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I once thought I made a mistake, but I was wrong
posted by John : March 16, 2014


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I sit in front of my computer with an ice pack wrapped onto my arm thinking about mistakes I've made in the outdoors. To be honest, I'm having some trouble coming up with any. But since Sierra Trading Post asked me to write about this topic I guess I'll have to come up with something.

When I asked Amy for help she pointed at my slowly chilling arm. Then to my shoulder. Then my rib, ankle, and hand (all broken at one point or another). Finally, she reminded me of the time I couldn't see because I had sunburned my eyes on Mt. Rainier.

Well, yeah, those are injuries, but mistakes? Hardly.

A mistake, in my mind, is when you do something you can look back on and realize you should have known you shouldn't have done it. While I probably have a bunch of those in my history, there's one that really stands out.

Paperboy Peak in 2011.

Paperboy is an obscure mountain on the divide between the North and Middle Forks of the Snoqualmie River. It's not particularly special. We chose it because... Jeez. I don't even know why we chose it. We had to drive on some less than ideal roads to get even close to it, then followed the ridge to the summit. The ridge was lousy. The weather was lousy. The views were lousy. Rather than return on the ridge, which while lousy was at least known, we opted to drop onto the snow and traverse below the ridge. The traverse didn't work out so we decided to descend into the unknown basin and bushwhack to the car. This was the mistake.

It'd be one thing if it was the first time I'd made this choice. But it wasn't. Five years earlier, in 2006, I'd tried for another peak up the North Fork. We'd gone part way up, but then decided it was time to bail and tried a direct descent to the car rather than back the (longer) way we'd come. Hilarity and pain ensued.

We managed to somehow descend the cliffs to get safely to the brush waiting for us below. It had taken us less than an hour and a half to the summit via the ridge. The short, direct route through the brush took more than two hours. At one point I was upside down and poor Treen was stained red with the contents of a shattered Nalgene. It was a Grade I-II, BW4 adventure.

We emerged bruised, scraped, and absolutely covered in filth. If I'm lucky, that experience will stick in my head for at least another five years. I figure in 2016 I'll make another mistake and deviate from a known route. Feel free to remind me that's a terrible idea. Especially if you're invited to go along.

(If you want to hear more about this mistake and those others have made you can participate in the Sierra Trading Post Live Twitter chat on March 27 at 3pm PDT. Just keep track of the #STPLive hashtag. And while you're at it, follow @moosefish.)

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