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#155801 - 10/13/11 10:18 PM Mental toughness
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
This is the one quality I demand in my comrades in the outdoors. If anything goes wrong they should not be complainers, and must be capable of a rescue.

Women as a group have come a long way , and have impressed me greatly in the last 20 years or so.

Young people these days tend to be focused on the indoors and show a lot of fear and little understanding or interest in nature.

Would anyone like share some experiences that demonstrate mental toughness?

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#155802 - 10/13/11 10:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
oldranger Offline
member

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

Women as a group have come a long way , and have impressed me greatly in the last 20 years or so.


It is just barely possible that you may draw a reaction to this statement from some members of this forum......

A couple of examples from my experience. One of my supervisors survived a grizzly attack while working in Alaska. She had to play dead while the grizz, after attacking and injuring her partner, came over and batted her around a bit. I saw plenty of occasions where this lady displayed nerves of steel.

I ran across another example while doing shipwreck research at Channel Islands National Park. The lone survivor of a swamped fishing vessel, a lady named Bernice Brown, swam to Anacapa Island and survived there for 14 days until she was rescued by the Coast Guard. Anacapa has little, if any, natural fresh water. This occurred in March, 1946. That sounds like pretty tough stuff for any era.....

I am curious, as one who has participated in many rescues, what are your criteria for determining "capable of a rescue."

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#155805 - 10/13/11 10:53 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
OregonMouse Online   content
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Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Interesting topic, ppine! I'll ignore the comment about women except to say that while growing up in the western US, I met a lot of really strong women, still taking care of ranch chores and riding long hours in all kinds of weather in their 70's and 80's. One of them (our landlady) remembered as a child going with her mother to take baked goods to Butch Cassidy and his gang. (Confirmed by reputable historians, BTW.)

I grew up going on backpacking and horsepacking adventures with my parents (some rather foolhardy considering their lack of experience at the time), and they encouraged me to "be a good sport" and not complain. We were in a lot of tough spots weather-wise at high altitudes in the Rockies, and I learned to laugh and joke about them as well as learning the skills to cope with the adverse conditions. That was back in the 1940's and 50's.

Forward to the first overnight backpack five years ago with my grandson JP, age six at the time. We hiked in about a mile and found a lovely stream to sit beside and eat our lunch. All of a sudden, this big yellow jacket shows up and starts buzzing around JP. I told him not to bat at it or it would sting. Well, that wasp kept buzzing around his head for several minutes (seemed like several hours!) and JP sat there like a statue until the critter finally went away. Did I ever praise him for being so brave!

I recently read an article by Francis Tapon about the characteristics of those who manage to complete the long trails (PCT, CDT and AT). While prior conditioning, light packs, avoiding injury and having enough money were important, the one characteristic that stood out was the will to finish!


Edited by OregonMouse (10/13/11 11:11 PM)
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#155809 - 10/13/11 11:16 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ppine
This is the one quality I demand in my comrades in the outdoors. If anything goes wrong they should not be complainers, and must be capable of a rescue.

Women as a group have come a long way , and have impressed me greatly in the last 20 years or so.

Young people these days tend to be focused on the indoors and show a lot of fear and little understanding or interest in nature.

Would anyone like share some experiences that demonstrate mental toughness?


My entire life.

I am a middle aged woman who volunteers for search and rescue. I reject your notion that women have "come a long way" - we've been there all along.

Stereotypes piss me off, so you know. I find them to be useless.
_________________________
"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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#155813 - 10/14/11 12:22 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
balzaccom Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2026
Loc: Napa, CA
Yeah...women have impressed me for a lot longer than the last 20 years. I first hiked the ten mile round trip trail to Velma Lakes above Tahoe when I was about nine month old, on my mother's hip. My sister (then 4) and brother (then 8) accompanied us.

I share PPine's dislike of whiners on the trail, but I have found them of all shapes, sizes and certainly genders.
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#155833 - 10/14/11 12:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
lori Offline
member

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


I share PPine's dislike of whiners on the trail, but I have found them of all shapes, sizes and certainly genders.


I have had to carry out gear for men on backpacking trips before. Sometimes they don't just whine, they plop down and give up entirely.

The women I've backpacked with have all made it out and back in style, wearing their blisters without complaint. Can't say the same about the men. Men are a varied bunch, some got all whiny butt about the cold, the miles - some of them just go, others say they can and stop 1,000,000 times to catch their breath.

My mom backpacked and fished. I backpack and fish. My friends backpack and fish. I clean my own fish, keep up with the young guys on SAR - this weekend I am conquering my fear of vertical surfaces for high angle training, along with the 10 other women on the team, and the dozen or so men who show up. This one guy will be wearing a heavy jacket and be whining about how cold it is, I'm sure. Predictable.
_________________________
"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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#155840 - 10/14/11 02:33 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6738
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
We women were designed to give birth to children, so our pain threshold is far higher!
lol
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#155843 - 10/14/11 02:49 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OregonMouse]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I can't reference the studies off the top of my head, but I believe you are exactly right. Women are more pain tolerant than men, and also exceed in several other parameters.

Men do take the edge when it comes to heavy lifting....

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#155844 - 10/14/11 02:55 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I have backpacked, climbed and SARed(is that a verb?)with women for many years, sometimes with a romantic interest but more often not. I like good partners who can carry their share of the load, add to the group expertise, and do their best in tough spots. In my opinion, sex has nothing to do with those qualities;it is a minor criterion when choosing a team.

A lot of times, you want the ladies - when caving, and tight passages need exploration, for instance.

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#155863 - 10/15/11 11:04 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
In my opinion, mental toughness is learning to do those things that are difficult for the individual. My son was very afraid of heights at the beginning of the season. He had to be led on trails I was indifferent to. After few times out, he'd have to stop to gather the courage to go across a particular section. Sometimes he'd stop for 5 or 10 minutes before going, but he always did it.

For myself, what others might perceive as toughness is simply indifference to the things I can't change. I'm not one to go past my personal boundaries of endurance, but the more I get close to them, the bigger they get.
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#155866 - 10/15/11 12:25 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Lori,
OK you win. I was trying to pay all members of your gender a large compliment. Women have always been tough, or none of us would be here. My Mom as an example, raised on a berry farm out of Olympia, WA could do all sorts of outdoor stuff. She had her own caulked boots for hiking in the swampy Cascades.

She was a "girly" girl some of the time because of our culture then. The first State to give women the right to vote was Wyoming I think because women worked right along with the men in the outdoors.

The women I have met in Alaska and BC that savy the bush are tougher than most of the men in the lower 48.

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#155867 - 10/15/11 12:30 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
ppine Offline
member

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

Rescuers as you know need several attributes like calmness under pressure, specialized knowledge (ie. z-drag for boat rescue), first aid, and maybe most of all mental toughness to overcome unpleasant, difficult, long extractions.

Please expound if you like based on your experience.

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#155868 - 10/15/11 12:32 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
TomD Offline
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Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
I also reject the idea that mental toughness, whatever that may be, is gender specific. I've hiked with both sexes and I think it just depends on how people are brought up and what they are exposed to as they grow up. Some people like the outdoors and some don't; some can take bad weather, some can't. I know a few guys I would never want to go anywhere with because they complain too much about everything.
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#155873 - 10/15/11 01:28 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I think I would agree with you for the most part, especially calmness under pressure. Specialized knowledge, or even just basic knowledge (how to stay warm, how to build a fire, etc) is helpful, but I have had good trips with many people who did not know how to set up a Z system (we use it for vertical evacuations).

I guess I am a little unclear about "mental toughness." It really helps if one can stay focused on priorities and blot out secondary issues. If one has prior experience (previous unplanned nights out, actual first aid situations, etc) it is a big help. The first time is always more of an adventure.

