I have had lots of time to reflect on the tragedy that happened in Nepal. Immediately after any event where we have made mistakes our ego wants to point fingers to protect itself.. but in the end after some good introspection it should become clear what actually happened or was happening up there.
I am sure there is more than what I will write but for now these are some of the main points that have become clear to me.
Minimize the exposure time to risk
I was as willing as those involved to take the risks needed to climb this mountain. I was justifying it the same way as everyone else, hoping that the conditions were safe enough to get up the slope. But since we were a very fit team we are able to camp lower and safer and then blast past the slope in as quick a time as we could. Decreasing the probability by spending much less time on that slope. But for the majority of people on the mountain their fitness requires them to camp somewhere on the slope.
There is a possible camp up higher off to the climbers right but it would require them to add 2 hours onto their already gruelling day. Something along the lines of finishing a marathon and then being asked to do one more before you can rest. That camp has also had some history of avalanches. So kinda challenging to always stay as safe as possible.
Our camp, pictured below, made the best of the worst situation, but it could only sleep 4 tents so not really a reality for all the big guided parties.
The more personal investment and desire I have to climb a mountain has become a RED FLAG.
I realized that the more I want to summit something, the more I will justify things and ignore signs. This has happened to me in the past when I was way out on a traverse and really wanted to climb this 10 000 foot peak that is on my list. The mountains let us get away with an amazing descent in the morning and I wanted one more summit. The signs were all pointing to turn around and all I was doing was justifying to keep trying. Eventually as I skinned across a slope I was sent flying down a 500 foot slope. Luckily nothing significant happened. But from now on the more I want something the more I will double check that I am not ignoring signs.
As on Manaslu I was making mistakes and not following my set mountain rules that have kept me alive all these years. Rules that I developed over the years from many different people and circumstances.
A teacher in highschool, while he was getting mad at me for a party we were caught at, said expect the best but be prepared for the worst. Somehow I was convinced that in the Himalayas people do not wear beacons, so soon enough I stopped wearing one. My probe got left behind because I was carrying so much camera gear, as did the first aid kit. These are all things that might have been useful, when the worst happened.
So in the end we have to take risks for adventure, and bigger risks for bigger goals, and sadly enough the consequences of mountain risks are heavy. But “we can’t live if we are too scared to die”… so lets live life but use all sorts of antidotes to counter character flaws that we have so that we don’t make mistakes that we could have avoided.
Lets also get into winter and start some real shredding!!!
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