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Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 17, 2018 - 04:56pm PT
To a large degree we make our own luck. Getting chopped by an avalanch in the tetons in July is most likely really bad luck. Getting chopped by an avalanche on big mountains in Alaska in winter is inevitable. Spend enough time in the zone and it will happen. The only part that you can call lucky is if you spend a lot of time in the zone and don't get chopped....

I put up a rock climb a few years ago that I knew was stupid dangerous. It fell down within 8 hours of our 2nd ascent. We were lucky to have gotten away with it. Not getting chopped on that climb was good luck. Had we been chopped it would not have been bad luck. It was a stupidly dangerous place to be and we both knew it. In fact the rockfall happened in exactly the place that I had envisioned it happening the first time I had a close up look at the roof. For the most part we make our own luck. We make the decisions to put ourselfs in dangerous places. We know that some places are far more dangerous than others and when we choose to go there anyways it is not bad luck that kills us.

Mar 17, 2018 - 05:25pm PT
Locker is already dead.

Dead zombie, just driving his material body on autopilot, no brain required ......

Trad climber
Auberry, CA
Mar 17, 2018 - 06:37pm PT
It's true what you say, in climbing we do largely make our own luck. Or, then, we can choose not to climb and then get chopped another way, such as a heart attack, cancer, behind the wheel,- you name it.

But, have you considered, in large ways our lives are based on luck.

When I was 4 years of age my mother, who was expecting to give birth any day to her second child, asked me if I was happy to be having a baby brother or sister. I told her I didn't want a baby sister, that I wanted a baby brother. It brought a tear to my dear mother's eye and she asked me, in a very disturbing and somewhat stern voice, "Have you ever thought; how lucky you are to have been born a boy? What if you had been born a girl? How would you like that? And, then she thought and added, "What if you had been born a poor black baby girl, have you ever thought of that?" I didn't know how to take these questions at the time, I felt half proud that I was a boy and yet confused as to her deep questioning. But, I have contemplated on these questions many times since then.
I asked my mother, when she was about 80 years of age, if she remembered asking me these questions. She said, she really couldn't recall asking me but she could imagine having done so. I've come to realize, this is the total luck of the draw that we middle-class, and well to do, all-american white males receive in privilege, having been born into the most rich, and powerful, state in all of history. I know most will not agree with me on this but they haven't had most of their life to chew on it, either.

What ways does serendipity play in our lives and the ways we are able to create it?


Big Wall climber
Denver, CO
Mar 17, 2018 - 06:47pm PT
And just that quickly, it's become a politard thread.

Bye bye now.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 17, 2018 - 06:49pm PT
Given the luck to be born into a stable enough environment to be able to afford the luxury of outdoor adventure sports when we engage in those sports we make our own luck. We make the choices that either kill us or let us live. Winter ascents of big mountains in Alaska is a choice to take a very, very high chance of death. Himalayen climbing is also a choice to die. Hanging out sport climbing on the beach in Malorca is the choice to be a fun hog and the risk of death while still present is slight. Climbing fat 4+ to 5+ waterfall ice is dangerous but it is a lot less dangerous than getting on 6 and 7 R/X horror shows. We make the decisions to either solo a 5.7 we have wired or onsight solo a 5.10 That is not luck.

Social climber
Mar 17, 2018 - 07:09pm PT
the beneficiaries of unearned privilege have numerous story lines they are fixated on and which the promote endlessly wherein THEY are the poor because the loss theyre suffering as the progress of justice infringes on some gravy train they feel entitled to

it speaks to a staggering degree of moral retardation

Jim Clipper

from: forests to tree farms
Mar 17, 2018 - 07:51pm PT
Is the duck dying by saying they are zombies and dead? Where is they have goodness, light? (well probably not Locker). Maybe feel it on for a try.

p.s. hope to have the luck to meet the werner some days. Maybe I have, but not the phsysicsal manifestation.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2018 - 04:56am PT
A friend of mine who has done the FA of a 7,000m peak in the himilaya expressed interest in doing one last Himalayan expedition. I flat out said. you have kids now. Obviously its was his choice but I was not shy in my opinion.

Trad climber
Mar 18, 2018 - 05:23am PT
Luck is there... even for cautious climbers. But in my experience good decision making plays a larger part in this game.

