04 May 2017

How To Turn a Trip From Good To Great




In the outdoor community, we commonly talk about trips in terms of The Fun Scale. As a refresher, here's the scale according to climber, writer, and self-proclaimed "Margarita-specialist" Kelly Cordes:
Type I Fun – true fun, enjoyable while it’s happening. Good food, good sex, 5.8 hand cracks, sport climbing, powder skiing. Margaritas.

Type II Fun – fun only in retrospect, hateful while it’s happening. Things like working out ‘till you puke, and usually ice and alpine climbing. (Think a bad hangover that makes you swear you'll never drink again)


Type III Fun – not fun at all, not even in retrospect. As in, “What the hell was I thinking? If I ever even consider doing that again, somebody slap some sense into me.”

Recently, I went on a trip I'd call 'Type I.5 Fun'. Not terribly fun while it was happening, but not terribly terrible either. I'd compare it to drinking a flat, warm Rainier Beer on a rainy day.

Only, we were climbing Mt. St. Helens in sub-optimal conditions - far worse than the weather report had led us to expect - then skiing down breakable crust in the driving wind, only to discover the breakable crust did NOT eventually turn into fun spring corn as anticipated and instead turned immediately into grabby schmoo, meaning we had encountered two out of three of the worst skiing conditions imaginable (the third, of course, being bulletproof ice).

But you know what? I had fun anyway, because I had followed the Three Rules of Good to Great in the backcountry: 

  1. Set Really, Really Low Expectations: When you ski 40+ days a year in the Pacific Northwest you learn to deal with all kinds of weather and ski conditions: wind, rain, fog, grapple, schmoo, rime, sleet, crust, sugar.... you name it, we play in it. The best advice I've ever heard is to dial up your layering program and dial down your expectations so that, when you find yourself at 11,000' in the middle of a grapple-launching windstorm while perched precariously on your crampons, ice axe, return your evil smirk and say, Yeah, just a bit.

  2. Go Out With Fun People: I've written a bunch about what it takes to get into backcountry skiing and how to be a good adventure buddy, so I won't go on ad-nauseam here, but really the formula is simple: make a plan + invite good people = have a good time.

  3. When In Doubt, Add Beer: Or chocolate or chips or something that will make you feel better in the moment of awfulness. We stood on the summit of St. Helens for approximately 3 minutes, scooted down 100ft to the party zone where someone had built a snow wall for wind protection where we made a hasty transition and shared a beer with our 10 new best friends, then skied to a spot out of the wind and drank a cold, not-flat can of Holiday Rainier while looking south to Mt. Adams and Mt. Hood. The view did not suck. The beer made it better.
Follow these rules on your next trip to make every adventure a solid Type I.5 on the Fun Scale.

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