Backcountry Forum
Backpacking & Hiking Gear

Backcountry Forum
Our long-time Sponsor - the leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear
 
 
 

Amazon.com
Backpacking Forums
---- Our Gear Store ----
The Lightweight Gear Store
 
 WINTER CAMPING 

Shelters
Bivy Bags
Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Pads
Snow Sports
Winter Kitchen

 SNOWSPORTS 

Snowshoes
Avalanche Gear
Skins
Hats, Gloves, & Gaiters
Accessories

 ULTRA-LIGHT 

Ultralight Backpacks
Ultralight Bivy Sacks
Ultralight Shelters
Ultralight Tarps
Ultralight Tents
Ultralight Raingear
Ultralight Stoves & Cookware
Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
Ultralight Synthetic Sleep Bags
Ultralight Apparel


the Titanium Page
WM Extremelite Sleeping Bags

 CAMPING & HIKING 

Backpacks
Tents
Sleeping Bags
Hydration
Kitchen
Accessories

 CLIMBING 

Ropes & Cordage
Protection & Hardware
Carabiners & Quickdraws
Climbing Packs & Bags
Big Wall
Rescue & Industrial

 MEN'S APPAREL 

Jackets
Shirts
Baselayer
Headwear
Gloves
Accessories

 WOMEN'S APPAREL 

Jackets
Shirts
Baselayer
Headwear
Gloves
Accessories

 FOOTWEAR 

Men's Footwear
Women's Footwear

 CLEARANCE 

Backpacks
Mens Apparel
Womens Apparel
Climbing
Footwear
Accessories

 BRANDS 

Black Diamond
Granite Gear
La Sportiva
Osprey
Smartwool

 WAYS TO SHOP 

Sale
Clearance
Top Brands
All Brands

 Backpacking Equipment 

Shelters
BackPacks
Sleeping Bags
Water Treatment
Kitchen
Hydration
Climbing


 Backcountry Gear Clearance

Page 3 of 6 < 1 2 3 4 5 6 >
Topic Options
Rate This Topic
#156037 - 10/18/11 11:03 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By lori
Mental toughness seems to me to be a mindset you develop - resolve, tenacity, determination, rationality in the face of pain, or fear of the unknown. Or maybe a response to potentially traumatic experiences that only builds your stubborn, no nonsense stance rather than resulting in a wilting retreat into negativity, panic or despair.


I think that's a good description and I believe it is both of those definitions you offer. I think courage fits in the definition somewhere too.

But if we limit the definition here to the will to survive, or even broaden it to the drive to continue on, in situations related only to backpacking, than I still have to say I have not been tested, at least not very hard.

I've always approached backpacking and hiking as a leisure sport, never an extreme sport. I don't approach it with a survivalist mentality either. That's not to say I don't think the skills cross over, or that I'm not interested in learning and practicing survival skills. They do, and I am, but that's not why I backpack or hike.

It's never been a matter of testing my mental or physical toughness. Not at all. It's always been to seek solitude, and peace, and nature. Possibly even, at a deeper level, to get away from having to be tough.

I've gotten cold, hot, cut up, knocked down, scratched, bitten, wet, tired and hungry while hiking and backpacking, but I've always loved it, so it was never tough. Not a single time have I ever thought "I wish I weren't here". I can't count the times I wished I could've stayed longer. Honestly, leaving has sometimes been mentally tough.

Now, because I love meandering around and sleeping in the mountains, I cannot judge the mental toughness of those that don't based on how they react to it. I display none of the characteristics defining it above when I'm invited to sit in a nightclub for hours and I do retreat into negativity, panic and despair when that happens. There have been a lot of times when I went in thinking I could tough it out and couldn't do it. I'm not near tough enough for that.

So, when it comes down to it, I'm not sure that mental toughness really has anything to do with backpacking.

I don't mean to imply it's not worth discussing here, I'm enjoying the conversation, but I think that in terms of how often it actually applies to backpacking it's probably not uniquely relevant.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



Top
#156058 - 10/19/11 10:43 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
I would like to circle back to the original post. Although the title is mental toughness, the "demand" for backpack partners was stated as "no whining" and "rescue" which I take means the experience and knowledge to rescue each other if needed. I am not sure if that also means survival skills.