In an emergency, it seems to me that what counts is not just individual expertise, but the ability of the group to come together and cooperate, work productively, and get the job done. Sometimes when it hits the fan, the group, as such, disintegrates, and first responders will encounter absolute chaos. Other times, the group operates effectively, frequently without a designated "leader", and stabilizes the situation quite well.

I like groups where I know my experienced companions capabilities, perhaps with some new folks added in. They may have unexpected and welcome skills. Those groups generally work out well.

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#155877 - 10/15/11 07:29 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
ppine Offline
member

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

I have responded as much to your writing as anyone's. You have touched on some very important stuff here.

Mental toughness or the lack of it, shows up after 20 miles, in the snow, at night, when it is below zero and you would rather be somewhere else instead of helping a person you just met. Thank God for the outdoor people like EMTs that show up with the first morphine.

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#155886 - 10/16/11 11:04 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
midnightsun03 Offline
member

Registered: 08/06/03
Posts: 2936
Loc: Alaska
I think mental toughness has as much to do with motivation as anything else. People can be mentally tough in situations they WANT to be in, and they can be mentally tough in situations where they find themselves wanting to survive (that is a different phenomenon in my opinion), but the same person can be a major whiner if they aren't feeling motivated in some way to be where they are.

For example, my son will start whining about hiking before we even get out of the car, he hates it that much. But he will walk 10 miles in an amusement park one day, and at least another 10 the next day walking around a city (which he loves), and only occasionally mention his discomfort (which I know must be extreme because in this case my legs were tired too). If he is doing something he loves he can push past the pain (and he has a high tolerance), but if he isn't then you better have your earplugs in.

I think you will find that the people who are not "mentally tough" in the outdoors are that way because they don't really want to be there, and are there for reasons other than because they love the outdoors.

MNS
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#155894 - 10/16/11 01:02 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
ppine Offline
member

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

I would like to share some experiences I have had with a very special person, Rudy Park of Redmond, OR. He has taught me more about mental toughness than anyone I have ever met.

Rudy grew up in the hard scrabble volcanic country of eastern OR. He was small so he wanted to prove himself by wrestling and playing football. He had a good saddle horse but could not afford a car so he used to ride 20 miles to his GFs house and back 20 miles in the dark. He rode bare-back horses and bulls for fun and once won against Larry Mahan. Rudy became a smokejumber with the USFS and fought fires for many years, when one day it occurred to him that the smart guys flew slurry bombers and did not carry 75 lb. packs. He flew firetankers in Alaska for 10 years, with winters in Mexico. Got a business degree from U of O. Bought a sailboat and sailed to Hawaii and married a brilliant Hawaiian attorney named Cheryl. Moved to Europe living in Holland and an island off of France.

Rudy has had more injuries than any 10 people I know. (He also was on the US ski team while in France). If you meet him you will not forget him. He is in his mid 60s, but if there is work to be done, he will show up first and leave last. Under duress he tells jokes and lifts everyone's morale. If he meet sales people in a store, he oftern gets Christmas cards from them months later.

He never complains, and always volunteers with friends who have serious medical problems. We all need to have a friend like Rudy who has seen the dark side of life in war, big forest fires, multiple major injuries, friends with terminal diseases and comes out much stronger and more optimistic than before.


Edited by ppine (10/16/11 01:05 PM)

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#155895 - 10/16/11 01:08 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OregonMouse]
ppine Offline
member

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

Great writing. It is all about one,s will.

The truth will come with 10,000 miles in the saddle.
Corb Lund
Spring Creek, Alberta

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#155902 - 10/16/11 04:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2865
Loc: California
Everyone has their mental toughness threshold. Some people we perceive as really tough just have high thresholds. I think the women you see outdoors are the high toughness threshold types to begin with. The low tolerance women simply stay home. Men have to prove their "manliness" so more who have no desire to be outdoors may end up out there and whine.

There is mental toughness and emotional toughness- and they are different. Some really tough outdoors people can be whiners in other venues- the guy who faints during his wife's childbirth.

I am pretty mentally tough about 80% of the time, but I do have a few items and times when I get really freaked out. I think it is my subconcious trying to tell me something - will never know but these moments of weakness may have saved my life. Sometimes retreating is the best choice.

I would not say toughness is all good. People who survive and live long also have the ability to accept help when needed and accept emotional support. People who can never show vulnurability may expose themselves to lots of unhealthy stress. By the way, I think breaking down and crying is not necessarily a sign of weakness. Often it is just a pressure release valve. You cry. You feel better. You go on.

I have had some backpack partners who may not have been all that mentally tough but they really added to the morale of the group by being so upbeat on a daily basis and emotionally supportive.

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#155912 - 10/16/11 08:24 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
ringtail Offline
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Registered: 08/22/02
Posts: 2296
Loc: Colorado Rockies
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
I am pretty mentally tough about 80% of the time, but I do have a few items and times when I get really freaked out. I think it is my subconcious trying to tell me something - will never know but these moments of weakness may have saved my life. Sometimes retreating is the best choice.


In my opinion intuition is formed from information that has reached your subconscious, but not your conscious. Trust your intuition. Everytime I have ignored mine I have paid a price.

If mental toughness means the ability to ignore the little voice that tells you this is not a good idea, then mental toughness may not be a good thing.
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"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not."
Yogi Berra

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#155916 - 10/16/11 09:59 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
Some really tough outdoors people can be whiners in other venues- the guy who faints during his wife's childbirth.


Ah yest! How about a training film (quite graphic about emergency childbirth) given in what was essentially a basic training course for park rangers? We were cautioned that if we felt like tossing our cookies to leave the room and do so quietly outside. A couple did leave, and I just barely hung on.... Later, when I was attending the birth of my children, it was a totally different situation and I managed quite fine.

Which brings me to my best friend, with whom I have hiked and SARed for many years, a gentleman who is an absolute rock of incredible endurance, tenacity,and stamina, as tough a dude as I know (he comes from a Texas ranching family in LBJ country). Not only did he faint during the birth of his son, as he fell he overturned the gurney!

I suspect we all have our vulnerabilities; some of us are lucky and never have to face them.

Frankly, I have been on operations where I cried, after the action was completed or when there was a break. I am not the least ashamed of this. For one thing, they were pretty brutal. I think that releasing your emotions helps you reorganize and continue on.

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#155917 - 10/16/11 10:03 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ringtail]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I love the tagline, "If you are going to be stupid, you have to be tough."


Edited by oldranger (10/16/11 10:04 PM)

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#155931 - 10/17/11 07:42 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Not a matter of winning or losing. "Come a long way" may be true of society at large, but it's still clearly got a long way to go.

And there is also the matter of mentally tough but physically incapable - I run into people all the time that have no clue of their own limits and try to backpack anyway. One could argue they are mentally tough enough - flesh weak, spirit strong. I still wouldn't want to hike with them often.
_________________________
"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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#155932 - 10/17/11 08:39 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
Glenn Offline
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Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
Introducing the concept of exceeding one's limits is an interesting twist to the concept of mental toughness. In that perspective, "mental toughness" might fuzz over into one definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.

Or, perhaps one aspect of mental toughness is having sufficient objectivity to realize that things change, and the old solutions you came up with no longer work.

I found, about 10 years ago, that the body wasn't quite as resilient as it used to be. Joints were talking to me more often, feet and leg cramps became companions after long days, etc. Since there's a limit to how much conditioning can offset these effects of aging (and a limit as to how much time there is for conditioning in an otherwise full life of spouse, job, grandkids, etc.) I had to change my old ways.

