Forums Splitboard Talk Forum When is Gnar enough?
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    709 Posts

    I figured after seeing a posting about more shredders dying in the mountains doing what they love…. I wanted to get others thoughts on a simple question. When does a line objective become too much, and do we all back down when the internal meters go off ? Completely take the avalanche risk out of the equation, but focus more on what we’re totally in control of.

    After doing quite a bit of riding with HFT, and Bonez this year I was really exposed to some ripping lines. With more and more exposure to these types of lines I feel more relaxed than say my 1st exposure to some heaviness which was West Needle.

    I personally really frickin hate the “gripped” feeling, and the claustrophobic aura of it all. Whereas a guy like Bones prefers to eat his Goretex bibs with his bung, and relishes those types of days. Don’t even get me started on HFT’s desire to think of some retarded grippy line to get after. But, I can’t think of anyone else I enjoy learning rope skills from.

    After coming down from our last excursion from the San Juans I asked my bros this very question. “Why did you choose to take a more exposed line down versus a much larger line which would allow for more of a giv’er descent”?. Especially after such a long difficult shlog to get to the summit.

    I really enjoy riding with Bones, and HFT. I consider them my best friends. Considering this.. We have some significant differences on what we consider perfect lines, and terrain.

    How many of us really listen to the internal voices? I’m not talking about “fight, or flight” instincts.. In my case the 3 of us took a small break before the ascent of Teakettle, and I literally had a deja-vu type of moment. I shrugged it off, and started up behind my brothers. About a 1/4 way up the ascent my shoulder socket was shooting searing pain up my neck ending my day. I didn’t think about the correlation until we were back at camp, and I mentioned it to it my homies.

    Anyhoo food for thought, and Steepy, and Karkis.. you’re not allowed to comment. We already know your both batshit crazy gnar rippers :thumpsup:

    1490 Posts

    Great Topic ‘TRIPPIN’!

    Timely as well. Recently there have been a few TRs here that have detailed disasters narrowly averted. In the cases I am referring to, serious injuries were just barely avoided as the result of what I consider quite a bit of luck.
    I came to riding exposed lines from a background of alpine climbing (and tradititional rock climbing before that). And as such I was relatively comfortable with the high mountains, exposure, weather, etc. I still took a slow and steady approach to riding steeper, bigger, and more exposed lines. Now, perhaps as a result of the internet, it appears that some riders may be “skipping steps” in the progression to steeper and more exposed lines… just something to think about.
    Back to the exact topic: the answer to the question is going to be different for every rider, but the most important thing is to know what one is capable of and comfortable with. Recently I have found it sometimes hard to find partners with equal enthusiasm and confidence when considering difficult, potentially dangerous lines. I am quite aware of my capabilities, and know where I can make a turn, and where I might not be able to, others may lack the experience to make these kind of calls.
    One thing I know for sure: the first turn of the Landry Line on Pyramid Peak is not the place to find out if one can nail a turn on a 60 degree slope (if one misses this turn, one is almost certainly going to perish). If one desires to ride some of the steepest and most exposed lines in the country, one will have to over reach their own comfort zone occasionally-the important thing, is to make sure this over reaching (learning) occurs in a location where the consequences of an error will be minimal, gaining confidence, which can then be applied in more serious locations.
    For me, my greatest joy is riding in steep exposed places, where I need to be focused, and precise in my actions. I love the intense focus and concentration, but if I was trembling in fear I would not seek out these experiences. I accept apprehension before dropping in on a serious line as part of the experience, which helps to focus the mind to the task at hand, and I enjoy the release at the bottom and through the runout. I would suggest that if fear is the dominant feeling when contemplating a serious line, then it is time to back off and gain some more experience and confidence in one’s skills, and then come back later with a more confident approach. There are some lines which I aspire to, but which currently leave me trembling in fear when viewing them and imagining riding them-clearly I am not ready for these.
    In Colorado, I generally do most of my riding in relatively (excepting avies) safe terrain, where high speed pow riding, trees, and short steeps dominate the terrain-so I get plenty of this “fun” riding all season. Once the snowpack is a little deeper, coverage is good, and the avy danger is a little more predictable my heart leans towards high and exposed places, since I have had plenty of “fun” riding I do not miss it when I go out looking for the big steep lines.
    The big mountains are always going to be dangerous places; it does seem that lately, there have been quite a few deaths amongst the ski mountaineer crowd, some of these deaths could have been avoided (bad decisions), others are just the result of the objective dangers one must accept if traveling in the high peaks regularly-it helps to have good luck, and to turn back before one’s luck runs out.

