A recent discussion on this bulletin board got me thinking about all the different people I climb and ski with. Predominantly, of course, they are men, because climbing and skiing - at least at the level I climb and ski at - are still sports heavily dominated by men. There are those who seem to think that we can pick and choose our partners at will, and, with a little bit of work, we'll end up with the perfect partner. Presumably, pliant to our wills, yet strong willed enough to keep going when the going gets tough.
Some 20 years into this game, I have yet to find the "perfect" partner. Strong willed partners are anything but pliant - they make their own decisions, frequently disagree with yours, forge their own paths, ski their own lines. Group dynamics become, well, interesting, as a group of dominant, willful individuals vie for the lead, control, first tracks, and anything else that comes up. All in all, it can make for challenging trips, particularly on trips that span many days and cover difficult terrain.
Sometimes, after a particularly challenging trip, I've thought how nice it would be to ski or climb with more pliant, less willful individuals. But most of the time, working out the interplay of personalities is at least as engaging as working out the moves on a hard climb, or working complex ski terrain to find a safe(r) route. There is challenge in working with different personalities, and one of the reasons I go to the mountains is to find challenges.
So, in the end, I'd rather climb and ski with a bunch of strong willed, determined, bull-headed men than go out with the laid back "lets make everybody happy and back off at the first sign of difficulty" crew. Because in the end, only the strong keep going and the one thing I can rely on the men to do, is keep going when the going just ain't that much fun anymore.
It Doesn't Have To Be Fun To Be Fun