Updated: Jan 21

When the trail is washed out or impassable it is often necessary to go down to find a new route up.

I'm learning life is much the same.

I was recently on a climbing trip with a buddy in the late fall season. Many of the trails were still open, but everyday we faced a section that was impassable due to snow, at least safely. In those situations we had to decide whether or not to stay on the trail or find an alternate route. Now an alternate route doesn’t mean a short cut. It means a long way around and in many disheartening cases it means going down. After climbing through thin air for hours I would do almost anything to not give up elevation. This aversion to losing elevation can sometimes make me stupid (well more stupid than usual). I will push myself upward despite the effort and in some cases despite the risk. Inevitably I find myself cliffed out or on a path that won’t get me where I want to go, and I have to back down anyways.

Why is it so hard for me to learn this lesson? I remember when I was a kid my mother would say I was stubborn. She was right, but why would a seemingly rational guy make the same mistake over and over again. The answer for me at least is ego. I want to believe that I can do anything, and I have to always be moving “upward” in whatever I am doing. However sometimes you have to go down to go up. And that usually means experiencing the F word where you can learn something. If I try a route and F it, then I learn what doesn’t work.

"I have not failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work." — Thomas Edison

There are many times when I am down the hill from where I was. It is not a fun place to be...looking up to where I used to be. However, one of the hardest things to admit is that I wasn't going to get there on the path I was on. Time to find a new path to the summit.

Dave is the owner and a guide for Top Out Adventures. His outdoor background is rooted in ultra-running, which has given him the chance to run around the world in the Rockies, Himalayas, Alps and Andes. He is also experienced in mountaineering and scuba diving, anything to get keep him out of an office. Feel free to reach out to him on Facebook at Dave Smithey or e-mail him at


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