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#156168 - 10/20/11 07:28 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
member

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


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....


Our members are sworn in by one of the deputies after passing background checks, going through the initial trainings, and passing the physical fitness test.

We are all ages ranging from 20-70+. Some folks are ground pounders, some do swiftwater and high angle technical too. Some have CARDA certs for their dogs. Not everyone is fit enough for the hasty team. We have people who can't go alpine, and one is deathly allergic to poison oak.

Our trainings are sometimes overnight mock searches and since we search at night if necessary we include night navigation practice. I am usually a team leader and my practice is to rotate delegated tasks so everyone practices communication, navigation and note taking. By the time we go searching we are usually able to acquit ourselves well enough in the field.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#156174 - 10/20/11 09:02 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
Lori

Bless you for the well thought out answer. I think I see a good middle ground between absolute chaos and central direction thanks to your intelligent and well thought out comments.

Sincerely

Steadman

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#156177 - 10/20/11 09:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I have always been impressed at how people with diverse abilities can contribute to a successful SAR. You mention operating at night "if necssary." I would say that about 80% of our operations involved night operations at some point.

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#156198 - 10/21/11 03:04 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
balzaccom Online   content
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
Originally Posted By Steadman
- If I wanted backpacking to suck, I would have joined the Army or Marine Corps.


I loved that line, Steadman!

Let's go back to the teamwork concept. We haven't lead hikes in nearly forty years now, so we are only hiking with close friends/family, and in small groups of three or four, total. I amdire those of you who leads trips of larger, less connected groups. You will need your own set of rules for those---which is why we don't do them any more.

Teamwork means trusting your teammates. Trusting that they aren't complaining needlessly--they when they complain, they have a problem that is bigger than they can handle.

And it also means trusting that they are not asking you to do stupid things to for silly reasons of their own--like creating their own survivor show in their minds.

And maybe most importantly, it means being more or less on the same page when it comes to goals. In backpacking, that has a lot to do with what you want do, and what you want to see on the trip. For us, backpacking is supposed to be fun, not survival.

We never insist on completing our itinerary if it is making anyone of us truly uncomfortable or unsafe. Why? Not our style, and not in our interests. And we would never sign up for a trip that asked us to push our limits beyond what we thought was possible. Huh? I thought we were on vacation!

I am all in favor of people pushing their limits when it doesn't impact others. But please don't expect me to go on a trip with the expectation that maybe one of us is going to suffer so much that the others have to haul him/her out of there. Been there, done that, not interested any more.

Now when I ride a roadbike, I sometimes am pushed well beyond my confort level. But I am responsible for that. And I don't expect anyone else to pedal me home, ever.
_________________________
balzaccom

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

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#156227 - 10/22/11 09:45 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
I was blessed with a mountain lion sighting this morning, and heard a bear on Thurs nite but did not see him on a fishing trip near Portola, CA.

In my absence this thread has taken some interesting turns. Thanks to respondents like oldranger, lori, oregonmouse, etc. people that have obviously had a wealth of outdoor experiences and have been thoughtful about this topic.

To those of you that are defensive about this topic, and have been agressive in your comments I will not respond.

Mental toughness is a skill backpackers need to have in reserve, like firebuilding skills in wet conditions so that they do not become overwhelmed when faced with really bad weather or a backcountry accident.

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#156229 - 10/23/11 10:01 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
member

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


Mental toughness is a skill backpackers need to have in reserve, like firebuilding skills in wet conditions so that they do not become overwhelmed when faced with really bad weather or a backcountry accident.


That's funny, I don't think of that as toughness. Just "knowledge and familiarity." If you have the skills and knowhow, and enough familiarity with the wilderness, you'll know what to do and when to do it, to avoid panic and bad mistakes.

That doesn't take toughness at all.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#156231 - 10/23/11 12:17 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
ppine Offline
member

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

This word toughness seems to be an unfortunate word choice for this topic. It has all sorts of connotations related to words like macho, maleness, phony bravado, etc.

You are being modest in my opinion, when you suggest that with skill and familiarity, it is not tough at all. That is kind of analogous to brain surgery, with skill and familiarity it is not tough at all either.