I have been an outdoor educator, taking pure novices out for 30 days and after that time they are ready to be outdoor leaders or backpack partners. I have backpacked with my children, even when they were 2 and 4 years old. I strive to teach them that whining is not productive and enough skills to survive and help those in need outdoors, but never have "demanded" such skills from the get-go. There are a certain set of skills and personalities that I prefer in a backpack partner, but in reality, I rarely go with those who have all. A long time backpack buddy is absolutely the most competant outdoorsman, but bi-polar, mentally and physically tough, but emotionally fragile. I have just learned to appreciate his better points and deal with the few emotional problems. Most people I hike with do not have formal rescue training. That is OK with me. I never go out with others, or alone, with the idea that someone else is going to rescue me. Some of my backpack partners are not that mentally tough, but so emotionally up-beat and supportive that I do not mind carrying the extra load and doing more chores. When I take out novices or family members, the trip is all about them, not me. I think it a lot of whining, if done, is a signal that I need to change my attitude on the trip. Particulary taking out kids- you can most often predict whining if you force them into your adult agendas.

As for technical climbing and mountaineering- in that case I DO require my partner to have some rescue skills. I climb with those from organized climbing clubs and we all have gone through organized rescue training.


Top
#156059 - 10/19/11 11:01 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
"Particulary taking out kids- you can most often predict whining if you force them into your adult agendas."

Boy, that's for sure. And so much of their behavior (and ours?) depends on bloood sugar, rest, etc. As our kids grew up, we learned to detect the Early Warning Signs of approaching meltdowns. Yeah, forcing them forward at that point might have made them "mentaily tough." But a quick snack put everyone back on an even keel, and ready for more. No need to push on to meet an imaginary schedule or timeline.

I knew my daughter was in good hands when she was having a difficult emotional time and her fiance asked her: "Baby, what have you had to eat today?" Turns out she had skipped lunch to run a bunch of errands...ahem.

I loved Daisy's post above, about working with the limitations of the people in the group. That's true teamwork--and in some ways, more valuable than mental toughness.



_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

Top
#156062 - 10/19/11 11:44 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
billstephenson,

I liked the thoughtfulness in your piece. We have learned here that many people are pretty causual about this sport, and have never really been faced with big challenges.

This perspective changes dramatically in places like Alaska or Wyoming, when the weather can turn on you even in summer and there is no one around. There may not be any one around to help you for weeks or even months.

I challenge any one on this forum who has "not really been challenged while backpacking", or "thinks that mental toughness is not relevant to the sport", try pushing your limits a little more. Sometimes the rewards are increased by the increased level of effort required.


Edited by ppine (10/19/11 11:45 AM)

Top
#156063 - 10/19/11 11:56 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
Although the title is mental toughness, the "demand" for backpack partners was stated as "no whining" and "rescue"


One of my hiking buddies, who's been with me on many bushwhacks, started whining a few years ago after we did a trip to the Leatherwood Wilderness. After being there for five days doing bushwhacks from a base camp we came out and drove to a gas station where an old timer told us we were crazy for going in there. He said there were snakes, bears, mountain lions and wild hogs, all that would kill us for food or sport. On that trip I don't think we saw or heard so much as a squirrel. But that old geezer's words stuck with him.

Around that time the silly tv shows started, recently including some about wild hogs taking over the entire planet, and he watched those.

So, the past few trips we've done he's whined, not a lot, but a bit. Mostly about bushwhacking. He obviously has convinced himself that the wild killer type animals are more likely to be somewhere off the trails. One the notable things about our trips together is that even though he's protested the routes I've led us on, he's always amazed and thrilled at what we find when we explore, is glad he did the trip, and he loves telling his friends about these trips and showing them photos.

Like me, he's over 50, been backpacking since he was 17, and in all his time outdoors he's never even seen a bear, big cat, or wild hog.

The question this brings up kind of goes back to the one Gershon posed about, " if toughness can be developed". If it can, than I have to also wonder if it can be without actual experience, and if it can also be undone without actual experience.

This guy is tough. We've done some pretty tough hikes together and I know I can count on him to do his best in a rescue situation, but he has certainly been influenced by media portrayals of things totally unrelated to his own experiences or anyone he knows. Things portrayed that are far removed from the realities of where we are, and they have had an effect him.

