Failure to Execute/Complete

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Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 10:24 am

I had a "failed" walk the other week. It's been bugging me more than it should considering that I actually enjoyed every minute of the walk. Mainly because I've only ever had three walks that I've considered "failures", and two of the three were attempts of the exact same route and I bailed out at roughly the same point on both occasions (for different reasons each time).

The first time I tried this route a number of years ago, I was on my own, in unfavourable weather (whiteout, snow and ice makes it difficult to visualise and negotiate a route along a knife-edge boulder field ridge) and I basically lost my nerve and confidence.

On this last occasion, I was walking with some young people who's previous experience was only Freycinet, Arm River and Overland Track (I'd walked these with them, and had a fairly good idea of their capabilities). This walk was 4 days, 3 of which were off-track scrub bashing and boulder hopping with some small cliffs to negotiate. My companions were definitely physically up to it, and were also mentally coping very well with the major increase in difficulty from their previous walks, until the weather turned a bit nasty overnight after the second day. Strong winds, with forecast of rain caused us to bail out and take a short cut back to safety. If I was on my own or with different people, I think I would have continued on (can't say for sure), but taking the escape route was absolutely the right thing for this group (there was another walker unrelated to our group who was camped nearby, doing a different route, who also chose to exit early for similar reasons).

Because this particular walk has beaten me twice, I'm now feeling desperate to give it another shot, sooner rather than later. I'm also wondering if things go wrong or I find myself in difficulty for the third time in a row, I may put unreasonable pressure on myself to continue on despite potential danger, to avoid failing the same walk three times.

I don't have any particular questions here... just thinking out loud really... trying to gather my thoughts and post-process my "failure". I know that it's not really a failure, because what we did and saw on the walk was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I still feel like I failed. It's irrational, but that's who I am.

(My only other "failure" - coincidentally geographically close to these two - was due to poor route selection through scrub that was more expansive than I'd anticipated, so I ran out of time and got less than half way to my intended target. I ended up finding a much quicker route back out, which irritated me immensely.)

PS. I just remembered a fourth "failure" due to a creek crossing being is high flood-level and completely uncrossable. I probably don't worry about this one because, (a) I've completed this same trip numerous times previously, so don't feel like I've failed to complete it, and (b) it was abundantly obvious to everybody in the party that there was no way to continue the walk.
Last edited by Son of a Beach on Wed 03 Feb, 2021 2:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Turfa » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 10:47 am

I would actually consider the walk a success. You took a group of less experienced walkers into a more challenging area and faced some difficult weather conditions. You made the decision to cut the trip short and got everyone back safely.
That sure seems like a success to me !!
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby wander » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 11:28 am

It took me until my 4th attempt to get thru Wilmot / Franklin Ranges. And even then we cut out after peaking Franklin over to Giblin Range to exit.

Each effort was an interesting and worthwhile trip, I never really considered the prequals failures. They were wanders that just had a different outcome to the original plan due to stuff happening like weather or deciding it was not to be solo trip for me.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Moondog55 » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 11:44 am

I remember one of this countries most experienced and accomplished Himalayan mountaineers writing that success was getting to the top on your tenth attempt, he just happened to be writing about Bogong in that particular essay.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Xplora » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 1:28 pm

Does anyone else have a voice in their heads which starts yelling at you in situations like this? I used not to pay attention to it but my experience tells me different and now when I hear it I listen and don't argue. No failure here. Just plain old good thinking and maybe listening to your own little voice.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Mark F » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 4:51 pm

Moondog55 wrote:I remember one of this countries most experienced and accomplished Himalayan mountaineers writing that success was getting to the top on your tenth attempt, he just happened to be writing about Bogong in that particular essay.

For me success is returning home safely.

I have abandoned various trips over the years for any number of reasons but basically I felt continuing would move me outside my comfort zone. I don't consider any of these trips failures.
"Perfection is attained not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove".
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby johnw » Mon 01 Feb, 2021 5:06 pm

Son of a Beach wrote:I don't have any particular questions here... just thinking out loud really... trying to gather my thoughts and post-process my "failure". I know that it's not really a failure, because what we did and saw on the walk was incredible and I thoroughly enjoyed it. But I still feel like I failed. It's irrational, but that's who I am.

(My only other "failure" - coincidentally geographically close to these two - was due to poor route selection through scrub that was more expansive than I'd anticipated, so I ran out of time and got less than half way to my intended target. I ended up finding a much quicker route back out, which irritated me immensely.)