Semantics aside, it is obvious to me that people like you most definitely have mental toughness, and anyone would be happy to have you searching for them if they were in trouble.

I apologize to all those who cannot seem to grasp this topic. The backcountry of N Amer is no place to be clueless and careless about one's own welfare, not to mention the welfare of one's companions.


Edited by ppine (10/23/11 12:18 PM)

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#156233 - 10/23/11 01:20 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
ringtail Offline
member

Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Originally Posted By ppine
I apologize to all those who cannot seem to grasp this topic. The backcountry of N Amer is no place to be clueless and careless about one's own welfare, not to mention the welfare of one's companions.


I guess I am too stupid to grasp the topic. Give me a short list of where people that are clueless and careless about one's own welfare ARE safe.

I think we should revoke the driver's licenses for all people that are clueless and I should be the final judge.

I am safer and more comfortable in the backcountry than I would be in downtown Detroit.

Mental toughness is doing the "right thing" even when you are not 100% sure what is right.

Mental toughness is acting for someone else while sacrificing your own comfort. Single parents ARE mentally tough.

Overcoming an addiction is tough.

Tim Tebow is starting for the Broncos today. Good coaching and repetitions will make him a better quarterback. But you can say the same about most all activities.

Mental toughness is getting up one more time than you are knocked down. But that does not have anything to do with the backcountry.
_________________________
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#156240 - 10/23/11 05:57 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I think we may be refining the idea - especially with your clarification that you did not mean it to include things like macho, phony bravado, etc. (and I am starting to feel that I did draw an erroneous conclusion in an earlier post - I apologize for that.)

Might it be fair to say that mental toughness does come down to being slow to panic, willing to make the best of it when plans go awry, and refusing to give up when giving up seems the only thing possible? This would seem to allow the recreational weekend hiker to exhibit mental toughness right along with the AT thru-hiker (which would have to be, in itself, one definition of the term) or the relentless limit-pusher. It's the attitude, not the adventure, that defines it?

As an example, walking in the rain all day (especially when you really, really wanted the weekend hike to be dry) takes mental toughness. Getting lost in a corn maze and calling 911 is the antithesis of mental toughness?

It's been an interesting discussion.

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#156242 - 10/23/11 06:36 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
ppine Offline
member

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

We are on the same station. Thanks for changing your tune.

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#156247 - 10/23/11 09:11 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Richardvg03 Offline
member

Registered: 09/21/10
Posts: 276
Loc: San Diego, Ca
Originally Posted By ppine


Would anyone like share some experiences that demonstrate mental toughness?


Yes... read my signature...
_________________________
Sgt. Richard V. Gilbert
USMC Retired
Scout/Sniper

Already getting notifications to be more "gentle"..?? smile

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#156248 - 10/23/11 09:51 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Glenn
Getting lost in a corn maze and calling 911 is the antithesis of mental toughness?


That we can surely all agree on! laugh

I still feel that when you're doing something you truly love, then it isn't truly mentally tough, but I also understand what ppine is getting at. I can't think of any good word to nail it down with though.

I would agree that most people that truly love hiking and backpacking, and all that comes with it, the bugs, rain, cold, heat, achey muscles, scrapes and bruises, all of that, are of a different character than those that don't.

Ringtail said "I am safer and more comfortable in the backcountry than I would be in downtown Detroit." He's right, no doubt about it, and it takes a certain kind of mental toughness to take a walk along Eight Mile, especially if you've never done it before, or do it everyday.

So we can't say that hikers and backpackers, as a rule, are mentally tougher that those who've never stepped foot in a wilderness.

The term, "Mental Toughness", is too broad to apply to any individual in all situations. We are all tough, and we are all weak. We can be tough one day, or even for one hundred, yet break in the same situation the next.

For me to "Push my limits", I'd almost have to endanger myself by doing something I know better than to do. In other words, something stupid. I've tried all my life not to do stupid things, and to be prepared for what I might encounter. so I find it hard to see how I would push my limits.