Last weekend I went to a hikers gathering in Arkansas. There were about 40 hikers there. Not one of them has ever had a bear come into their camp. Not one owns a canister. None said they bear bagged their food.

BTW, I took my four year old grandson with me. There was a Cub Scout troop there too, and several were members of the hiking forum that organized the gathering. So I split my time between the hikers and the scouts. W_D, those kids were zooming around from Reveille to Taps. laugh

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



Top
#156065 - 10/19/11 12:39 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
And why does everything have to be about "pushing the limits" and "increasing the rewards"? Can't anything be done just to have a little enjoyment?

I am an admitted casual/recreational hiker. I didn't take this sport up with the intention of someday climbing Everest, or thru-hiking the AT or PCT, or otherwise improve my Macho rating. I took it up because I wanted a counterpoint to a rather high-pressure job. It served me well, let me make a lot of friends, and gave me a lot of pleasure over the years. And, as Colin Fletcher pointed out, "that's a lot to get out of something as simple as walking."

I've been in some uncomfortable spots, and come through fine. But I've also gone to great lengths not to put myself into such spots intentionally, and I've never needed rescued.

I'm sorry I'm not man enough to meet your standards. No, on second thought, I'm not sorry at all.

Top
#156066 - 10/19/11 01:00 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
It depends on the story.

One of the things that you discover working with people is that their expectations tend to skew conversation and/or experiences.

I hike with large groups, small groups, friends, and SAR team members. All of these are different experiences. I have come to realize that putting expectations on other people is folly - expecting all SAR team members to be mentally tough is a dumb thing to do, expecting all my friends to be is also unrealistic, expecting people who just joined the hiking group who also make claims of having lots and lots of experience to know what they are doing and make reasonable choices for themselves as to miles and strenuous hikes is also unrealistic - the proof is in the results. People do not know what they can do, and sometimes, the person is me - some trips I am the weak one, simply because my body is not up to the task, for whatever reason.

After some thought I have to agree with bill and say that mental toughness can be present but really does not have a lot to do with backpacking, because it's more reasonable to say that one should know and respect one's own limits, which can be extremely variable - I don't have issues with elevation 99 times out of 100 and can generally drive to 10,000 feet and start hiking, for example. But I'm not going to really push myself up the trail hard if I'm having a difficult time, because I understand the risks, and even if it's a SAR I'm not going to really risk much - it does no one any good to have a second subject to evacuate after I've pushed myself beyond my limits. Part of my responsibility to the SAR team is knowing when to say "No, I can't go on this one."

It is unreasonable to expect someone who goes backpacking once a year to be up to the same level of someone who goes every month, as well. Factoring in that not every trip is a test of will or fitness, mental toughness has little to do with who I go with - sometimes you want to fish, so I go with fishermen and women. I don't need them to be able to hike 10 miles with 50 lbs on their back and not complain.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

Top
#156068 - 10/19/11 01:07 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You are quite right - it doesn't. But backpacking - putting one foot in front of the other until darkness descends and then making camp - repeat as necessary- can be undertaken in a variety of venues - some of which are more intricate and demanding than others. Backpacking interfaces with mountaineering, canyoneering, and caving, among other pursuits, which require more technical skills. And then there are inadvertent mishaps, either your own or someone else's. Sometimes we like to push limits, and sometimes we just like a nice relaxing hike and a pretty sunset.

I can really relax when out with capable companions; when otherwise, I need to be more vigilant and careful, taking more responsibility for the group. I think this is some of what the OP was addressing.

Top
#156070 - 10/19/11 01:19 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By oldranger


I can really relax when out with capable companions; when otherwise, I need to be more vigilant and careful, taking more responsibility for the group. I think this is some of what the OP was addressing.


I hike with people who understand that I take no responsibility for them.

That's so much easier for me - I'll happily help them learn navigation skills or how to use their GPS, but I'm not doing all the work. Because if a rock falls on my head they need to be able to do some of that stuff. Twice now, I've run into groups on the trail looking for "the guy with the map" who got separated - one, pay attention and don't get separated from the group, and two, don't have just one person carrying critical gear.

