Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me

Here is an interesting first person account of the March 10 avalanche near Kaslo in BC. 

I am of the opinion that most, if not all, accidents in the mountains (and perhaps elsewhere) are actually a factor of the interplay of various personalities and not the result of lack of skill, education or experience. Frequently, the main protagonist in the accident has overstepped the bounds of their expertise, not due to wilful ignorance or the Dunning-Kruger effect (the incompetent not recognising their own incompetence) but because of what appear to be modestly enduring personality factors. 

Certainly, my own history in the mountains is chequered with minor incidents, most of which, if I honestly apprise them have to do with certain of my own personality characteristics not a lack of skill or knowledge. I am not prone to overstepping the bounds of my expertise (my own faults lie in other areas), but I do know many people whose assessment of their ability is out of lock-step with any objective measure of their ability, and these are the people whose overconfidence can lead them into dangerous terrain. 

There are instances in the mountains where one person does make all the decisions for their entire group, but, this is a paradigm more suited to professional guiding situations than groups with mixed skill and experience levels such as this one. Certainly, if one person is going to move into the role of most “knowledgeable one” it behoves that person to honestly evaluate their motives for acting as group guide and to be very, very careful that they do not overreach the boundaries of their knowledge base. Taking a proverbial step back, and then one more would be wise. 

The best post accident analyses finish with a series of statements that describe what could have been done better (or perhaps left undone) in very concrete terms. Without this final step, days could be spent navel gazing without any progress towards substantive change. Past behaviour, after all, is the best predictor of future behaviour. New ways of being must be substituted for the old ways or we are doomed to continue wearing a deeper and deeper rut into our pysche.

In the final analysis however, the ancient Greeks said it all centuries ago when they coined the aphorism “Know thyself.”

On The Misty Icefield Traverse

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