But ppine is not really suggesting I do something stupid. I know what he's getting at, and what that "something" is he looks for in hiking partners, and yet we've all found it hard to nail down.

I think we need a new word for it wink
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#156249 - 10/23/11 09:56 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Richardvg03]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Richard!

I've been thinking about you lately and wondering what you've been up to. Dude, you've been tough enough, no doubt about that wink

But have you done any hiking lately?

And hey, did you see the news today? All the troops out of Iraq by years end!!
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#156252 - 10/23/11 10:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
skcreidc Offline
member

Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Quote:
For me to "Push my limits", I'd almost have to endanger myself by doing something I know better than to do.


Aw that's not true Bill. I know you have had teenagers in your home before.

Hey! Sargent Gilbert! I'm trying to get out in the desert Nov. 4,5, and out on 6. Maybe just 2 days. You still in San Diego?


Edited by skcreidc (10/23/11 10:56 PM)
Edit Reason: because

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#156259 - 10/24/11 08:03 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Not 100% sure I've changed my tune - I still believe that there's a spectrum of backpacking, along which anyone can find an equally valid point. I also don't believe that it's necessary to constantly try to move left (or right) of that point to satisfy someone else's idea of where you should be.

However, I am glad to know that I misjudged your original posts, and that you never believed that there was a one-size-fits-all point on that spectrum. I'm also glad that we do have some common ground on the mindset needed for backpacking. I was also glad to see the other thread you started, about "more than recreational" backpacking - I think it pulls out the aspect of this thread that was creating the controversy: once you move beyond recreational backpacking on the spectrum, what do you get out of the sport?

I'm like everyone else, I can't come up with a better word than "toughness" - though of course I can try! smile What about "resilience"? (Or, as a writer had John Wayne say, "You're gonna spend the rest of your life getting up one more time than you're knocked down.")

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#156261 - 10/24/11 08:42 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Quote:
It is real simple for this group, don't worry about what others think of your decisions if they are based on experience.

It is the people with little experience that are concerned about being looked down upon. Backpacking is a personal experience with lots of room for different interpretations of what is right.


Ppine, you said this last year. I think I might understand your original point better in light of this. And it's not surprising we have so many different correct opinions in the thread.


Edited by Gershon (10/24/11 08:42 AM)
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#156269 - 10/24/11 01:08 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
The trouble is that the field is too broad. There are too many kinds of backpackers. Para-professionals in SAR are not backpackers, either, most of them (that I know) are not backpackers or day hikers. They use the same gear to different ends.

It is completely unnecessary to have that mental toughness if you go for a weekend, every other year or so. It is probably unnecessary if you go a few times a year. It is necessary if you intend to do the entire PCT or any other through hike to develop some measure of mental toughness, because the longer you are out, the more likely things will happen, conditions will change unpredictably or just the unexpected happens.

I do not disagree that I probably am mentally tough but it has absolutely nothing to do with backpacking experience - where it made a difference with me was after the initial return to backpacking, from whence I returned dehydrated, tick-bitten (and thereafter rash'd from knee to bellybutton), exhausted, blistered and pretty much mentally gone. The mental toughness came into play in the weeks following - when I decided to go again. Had nothing to do with the trip itself. It also comes into play in my career. It also comes into play in other areas of my life. I don't have to have it on leisure backpacks because the more important aspect of backpacking is proper planning, which I've got down pretty well.

People who are backpacking out of curiosity go away after they have an initial torture test. I wasn't doing it out of curiosity - but my particular geekness is in figuring out what went wrong and fixing it, whether it's a computer, a sewing project or other hobby. Figuring out how to backpack without suffering was my goal. I'm pretty much there.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#156271 - 10/24/11 02:37 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Let me attempt a semi-formal definition:

"mental toughness"is that quality of perseverance and the ability to determine and focus upon matters of critical importance when the situation and conditions become adverse.

In other words, you do not become unglued when unexpected problems arise. You never know when your need for MT will occur; it might even happen on an anticipated easy weekend hike (been there, done that).

If you can deal with unexpected adversity, it probably follows that you can deliberately put yourself into a tough situation.

