On why I like to hear the epics of guides and other climbers

Now some people may like hearing these stories out of simply gory attraction.

“oh man the ice axe went through his face! Gnarly!”

Some might like listening to them to reinforce their own perception of their superiority.

“The map blew away. Wow, that’s why we always carry three maps stored in different waterproof locations in our gear”

Some like to do it for the vicarious learning opportunities

“So, let me get this straight, it is unwise to try to climb the Matterhorn with no food or water *furiously scribbles notes* good, good”

I have definitely been guilty of being all those people, sometimes even at the same time, while listening to other peoples epics, but really the main thing that I hear when I listen is



“I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and I am still a mountain climber”.

People always have this amazing mental image of what a mountain climber must be, especially those who have absolutely no idea what it is really like.

People think “oh man you must be so hardcore and insanely fit, vegan paleo, never drink right”. People ask, “how many hours a week do you run with a backpack on”, or “how do you lift those 100 pound things!” I had one coworker ask me if my backpack was 70 or 90 L,,,, it’s 35L no joke.

Or they think “wow, she loves getting up at 3 am to go outside in the freezing cold and screw around on ice all day”. Hah.. no comment on that one.

Anyway, the point is, people, including ourselves, have an awful lot of perceptions about what it means to be a climber. Some of them are about fitness, some of them are about how much we like to suffer, some of them about how awkward, smelly, dirty, hard, impossible, or how much we carry, but the hardest one that I deal with is the idea that you have to be absolutely perfect and never make a mistake. To me, that is the most dangerous misconception you or anyone else can have about being in the mountains.

Mistakes happen, unexpected things happen. Everyone makes mistakes. Expecting you can climb and never make mistakes is a recipe for disaster. Making as few mistakes as you can, sure, excellent plan, planning ahead to avoid even more, having a realistic impression of what you do and what you can do, even better, but none at all? Please.

Not expecting any mistakes, or anything unexpected, means you are unprepared to deal with them.

That’s why I love hearing about other peoples epics. Sometimes to learn from them, sometimes to share in the glory that is type 2 fun, sometimes to feel superior on the inside because even I haven’t screwed up that bad (this one doesn’t get to happen often),  but mostly, because when I listen to other people tell their stories all I feel on the inside is relief.

Ah, oh good, I don’t have to be perfect to keep doing this. I just have to prepare and plan and do my best, and be ready to deal with whatever comes.

That relief, that I can be human, is pretty awesome.


About adventuresunplugged

The world is a really cool place. I moved to Zurich almost three years ago to start my PhD, and have really enjoyed the different opportunites living close to the Swiss alps offered. This blog is about some of my adventures, climbing, mountaineering, rock climbing, traveling... life in general! Wow, haven't updated this bad boy in some time! While the above is still true I have gone on to finish the PhD, so that is Dr Unplugged to you. I also have landed a job in Switzerland and will be shortly moving to Geneva. Clearly I have some adventures ahead left to explore with you guys along for company!
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