Although I really liked the gear I was carrying, I could no longer haul 30 pound loads around anymore. So, I made the switch to lighter gear and new techniques that took me down to a 20-pound weekend load. That helped with joints and trail-weariness (and I've still got the ultralight option, when I need to get to a lighter pack in another 10 years.) It required me to rethink how I cooked, and how roomy a tent I needed, and several other things - it required a mental shift from "cushy" camping to minimal-without-discomfort camping.

It also required accepting certain things: given the practical limits of my ability to do conditioning, I had to give up 15 mile days, and accept the fact that in easy terrain, 10 would be my limit - and more like 8 if there were a lot of up-and-down. Foot and leg cramps were a 15-minute expectation at those limits - but working through them was a whole lot better than not backpacking.

So, perhaps one part of mental toughness is the ability to accept and adapt to what you cannot control. (Now, if I could just learn to accept those day-long rain hikes...)

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#155937 - 10/17/11 10:51 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Wandering daisy,

Good thoughts. I do not believe in being macho, or suffering in silence if there is a choice. Crying can be a great emotional outlet. Most of us have been on trips led by someone who wanted to push the participants for no really good reason.

Fear is a very positive thing in the outdoors. It keeps us from making most mistakes. What I am trying to elude to is that people with mental toughness can overcome their fear, fatigue, etc. when it matters.

Most worthwhile outdoor endeavors should be considered team sports. I believe backpacking, canoeing, rafting, etc. all backcountry trips should consider the group, and by extension you must be able to rely on your comrades. You can do them alone, but it adds an element of risk.
The military has done extensive training in this area, and their conclusion is that they can weed out people who don't have this quality. They believe under serious duress, the process is 90 percent mental and only 10 percent physical.


Edited by ppine (10/17/11 10:55 AM)

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#155940 - 10/17/11 11:24 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Steadman Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 513
Loc: Virginia
I'll weigh in here.

I'd define mental toughness as: the ability to continue to go on, even after conditions become adverse, and even after a person has been pushed past their breaking point. People who are mentally tough get up and continue to go on after they've been brought to their knees, often in tears.

Mental toughness and physical conditions (enough rest, food, etc) are directly linked. Mental toughness and a perception that participation is "worth it" are linked. Thus, mental toughness is situational and linked to the physical.

An example is, the guy who passes out while his wife is in childbirth, but goes back again knowing that he needs to support his wife, is mentally tough.

You can generalize this statement by saying "the person who crumbles or folds, but continues to go on in spite of the continued precense of the stress that caused them to fold, because they need to do something important, is mentally tough."





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#155943 - 10/17/11 11:56 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
finallyME Offline
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Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
For me it wasn't the birth part, it was that big long needle that they stick in her back. Twice I almost passed out. The last three kids, I left the room until the doctor had put in the needle, and then came in a "helped" with the birth. Of course, all I did was hold her legs and watch the doc pull out the kid. Needles are my weakness. I guess I will never be a heroin addict.
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#155967 - 10/17/11 02:37 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
Would anyone like share some experiences that demonstrate mental toughness?


I find it hard to rate my personal "Mental Toughness", and to be honest, I've never spent much time trying to convince myself that I am mentally tough. I have regrets, so I'll probably never be able to convince myself of that. Instead I try to convince myself I can do better.

Becoming a single parent was probably the biggest challenge I've ever faced because I knew I had to take over the duties normally done by moms, and I had almost no clue how I'd figure it out. Handing my daughter off to a relative was not an option, I knew it was up to me and it would be a long haul before things got comparably easier. I figured it fast enough though. It was women that got me through it. They weren't always gentle about telling me when I was screwing up either, but what they taught me was always in the best interest of my daughter so I did my best to "take it like a man" whenever a mom jumped on me about what I was doing that was stupid. The first few months that happened quite a bit, almost daily. Of course, my daughter let me know constantly too, but I hadn't a clue of how to interpret that. She was really the tough one wink

Being there for my mother and grandmother when they passed away was tough. Neither of my brothers were there. For me, living with that would be much tougher.

I walked just under 2 miles to school everyday when I lived in northern Illinois. We had some pretty vicious weather. My mom would only give me a ride if it was below zero F. Rain, snow, sleet, ice, that didn't matter a bit, below zero was the rule. My grandmother got up and left for work every morning before me, and she never accepted a ride. I watched her head out when it was -20 and knew I had no ground to stand on for complaining. When I moved to SoCal when I was 14 and told the kids out there about that they flat out didn't believe me, but where I lived, 0 was the rule for most us kids, and they all watched my grandmother walk by them too. She made it tough on all of us wink

I suppose that standing up and not agreeing to do or believe something stupid when it's the general consensus of your peers to do so requires mental toughness. I can think of several instances when I flat out refused to follow and the end result was the group involved followed me instead. Not because I was artful at convincing them I was right, but because I refused to follow and told them why. There have been many more times when they went ahead without me, but I've never regretted my decisions, even when my apprehensions or fears were not realized. I've also had quite a few opportunities to say "I told you so". When you're right, you're right, so you learn fast that saying "I told you so" doesn't do any good, so you don't. For example, several years ago a couple young men invited me to hike with them in the Hercules Glades Wilderness around late May. I told them no, told them why, invited them to do some boating or floating instead, but they had both just bought new gear and were intent on going. They did run into exactly what I had cautioned against. They were hot, miserable, tick and chigger bit, one had a bug crawl into his ear and had to go to the hospital to get it out, and sadly, his dog was snake bit and died out there. I suppose one could say that you have to be "Mentally tough" to not say "I told you so" when that happens laugh

I suppose too that I still shouldn't make a joke, the dog dying and all, so more to the point, both of those young men still go backpacking and have done many more trips in the years since. And it should be noted that this was a tough experience for them. They learned a lot from it, and I must give them credit for being tough enough to take the lesson and benefit from it.

I could go on but I'm sure you'll all agree that's enough of my examples laugh
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#155981 - 10/17/11 04:57 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
ringtail Offline
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Originally Posted By billstephenson
I suppose that standing up and not agreeing to do or believe something stupid when it's the general consensus of your peers to do so requires mental toughness.


Resisting peer pressure was and is hard for me. It takes courage to do what you think is right is some cases.

I hate public speaking, but I accepted a volunteer job that requires me to be live on local TV twice a month with daily reruns. I would rather have root canal than watch the reruns and try to get better.

I physically challenge myself, but that takes place during training and not the backcountry. The backcountry is much more enjoyable when you stay within your limits.

For those of us that are more comfortable in the backcountry than town it take more mental toughness to live our everyday life than to enjoy our hobby in the wilderness.
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#155982 - 10/17/11 05:19 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ringtail]
skcreidc Offline
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Registered: 08/16/10
Posts: 1590
Loc: San Diego CA
Quote:
I physically challenge myself, but that takes place during training and not the backcountry. The backcountry is much more enjoyable when you stay within your limits.

For those of us that are more comfortable in the backcountry than town it take more mental toughness to live our everyday life than to enjoy our hobby in the wilderness.


A large, resounding yes! to that Ringtail. Although, through training you also learn what your body can do if need be.

What makes a Man? Is it being prepared to do the right thing; no matter the cost? To quote "The Dude", "...mmmmm...sure, that and a pair of testicles." Ah, I watch too many Coen Brothers movies. What can I say, but from the start this thread made me think of that quote.

sK

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#155984 - 10/17/11 06:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: skcreidc]
balzaccom Online   content
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Public speaking is one of the greatest fears for most people. I love it. Doesn't make me tough. My wife hates it. Doesn't make her weak.

And I will say that having true and sympathetic support can often make the difference between somebody who bails out and somebody who toughs it out. That's a part of what true teamwork is all about.

