Some people drive to the local corner store to purchase a lottery ticket, hoping they bought a winner. For me, it’s a simple drive as well, but the lottery ticket comes in a different form. Each day I head into the mountains, I carry the same hopes and dreams that I’ll strike it rich. The jackpot may not fill my bank account, but it sure will make me wealthy. Thankfully, in the game of ice climbing, the odds of success are much better than in the lottery.
I hate to say that gambling is even a part of climbing, but the fact is we do gamble in the mountains at times. My decisions are based on objective facts and my years of climbing experience, and sometimes nature throws me a wild card and I have to make a tough call.
Whether I’m climbing or kayaking, I have to weigh the odds. In my younger years, the equations were calculated much differently than they are today. Then, 50/50 odds seemed like an easy choice whether I was climbing or asking a girl out on a date. Without a doubt, those odds paid off more often in the mountains.
Back in December, Tanner Callender and I stumbled upon this impressive chunk of ice. After about an hour of sizing it up, I made the difficult decision to walk away. I knew it was climbable, but the attachment point was super thin and the base was…well…not thick, as you can see. The pillar was so thin in spots that needles of light struck through it. I should also mention that it was 5 degrees that day and climbing something like that pillar in those temps would be like showing up to a gunfight with a knife. The outcome is almost certain.
Walking away is never easy, but gambling with poor odds is a sure win for the grave.
Stay tuned for the return…..