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#5302 - 06/16/10 02:55 PM Into Thin Error
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2248
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
An interview with Ed Viesturs on making mistakes.
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Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#5304 - 06/16/10 05:12 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: wagga]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
This is fascinating. Ed, who I know, is a very smart guy, and really is a thinking man's mountaineer. I suspect that it is not entirely an accident that he is a veterinarian.

Much of what he is talking about relates to what I was discussing about Abby in the other thread. Ed's viewpoint is a very mature one, developed from many years of experience in severe situation. The best lines:

"Just because you love the mountains doesn't mean they love you."
"I think a lot of people don't ever experience that--"Man, every decision I make has a consequence right now." That's a very interesting feeling."
"Speaking of conservative decisions, I heard you once turned around when you were 300 feet from the summit of Mount Everest. Three hundred feet out of, what, 29,029?

Yeah. That was my first trip to Everest"

And the best:
"Yeah, but a mistake is a mistake even if you get away with it."

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#5306 - 06/16/10 06:14 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: Ken]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1019
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Ken
Quoting Ed Viesters,
"I think a lot of people don't ever experience that--"Man, every decision I make has a consequence right now." That's a very interesting feeling."


Ken, you know I like mountaineering quotes, so this "consequence" problem at extreme altitude deserves a look. Harvey

"The implication of this dull, hypoxic, high-altitude brain and its inability to perceive risk is especially dangerous, says Smythe, when 'the mountaineer is too occupied with the problem of existing in the present to worry about the future.' "

This is from my Wilderness Medicine article "Risks in the Mountains. Words From On High." Smythe's quote is from a section discussing my favorite hypoxia/high altitude subject of DULL BRAINS. Here are the full paragraphs of quotes:

Unfortunately, the hypoxic realm of high altitude mountaineering blurs the line between incompetence, inexperience, and honest mistakes in the perception of risks. Medically speaking, "As a major consumer of oxygen the brain is affected early by altitude, leading to errors in judgement, compounding what may already be a desperate situation. Hypoxia alone or in combination with other altitude complications may be fatal. Errors of cognition and judgment, such as in the environment we faced above 6,700m (22,000ft), may cause as many deaths as more obvious factors. Recognizing this mental decline can be difficult."

Or simply, in the words of the first Englishman to the South Col of Everest in 1953, Wilfrid Noyce, "The top layers of my brain were probably dormant up there." If not for the dulling effect it would have given Wilfrid the willies. Gray matter just doesn't work well up there. This subject is worthy of many more replies. All the big guys weigh in on this. First Shipton: "At that altitude mental processes are so sluggish and inefficient that it is most difficult to retain a clear memory of what has actually occurred." Then Smythe: "I did not even feel scared afterwards as I was climbing now in a curiously detached, impersonal frame of mind. It was almost as though one part of me stood aside and watched the other struggle on." Smythe also had famous hallucinatory experiences on Everest, sharing a mint cake with his imaginary companion and seeing floating geometric figures. Tasker, of course, is in his element here, from Savage Arena, "I would snap out of this delusion, to realise that I had to keep control of my imagination, that tiredness combined with the altitude and hunger were inducing hallucinations, then I would be caught up in them again, an observer, not a participant, my mind roaming independently of the automaton movement of my limbs," and Joe again on the same page, "The hood of my down suit, drawn protectively round my face, became the frame of a television screen from inside which I was observing the outside world."

Television? Diemberger sounds like Rod Serling crossing into the Twilight Zone at the last three words of this line, "If you don't do things the minute you think of them, you are apt to forget, or what is even worse, to think you have done them just because they occurred to you - thought becoming reality." Wait a minute, Kurt remembers more, "You forget about time. It is as if the whole dimension ceases to exist up here." Shipton rather uncharacteristically sums it up in plain Houston-medspeak terms, "temporary madness or hallucination is not uncommon at high altitudes."

The implication of this dull, hypoxic, high-altitude brain and its inability to perceive risk is especially dangerous, says Smythe, when "the mountaineer is too occupied with the problem of existing in the present to worry about the future." The extreme climber had better overcome not just the mountain but this brain fatigue for as Boardman deadpans, "At high altitude there are few clues in the survival game, and it is important not to miss them."

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#5307 - 06/16/10 06:27 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
I've always been fascinated by this aspect of high altitude, that I think is often not understood by those who've not experienced it.

In this sport, as other sports, exhaustion can produce similar results.

Of course, alcohol consumption is widely known too. Real fun when one starts to combine things:
(can you say: dumb luck?)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyyE7RoGRsc

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#5308 - 06/16/10 06:38 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: Harvey Lankford]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2248
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
"If you don't do things the minute you think of them, you are apt to forget, or what is even worse, to think you have done them just because they occurred to you - thought becoming reality."

I can do that at sea level...
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Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#5309 - 06/16/10 06:42 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: Ken]
wagga Offline


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2248
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
"This is fascinating. Ed, who I know, is a very smart guy, and really is a thinking man's mountaineer. I suspect that it is not entirely an accident that he is a veterinarian."

There is an old story about a doctor & veterinarian discussing which was the smarter... The vet won because his patients couldn't tell him what ailed them. I'm sure you know the story.
_________________________
Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#5310 - 06/16/10 09:20 PM Re: Into Thin Error [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Quote:
"The hood of my down suit, drawn protectively round my face, became the frame of a television screen from inside which I was observing the outside world."


Fascinating imagery!

I have no experience remotely related to the authors quoted; however, I do recall at around 13K I once experienced a feeling of peering through a looking glass that had become longer as I ascended, thereby further distancing my psyche from my surroundings. It was reminiscent of Nitrogen Narcosis that one sometimes experiences when SCUBA diving at depth of 90-100ft.

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