statement" (yeah, I have a mountain mission statement. My analytical game is strong) contains "... to learn things and work hard." Way down the list is a summit or a send or a steep set of turns. Someone smart once said his goal, in this order, is "to come home intact, to come home friends, and to come home with a summit". 
Jon says "I'm trying to aspire to be the man I pretend to be on Instagram but Patagonia won't let me".

  • Objective Hazard. Conditions we have little to no control over. In most cases, our only recourses to manage objective hazards are avoidance or timing. Rockfall, avalanche, and lightning are all objective hazards. 
  • Subjective Hazard. Conditions we have at least a little more control over. We can mitigate subjective hazards with avoidance and timing, but also with movement skill, fitness, equipment, and planning. The hazard of falling is a subjective hazard. As is cold, wind, precipitation. 
  • Exposure. The time or distance over which one is exposed to a hazard. 
  • Likelihood. The probability of a dangerous event transpiring. 
  • Consequence. The degree of harm possible in a dangerous event. 
  • Vulnerability. Our susceptibility to the consequences of a dangerous event. 
  • Uncertainty. That which we don't know. And there is much we don't know. There are things we know, things we know we don't know, and things we don't know that we don't know. There is likely more we are uncertain of in the mountains than there are things we are certain of. The only antidote to uncertainty is buffer. 
  • Safety. A myth. We are fragile bags of flesh and bone, choosing to recreate in a serious environment, often intentionally toying with kinetic and potential energy. We don't go to the mountains with the goal of being "safe". We go to the mountains with the goal of mitigating risk while maximizing reward.