If it’s not obvious to go up or down on a climb or in any outdoor situation then it’s probably time to call the day/go down/leave. I learned this idea years ago in kayaking; if I had to spend more than a few minutes seeing the line in a drop then I almost always shouldn’t have run it. I had two situations this winter where we stood around debating the merits of continuing for at least 15 minutes; if you have to think about it that much then it’s likely too complicated to make a good decision on, and the decision should make itself. Leave.
This doesn’t mean you should just charge all the time, but when you have to stand around thinking, “Is it OK?” for very long then it probably isn’t actually very good, and it’s time to leave. “Good” is usually pretty clear: It’s good, you go. When the warning signs start flashing it’s no longer “Good,” and it’s time to throttle it back some. If throttling it back results in standing around for a long time then it’s clearly NOT good just ’cause you’re standing there… Every day is a good day to live.
Go HARD when it’s good, go softly when it’s not. It’s the marginal situations that bite people, and if you have to analyze a situation endlessly then it’s probably already marginal, time to leave. If the avalanche danger forecast is “Extreme” then people aren’t going to get killed. Same with “low.” But its’ that “considerable” zone that’s less obviously dangerous, and leads to standing around at the top of a slope debating the number of shovel hits it took to shear or what the other aspects or doing or how old the tracks are, and then trying to synthesize all this information into something that makes sense… Better just go ski the trees if we want to keep having at it long-term.
Many good guides have figured this one out; “industrial” safety levels are higher than recreational safety levels not only because guides are highly skilled, but because they also throttle things back quickly when the situation starts to devolve… We often want things to be OK, the trick is to recognize that they no longer are… This is part of the “Survival Strategies” thinking I’m working with, lots of cool stuff to work through.
Note–Wordpress has decided not to display any of the pictures I uploaded with this post, out of time to deal with it now, will try later. Maybe the internet here in a cafe or something…