You never outgrow your need for MT!

If you develop some MT while in the outdoors, it may well transfer over to other aspects of your life- or vice versa

Lori, an interesting point of difference. Nearly all of the successful and capable SAR types I have worked with were outdoor types - fairly strong hikers and backpackers, cavers,or rock climbers, all with a wide variety of professional backgrounds - interesting difference

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#156272 - 10/24/11 04:28 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Richardvg03]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
Glad you showed up in this one!!!

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#156274 - 10/24/11 04:54 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
I think I agree with your definition of Mental Toughness oldranger; after I've advocated a common position in this discussion, I'm reconsidering its value. Let me toss a strawman out there and see how it holds.

I don't think we can predict when any of us will run out of mental toughness (really, resilliency). Even those who get back up again after getting figuratively knocked down (mentally or physically) have breaking points. The reaching of those braking points can be unexpected, and excacerbated by poor conditions (lack of food and sleep, bad weather, etc).

So while going hiking with the "mentally fragile" (as an antithesis to the thesis of the "mentally tough" or "mentally resiliant") might not be desireable, I don't know if any of us can predict when we'll crumble. Even those of us who've walked up to the edge, leaned over to have a look, and come back from it as "mentally tough" people.

Some really suprising people survive and succeed in the face of incredible odds. Leadership is my part and parcel of my profession, and I don't think I know who the "mentally fragile" are, and don't think I could pick them out like ppine suggests before hiking with them. Diamonds are only found after time and incredible pressure, but even diamonds crack after one hit too many - past performance is no garuntee of future success. So while we can define resilliency, I don't think we can predict it with a great degree of certainty.

What do you think?

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#156275 - 10/24/11 06:27 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I think you make a very valid point. The property is quite unpredictable and we all have our breaking point, without exception. Some very quiet, unassertive people can really hang in, and some macho poseurs drop out quite soon.

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#156277 - 10/24/11 07:37 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: skcreidc]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By skcreidc
Originally Posted By BillT
For me to "Push my limits", I'd almost have to endanger myself by doing something I know better than to do.


Aw that's not true Bill. I know you have had teenagers in your home before.


I said I "Tried" not to do stupid things, but, ya know, I ain't always succeeded laugh
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#156379 - 10/27/11 02:02 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
Richardvg03 Offline
member

Registered: 09/21/10
Posts: 276
Loc: San Diego, Ca
Originally Posted By billstephenson
Richard!

I've been thinking about you lately and wondering what you've been up to. Dude, you've been tough enough, no doubt about that wink

But have you done any hiking lately?

And hey, did you see the news today? All the troops out of Iraq by years end!!


Hey old timer! I haven't done much hiking... i crossed the continent of Africa this summer but I wasn't hiking much of it. I'm at UCSD now and it's kicking my ass!!! I'm thinking about doing something over the Thanksgiving holidays though!
_________________________
Sgt. Richard V. Gilbert
USMC Retired
Scout/Sniper

Already getting notifications to be more "gentle"..?? smile

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#156479 - 10/30/11 12:28 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Richardvg03]
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
This quality needs to be held in reserve, so that it can be accessed if necessary. Some contributors seem to equate mental toughness with recklessness, and bad decision making.

The best hiking companions, and by extension the best companions are amiable, capable, flexible, and dependable.

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#156483 - 10/30/11 12:58 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
balzaccom Online   content
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
PPine

I think that many times people who TALK about mental toughness seem to equate backpacking with some kind of survival exercise. And frankly, most of our backpacking trips are a long way from that. I plan and execute my trips to AVOID the necessity for mental toughness--because I am on vacation, and I want to have fun. And I want the people who are with me to have fun, too.

Should the manure hit the ventilator, I am reasonably sure that I will respond with maturity and focus...I can point to any number os situations where that has happenedm, and that's a good thing.

But really, I use mental toughness a LOT more in my daily life running my own business than I do out on the trail in the Sierra. When I am backpacking the variables are far fewer, the surprises rarely negative, and the experience is one of joy, rather than survival.
_________________________
balzaccom

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

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