On the newbie type trips I try to get multiple experienced people to go with us and "socialize" the newbies into learning the things they flat refuse to take in or go to REI classes to learn.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

Top
#156072 - 10/19/11 01:25 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Perhaps I over-reacted - the original post, and the post to which I responded, had (to me, at least) a hint of "you're doing it wrong if you're not doing it my way."

I agree - there are aspects when toughness is needed. But, to issue a blanket challenge to everyone, implying that refusing the challenge means you're not a "real" backpacker, rang the arrogance bell for me. I've encountered far too many people who seem to think that the only way they can feel big is to make other people feel small; I'm hoping I've misjudged ppine.

For what it's worth, I think that part of "mental toughness" is deciding what it is that, for you, is not worth doing - and respecting that decision, whatever it is, when others make it for themselves.

Again, I apologize if I over-reacted to an implication that wasn't there.


Edited by Glenn (10/19/11 07:57 PM)
Edit Reason: confusing syntax

Top
#156077 - 10/19/11 02:38 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
OldScout Offline
member

Registered: 03/17/03
Posts: 501
Loc: Puget Sound, Washington
Glenn, I had the same reaction. I was thinking "who the he** are you to issue a challenge to "everyone" on this board." With his "challenge" and constant reminders that we are not fulfulling his request for additional stories, even though he started out with his own story, leads me to believe that we, as a hiking community who respond to this site, are not meeting his personal needs and he is frustated.

Top
#156082 - 10/19/11 04:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Paulo Offline
member

Registered: 01/27/11
Posts: 158
Loc: Normally Pacific Northwest
My original post got cut off while i was sending it. I meant to post a video about the "psychology of survival".

_________________________
Without a doubt, the hardest thing of all in a survival situation is to cook without the benefit of seasonings and flavourings. - Ray Mears

http://theoutdooradventure.net

Top
#156091 - 10/19/11 07:08 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By ppine
I challenge any one on this forum who has "not really been challenged while backpacking", or "thinks that mental toughness is not relevant to the sport", try pushing your limits a little more.


Well, like I said, I don't backpack to challenge either my mental or physical toughness, and I see no need, and have no desire to do that.

As opposed to pushing my limits, my approach has been to extend my boundaries.

I suppose the end goals may be very similar, but the means of getting there are quite likely very different. So, while I wouldn't admonish you for wanting to challenge yourself, I think most here might caution you to be well prepared for what you're doing.

A few years ago JimShaw encouraged us all to test our rain gear in our bathroom shower. I think he said to put the shower on full blast and stand in it for 15 minutes. His assumption, I believe, was that if you don't come out dry you're not prepared for rain.

I think that's a pretty good example of how one might extend their boundaries without pushing their limits.










_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



Top
#156092 - 10/19/11 07:23 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OldScout]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By OldScout
Glenn, I had the same reaction. I was thinking "who the he** are you to issue a challenge to "everyone" on this board." With his "challenge" and constant reminders that we are not fulfulling his request for additional stories, even though he started out with his own story, leads me to believe that we, as a hiking community who respond to this site, are not meeting his personal needs and he is frustated.


Not to mention "you win." There is no contest involved, only discussion and opinion, but it's a win/lose?

One of the things I consistently remind my hiking group is that we all have different goals and no single goal is any less valid than any other - we simply need to consider the hike, the goal involved in the outing, and decide if it's within our limits or not. That's something anyone can do with anyone they think they want to hike with - what's the goal? Not to mention what to do if someone gets hurt, lost, etc. Preplanning decreases panic - not toughness.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

Top
#156098 - 10/19/11 08:57 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I'll take more responsibility, not ALL responsibility. But when out with relative newbies, I need to be a little more perceptive, a little more insightful as to how people are functioning. Are they getting in over their heads? Should we shorten the excursion.

As an extreme case, when I was introducing my kids to the otudoors, you can bet I was assuming responsibility then. With more casual acquaintances, I am less involved. An intermediate situation would be working with new members on a SAR operation - you had better be tuned to your mates in that situation.

Top
#156112 - 10/19/11 11:48 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
aimless Online   content
Moderator

Registered: 02/05/03
Posts: 3141
Loc: Portland, OR
I challenge any one on this forum who has "not really been challenged while backpacking", or "thinks that mental toughness is not relevant to the sport", try pushing your limits a little more. Sometimes the rewards are increased by the increased level of effort required.