    820 Posts

    Barrows, that was excellent. Thanks for you input, that was very well put together. It is good to get perspective from someone who has a lot of experience in the backcountry, especially in Colorado.

    At this point in the year this is a great topic. We have a complicated snowpack here in Colorado, and decision making has proved difficult recently. For me personally it has been difficult mentally switching from doing steep and technical lines to mellower safe lines. Last weekend we had a close call and narrowly avoided being caught on not that gnarly of terrain. The weekend before we backed off a line that the conditions were too difficult to manage. Although it is spring, it really isn’t in the snowpack, and I have found some of the most difficult snowpack to evaluate and navigate recently. Opposed to a month ago when I felt I could make riskier line choices and ride steep couloirs, this mentality is tough to jump back to. This is probably why I’ll be riding my bike this weekend. 😉

    I find the skintrack is the best place to have these questions. And if you have a feeling that something isn’t right, as my partner, I expect you to speak up, and mean it.

    Stay safe everyone.

    758 Posts

    I am glad I am not the only one thinking about this right now. I have seen some gnarly TR’s from people I have seen ride, and I know they were “in over their head”, and were lucky to make it out safe whether they know it or not. Splitboarding can be deceptive, in that with the legs and the lungs you can go almost anywhere, even if you don’t necessarily have the proper skills to return home safely. I think there is a little bit of “monkey see monkey do” on the internet. Macho snowboarders always look at something and say to themselves “I can do that”, but there is a lot more involved in splitboarding than just making it down the run.

    This year I have already done much more technical ascents/descents than I thought I would. I am comfortable with my skill level and have been in the mountains most of my life. I have still have gotten into bad situations through peer/group pressure or not paying total attention to what was happening. At heart I am a powder guy, not yet a ski mountaineer. Most of my skills relate to riding down and not necessary repelling into couloirs or skiing through glaciers/bergschrunds/crevasses/ect.

    I have had scares each of the last 2 weeks due to our crazy Colorado snowpack. It is dangerous here in Colorado. We have tons of heavy snow sitting on a very fast bed layer. The weight of the heavy unconsolidated spring snow makes it run on any steep pitch. If the line is 37+ degrees it will run. It may not fracture in the normal sense, but the slough snow moves fast and can very easily propagate a big slide and or bury you just deep enough to kill you. I thought I would be picking bigger and bigger lines as the spring progressed, but quite the opposite has happened. Even lines that were safe a month ago may now be deadly.

    I am starting to fear this funky (but Epic) spring, and don’t want to hear about some I know getting in big trouble or worse. My biggest accomplishment each day is returning home safe. Be safe and smart out there people.

    668 Posts

    I think the issue is having a line objective to begin with. When I’m out riding, my objective is to have a good time. That means I’m gonna pick a general area, check some stuff out, enjoy the scenery, and find the most fun route down that I can. Sometimes it is the gnar route, sometimes the mellower line next to it with better snow. Sometimes I’ll turn around and bail. Personally, I feel confident enough in my ability to ride any line that is ridable, conditions permitting. But I’m chicken shit without the board strapped on my feet. One of the greatest things about splitboarding is that you can constantly push yourself to the edge of, or beyond, your comfort zone, even as that zone expands. That’s where the biggest rushes come from. But it is not hard to get broken off in the mountains, whether it be your own doing or the forces of nature. But I’d take my chances going for something burly that I know can be done over, say, driving in a big city.

    1165 Posts

    Without reading everything, all I can say is if you are not willing to back off of your intended line, you’re doing it wrong.

    It has been a tough season. Much different spring in Colorado than the past 10 seasons or so.

    I trust HFT’s judgment. He is one of my more preferable bc partners actually. He does like to get after it for sure.

    I think the main thing to remember is when you are in the field, you are looking for reasons to not ride a line. Not for reasons to ride it.

    Stay safe out there. Every one of you…

    82 Posts

    I think the main thing to remember is when you are in the field, you are looking for reasons to not ride a line. Not for reasons to ride it.

    :thumbsup: :thumbsup:

    At the same time… sometimes I feel like I’m finding ANY excuse not to ride a line when I’m gripped. I think the number of reasons that hold me back will will lessen with experience.

    Being scared makes me feel alive, but I want to stay alive so I can keep getting scared!

    875 Posts

    @killclimbz wrote:

    I think the main thing to remember is when you are in the field, you are looking for reasons to not ride a line. Not for reasons to ride it.

    Stay safe out there. Every one of you…

    I couldn’t agree more! Always heed the little voice inside your head, it has self-preservation as its primary interest.