By the way... being born in the US you already won the lotery whatever your sex or race. Unless you want to take karma into account, in which case maybe not so lucky. :)

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Mar 18, 2018 - 05:45am PT
Anyone surfing a huge day at Nazaré => luck

Anyone going for the summit solo on K2 in the winter => luck

Alex Honnold free soloing Freerider => not luck


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2018 - 06:09am PT
agreed. Alex worked the route and had it wired. It still would not have been bad luck if he blew it. It would have been a case of him cutting it too close. Had he tried to onsight solo if would have been lucky if he made it but poor decision, not bad luck if he blew it. Any himilayan mountaineering is simply good luck to survive but not bad luck to get chopped. Getting chopped is the probability. Surviveing is lucky. same thing goes for big mountains in Alaska in winter. surviveing is lucky. Getting chopped is expected.

See the theme I am getting at. When we choose to do something that is stupidly dangerous if we survive it is a combination of skill and good luck. If we do not survive we can not blame it on bad luck because we made the decision to enter the breach.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2018 - 06:14am PT
Isle of man TT the most dangerous race in the world. 7 people died last year . Enter that race and live = skill and good luck. Enter that race and die = well WTF did you think was going to happen . .
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Mar 18, 2018 - 11:13am PT
unaddressed, but interesting and necessary, is the question: what is luck?

it is referred to here as a thing which can be possessed, personally, and can be good or bad, distinct from chance or probability or likelihood all of which are impersonal, neutral in terms of "goodness/badness" and are not "things."

My view is that while we view events in terms of luck to personalize them and try to "understand" them, luck is really a way of avoiding the discussion of our chances.

The word "chance" comes from the Latin word cadere "to fall" as in throwing dice.

"Luck" is a recent word coming to the English language as a gambling term in the 15th century, the word "fortune" in our language also coming from Latin, the Roman goddess of fate/luck being Fortuna, who was assimilated into Christianity, a testament to human sensibilities.

Luck may well be a good concept in climbing as we often gamble, the ante being our health and even our lives.

Chance and risk are well known ideas, and whole processes have sprung up concerning "risk reduction." "Buying down risk" is a part of those processes, by which the risks are identified and mitigated. Also related is the idea of ROI, "return on investment" for which risk plays a role. These ideas have parallels in climbing, researching potential routes, training and preparedness, and the "ROI" of living a full life, while investing our lives. Ron Kauk recalled Jim Bridwell's comment about soloing: "so much to loose, so little to gain," a concise formulation of the soloing ROI.

It's important to point out that even sophisticated engineering organizations like NASA can fall prey to the idea that the chance of something bad happening is getting less, based on the fact that nothing had gone wrong even when the calculations show they could have. The Space Shuttle program had two failures, the predicted chance of catastrophic failure had been calculated to be something like 1 in 200, 135 missions and two catastrophic failures, Columbia and Challenger, indicate that the engineers calculated things accurately. The success of the program prior to the Columbia failure lead the managers to believe that the chances were better than they were being told. Their "luck ran out" is one way of thinking about it. Another way to think about it is they rolled the dice on each mission... it had nothing to do with luck, and that is what the final numbers tell us. 14 people died because of the "intuition" that the chances were better than they actually were.

But we tend to view chance in terms of luck, especially when the chances are highly suggestive of failure, but the outcome is successful, we call this "being lucky." For a sport like climbing where the consequence of failure can be grave, it is a way of separating the skill and abilities of the climbers to what we would consider to be bad outcomes: injury or death. In some ways this absolves them of the criticism that they engaged in risky activities which had high likelihood of a bad outcome. For those situations where those outcomes were possible but didn't happen we often comment that we're "lucky, it could have been worse."

The notion of "having luck" can lead us to attempt ever more risky endeavours, and once again we explain when those endeavours end badly that, "our luck has run out."

Unrecognized here are the myriad of times we were unaware that we were in any peril at all, when chance was in play but we did not know. Once again, we say we we're "lucky." Who here that has walked the path along the southeast base of El Capitan didn't feel "lucky" that the wall that fell this past summer didn't fall on them? Somehow we were unaware of the risk. But just look around you in Yosemite Valley, it is filled in by tens of thousands of years of that exact thing happening.