I have found over the years that if I tell my wife I really want her to do something, and that she really ought to be able to do it--she resents the attitude and pretty much bails.

If I tell her that it is pretty much up to her, and that we'll do just about as much as she feels comfortable doing...well, then she won't ever give up.

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#155986 - 10/17/11 07:08 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
Gershon Offline
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There is a good book on the subject. "Deep Survival, Who Lives and Who Dies."

It has good reviews. I just got a copy for Kindle and I'm finding it interesting.

ADDED: I'm about a third of the way through the book. It's more about why experienced people do dumb things than mental toughness. It's a difficult read and probably not interesting to many. Some of the SAR people might be interested, but they have probably heard it in their training.


Edited by Gershon (10/18/11 07:59 AM)
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#155995 - 10/18/11 09:48 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
Paulo Offline
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Registered: 01/27/11
Posts: 158
Loc: Normally Pacific Northwest
I think what Gershon's book says is important and it outlines something about "mental toughness". FOr me, it's all about will to live. Pretty much every survival guide/manual says that the psychology of survival is the most important thing.

John Wiseman calls it "Will to live" and rates it far more important than knowledge and kit (a

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#155998 - 10/18/11 11:53 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Paulo]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Paulo,

I heartily agree with your sentiments. We have had a great discussion about what constitutes mental toughness, and why it is important. Would anyone like to tell a story that illustrates the point?

Here's one from about 1993, Chilkoot Pass, Alaska. There is a 34 hike one-way from Dyea to Bennet Lake, British Columbia which follows the only overland trail between Seattle and the Klondike gold fields near Dawson City, Yukon. Peaking in 1898, one could take a steamer to the dock in Dyea up and over the Coast Range to Bennet, where people built boats and floated down the Yukon River to find fortune.

It was late August and all went well for a couple of days. At Sheep Camp at the base of the Golden Stairs it began to really rain for 30 hours straight. A lady the day before was packing up in her tent when a black bear unzipped the nylon with a claw and came in without knocking at 0900. She was shaken but unhurt. The Stairs were usually crossed in snow because the boulders vary from the size of refrigerators to cars. It was the first time serious knee arthritis showed up. Over the pass thru customs with the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and thinking about their requirement for 98ers to bring with them 1,000 pounds of food. Starvation was common in those days. The wind was gusting to 60 knots.

We reached a small hut past the pass, well above treeline which is only about 2,300 feet at that latitude. The hut, at 3,200 feet was full of wet people and smelled like Nepal- sweat, propane, white gas, wet wool, curry and had 100 percent humidity. Three guys with snores like Popeye, drove me outside in a tent. On Aug 31 the night was very windy with horizontal sleet. I committed a mortal sin and had allowed my down bag to get soaked, the only time in my career. (If you are going to wet country bring a pack cover, even in August). I spent a fitful night afraid to go to sleep for fear of not waking up. It was cold, windy, black and miserable. At first light, about 0400, my wife and I dejectedly trudged to lower elevations back into a beautiful forest of lodgepole pine with fuel to get warm. The trail in exteme northern BC was covered with animal tracks and few human tracks- wolf, bear, moose, and caribou. We sang in a loud voice to let them know we were coming.

We dragged ourselves and our heavy soaked packs about 8 miles and found an old cabin built by Parks Canada, a log affair with an iron stove and quickly built a fire after splitting some wood. We hung up our whole outfit in the rafters to dry, and made a hot meal. We were so low on calories, we cooked a whole other meal and consumed it with great relish. Then we had about three hours of sleep in the warm cabin.

Upon awakening we were clear-headed enough to reflect on the previous 24 hours. We had been the most tired, cold, and depressed of any time spent in the outdoors. Our normal limits had been greatly exceeded. The cabin had saved us from serious trouble, and changed our morale from a 1 to a 9 1/2 in about four hours. We learned later that several people on the trail had been evacuated by boat by Parks Canada. The narrow gauge train ride on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad back to Skagway seemed like real luxury.


Edited by ppine (10/18/11 12:56 PM)

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#155999 - 10/18/11 11:57 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Paulo]
Gershon Offline
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The first third of the book is about doing things to not survive rather than to survive and what leads us to make poor decisions. For those willing to wade through diffcult reading, it's really quite good.

The kind of toughness that has been talked about so far is giving everything you have without complaint. It's the unwise pursuit of this type of toughness that may lead to accidents. It's one thing for a person on a SAR mission to go 20 miles through the snow at night to rescue someone. It may be quite another for the same person to do it when it's not necessary.

Another kind of toughness is deciding not to do something that is pressing personal or nature's limits.

Accidents are really pretty rare compared to the number of people out there. I've never witnessed one on the trail. However, I know poor decisions can lead to bad discomfort or worse, so I tend to fail safe a lot. Because of the relative rarity of accidents, many press on into situations that will cause a problem for someone that does what they did.

One reason I like to backpack solo is there is nobody else to involve me in what I may consider to be a bad decision for me even if they are able to safely do something.

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#156000 - 10/18/11 12:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
Gershon Offline
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Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Ppine,

You were posting while I was typing, so I'll illustrate one for being a mentally tough chicken.

When I was in Boy Scouts, each year we had a Klondike Derby. We made a dog sled and then dragged it around some trails. I was with a group that decided to cross the ice on a pond. It didn't look like a good idea to me, so I refused. I got the usual comments from the other kids.

Well, when they got in the middle of the pond, you could hear the rifle shots of the ice cracking. Fortunately it didn't break, but it could have. There weren't anymore comments about being a chicken after they got off the pond.

What was their motivation? To avoid some fatigue from pulling the sled around the pond on the trail.


Edited by Gershon (10/18/11 12:02 PM)
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#156001 - 10/18/11 12:14 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Gershon,

We are moving on to an equally important topic- judgement. Maybe most people backpack in the summer, and haven't had a lot of experience with emergencies, really bad weather, etc.

We have all had experiences with people who want to push everyone. I liked your story about crossing the pond. Do not be persuaded by anyone's bad judgement. If you are going to cross a pond, at least carry a long sapling just in case.

My favorite is the old Voayager line- No one ever died on a portage (carry around). Boating rivers is a complex form of negotiation everytime there is a major rapid. I have said let me out here please, more than a few times. The issue is not toughness, but common sense which improves with experience.

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#156004 - 10/18/11 12:53 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Gershon
The first third of the book is about doing things to not survive rather than to survive and what leads us to make poor decisions. For those willing to wade through diffcult reading, it's really quite good.

The kind of toughness that has been talked about so far is giving everything you have without complaint. It's the unwise pursuit of this type of toughness that may lead to accidents. It's one thing for a person on a SAR mission to go 20 miles through the snow at night to rescue someone. It may be quite another for the same person to do it when it's not necessary.

Another kind of toughness is deciding not to do something that is pressing personal or nature's limits.



Mental toughness isn't anything covered in Deep Survival - what they talk about is the predisposition of people to react in certain ways in survival situations. The thing that makes the most difference between survival and death in the sorts of situations in the book is not toughness, but the ability to accept the situation for what it is and not panic and start to make the poor decisions that lead to being more lost, more hypothermic, more dehydrated and more at risk.

As a mental health practitioner and SAR volunteer I did find Deep Survival interesting, but the psychology of survival is more about how lost people behave - and one is not always lost when in survival situations. We have mental maps, a set of beliefs informed by myths, half truths and our own experiences, and a mindset that's determined by all of that. Survival skills training can offset some of it, so can research and gear testing, but in the end we sometimes make assumptions that lead to more mistakes and more assumptions, bad choices, and eventually we are left with open cases years later, like the hunter who vanished in a forest he knew well with only his guns, some bullets, and the clothes on his back. Massive efforts to locate any trace of him have failed despite knowing exactly where he left his truck full of camping gear and food.