    I will throw this out there from my own personal perspective. After missing most of last season waiting for a back surgery and then spending the last ~9 months easing back into normal life and trying to regain my physical strength I must say that I am just happy to be out in the mountains again and the ability to ride my split is an unquantifiable bonus. Right now I wouldn’t even consider lines that many here would consider to be fairly middle of the road as I don’t have the confidence on my board that I normally would at this point in a normal season, so it may very well take longer to hone my mental focus to tackle such objectives than it will to have the physical capability. I think it can be very easy to become overconfident and complacent when one starts to string together consecutive successful and gnar-filled outings, the backcountry is no place for complacency. Don’t get me wrong I hope to one day be riding more challenging objectives as I really enjoy the added mental challenge that accompanies steeper more committing lines, but I am not going to rush things. Right now I am feel fortunate to just have the opportunity to be sliding slopes again and find it more than satisfying even without the pucker factor.

    165 Venture Divide/Spark Frankenburners/La Sportiva Spantiks
    163W Jones Solution/Phantom Alphas/Dynafit TLT5s
    162 Furberg


    689 Posts

    Excellent, excellent, excellent thread :thumbsup:

    Hearing about deaths in the mountains always deeply bothers me, but what bothers me most is hearing about responsible, experienced, and safe good people getting caught in bad situations.

    Too many times have bad things happened to good people out there. I for one have a goal of becoming a Fred Becky type… One of those Inglorious old Bastards puffing his pipe outside his tent at 97 years old… In order to accomplish this goal, I always tell myself “make good decisions”.

    The beauty of riding steep and exposed terrain (for me) is that every time I am reminded of how much my life means to me. I realize how many people love me, how much I love them, and how much my abrupt absence would hurt them. In these moments, I experience a sense of connection and presence that I don’t get from any other experience. The catch 22 is that there ARE, and will ALWAYS be unavoidable and unpredictable dangers. This is the only part of mountain activities that bums me out.

    Included in these unpredictable dangers is human error. Up here in the PNW we lost a very experienced, amazing human being this year because she made a mistake and walked too close to a cornice. Although I did not know her personally, her loss has effected me greatly… This time we have is so short, and so priceless. For me there is no room for careless and detached decision making; the consequences are just too high.

    Monika, you will always be in our hearts.

    87 Posts

    After knowing more than a few people who have perished in accidents in the throne room of the mountain gods, you have to ask yourself, is it worth it? most of them would have said yes, hell most them have told you it’s worth it. next thing you know your sitting on the top of some sick coolie or looking up at a 5.11 crack knowing you’re going to kill it. What it really comes down to is- do you feel down for it on THAT day. It’s hard to walk away, but only for today.
    But what really scares the shit outta me is that my 4 and 5 year are now out the in the resort hitting the park, tons of gapers with their heads up their asses.. which seems to me a much more dangerous place than the mountains.
    make the best decisions you can and live with the consequences.

    60 Posts

    I think a lot of it comes down to how much of a risk-taker someone is by their own nature. Different people have different levels of dopamine/adrenaline/all those good things tolerances. These tolerances will also change over time. I know, for myself, that I tend to be cautious. Overly cautious, I think. Granted, I’m on the east coast, you have to search a bit more for lines that have mortality-inducing exposure, though they surely exist. However, this perception was blasted out of the water when my little brother, who I hauled out into the woods a bunch last winter, said that he isn’t always too sure following me. As opposed to exposed lines, I think this comment might just be thickness of trees and the shwack factor which I accept as fun (stupidly high). Then again, this winter, while I’ve been sitting around waiting for my knee to heal, I’ve been listening to his stories of where he’s gone, and more than once I’ve thought “Hmm, I don’t think I’d trust myself in there.”

    Now, cautious doesn’t necessarily mean that you exclude exposed lines from your repetoire, but that you approach them differently. A guy over on TTips speaks of sushi chef apprentices, who train for multiple years, and for a ridiculous amount of time they aren’t allowed to even touch a knife. This way, they learn the intricacies of sushi, and it is ingrained into them. The knife represents hidden dangers – you can hurt yourself, sure, but more importantly, if you don’t wield it properly, the sushi itself will suffer. However, if you are alert and know the finer details of the final product, then you can use the knife to its full potential. The same thing goes with our own weapon of choice: a snowboard.

    I think what it comes down to is that some things just shouldn’t be rushed, and we need to be able to listen to red flags going off within our own minds and bodies. If something doesn’t feel right, the mountain will always be there tomorrow.