Nik, I think this may be just a characteristic of your personality/logic. Definitely not a failure, as others have said, and you obviously recognise that.
I tend to be somewhat OCD, not diagnosed as such, but I know that's how I am (and it annoys my family greatly). Everything has to be tidy and organised. Situations like you describe really irritate me as well, but I've always made the right call (I think) when things got too hairy for me, or for some other reason I couldn't finish. I absolutely hate to not finish anything. I'll even finish off a meal when I'm already full because I can't stand to see anything left on the plate. I'll finish reading books that I don't particularly enjoy. So not completing a walk really irks me too, regardless of how prudent the decision was to do so. Where practical I've often gone back to specifically finish off just one small segment of a walk. Just so I can neatly tie up the loose ends and say it's "complete". Not saying you are like me, but I "get" your thinking.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Tue 02 Feb, 2021 8:09 am

Thanks for all your comments, and support - it all matches what I logically know to be correct.

In particular JohnW's comment about OCD matches not so much the logic of what I know, but matches what I FEEL. I do have a tendancy towards OCD, and similarly I would even eat the orange peel on my plate (in the days when it was trendy to be served a meal with a slice of orange), just to make sure the meal was truly finished. (These days I enjoy messing up the spoons in the cutlery drawer to annoy my even-more-OCD daughter.) This line of thinking has been very helpful, and I'm sure it is correct. I feel the need for things to be complete (according to whatever my own subconscious definition of "complete" may be).

Now I can see that it is important to keep this in mind if/when I attempt the same walk again. I do have a strong urge to complete this entire walk, and I have been worried that I may end up placing myself in danger if the urge to complete gets stronger than the little voice of reason in a potentially dangerous situation. Now I can remind myself (as I try to do in some other OCD-related situations) that I don't have to be a slave to the OCD tendencies. Hopefully that will help me to be more cautious if caution is required next time.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Moondog55 » Tue 02 Feb, 2021 8:20 am

OCD?
My step daughter arranges her library by Subject and Author and then by book size I threaten to go around and mess up her books and turn them back to front randomly if she ever annoys me too much.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Ms_Mudd » Tue 02 Feb, 2021 8:25 am

Turfa wrote:I would actually consider the walk a success. You took a group of less experienced walkers into a more challenging area and faced some difficult weather conditions. You made the decision to cut the trip short and got everyone back safely.
That sure seems like a success to me !!


Couldn't have said it better.

Sounds like you made wise decisions given the prevailing conditions. I would expect that you would exercise the same good judgement if attempting the route a third time and wouldn't allow pride to push you further than is safe.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby FatCanyoner » Tue 02 Feb, 2021 9:04 am

A decade or more back, I had the bad habit of coming up with overly ambitious trips then trying to push through any obstacle to make them happen. It made for some epics. Even day trips would often finish well after dark. They were often great adventures that a look back on fondly, but it was all a bit mad.

Over time I got better at having a plan B (actually, most of the alphabet now gets used). Especially on longer walks, or where there's a loop / out and back component, during the planning phase I have lots of points I'd like to explore, but I go in knowing what bits I can cut out if needed. Having side explorations that can be culled, or corners that can be cut, allows a fluid walk that actually learns from the terrain, scrub, group ability, etc, and changes accordingly. I still get to explore lots of cool places, but these days the walks are much more sensible. I don't kill myself, or finish in the dark. And because the planned route is always fairly grey -- with lots of potential options -- it never feels like failure when you end up doing one version rather than another.

This style of walking is also why I'm a big fan of areas where I can walk in a loop, rather than have to get from one point to another, as a walk where you must reach X point by a certain time doesn't allow the same flexibility.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby ILUVSWTAS » Wed 03 Feb, 2021 3:44 am

Moondog55 wrote:OCD?
My step daughter arranges her library by Subject and Author



Doesn't everyone do this?
How can you have books just Willy nilly on a shelf...
My cd's are in alphabetic order, and my clothes, walking gear in fact everything I own all has a designated place.

Nothing weird here at all.
Nothing to see here.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Lophophaps » Wed 03 Feb, 2021 9:02 am

Although too many of my trips do not finish as planned, nearly all are enjoyable. At Kosciuszko I've been thwarted by illness on Jagungal, scrub and heat on Pilot, solid rain for two days on the Main Range (I was hiding in Thredbo, nice in the accommodation with a cup of tea), a blizzard then extensive snow on the Rolling Ground, and bushfires. The bushfire trip was not that enjoyable, smoke everywhere, no views, very hot. In Tassie I've been crook on the OLT, mangled by scrub on the Central Plateau, turned back from the South Coast Track, and more that I would have to check to get details.

The three most important parts of a trip are, in order:
1 Safety;
2 Completion of the trip, preferably as planned; and
3 Enjoyment.
It was not safe to continue so I hid in O'Keefes Hut KNP for three nights watching the October blizzard make the ground white. Later it was too risky to go to the Rolling Ground and battle miles of snow to Rawson Pass and beyond, so I had a very slow three days south to Guthega Power Station, very relaxing. From memory the walking days were about an hour.