Mental toughness is the sort of thing that leads to going backpacking again after learning from disastrous attempts, or continuing to rebuild oneself to physical fitness after devastating illness. It can play a part in survival but it's more the panic/not panic factor plus education that can help you out when you're lost. One of the things that Deep Survival won't tell you is that children have a higher survivability rate than adults - children who are lost in the wilderness stop to rest, drink when thirsty, and depending on age, are more likely to just stay put than adults are. So they are usually found unhurt and alive.
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#156005 - 10/18/11 01:21 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
oldranger Offline
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Posts: 1735
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My intro to SAR, back when I was in college, involved some Boy Scouts who were not quite so fortunate. They attempted to climb Mt Wrightson (9400 ft (just south of Tucson, AZ) in the face of an epic mid-November storm that left six inches of snow in Tucson (2500 ft).

Their disappearance triggered an epic, and inept, search effort that involved untrained volunteers, and eventually boots on the ground from Fort Huachuca. We had lots of occasions to display "mental toughness" or something similar. To this day I remember getting an absolutely fire kindled, and then thawing my companion's frost-nipped toes on my tummy as we slept fitfully.

The sister of one of the survivors, Cathy Hufault, wrote "Death Clouds on Mt. Baldy" which details the whole sad story. Even as a participant, I learned things from that book that I had not known. The one positive outcome was the development of competent volunteers who today provide capable assistance to those in trouble.

The vast majority of victims that I have dealt with were inexperienced in the environment in which they were struggling. Without knowledge and decent information, how can anyone make good decisions?

Ppine, you will be interested to know that riders from the Pinal County Horse Posse were heavily involved. Years later, our group was involved in a search for one of the major participants, then in his 90s, after he had strayed from his assisted living facility.

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#156007 - 10/18/11 01:47 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: finallyME]
Steadman Offline
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I can watch needles go into you all day long. It's needles into me that I mind... sick

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#156008 - 10/18/11 01:48 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
balzaccom Online   content
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Registered: 04/06/09
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I think it always harder to grant someone the "mental toughness" description when they tell the story about themselves. It's a lot easier when someone else, an independent observer, tells the story.

PPine--if you were REALLY mentally tough, you would have fought through the snoring! grin.
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#156011 - 10/18/11 03:32 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
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Lori,

Nice summary of the book.

It's not surprising we can't agree on a definition. I looked for books on Amazon. On says it's aggressiveness, one says it isn't.

Interesting topic.
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#156012 - 10/18/11 03:55 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
balzaccom,

We are exploring an important topic here. I have invited people to tell some personal stories twice to no avail, so I decided to get the ball rolling by leading with an example. This is not a contest. Please tell us one of your stories.

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#156014 - 10/18/11 04:09 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Well, this goes along with the book. When I was in AF survival school, we had a 2 week unsupported trek with not enough food. I lost 21 pounds. Tom W. was tough. He never once complained the whole time.

On the other hand, Tom T. complained a lot. Rather than keep his down bag dry the first day, he slept out in the rain with it. So he was cold for a lot of days. (Nights were spent bushwacking and trying to find our way to the next checkpoint.)

Still, I sat next to Tom T. in jump school on our first jump. He fell asleep on the way to the drop zone and did on each of the 4 jumps after that. He never comnplained during any of the training.

As a teacher of mine once said, "Who does the tough things? The ones who can." I'm still trying to figure out if toughness can be developed.

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#156021 - 10/18/11 05:37 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By ppine
balzaccom,

We are exploring an important topic here. I have invited people to tell some personal stories twice to no avail, so I decided to get the ball rolling by leading with an example. This is not a contest. Please tell us one of your stories.


I don't really have one when it comes to outdoor adventures. I've never been in a terrible situation. I've always chosen to go out in nice weather, or prepared to go in inclement weather. Knocking in wood, I, or no one with me, have ever been seriously ill or injured while hiking or backpacking (more than a few I've camped with have hurt themselves pretty bad with liquor).

Lori, I really liked your last post. I've never read the book in question, but your summary and observations are well thought out and help illuminate the complexity of the subject.

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#156022 - 10/18/11 05:47 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
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Loc: California (southern)
I think when it comes to this topic, we are like the blind men feeling different parts of the elephant. It would probably help if we defined exactly what we are talking about.

Basically we seem to be discussing how some people respond well, or well enough, to adversity which challenges them both mentally and physically.

I'll bet that we would all agree, that, in a bad situation, the ability of the mind to analyze, form a strategy, and persevere, is more significant than physical prowess.

Interesting discussion....

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#156024 - 10/18/11 06:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Gershon
Lori,

Nice summary of the book.

It's not surprising we can't agree on a definition. I looked for books on Amazon. On says it's aggressiveness, one says it isn't.

Interesting topic.


I don't recall aggressiveness being mentioned in the book.

Most of the people were just tenacious in a matter of fact sort of way. Not aggressive - just keep on walking out of the wilderness, as your clothes tear, your skin burns, bugs bore into your legs, and your shoes fall apart. Drink and eat things you find. Keep walking on blistered feet. (The lady who survived the plane crash really impressed me a lot hiking out in what was left of her dress without any real supplies.)

There have been many other stories I've read and heard that are similar - watch Touching the Void for a great example of just get-down-to-it dedication to the goal. Joe faltered, hallucinated, stumbled, passed out, but he just kept getting back up again, and again, to creep down the glacier one stiff broken leg drag at a time, dehydrated as all get out and suffering frostbite. Mental toughness maybe - not sure if it meets anyone's definition of that. A lot of the time he really wasn't in his right mind. But he accepted the situation right down to acknowledging that Simon and the other guy were very likely gone already, and he would be stranded and starving to death at the empty base camp - something in him just kept him stumbling along.

Not everyone could survive being left for dead in the ice at 15,000 feet with a broken leg - pretty much a miracle for Joe, despite his determination.
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#156028 - 10/18/11 07:07 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Lori,

Aggressiveness was a definition of toughness in some other book summaries I read. I was looking for an accepted definition.

In chapter 9, it did mention kids below 7 have the highest survival rate. And from 8 to 12 have the lowest.

Thanks for the tip on the movie. I can watch it on Netflix.

Here is the definition according to Merriam-Webster. I kind of like the first one the best.

1. a: strong or firm in texture but flexible and not brittle b: not easily chewed <tough meat>

2. glutinous, sticky

3: characterized by severity or uncompromising determination <tough laws> <tough discipline>

4: capable of enduring strain, hardship, or severe labor <tough soldiers>

5: very hard to influence : stubborn <a tough negotiator>

6: difficult to accomplish, resolve, endure, or deal with <a tough question> <tough luck>

7: stubbornly fought <a tough contest>

8: unruly, rowdyish <a tough gang>

9: marked by absence of softness or sentimentality <a tough critic>
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#156031 - 10/18/11 07:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Complex, and confusing when people have varying understanding of the terms thrown around.

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.

In any case, telling stories about myself has resulted in accusations of grandstanding, so I find it less than desirable to do so in any forum. People who know me know that I'm nothing unusual in my peer group. My clients are the toughest people I have ever met and they do not hike.
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#156036 - 10/18/11 11:00 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Lori,

A nice piece of writing that captures my original intent. I am new to this group. Do others really feel that telling a story about personal experience to illustrate a point is grandstanding?

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#156037 - 10/18/11 11:03 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
billstephenson Offline
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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.
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#156058 - 10/19/11 10:43 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
wandering_daisy Offline
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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.


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#156059 - 10/19/11 11:01 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
balzaccom Online   content
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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.