    63 Posts

    Don’t let the addiction be deadly. When the tingly sensations takes you over, you know that things are on the fringe. A few weeks back, Mines 1 on Mines peak slid in a huge way shortly after I went through the meat of it on my second run. The runs previous to the slide were definitely off the charts in the fun factor. As I crested the roll for a 3rd and final run, it was all gone, over 1000 ft wide and scoured down to terra firma. My heart lodged up in my throat and the hopes that no one was trapped below raced through my mind. I like to think that I make informed, calculated choices taking into consideration all snow conditions and always giving myself 2 outs, but, that slide would have been a killer for anyone caught in it. Use your skills, make informed and smart decisions, seriously analyze your riding skills, get the proper training, have the proper gear and don’t commit avalanche assisted suicide doing something you love. Mom wouldn’t be happy.

    43 Posts

    Great thread. I’ve been thinking about this a lot since the Tahoe community has been rocked by a seemingly never-ending series of tragic deaths and injuries over the past few years. In response to these sad events everyone seems to focus on assessing their own avalanche education and experience, which I think mostly misses the point. The scary thing about many of the backcountry deaths and life-altering injuries in Tahoe community in the past several years has been the fact that almost all of them have happened to extremely experienced, capable backcountry veterans — from Tretheway and Darren Johnson to the pros like Backstrom and Garre. If there is anything that I have learned from all these sad events it is that a person’s basic decision-making should be geared toward that person’s personal risk threshhold, and that that decision-making is perhaps even more important than studying up on intricate avy science.
    Garre, Treth, Johnson etc… each had more experience, avy education (either from experience or in an actual organized setting) and backcountry skills that I will ever have. They also probably each had an entirely different risk threshhold. They pushed the limits, and (I hope) were comfortable with the risk that came along with that.
    One thing I do when I go into the backcountry is try to head out with people who have similar risk threshholds as I do, which eliminates disagreements over terrain choice and the uncomfortable situation of being pushed into line choices that you feel expose you to a risk level that you don’t want to expose yourself to. For me, this doesn’t mean riding lame low-angle lines all the time, it simply means picking spots and seasons where the conditions set up so that I can ride a line with confidence that I am putting myself at minimal risk. Others will choose to take on more risk, it’s all personal.
    The other thing I do when I head into the backcountry is simply be happy to be outside enjoying myself. If I end up simply skinning through powder without a single downhill turn, or taking tree laps, I always head out into the backcountry with the attitude that I am going to be happy even if the day is completely Gnar-free.

    It seems like there are no easy answers to the questions that arise after tragedies like the ones we’ve seen over the last couple years around here. It’s just a reminder to live life to the fullest and make decisions that take into account your approach to risk.

    I don’t know if I articulated what I wanted to, but basically I believe that amount of risk you take is personal, avy science and education, while important, is often overemphasized, and can even lead people into a false sense of security, and basic decision-making is key in the mountains.
    Stay Safe. I hope to god that the next few seasons in Tahoe are full of people getting after it, but free of tragedy.

    1490 Posts

    I just wanted to point the discussion back in the direction intended by SPLITRIPPIN’, as he meant for this to be a discussion about line choice regardless of avy considerations. Avy evaluation and decision making is really a separate topic from what he intended.
    Regarding some of the recent (last 3 years) deaths, I think it is important to realize that there is not as big a difference between many of the posters here, and the “stars” of the backcountry/mountaineering world when it comes to decision making and line choice-the level may be different, but the process is essentially the same. Everyone wants to push their own limits sometimes, as this how we all progress. I believe it is important to take a good, cold, objective look at how some of these folks died-without deferring to their level of experience as being somehow superior to ones’ own. By looking, with an unbiased eye at accidents, one has a better chance at learning how one might avoid a similar fate.
    I mean no disrespect to these “stars”, but if we are to learn from other’s mistakes, we need to examine the accidents as objectively as possible-without the bias which might occur by being “in awe” of some rider’s accomplishments/abilities.

    794 Posts

    This is a great discussion. Since the so-called movie, the BP oil spill and now the Fukushima tragedy, the term “Black Swan” has become more prevalent in our lexicon. Just as black swans are rare within populations of otherwise white swans–perhaps one in a million–the term refers to low-probability events whose impacts, in the unlikely event that said event does happen, are catastrophic.

    That idea provides a useful frame for back-country risk-taking and line-choice because it distinguishes between probability and consequence. My tolerance for probability of failure–for example in a line that takes me to the edge of my riding skills–decreases rapidly as the consequence of of that failure increases (as in the cases of exposure to long, steep, rock-strewn face or cliff-band below). In low consequence situations, I am far more willing to take risks in terms of the degree to which terrain challenges my riding skills.

