Managing a Full Plate

We have several elements to our Mount Washington trip. Keith getting a solid sampling of steep ice climbing is just one small piece.  We are filming this trip and we hope to inspire the audience to:

  • Contribute to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
  • Do whatever they can to help that Veteran down the street get involved with their dreams.

The primary focus turns out to be, of course, safety: no one gets bad frostbite, hit by a rock/falling ice/a thermos/or (heaven forbid) a camera (especially if it is turned off). Nobody gets caught in an avalanche, struck by lightning, blown off a ridge, or separated alone in a whiteout. Barring all that, every effort will be to encourage the audience to reach deep into their wallets and donate to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation. Every tweet, Facebook post, blog vignette, picture, blank screen to fill, will be towards that goal. Every effort will be to take this adventure and twist it around to convince every reader to convert their appreciation, honor and thanks into a contribution to the SOWF.

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As the trip leader, I’m not unduly afraid of the hazards listed above. Those, I know how to manage.

No, my fears are: we won’t get the photos/video we want, the weather will not cooperate (in this case, it won’t be bad enough; Keith is so strong and skilled, anything less would be too straightforward), we won’t get posts out, we’ll get in a wreck on the drive up there, visibility will be zero, we inadvertently delete a huge pile of video, etc.

Managing hazards requires taking a moment to clarify the implications of the decisions we are making, prior to committing to them. Is this the outcome we want? What is the risk of things not working out as I expect? Where are they likely to go bad? How would the tipping point present itself? By combining teams so each is well suited to handle the challenging environment, we hope to film and tell a story.

To help manage, one of our climbers’ primary focus will be to oversee our safety decisions. From gear choices, health, navigation, communications, a clear daily plan (including alternatives and re-grouping points/times) and how we will adjust our plans. We have a variety of medical skills spread throughout the crew, from Wilderness First Responders, a Wilderness EMT, to a Registered Nurse (with deep back country knowledge). Every gear decision will include it’s usefulness in an emergency. Too much gear can actually reduce your safety. By far, the most important element to effectiveness, a reasonable safety margin and flexibility, is knowledge. Safety, in complicated situations favors an unentrenched awareness, surrounding yourself with good people and is also the result of years of good habits.

Once we are able to confidently manage the complexity, we can get down to the business of Keith getting a gratifying climbing experience. This trip will continue to build on his previous experiences, towards bigger goals planned for the future.

After all that is under control, we have a story to tell.

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