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

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#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

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

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

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

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#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.

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#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".

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#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.










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#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.
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#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.

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#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.

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#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.
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#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.

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


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#156131 - 10/20/11 01:02 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
balzaccom Online   content
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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.
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#156136 - 10/20/11 02:29 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
Steadman Offline
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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

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#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.

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#156165 - 10/20/11 06:59 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Steadman]
lori Offline
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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.
_________________________
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#156166 - 10/20/11 07:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: wandering_daisy]
oldranger Offline
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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)

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

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#156168 - 10/20/11 07:28 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
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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.
_________________________
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#156174 - 10/20/11 09:02 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
Steadman Offline
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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
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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
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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.
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#156227 - 10/22/11 09:45 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
ppine Offline
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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
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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

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#156231 - 10/23/11 12:17 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
ppine Offline
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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
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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.
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#156240 - 10/23/11 05:57 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
Glenn Offline
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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
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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
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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...
_________________________
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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
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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
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#156249 - 10/23/11 09:56 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Richardvg03]
billstephenson Offline
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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!!
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"You want to go where?"



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#156252 - 10/23/11 10:50 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
skcreidc Offline
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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
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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
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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)
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#156269 - 10/24/11 01:08 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
lori Offline
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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.
_________________________
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#156271 - 10/24/11 02:37 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
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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
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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
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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
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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
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"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
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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
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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.
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#156601 - 11/01/11 10:46 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Richardvg03]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Richardvg03
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!


Crossed Africa? Wow, now that's something I'm sure we'd all love to hear more about!

And School's kicking your butt huh?

Good!!! laugh

Keep your nose in those books until you can bullseye every damn question they'll ask you. I'll send you my spiritual support in waves and gushes and even if it doesn't help you stay awake while studying you can know I'm pulling for you when you're turning in your papers wink

Plan something fun for the holidays and do it. I'm sure you've earned it.

And stay in touch, even if you're not getting time in wilderness I still want to hear about what you're up to.
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"You want to go where?"



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#156634 - 11/02/11 12:47 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
My brother spent 7 months in Africa driving from London to Nairobi. He sent many eloquent letters which I still have. Africa is the great enigma. They are some of the most fun-loving and generous people on earth. I have worked with Nigerians, and people form Cameroon and they become friends in about 2 hours.

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#156864 - 11/06/11 12:17 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Are Americans any different than people from other cultures when it comes to mental toughness? What about Canadians, or Russians, or Hungarians?

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#156881 - 11/06/11 08:56 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
oldranger Offline
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I doubt very much that there are any significant differences. How would this be measured in any objective way?

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#156886 - 11/06/11 11:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
billstephenson Offline
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Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Yeah, that's a wide scope to view the subject with. But if we reduce it to backpacking it might be easier to compare if you focused on gear and techniques and the level of comfort derived from them vs effort to employ them. For me, that's an interesting subject, and one that spans time too.

I've read a lot of history on the european and american explorers. They all endured their hardships, but those arctic explorers really stand out to me.

It'd be hard to argue that any particular place or time took more toughness than another, it really has more to do with how I'd imagine I'd do in their shoes, so it's certainly not objective, but those Northwest Passage explorers got themselves into some really big messes and more than a few managed some amazing escapes from them. For them, it was a pure struggle with nature as opposed to more of a struggle with civilizations in an unknown land.

Unlike the european explorers of the lower americas, being brutal offered no advantage to the arctic and sub-arctic explorers, so they were of an entirely different kind of character. It's hard to imagine any of them trading places. Cortez and his men wouldn't have had a chance in those conditions.

As it relates to backpacking and exploring, both time and place still, right now, require different personal characteristics to endure the hardships one may encounter, and the "toughness" required is not the same for the locals who are acclimated and know how to get by in their local conditions, as it is for the outsider.



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#156888 - 11/06/11 11:06 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
balzaccom Online   content
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Originally Posted By oldranger
I doubt very much that there are any significant differences. How would this be measured in any objective way?


Well, we could just make uninformed generalizations for the sake of argument...grin.

That said, I think that people tend to rise the the occasion, and if you want to meet really mentally tough people, talk to those who don't have a choice.

Backpacking is a recreation. The people who are really tough are the ones who are walking away from their homes in the Sudan, for example.
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#156914 - 11/07/11 11:38 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
ppine Offline
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People that grow up with poverty, oppressive political regimes, and severe climates are examples of people with mental toughness. Africans as a group know a lot about poverty, and the situation in Sudan is an intense example. People from eastern Europe, Russians, people from former Soviet republics have mental toughness because they have dealt with communism. People from northern Finnland, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Siberia, and Alaska can tell you all about physical hardship. The list goes on. Americans except for war times, have had not had to deal much with these problems. The current recession has affected us all to some degree, but to hear people talk about it is more depressing than the reality.

The point I am trying to make is that as people we are realatively soft. We expect a lot.

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#156918 - 11/07/11 12:03 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
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Ridiculous generalizations. I know plenty of Americans with a lot of mental toughness.

Trying to make such conclusions based on gender or racial stereotyping only makes me doubt the rest of what you post.

While I would accept that there are perhaps more Americans who are lazy or entitled, I will not accept such absolute assumptions - get out and work with some of the poverty stricken unemployed folks in our cities and towns, and you will change your tune pronto.
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#156927 - 11/07/11 01:43 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
billstephenson Offline
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Originally Posted By ppine
The point I am trying to make is that as people we are realatively soft. We expect a lot.


I'll have to presume that, in context, you mean Americans. If that's the case I'll have to disagree with you because that's not been my experience. Sure, there are those that game the system, and those that cheat, but there are many, many, more that get up and go to work everyday, and work damn hard.

I've seen my neighbors get up in the middle of the night, in the middle of the winter, during the middle of a vicious ice storm, and go to work. I wouldn't ever, not in a thousand years, call them "soft".

I've worked hard too. From the time I was 14 years old I've worked hard. I've sweat, bled, and worked long hours. I've done more than a few shifts that lasted well over 24 hours without a rest. And I wasn't alone either, right there with me were others working just as hard.

I've mostly been, and mostly worked with, the self employed who all work hard, and I've personally known thousands of people that get up while it's still dark every morning and head off to factories or construction sites, and don't get home until it's dark out again. I've seen farmers and laborers out in their fields putting in, and taking out, crops, and they were working damn hard for long hours too.

There are millions of examples of this all around us, all of us, everywhere in the U.S. For most of us, we are surrounded by them everyday, and yet for some of us, we never look at them, or even think about them.

There are a few who've never really worked up a sweat putting bread on the table, and some of those are the very ones that disdain those who do, and call them "soft". The media is full of those types, but it's an absolute falsehood that those I've hung around with have it soft. No one who's ever worked with them would say that.

Being poverty stricken and depending on government and charitable aid is not a soft life. Being unemployed when there is no work isn't either. It never has been. I've seen those affected by it all my life. They are not soft. I've known a lot of successful self employed people that came from their ranks.

Americans are a pretty tough lot. If life is easier for us it's because our ancestors worked hard to make it so. There is no shame in that. There is, however, a responsibility to do the same.

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#156946 - 11/07/11 04:36 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
aimless Online   content
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The point I am trying to make is that as people we are realatively soft.

I don't know. This sounds to me a lot like a man who thinks there are no flies on him, but there may be one or two on you. wink

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#156965 - 11/07/11 10:38 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: aimless]
balzaccom Online   content
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I would add that you can't tell whether people are tough or not until they need to be. Pretending to be tough, or seeking recreational opportunities to be tough are not good indicators.

You can only really tell when someone is in a very real and very tight spot---and then see how they react.