I've been avoiding this thread, not because it seems ill-conceived or an unfruitful topic, but more because in order to fully address the subject I would be pulled toward telling stories about my personal life that I have long been reluctant to air out on the internet before an audience of random strangers (excepting, of course, the long term regulars on this forum whose contributions, maturity and judgment I have learned to respect - the internet is much vaster than just those sterling participants).

Anyway, my main comment on the subject is that mental toughness is required by far more varieties of experience than merely facing the physical challenges or adversities of the sort one may find on or off-trail in the backcountry.

As a result of my own personal experiences I have not the slightest bit of doubt that I've been tested severely and come through with a certain amount of credit. It had nothing to do with backpacking, hiking, or deliberately pushing beyond my limits; somtimes our limits are surpassed without our lifting a finger to make it happen. It just happens.

I understand that some people feel the need to test themselves in these sorts of ways, by creating opportunities for adversity, and by dancing up close to where they think "the edge" might be. That's fine. I have no problem with it. But I do want to point out that for a signifigant number of us, we don't need or appreciate having our mental toughness measured by this one rather artificial and generally pointless standard.

Go to any hospital and you'll meet dozens of folks who may never have pushed through a blizzard to get over a high pass in subzero weather, but whose mental toughness would put many of us to shame. A goodly number of them will be under 16 years old, too.

I just don't want to see the subject trivialized as some macho knife-between-the-teeth thing. Adversity is the fabric of life for millions of people who will never see a trail.

Just my $0.02.

Top
#156115 - 10/20/11 12:24 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By oldranger
I'll take more responsibility, not ALL responsibility. But when out with relative newbies, I need to be a little more perceptive, a little more insightful as to how people are functioning. Are they getting in over their heads? Should we shorten the excursion.


You are taking people you know, I think. I am operating (with the help of other volunteers) a hiking group and frequently hike with strangers. I have no liability and assume no responsibility, though I can and have helped people out to the point of carrying their gear.

All SAR newbies sign a waiver, until such time they are sworn in and become members. Our trainings are in controlled environments and there is always an articulated and specific safety plan. We work as a team and help each other out, but in the end we are not liable for one another - which is I think a slightly different issue than responsibility.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

Top
#156125 - 10/20/11 08:43 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
I watched "Touching the Void" last night. I wasn't impressed with their decision to start the climb. Running out of fuel for their stove was an indication of their lack of preparation.

When enough people make the bad decision to go into a very dangerous situation, most will live, some will die. They don't get my applause or sympathy.

Very infrequently, people end up in an unforeseeable situation and end up in a survival situation. But I think most end up in these situations due to lack of preparation for the task they are attempting.

I'm all for intentional personal tests of toughness. But intentionally violating simple safety precautions in those tests is not something I'm into.

_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

Top
#156130 - 10/20/11 11:56 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Back to the question "Can we build toughness?" If toughness is defined as completing a difficult task without fanfare or complaint, then I say yes. But it doesn't come without practice in the techniques.

One thing that continually comes up is to break the difficult into small doable tasks and just focus on that. For me, it's better to unfocus until each task completed.

For instance, if I have a long day ahead of me, I might decide to stop for a drink and a snack every hour. (This time was shorter at the beginning of the season when my pack was heavier.)

I set this time to be BEFORE I knew I'd need it.

The snack and drink are a reward in my mind for hiking the distance. Eventually, the two get mixed up in my mind and the distance is also the reward.

For my son, the reward is to take pictures of the great views at the top of the hill. So he likes to push uphill, stop and take pictures. Then meander downhill.


_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

Top
#156131 - 10/20/11 01:02 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
FWIW, I think this discussion could now take a turn back towards team building, as well. Certainly the military makes every effort to build mental toughness in their units---and a key element of that is the sense of the team as more important than the individual.

Then again, I don't go backpacking to enjoy the pleasures of boot camp.
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

Top
#156136 - 10/20/11 02:29 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
Couple thoughts (and some fuel for the fire - we'll probably have to agree to disagree):

- If I wanted backpacking to suck, I would have joined the Army or Marine Corps. Not/Not a criticism of my brothers in arms; just a tactical fact of life they have to deal with in any weather combat operations.

- If I'm leading a group, I'm responsible even if I'm not liable. There is a distinction there.

