Nonetheless, Hélias got the chance to even the score sixteen days later when he reached the summit of Nanga Parbat (8,125 m) by the Kinshofer route.
The team was able to remain pragmatic about their initial failure caused by external elements (the wind) as well as human factors. Admittedly, this isn’t always the case.
What follows is a non-exhaustive list of common causes of failure in the mountains:
Quote: It should be noted that the further from the coveted summit the retreat actually occurs, the better. The ultimate alpine retreat is when you bail on the route before even leaving the house.
The weather fail:
- You were sure that the “localized storms” would inevitably hit the next mountain over, but it’s already too late when you realize that you were wrong.
- When you stop at the Torre cabin, not far from Cerro Torre in Patagonia, and you see the intricacy of the sculptures carved into the beams of this small shelter, you think to yourself that either alpine climbers are passionate about woodworking, or that they’ve had plenty of time to enjoy the local weather…
The physical fail:
- Starting with the approach, you get the feeling that the longer you hike, the further away the mountain actually gets. You often have a tendency to think that the route is definitely hard for the grade.
Note: the “day after a night of partying” fail does not belong in this category.
The mental fail:
- The French also call this the “mal des rimayes,” literally meaning “bergschrund sickness.” This transitory ‘illness’ allows the climber to dodge the challenge at hand.
Even 3 rounds of rock-paper-scissors don’t mean you absolutely have to climb the crux pitch of the route (all friction, totally unprotectable).
Note: You’re better off regretting an excess of fear than an excess of enthusiasm.
- A car problem, an alarm clock that doesn’t go off, the topo on the telephone that doesn’t turn on, a closed road…
The poor analysis fail:
- When that wafer-like layer of snow turns out to indeed be a nasty layer of crust instead of powder.
- When the nice looking ice route that only you and your partner have spotted turns out to be a thin layer of snow on top of smooth slabs.
- A route that definitely looked dry… from a long ways off and with your eyes closed.
The timing fail:
- When the guidebook says you ought to be back at the hut by 3 PM and that’s the time when you reach the foot of the route.
The logistical fail:
- When you drive two hours, hike to the base of the route, and realize that you’ve forgotten your helmet (or your avalanche beacon, rope, crampons, ice axe, harness, etc.).
- Can also involve seriously underestimating the necessary amount of food or water.
Quote: the logistical fail can be countered by some human resourcefulness.
Example: one headlamp for two, belaying with a munter hitch, a night spent in the entryway of the Goûter hut on the Mont Blanc because you’ve forgotten to make a reservation, etc.
The GPS fail:
- When you’re sure you’re on the right route up until the moment that you realize that it doesn’t at all match up with the topo and it’s way too hard to be 4c!
An actually-not-so-bad fail: Like in 1958, when Yvon Chouinard thought he had put up a new route on Mount Alberta, but instead found himself on the summit of Mount Wooley, a ways off from his chosen objective, but happy to have climbed a beautiful mountain.
The unlucky fail:
- When everything goes well until the moment that you drop your pack, or the only rock to fall that day hits you in the shoulder.
You often need to know how to analyse the succession of unlucky events before getting to the point of no return.
The chance encounter fail (As rare as it is coveted):
- You abandon the awesome objective that you’d planned because a really hot girl (or guy) is going to go climb some other route that now actually seems to be more interesting.