And frankly, Americans seem to do this just about as well as any other people.
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#157049 - 11/09/11 12:06 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: balzaccom]
ppine Offline
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The responders to this topic have been all over the map. The tone of some of them is telling much more than the words used. We have 12 pages so far which proves that some people are passionate about this topic.

Opinions seem to fall into 3 general groups. The first group is thoughtful about the topic, and agrees with the idea that mental toughness is important. These are people with SAR experience, career outdoor professionals, or people with a serious approach to being in the backcountry.

The second group seems to be very defensive about the topic, possibly because they are forced to look at their own shortcomings or lack of experience.

There is a third group that seems to have difficulty in grasping the topic altogether.

From the discussion of topics like this, I would not hesitate to sign up for a trip with the likes of Oldranger, Tom D, or wandering daisy.


Edited by ppine (11/09/11 02:03 PM)

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#157051 - 11/09/11 12:22 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
GrumpyGord Online   content
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I think that you are missing a lot of us who just go out there because we enjoy solitude, minimalism and seeing nature. If I wanted it to be a competition and a test of manhood I would join a sports team. I agree that we need enough wisdom to get out of difficult situations but that does not mean that I have to go looking for trouble. I spent my whole life racing rats in the business world, I do not want my hobby to be a test.

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#157056 - 11/09/11 01:14 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
skcreidc Offline
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I freely admit I have not read all the responses. But I tend to agree with GrumpyGord here. Furthermore, you may have misinterpreted the second group response (in general). The tone of your original post may have set the tone for much of the discussion; it seemed a little sexist. I am from a family of strong willed women (and men), hence my sarcastic response.

My great great grandmother lived in Iowa with a gentleman farmer who became addicted to opium. It ruined his life apparently and left my gggmother few options. She decided to leave for San Francisco with three kids; two hers and another she took in when her friend and friend's husband died. After spending some time there working to earn the money to take a ship to Los Angeles, they left early in the morning of May 18, 1906. For the next two days they could see smoke rising from San Francisco as they sailed south. Great great grandmother Memo died when I was 3, so I never got to talk to her about it. But Great grandma Ruth would tell me some pretty amazing stuff about that trip and meeting the Indians in what is now L.A.. I'd say great great grandma was pretty tough mentally and otherwise. Mental toughness is a quality that is just necessary in life. It comes out when it is needed, or in some instances you give up and perish.

Some people consider backpacking a kind of vacation and are not interested in having any more trials and tribulations than necessary. Some people consider backcountry travel something they HAVE to do. That is the beauty of it; every person gets to take from it what they will.

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#157057 - 11/09/11 01:18 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: skcreidc]
OregonMouse Online   content
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I think that for most of us, backpacking is a form of recreation and relaxation. I feel far more at home in the wilderness than at my house!

On the other hand, the wilderness can quickly turn from a place of beauty to a nasty cruel environment (been there, done that), and you do need some toughness--and skills--to be able to cope with those conditions. It could mean the difference between life and death!


Edited by OregonMouse (11/09/11 01:21 PM)
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#157062 - 11/09/11 01:39 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OregonMouse]
skcreidc Offline
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OM, for myself getting out and away is something I have to do. It is my place to get centered and brush away the (what I consider) contrived trappings and stresses of our society. And of course mental toughness is important out there in the back country. But mental toughness is just important in life. Period. I get what ppine was saying. But when I got dropped off in the mountains to map geology alone for 7 days, I loved it. As egotistical as this sounds, I am very confident in the back country off trial. I want to be there. My wife would have hated it. She is not into it; she likes nice trips like hut to hut in the Dolomites. But I do not consider myself mentally tougher than her. She is plenty tough when she wants to be.

Another thing too, if you have the skill set, mental toughness doesn't come into the equation nearly as often unless you put yourself in the position to need it. Say...hiking the JMT in January. No matter how much you have prepared, that trip would be about both skills AND mental toughness.....and maybe some luck too.


Edited by skcreidc (11/09/11 01:45 PM)

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#157063 - 11/09/11 01:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OregonMouse]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
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A lot of people who are mentally tough end up dead because they cross the boundary into trying to do too much.

All 4 hikers who I read about that died in Colorado this year could probably be classified as mentally tough.

And all the wimps came back. Sometimes mental toughness distorts judgement and that's not a good thing either.


Edited by Gershon (11/09/11 01:41 PM)
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#157064 - 11/09/11 01:51 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Gershon,

You have missed the point entirely. You are refering to bad judgement. Most of the people who perish in the outdoors give up and that is what costs them in the end. Wimpy people are the first ones to give up.


Edited by ppine (11/09/11 01:52 PM)

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#157067 - 11/09/11 02:01 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: OregonMouse]
ppine Offline
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Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
OregonMouse,

How do you define "the wilderness?" It always sounds like "the ecology" or some other dated phrase. The Wilderness Act has come criteria, but I always have liked "greater than five miles from the nearest dirt road."

If you really feel more comfortable in the backcountry, why don't you live there ? For many people it is a fantasy that evaporates after the first heavy snowfall. The solitude we all value as a contrast to our regular lives becomes overwhelming quickly, like in a month. Have you ever had any friends that had become "bushy" (mentally challenged by too much time alone)? It is a sorry condition for any human. As a species we are much more social than most of us backpackers realize or care to admit.

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#157076 - 11/09/11 02:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
You want to do a trip with WD. She is a lot better looking than I am. And I have never met her....

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#157080 - 11/09/11 02:59 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: oldranger]
Gershon Offline
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Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
"A superior pilot uses their superior wisdom to avoid situations where they need their superior skills."

The goal is to have as many safe returns from a trip as safe departures. Personally, I've never been in a situation in any activity where the outcome was in doubt. If you don't want to go backpacking with me, that's fine. I prefer to use good planning to avoid bad outcomes. It's a "Hike your own hike thing."
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#157081 - 11/09/11 03:05 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
lori Offline
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Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By ppine
Gershon,

You have missed the point entirely. You are refering to bad judgement. Most of the people who perish in the outdoors give up and that is what costs them in the end. Wimpy people are the first ones to give up.


You are incorrect - statistics do not prove your theory of survival of the fittest.

The highest rate of survival of lost hikers goes to children, who by definition are inexperienced. This is due to the fact that kids will stop when tired, find shelter when it's raining, and eat and drink, rather than wearing themselves out trying to follow the incorrect mental map they don't yet have the ability to develop.

When you hit the teen years, the rate of survival resembles that of adults, in the 80-88% range. Experience in the outdoors makes no difference. Experienced backpackers die at the same rate as the inexperienced.

You are of course entitled to believe otherwise, but one of my first callouts ended with finding the decades-of-experience man dead of hypothermia sitting on a rock. His full backpack and his boots were neatly leaning against boulders not 1/4 of a mile away.
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#157084 - 11/09/11 03:18 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: ppine]
billstephenson Offline
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Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By ppine
The responders to this topic have been all over the map. The tone of some of them is telling much more than the words used. We have 12 pages so far which proves that some people are passionate about this topic.

Opinions seem to fall into 3 general groups. The first group is thoughtful about the topic, and agrees with the idea that mental toughness is important. These are people with SAR experience, career outdoor professionals, or people with a serious approach to being in the backcountry.

The second group seems to be very defensive about the topic, possibly because they are forced to look at their own shortcomings or lack of experience.

There is a third group that seems to have difficulty in grasping the topic altogether.


I think that conclusion is silly, especially about the last two "Groups". What "shortcomings" and "lack of experience" are you specifically thinking about?

You opine that "We have learned here that many people are pretty causual about this sport, and have never really been faced with big challenges."

And you go on to suggest that we should "try pushing your limits a little more".

Exactly what do you suggest?