Where does luck spring from? where does it go?
Bad Climber

Trad climber
The Lawless Border Regions
Mar 18, 2018 - 11:15am PT
Valid points, Tradman. Any climber at the game long enough will have some "good luck" moments. I had one early on. Seventeen and super keen, I headed into the Canadian Rockies with a somewhat older partner--maybe 22. We'd climbed together for a while, although I'd started climbing when I was 15. Anyway, we roped on the glacier approach to Mt. Andromeda with John Harlin II and his partner to make any crevasse falls safer. We parted ways below the north face. My partner and I were headed for the reg. north face route, Harlin and his partner for Photo Finish, if I recall correctly. Beautiful day, climbing went quickly. We topped out in bright sun--but too warm for sure. Very soft on top. We'd skirted a moderately big cornice to top out. And as I sat there I commented on the obvious fracture line: "That's going to break off some day."---WOOMPH! Down it goes, raking the route and almost all of our steps from the face. Had we been an hour later, we'd have been buried in the 'schrund.

We "made" our luck by starting early and moving fast, but that was cutting it damn close. It was a powerful lesson for a young climber. I later learned that Harlin's partner died while scrambling unroped on the slopes of Mt. Robeson just a week or so later. Big mountains are flat-out dangerous, and the more you enter into them, the greater the chance you'll get hit. But damn, when it's good out there, it's SO good!


Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 18, 2018 - 04:04pm PT
Made my own luck today. Isa is in Europe, lost my phone with a bunch of my contacts in it... Decided that my usual solo circuit up in Smuggs is too loaded with snow to be safe so settled on the west faceing Lac Willoughby. Most of these climbs are out of my soloing comfort zone but I did have something in mind that I felt would be reasonable. I had never done Zephyr but it looked interesting. The snow was deep but felt stable. Ice was funky but climbed well in the cold temps
Credit: tradmanclimbs
about 30ft from the top I encountered a snow slab over rock.
Credit: tradmanclimbs
I felt like I could probably climb it and get to the last bit of ice just to say that I made it to the top. I also felt that it simply was not nessicary and something bad might happen up there. Certainly had I scrapped my way up that slab and made the top of the climb I would have felt lucky. like I got away with something. If something bad happened it would not have been bad luck. I would have simply felt stupid and dead. There was a decent spot of ice just below and left of the photo for a bomber thread. I made the right call and a great time was had by all :)
Credit: tradmanclimbs

away from the ground
Mar 18, 2018 - 08:19pm PT

Ice climber
Pomfert VT

Topic Author's Original Post - Mar 17, 2018 - 04:56pm PT
To a large degree we make our own luck. Getting chopped by an avalanch in the tetons in July is most likely really bad luck. Getting chopped by an avalanche on big mountains in Alaska in winter is inevitable

Have you spent much time, or any time for that matter, in the mountains of Alaska?
What do you qualify as the “big” mountains of Alaska? Elevation, remoteness, or relief?
Are you even Irish?

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 19, 2018 - 03:10am PT
the sh#t everyone keeps dying on. It is sometimes a good idea to learn from others mistakes rather than your own.

Mar 19, 2018 - 08:22am PT
Uh, getting the chop in an avalanche on a big mountain in Alaska is not inevitable for those that choose to do so. We all try to minimize risk in the mountains, yet without risk, climbing is not climbing. Everyone's level of "acceptable" risk is different. Deal with it.

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Topic Author's Reply - Mar 19, 2018 - 03:12pm PT
Yes. everyones level of risk is different which explains why so many of the avalanch experts are dead... Isa and I watched a video of a young girl skiing a totally sick chute in Alaska a few years ago. Isa used to ski with Doug Coombs etc back in the eightys. She watched that video and got all quiet.. then she said that girl is dead.. A year later she was gone...

do whatever you want but if you have kids and do Fa's on big mountains in winter you might get away with it for awhile but if you stick with it and spend too much time in the zone.... maybe not....

4 Corners Area
Mar 19, 2018 - 03:35pm PT
Re. Hartouni's post

You're "lucky" , when you beat the odds . . .

And, you're stupid when you don't . . . Or, dead.

We should, at least recognize when we were "lucky", and not just stupid, or dead.

How many of you has ever said to yourself, "that was stupid! I was lucky."
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