The first half of 2019 offers unique social, political and economic challenges to navigate. You might think you know what's coming, but for better or worse, you will be lucky to be even partly right in your predictions. How agile are you and your team? Do you have the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing conditions? What will it take to succeed this year? A spirit of adventure in the face of ambiguity might serve you well. Get ready to dig deeper than you think you might have to.
Early one day in the middle of October, Tania and I set about to climb the East ridge of Mount Nestor. The approach to the climb is a long mountain bike ride around the North shore of Spray Lake high above Canmore, followed by a miserable slog up loose slopes to the base of the ridge.
In the twilight of early morning, the ridge looked simple enough, although the guide book warned of tricky route finding through a weird step near the top. I did my best to fix the view of the line in my mind–several steep bits interspaced with several flat sections. I would know where we were by counting how many ledges we got to. We'd be traversing across the ridge several times and it was crucial to arrive right at the crux. This was the only way through the upper cliff band to the summit. Retreat would be near impossible if we missed this feature.
No plan survives first contact with the environment.
Strangely we were not alone of the mountain. On the hike up we met another couple trudging their way up and I remember laughing under my breath that they packed up ice axes and crampons for a late summer rock climb. But they were nice enough. We got separated once we got onto the technical climbing of the ridge. After climbing up several steep sections and through several of the plateaus, I lost track of where we were on the ridge. But we kept going more or less up, following several lines of natural weakness.
What seems so clear from far away is often a confusing mystery up close.
Eventually we met up with our new friends at the base of the final cliff band. We climbed together up a steep, muddy and mossy section which was off route and clearly much harder than the posted grade. At the top of the section, the only possible anchor was a large crack that would accept only a very large cam (a device we wedge into the rock) that only my new friend had, because he carried it up in the much heavier pack that I had mocked him for earlier. There was no way to down climb at this point and the only way to the summit was an ice choked gulley for which we had no ice axes or crampons. The joke was on us. Thankfully they lent us a spare ice axe and I chopped steps up to the safety of the summit.
Success requires rapid cycling between strategic plan and tactical execution.
So what did we learn? Plan for a worser-case scenario and always bring a few extra pieces of safety equipment. And don't forget to make new friends. You never know when you need someone to save your ass. Scary things are best done in groups.