    Though this calculus may seem self-evident, I’ve been in situations (both in terms of line choice and snow stability) where decision-making has benefited from a deliberate assessment using both lenses. Of course, this is just a means by which to inform a decision, and its that decision–when is gnar enough–that ultimately comes down to each person’s or each group’s individual or collective judgment. I tend to be very conservative and usually avoid rather than attempt to mitigate severe hazards; that’s my nature.


    947 Posts

    Everybody’s got a voice in their head. Everyone needs to listen to the voice..and realize that everyone elses voice is unique. What’s ok for me is not neccesarily OK for the next guy and vice versa. Allow that in yourself and your partners.

    We climb with partners for many of which is potential rescue. But that being said…we’re all individually responsible for our own safety, and when your partner has the stones to push on, but your voice is going off, it’s your responsibility to ignore HIS(or her) inner voice and listen to yours.

    Also, the voice is shaped based on your experiences. More frequent exposure leads to a a voice that isn’t screaming when you’re in an exposed spot. This is not to be confused with complacency, it’s just a reminder that every decision has to be weighed with a primary question in mind: Do I have the neccesary skillset and tools to do this safely? The more experience you have the more often the answer will be “yes!” and you’ll feel comfortable pressing on.

    That’s my longwinded response.

    My short answer: It depends..but it’s all up to the individual to make the right decisions, the individual should never relinquish this responsibility to their partners, but seek to educate themselves about the hazards and their skillsets so that they can make the right decision when faced with them.

    Also, I noticed us older family guys mellow in our old age 😉

    43 Posts

    Not sure how you came away with the thought that somehow I am “in awe” of backcountry “stars” from my post. That’s not really the case, and, while those guys were and are very talented and experienced skiers, to call them “stars” is very strange to say the least.

    My post was long and rambling, but I am enjoying the discussion on this topic. My only point is that skills and experience do not equal safety. Most of the time the more skilled and experienced you are the more risk you are likely to assume — which is not something I judge in any way, it just seems to be a matter of fact.

    Maybe I am just an aging, scared family man who enjoys puttering around the West Shore of Tahoe like old suburban grandfathers putter around their yards on rideable lawn mowers.

    spruce cabin
    263 Posts

    Some great reading here.

    I am not a gripped and puckered kind of guy.
    My lack of skills and knowledge tend to keep me out of these situations.
    Someday, after more edumacation and watching others, I’ll attempt some of the gnar.

    Snowboarding is like riding motorcycles, or skating… your first run on a snowboard shouldn’t be Python.
    Progression creates the possibilities.

    Meanwhile, I’ll happily take my tame tour and make sure the beers in the truck have some company.

    830 Posts

    I just don’t think you can take Avalanches out of the discussion. Most the lines/TR’s I’ve seen posted and thought to myself that was gnar where not because of the line they rode but because of the conditions they chose to ride the line. Sometimes I wonder to myself “do these guys know something I don’t know”, usually the answer is NO. In fact ignorance is bliss and it’s usually quite the opposite. Then there’s those guys who know what you know but still make the decision despite. I usually find that those individuals are making a movie , group dynamics played a role or some other motivation was to blame. Despite, I think it’s important to get out for some big days and big lines by yourself. Of course theres a risk you get hurt and need help but it’s important to learn to make decisions on your own without the influence of others. I think you start to understand yourself better and when it comes time to make a critical decision whether your solo or with a group you be more confident in doing what works for you.

    Fun discussion….thanks

    143 Posts

    Everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone once in a while: if you’re green you’re growing, when you ripe you’re rotten. That said each rider has a different comfort zone. Getting out of the comfort zone must be incrimental and not a leap of faith based on hueristic factors, without the skills or decision making to back it up when things get epic.

    Hueristic factors lead people into unwise situations. A recent TR here is a perfect example of this: San Juan Slay: Sneffels & Teakettle meet Team Shred. I found this TR filled with offensive attitude and dangerous hueristic mistakes with a huge potential for a bad ending. I was reluctant raising this issue as I’m sure it will rub some the wrong way but I’ve been stewing over the comments in that TR ever since I read it.

    While I respect a bold line, though there might be an easier way up, it seems foolish to ascend a route in potential avy terrain when there is a safer way into the same line that allows a pit before a descent in unconsolodated snow. Referring to other B/C users as wankers is an arrogant attitude that does not belong in the hills: too much arrogance leads to mistakes and these are people/friends (at least in my small mountain town) I rely on for information and, potentially, help when shit goes down. The wisdom of poaching the line so the wankers couldn’t ruin the opportunity for first tracks should not elicit praise as its a practice that may (and has) led to more than one accident.

    Extreme lines demand you enter the game based on your objective ability not a false sense of superiority over other B/C users or the hills themselves.

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