On these trips I did not finish as planned, but I was safe and was in one piece at the end. To me these trips were successful.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby wildwanderer » Wed 03 Feb, 2021 9:15 am

On other side. I do empathise with the frustration of not completing a planned trip.

I had one trip in particular which I had been thinking about for years. Finally had a chance to do it but had to pull out a few days in.

I was extremely disappointed and even though I know I made the right call, it's still frustrating to have all the planning and anticipation come to a 'trip not complete' result.

I am determined however to complete that trip in the future.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby wayno » Wed 03 Feb, 2021 5:44 pm

completing a planned walk is a bonus, theres no guarantee its going to be completed.... not completing a walk isnt a failure in my book, a failure is when you make a really stupid decision, like persisting and turning a trip into an unecessary suffer fest or put peoples wellbeing in real danger...
safety first... seen some classic cases of highly experienced people with too much confidence and pig headedness pushing their luck once too often
from the land of the long white clouds...
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby madpom » Thu 04 Feb, 2021 5:36 pm

You have this back to front. The decision to turn back or adapt plans is the sign of a mature, skilled bushwalker.

It should not torment you - you should take pride in good decision making based on the information you had at the time.

I conversely worry when I have a long run of 'successful' trips in challenging conditions that I might have lost that ability to sense when the risks mean it's wise to turn back.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby farefam » Thu 04 Feb, 2021 6:25 pm

I agree completely with madpom. It's usually wise to bail out if that voice in your head is saying "that's enough". I feel no view or experience is worth prematurely losing your life over.

The only time I have pushed through past that voice was at the crux of the direct ascent on my first visit to Federation Peak in the early 1990's. I stopped, sat down on the exposed ledge, had a good long think about it, then decided to face my fears and pushed on to the top. On 2 subsequent visits conditions didn't allow an ascent so I'm glad I did it the first time.

On the other hand, last year I pulled out while part way up a tree climb. I chickened out 5 times in the space of half an hour as my nerves got the better of me and I decided that the risk versus reward wasn't worth it that day. A few months later I climbed that same tree on the first go, having learnt from the earlier "failed" experience. The fact that my wife wasn't watching me the 2nd time may have had a bit to do with it!

I completed a big bucket list goal on a remote peak in Tasmania a few years ago. But I failed the first 3 times. Those were great disappointments, but persistence paid off in the end.

Whilst I don't like failing to complete a planned adventure, that sort of unfinished business does give you a good excuse to revisit the area another time. And perhaps can result in a greater sense of satisfaction when you do finally achieve it.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby north-north-west » Sun 07 Feb, 2021 6:13 am

The only failure is not getting out alive.
It took me seven attempts to get to the top of Mt Anne, and an eighth to actually get a view. Continuing on any of those first seven would quite likely not have had me here today.

Xplora wrote:Does anyone else have a voice in their heads which starts yelling at you in situations like this? I used not to pay attention to it but my experience tells me different and now when I hear it I listen and don't argue. No failure here. Just plain old good thinking and maybe listening to your own little voice.


Oh yes! Listen to that voice. When it says "that's not a good idea", it knows what it's talking about.
"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens."
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby rcaffin » Thu 11 Feb, 2021 6:55 pm

Even day trips would often finish well after dark.
Yeah, been there, done that.
Leading a party of walkers up Pierces Pass around midnight ... we were going to climb the Gordon Smith Chimney, but it had recently fallen down and there was stuff every where - very loose stuff. It was a 'day' walk - we got home at an hour slightly before what we had left home at, on the previous day.
Getting back to Mt Tootie at midnight - it should have been an overnight walk, but ... Daughter waiting for us at home was furious with us!

Then there was ... discretion. Shuts mouth. :)

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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Mon 15 Feb, 2021 10:06 am

(Oops)
Last edited by Son of a Beach on Tue 16 Feb, 2021 4:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Birdman » Tue 16 Feb, 2021 4:38 am

Your walk is only a failure if you haven't enjoyed yourself.
And quitting for safety or health reasons is most definitely never a failure. Actually quite the opposite.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Montaine » Tue 16 Feb, 2021 6:57 pm

For the same reason of wondering whether not completing a walk as planned was a failure in some way, on reflection I realised that pretty close to 100% of trips I've ever done didn't end as expected.

There is a possibility of course that this is the result of ambitious planning / poor preparation / optimistic weather reading. Even with the best laid plans, some ability to ignore the voice of self preservation is necessary to having an interesting and fulfilling life. But for me it has always been the right decision to turn around or change the itinerary. Sometimes it's easy to make a call, other times its hard to let go of an idea that you'd been set on. As people here have said, the decisions you make are the right ones until they're not.