- If I take your minor child out, I'm certainly responsible for their well being. I'm probably also liable if something I could control goes wrong.

- I agree that teamwork in a group setting is EVERYTHING.

- I will NEVER go out in the outdoors with some of the men in church again. We went on an afternoon kayak outing, and the "leaders" left a buddy and I behind. The other guy didn't know what he was doing and capsized (shouldn't have been there, and I didn't know in advance). I wasn't formally responsible, but because I was there I had to rescue him, get him sorted out, and head back. I don't trust either the formally designated leader of the outing or the tail end charlie now. They left us, and I may never trust them again.

Lori, it is a matter of style but I would be very uncomfortable going out in a group as you describe it. You may disagree (and I look forward to reading your response) but I think that going out in a group involves a compact that, at minimum, includes the obligation to render aid in case of emergency or equipment failure. Otherwise, why bother with the extra effort involved in having a group?

I've both rendered and been given aid: carrying an exhausted kid's gear up a mountain, and having mine carried when I blew an ankle; giving stove fuel to a stranger when his spilled, and borrowing another guy's stove when my stove failed. I could have bailed myself out in either situation where my "stuff" failed (I had fire starter and ankle wrap), but I was part of a group - and groups succeed or fail on how committed each member is to helping the others succeed in the group's common goals. This also, by the way, meant that when I found I could walk, and took my own load back after a mile or so, that I had to eat Motrin and finish the hike. It goes both ways.

Sorry this came out so messy. I look forward to reading your thoughts.


Steadman

Top
#156140 - 10/20/11 02:57 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
In group hiking, I think most of us would help out "fallen" members to the extent of our ability. I do understand what Lori is saying. I hike and climb with a friend who is a RN. She is very touchy about what medical aid she renders. She only takes a very minimal first aid kit (more minimal than mine!) She only hikes with people she knows well and trusts. Unfortunately we have liability laws that allow someone she aids to sue her if the outcome turns out bad. She could easily loose her license and ability to make a living. I think Lori is in a health related profession too. By stating that she is not responsible for others I think she is just protecting herself from law suits. In non-orgainzed groups everyone is responsible for themselves. In orgainzed groups you sign a waiver and still are responsible for yourself. That does not mean that the leader does not FEEL responsible or assist those in need, they just are not leagally responsible for the outcome. I try to make the trip enjoyable for those with me, but I do not feel responsible for someone else's happiness. You can lead a horse to water but cannot force them to drink!

To address Steadman's first point-to some people (personalities) a tough backpack (or seeking out a tough backpack) does not "suck". Overcoming obstacles can be very rewarding. I occssionally do this myself. When I do I most often go alone because it is not reasonable to expect others to tag along on my masochistic streaks.

Top
#156165 - 10/20/11 06:59 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Steadman


Lori, it is a matter of style but I would be very uncomfortable going out in a group as you describe it. You may disagree (and I look forward to reading your response) but I think that going out in a group involves a compact that, at minimum, includes the obligation to render aid in case of emergency or equipment failure. Otherwise, why bother with the extra effort involved in having a group?




In no particular order:

I have helped anyone in need, by making suggestions and offering food, water, use of a filter, or anything over the counter - I do not tell people what to do unless I perceive imminent harm. The gent lying prone by the trail with no water left in his Camelbak, no food, no supplies, red as a beet, gasping for air, telling me he had diarrhea for three days before trying to hike Half Dome was told by me under no uncertain terms to TURN AROUND AND GO TO THE MEDICAL CLINIC. (He was not, by the way, a member of our group.) When the leader of his scout group arrived I told him the same thing. He was given a little water and some food by my group, and the leader of his group was left to walk him out, go for help, whatever. They were a mile and a half from a table staffed by Yosemite staff with radios. If he had been unconscious or otherwise non ambulatory I would have sent someone myself, preferably someone who runs as well as hikes.

The safety of groups lies in not being out there alone and no one keeping track of you or able to catch you when you are showing signs of dehydration or hypothermia. All members of our groups are expected to carry adequate gear/provisions for themselves plus a map. This is explicitly stated along with recommendations that they tell someone where they are going - what if the entire group vanishes? Specifics about the individual hikers need to be communicated by their chosen responsible parties to the authorities. There is no way I am going to be able to collect all that myself and if I am on the hike I couldn't provide it anyway. Every hike is a different group of people.

