Planning questions

Planning mountain or mountaineering tours is inherently connected with posing a series of questions. How long is the route? How much time will it take? Where will the most complex spot be? What might we encounter along the route? And so on. It is natural that these questions are of a worrying character. The author of these questions, after all, is our fear. We should allow this fear free rein, within reason, as it will lead us to ask a sufficient number of questions and thereby keep us from neglecting anything. Posing such questions is very important, because when searching for the answers to them we will arrive at an understanding of what we will need to complete the hike and what we need to watch out for. In principle this constitutes thinking up “worst case scenarios” and preventing it from coming about. Fear, if we handle it reasonably and can manage it, is often the mountaineer’s friend and good advisor. If a courageous person is afraid, the result, as a rule, is wisdom.

We can pose the actual questions about worst-case scenarios in two ways:

  • chronological – we can imagine how the hike will proceed step by step through the individual sections and contemplate what can go wrong
  • retroactively – we have a list of accidents which may befall us, and we ask where, when, and how they can catch up with us on the intended hikeThe following tables offer a list of questions combining both approaches. The formulation and clear articulation of the questions is the best way not to underestimate the situation or forget about something. The tables contain a spectrum of four types of questions, from the worst to the best. The final balance of questions can then help us define whether the planned hike is risky for us or not.

The first table is devoted to dangers which can result in a person or an entire mountaineering team falling or freezing up in the field out of fear of falling.

The second table develops the number of questions further according to the character of the mountain range in which we are hiking, in what climate and under what weather conditions. Questions associated with such topics as glaciers, avalanches, fog and frostbite.

The third table focuses on the human factor and the capabilities of the group. We have to consider what condition the group members are in, what knowledge and capabilities they have, and by what tactic the group will progress in the terrain.

It is critical to realize that only rarely will there always be positive answers to the questions posed. One can never manage to eliminate all problems or possible dangers, except perhaps in heaven. But in this world there will always be some dangers, and the essence of achieving safety is to reveal these dangers and limit their potential reach. This minimisation of risk can be achieved using the following:redundancy (backups, safeties, replacement solutions).

  • reserves (time, strength – choosing a slightly easier objective than the maximum of our capabilities)
  • retreat options (change of target, variations on the escape route, possibility to turn back)

We should always have at least one of these reduction factors (i.e. that reduce danger) available without limit during a hike.

In the table below the most important thing is to realise that certain questions and answers are correlated. That means that a negative answer to a given question must be compensated for by a positive answer to a different question that concerns the same topic. And since, as mentioned, one of the factors that reduces danger is reserve, it is necessary that the positive answers, which are the antithesis of the negative answers, should also outnumber them. At the same time it is necessary to consider whether the relationship between them is relevant, i.e. that the answers relate to each other topically.

Tab. 1

Tab. 1

How to work with the table? More in e-book.

Title Part 4Mountaineering Methodology – Part 4 – The Mountains

ISBN 978-80-87715-10-9

MMPublishing, 2013

Available for download from Apple iTunes (in the Books section).

For example U.S. store – link

Another countries – look on the page Download

See layout.

Another possibility is Google Play. This version is a simplified (as PDF).

Title Part 4 GPMountaineering Methodology – Part 4 – The Mountains

ISBN 978-80-87715-15-4

MMPublishing, 2014

Available for download from Google Play.