I don't see how pushing myself to hike 20 miles in a day is going to make me tougher. I know it will make me tired and sore. It'd probably cause some unnecessary wear on my body. But when I wake up in the morning I don't think I'd be a bit tougher.

I go backpacking every year in below freezing temps. Not because I think I'm tough, but because that's when the bugs aren't biting here. And going backpacking in the extreme heat, when the ticks and chiggers are out in the billions, would only prove they will bit me and I'm susceptible to heat stroke, no matter how tough I think I am.

I tell people all the time that bushwhacking in the Ozark Mountains is "Tough". I don't mean I'm tough when I do it, I mean as compared to hiking on trails. And I tell people the trails here are tough. I mean as compared to most all the popular trails out west, and the AT.

You assume I'm "pretty casual about this sport".

Having hiked with quite a few people, I know from experience that most don't like my style of hiking, so without knowing anything about your style, I could easily assume you wouldn't like it either. I might go further and assume you'd be challenged by it, but that'd be a stretch on my part. And it'd be a big leap to assume you're not mentally tough enough. I never even assumed that about the people that have come back from hiking with me and told their friends "He's crazy" and "I'll never hike with him again".

I can only conclude that they don't like my style. I think it would be a huge leap to conclude they were mentally weaker than me. That's not even a tiny bit of the reason. They just don't like it. And it take no "toughness" at all on my part because I love it.

Why is that line of thought so difficult for you to grasp?

Maybe you should offer some suggestions on how we should "try pushing your limits a little more", and provide some detail on the benefits we'll receive as a result. I don't think you've clearly articulated that yet.

"The point I am trying to make is that as people we are realatively soft. We expect a lot."

That either. What exactly do you mean by that? Why are we soft, and what do we expect?

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#157096 - 11/09/11 04:11 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
Frankendude Offline
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Registered: 10/04/10
Posts: 69
I find the whole notion of "mental toughness" as a badge of honor a bit laughable. I have well over 1000 free-fall skydives and 2000 river miles on class IV+ water, in rafts and hard shell kayaks. Been in a few tight spots and seen some ugly stuff. Never thought of myself being tough, mentally or otherwise. I just learned as much as I could, sought out those who had already survived doing what I was comptemplating, proceeded cautiously and tried to make the best decisions I could under the circumstances. Sometimes we seem all too willing to pat ourselves on the back for doing the obvious. If you want to talk about real mental toughness, talk to a parent in a pediatric oncology ward. Or be the spouse who has to unplug his wife from life support the day after her only daughter's wedding. Being there for someone else, whether outdoors or not, sometimes demands some toughness. Mental toughness saving your own butt in the outdoors, Ha, piece of cake !!!!


Edited by Frankendude (11/09/11 04:14 PM)

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#157097 - 11/09/11 04:14 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Frankendude]
oldranger Offline
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Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Thank you. That is a very meaningful perspective...

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#157098 - 11/09/11 05:09 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: billstephenson]
packlite Online   content
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Registered: 12/22/01
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Originally Posted By billstephenson
.........I can only conclude that they don't like my style. I think it would be a huge leap to conclude they were mentally weaker than me. That's not even a tiny bit of the reason. They just don't like it. And it takes no "toughness" at all on my part because I love it.

I agree, Bill.

I have a friend who is a backpacking wimp and backpacking mental midget compared to me. When it comes to climbing rock, he has a friend who is a rock climbing wimp and mental midget, compared to him smile

As I read thru the thread I sense a lot more agreement than not. That is perhaps the result of different communication skills or styles of each folk.

For me, the focus of physical or pyschological toughness kind of dissipated after military boot camp, oh some 45+ years ago. Not because it isn't important, but because no matter how you define "it", your logic and inferences about such can't seem to be absolute.

wimpy, inexperienced guys die
macho, experienced guys die
girls die, boys die
mental tough guys die
mental midgets die
etc, etc, etc.

Whenever I go into the backcountry, or lead others into the backcountry, we have a simple, fresh start with everyone on the same page. In addition to having the proper equipment, my thought is to start out with an attitude of humility, awareness, alertness, and common sense. Not pushing beyond capacity. For some, like me and you, pushing hard is part of my style. But I have that capacity to push beyond. Others do not and they are wise and mentally in tune when they realize that and respond accordingly. I respect that. But I offer this wisdon to those who push past their comfort zone, and that is accidents happen when you are tired, hungry, not properly hydrated, and/or inadequately equipped. That is just a fact. Don't matter how mental macho you are. Experienced and inexperienced alike need to exercise common sense.

Anyway, I suppose this dialogue can go on and on and most probably nowhere. Sorry if I've done just that smile












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#157104 - 11/09/11 07:32 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Gershon]
Glenn Offline
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Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I've also heard that put, "There are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots."

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#157112 - 11/09/11 08:52 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Glenn]
TomD Offline
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Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
In spite of PPine's endorsement, I don't consider myself particularly tough. I am a real wuss when it comes to skiing. I really don't like crashing at any speed and my lack of skill aggravates that fear to no good end.

But I don't think that criteria, one way or another is necessarily why people survive in the wilderness; helpful, yes, but not necessarily the deciding factor. You can be a complete chicken, which means cautious and still have a great time, by your standards.

Adventure is relative; I know this from years of scuba diving. Dives that bored me to tears were for some people, the most exciting thing they have ever done and I wasn't about to tell them otherwise. There is a fine line between mentally tough and stupid and I've been on the wrong side of it more than once. Maybe mental toughness is what got me back on the right side.

One thing I know, fear of drowning is a powerful force to overcome and it is easy to panic; seen it a number of times where the person wasn't in any real danger, but the perceived danger was real enough to them. Once they realized, "hey, what's the big deal?" that made all the difference in the world. That is what experience teaches you, I think, how to separate real danger from perceived danger where there is none.

Example-I was teaching two brothers, 11 and 12. One got the hang of everything quickly, but the other was struggling with something as simple as using a snorkel. But he didn't give up, instead, he went back to his hotel and stood in the shower for about half an hour wearing his mask and snorkel until he got the hang of it. Mental toughness? Determination? Call it what you will, but the next time he showed up, he was ready to have fun, and they did, both of them. I was really impressed.





Edited by TomD (11/09/11 09:00 PM)
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#157113 - 11/09/11 09:06 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: TomD]
TomD Offline
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Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
FYI, TLB prides itself on civil discussions. You are free to disagree, but keep in mind the following:

PERSONAL ATTACKS WILL NOT BE TOLERATED. POSTS CAN AND WILL BE DELETED IF DEEMED OUT OF LINE BY THE MODERATORS AND NO, WHINING WON'T HELP IF THAT HAPPENS. NO "WHAT ABOUT FREE SPEECH?" ARGUMENTS EITHER. WE ARE ALL GUESTS OF THE SITE OWNER, SO ACT LIKE ONE.
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#157124 - 11/10/11 12:37 AM Re: Mental toughness [Re: TomD]
phat Offline
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Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

I will add my voice to tom's statment. When I read this thread I say "stop baiting and stop taking the bait" on all sides.

It also has *no* place in the beginners forum. I am moving it to general discussion.
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#157283 - 11/12/11 08:00 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: Frankendude]
ppine Offline
member

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

Please tell us about your 2,000 miles of Class VI+ rivers.

There is no doubt that medical professionals are everyday heroes, as are many parents, law enforcement people etc. EMTs are my favorite bunch because they go everywhere and bring morphine.

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#157403 - 11/14/11 03:41 PM Re: Mental toughness [Re: packlite]
ppine Offline
member

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

You are a humble person. Your entry showed a lot of thought. Thank you. This topic somehow polarizes people, but has certainly generated enthusiastic responses.

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