The only problems we have had are occasionally misplaced (not quite lost, just disoriented for a few minutes) people, and the more frequent "I don't know my limits yet but I'm positive I'll be okay" newbie having either heat exhaustion, or elevation issues. There are a few organizers in the group who explicitly say "I can't deal with slow (mentally or physically) people" and screen people pretty carefully before saying they can go on the event. There has never been an instance where someone has been refused help when it's needed, and more than once someone in the group has walked with an ill person back to the car.

I receive consistent positive feedback that my trip descriptions provide accurate ratings of trips, and I always link to safety information, gear lists, and weather reports when setting up the trip so people understand how to prepare even if they have never been hiking. This has helped reduce the number of gimpy hiker issues significantly.

The group is not really intended to provide people with hikes - it's intended to provide hikers with opportunities to meet people who hike, resulting in a pool of people with whom you can go hiking outside the group. In that respect it's been mostly successful.

On the surface it doesn't sound like it would work out. For some people it doesn't, but to an extent you need to be outgoing enough to "interview" other hikers as you participate and make friends for it to really pay off. 95% of the folks who show up are responsible, friendly, honest and pretty darn cool. The other 5% gradually drop out as they realize I'm not going to stop asking them to be responsible for themselves, not going to be their tour guide, not going to let them play power/control games (I screen organizer volunteers, my criteria are "good communication skills, good organizational skills, stable personality and some hiking experience in the local area") and I will suggest people away from hard hikes when they can't do short, moderate ones. (I tell them they are perfectly within their rights to do anything they want any time, but that this hike is probably not going to be enjoyable for them because it's more climbing/miles than this other hike they didn't do well on. Part of the problem some folks have is the inability to understand the elevation gain/length they are capable of managing.)

Two civil attorneys later, and after many long conversations with people more experienced than I with organizing outdoor activity groups, including some Sierra Clubbers (I have many in my hiking group who also are part of the local chapter and are or were hike leaders for them), I am left with the following:

1. Telling someone what to do and how to do it and when to do it makes you liable for the outcome. Choose carefully what you tell people to do. Waivers hold up in court about half the time.

2. Suggesting to people and providing information doesn't make you liable.

And from my own organization of hikes over the past four years:
1. People lie - to themselves if not to you - about their abilities.
2. People with mental issues (if not an official diagnosis then some social malfunction impacting their ability to make friends) are frequently advised to join activity groups to meet people - I've done this too (but I don't mention my group when I do it!).
3. People surprise you - overweight people can show great stamina and joggers, runners, bikers, and gym rats can totally suffer while hiking. Wives carry half their husbands' gear sometimes, or vice versa. Kids have the capacity to outhike the most able 20-something sometimes. People defy categories and stereotypes.

I am trained to do assessments of suicidality and diagnose mental health disorders. I have had one hiker, who struggled to carry his pack a mere six miles and less than 500 feet of gain, express a wish for someone to shoot him. I walked away - that is not something I do for people who are not my client, for a variety of reasons, and I would walk away again. My liability policy will not cover any missteps made randomly attempting to treat people who have not come to me for treatment. He did make it out - I carried some of his stuff for him as did other group members, it took four of us with 50 liter packs to carry what was in his pack. He hasn't tried to backpack again and last I heard he is following dr orders not to carry more than 15 lbs in a pack (he had 70+ lbs, he received those orders before he went on the backpacking trip, and the experience radically changed how the group organizes backpacking trips).

I make no claim to expertise however often people in the group label me an expert. People have told me they trust my judgment, my navigation skills and my expert opinion (whatever that means) - I will tell them that backpacking is like anything else, you have a set of expectations and beliefs that work for you, and you make your own decisions about it based on your experiences. My choices are my own and no one else's - there is a general fund of knowledge on safety and first aid skill building, present in many books on the subject and on many websites in articles about backpacking. Beyond that what you take and what you do is a matter of where you go, when you go, and how comfortable you are with your own skills and gear - your choice. No one really likes that answer. Everyone wants a backpacking kit ready made for them and not to have to think about it that much.