That's why it takes a stronger (and smarter) person to turn around. Not knowing how the trip is going to end is the adventurous part.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Sun 27 Feb, 2022 11:15 am

To follow up on the original post...

Last week I had my THIRD attempt at this walk - solo again this time. And guess what? I bailed out again for the third time. :-)

However, I feel much better about it this time.

On this third attempt, I got substantially further than on the previous two attempts, and completed 4 of the 5 peaks/locations I had planned to visit. The reasons I feel better about it this time are:

  • I achieved the main peak I'd been aiming for, even if not all of the peaks
  • I stood looking at the last peak from the edge of the second-last peak and had a revelation... it's simply too hard for me (and/or I'm simply not hard-core enough for it)
The moment I made the decision to turn back towards the escape route this time was very different than the previous two times that I chose to bail out. On previous occasions I was exceedingly disappointed to the extent of near depression. This time, I searched and searched for a way forward, and could not confidently see a safe way down off the mountain in the direction that I wanted to go. Based on the information that I had, I thought I found the right spot, but I realised that the descent as well as the following day's walk (which I could see stretched out below me), was just too hard-core for me (at least when walking solo). Once I decided to turn back, I felt the fear (which I hadn't acknowledged consciously until now) disappear and turn into relief. It actually felt good to make the bail-out decision this time.

So I think I'm done with this walk now. I no longer feel the need to try again (although if I met the right people, I may consider it).

A happy ending to what started as a most unhappy topic (for me).

Since I now recognise I'm not the hard-core walker I though I was, I also have to adjust my expectations going forward, and place some more sensible limits on the kinds of walks I choose. Perhaps there are some more challenging walks I would have liked to do that I should cross of my mental list (such as New River to Federation... NOT... ha ha).
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby north-north-west » Sun 27 Feb, 2022 12:00 pm

Nik ... is there any reason you can't enlighten us as to what this route and your missed target peak are?
Asking so I have a chance of sleeping tonight.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Kott » Mon 28 Feb, 2022 9:10 am

We all have had to stop for various reasons. I never think they are failures and neither should anyone else. Its funny reading comments about doing some rough stuff, "not making it" and feeling like its a failure. what a bunch of ego stuff isnt it. I'm not immune do it. But the world is full of injured or dead "adventurers".

I like this quote by Ed Viesturs: "Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.”
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Walk_fat boy_walk » Mon 28 Feb, 2022 7:47 pm

Most of my turn-arounds have been swollen rivers... maybe 4-5 times. No regrets for pulling the pin on any of them.

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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Tue 01 Mar, 2022 7:21 am

north-north-west wrote:Nik ... is there any reason you can't enlighten us as to what this route and your missed target peak are?
Asking so I have a chance of sleeping tonight.


I may post a bit more about the specific trip elsewhere some time. I just want to avoid this topic getting bogged down into the specifics of any one particular route (eg, "oh, you should have taken such-and-such a descent route from that point where you got stuck - it's easy!" :-) )
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby Son of a Beach » Tue 01 Mar, 2022 7:24 am

Kott wrote:We all have had to stop for various reasons. I never think they are failures and neither should anyone else. Its funny reading comments about doing some rough stuff, "not making it" and feeling like its a failure. what a bunch of ego stuff isnt it. I'm not immune do it. But the world is full of injured or dead "adventurers".

I like this quote by Ed Viesturs: "Getting to the summit is optional, getting down is mandatory.”


Too true. For me, as I've learned more recently, part of my problem here was not so much ego, as such, but more a bit of OCD - I don't like leaving things unfinished. It nags at my subconsciousness.
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby FLICKIT » Tue 01 Mar, 2022 7:49 pm

Son of a Beach wrote:a bit of OCD - I don't like leaving things unfinished. It nags at my subconsciousness.


I class the not-completed trips as reconnaissance missions, for somewhere worthy I really don't mind taking a couple of jabs at them... I also like having trips marked on my map that I feel some urgency to complete, unfinished business, they give me something to live for and work towards, they add enthusiasm to life...
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Re: Failure to Execute/Complete

Postby rcaffin » Mon 07 Mar, 2022 6:56 pm

I class the not-completed trips as reconnaissance missions
Just so.
Sue & I were probing deep into Wollemi one time, along an 'obvious' ridge. We were new to Deep Wollemi at that stage.
Being Deep Wollemi, the ridge was NOT 'obvious' at all. It was hugely convoluted.
We got so far along, to a very uncertain place, looked at each other, and decided to back out. Fortunately I could identify the way we had come in fairly well. A rock here, a tree there, and so on.
A year later, with a lot more Deep Wollemi under our belts, we tried again. We quite enjoyed it this time.

But we did NOT regard our first attempt as a 'failure'. It was an 'educational experience'. Navigation in Deep Wollemi is very different from most anywhere else.

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