June 6, 2018
The hardest decisions are often ones that don’t give you definitive closure. Frustrating to say the least. Mountain guides are forced into this decision more often than most, and certainly with more on the line than most. We saw that yesterday on the Emmons route with Dallas and his team when they turned around just short of the summit. Nobody knows exactly what would have happened had they continued, and nobody ever will. Dallas and his fellow guides used their years of experience to make a decision with the information they had in that moment. That’s what they’re paid to do, and they’re pretty darn good at it.
Similarly, Austin Shannon and Jonathan Schrock were put in a spot to make a decision on their current Liberty Ridge climb. From their camp they were seeing some avalanche & rock fall activity on/near the route. With that information, the two senior guides put their heads together and formed Plan B, climbing the Emmons Route. It’s certainly not the objective they planned to climb, but instead of just packing up and heading back to the trailhead, or robotically pushing up the route, they opted to make some lemonade out of the lemons they were given. After navigating the lower Winthrop Glacier onto the Winthrop proper, they pushed on up to Camp Schurman, and are in position to take what Mt. Rainier gives them over the next couple days.
I suppose there are several lessons here, a few being: think objectively, be flexible, look at the biggest of pictures, live to fight another day and stopping short/turning around can be a win. So, the next time you’re put in a position to make a decision that won’t necessarily have the benefit of hindsight, do your best with what resources/information you have, make a decision and own it… And remember, if you’re in the mountains, being on the conservative side of things isn’t a bad thing!