Most if not all of my tactics in organizing are based on experience, knowledge of group dynamics, on-the-fly assessment (in my head) of the mental status of the individuals in front of me, and a huge amount of observation of others.

I still organize hikes and still enjoy it. Just like I still work with mentally ill and substance abuse clients, and still enjoy it. Hiking is my healthy outlet because there are still more sane people in my groups than there are unreliable, medically compromised or mentally impaired ones. The majority of the work involved in organizing a hike is in writing the description and posting it on the website, then occasionally sending an email. The rest of the experience is the reason I do it.

I do not require anyone to be tough. Just aware, adaptable and responsible.

335+ outdoor events later we have had positive event reviews 98% of the time.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

Top
#156166 - 10/20/11 07:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
To reply to balzacom comments - There is the right way, the worng way, and the military way. "Camping" as done by the military, and team building is totally different from those similar enterprises as carried out in most civilian contexts. My time in the army was among the most depressing and unproductive times of my life. The teamwork I have experienced in SAR are some of the most profound, and cherished, times of my life.

There are no guarantees that teamwork will develop within a group. For some of the situations we are describing, we are not talking about a group, but simply a collection of solo hikers. In a functioning group, individuals contribute their talents and their abilities, often achieving astounding and gratifying results. We have touched on this in some of our solo hiking threads.


In my career as an NPS archaeologist, I have seen "non-teamwork" and some pretty good teamwork, but nothing to match what I have experienced in SAR, probably because in SAR the stakes are pretty high.


Edited by oldranger (10/20/11 07:02 PM)

Top
#156167 - 10/20/11 07:20 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Originally Posted By lori

All SAR newbies sign a waiver, until such time they are sworn in and become members. Our trainings are in controlled environments and there is always an articulated and specific safety plan. We work as a team and help each other out, but in the end we are not liable for one another - which is I think a slightly different issue than responsibility.


I am not talking about training situations, although potential new members are scrutinized pretty thoroughly in that context, but more of how new folks function on an actual operation. Are they comfortable in the environment (almost always at night and out in the mountains)? Do they take initiative or do they wait for guidance (neither is necessarily all good or all bad). Are they reckless or prudent? etc, etc., The idea is to develop a profile of the person so that their skills and abilities can be matched with requirements of teams on future missions.

Our group comprised quite a few different individuals, and not all of them were vigorous, leap tall mountains at a single bound testosteronoids. Many of our ops used a amazingly diverse set of talents and abilities, not all of which were physical.

Our members were never sworn in. Did you mean to say "sworn at"? That happened a time or two....

Top
Page 3 of 6 < 1 2 3 4 5 6 >

Shout Box

Highest Quality Lightweight Down Sleeping Bags
 
Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags
 
Lite Gear Talk - Featured Topics
Very comfortable and lightweight hiking shoes
by walkingnatur
10/25/20 02:48 PM
All the Quechua and Decathlon Hiking Gear we Love
by walkingnatur
10/10/20 02:49 PM
Sleeping Bag Compressed Volume
by Louie
09/23/20 03:00 PM
Backcountry Discussion - Featured Topics
The Scariest Encounters Women Have on the....
by BZH
10/16/20 11:06 AM
Make Your Own Gear - Featured Topics
Featured Photos
Breakneck Ridge, New York
May 2012 Eclipse, Lassen Park
New Years Eve 2011
Trip Report with Photos
Seven Devils, Idaho
Oat Hill Mine Trail 2012
Dark Canyon - Utah
Who's Online
0 registered (), 93 Guests and 0 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newest Members
phillipsvic, Phfatcat, Raceyouthere, JimmyWillson, raven93
12925 Registered Users
Forum Links
Disclaimer
Policies
Site Links
Backpacking.net
Lightweight Gear Store
Backpacking Book Store
Lightweight Zone
Hiking Essentials

Our long-time Sponsor, BackcountryGear.com - The leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear:

Backcountry Forum
 

Affiliate Disclaimer: This forum is an affiliate of BackcountryGear.com, Amazon.com, R.E.I. and others. The product links herein are linked to their sites. If you follow these links to make a purchase, we may get a small commission. This is our only source of support for these forums. Thanks.!
 
 

Since 1996 - the Original Backcountry Forum
Copyright © The Lightweight Backpacker & BackcountryForum