“It’s just my flux capacitor. You guys go on. I’ll be fine. Really.”
The more you try in the outdoors, the more you bail. It’s just one of the facts of recreating in nature, where conditions aren’t under your control. Sometimes morale isn’t, either. Many things can happen that warrant turning around before attaining your goal, sometimes before you even get out of the car. You shrug your shoulders, tell yourself it’ll be there next weekend, or next summer, or next decade. You tell yourself getting to the top is only half the journey, that Ed Viesturs attempted K2 17 times before summitting, that safety comes first (even if all you really want is your blankie and a hot chocoloate). It’s fine, you live with it. And either way, Here are nine of the most common rationalizationsjustificationspotentially lame excusesreasons for bailing.
1. The Weather Bail
How much rain is too much? When is it too cold or too hot? How much of a headwind is too much? It’s totally subjective. Friends who used to run ski lifts at Breckenridge have told me stories of visiting skiers who bailed after a couple runs on powder days, citing “Too much snow.” Totally your call.
The nice thing about the Weather Bail is that you can sometimes bail on a Friday night for a Saturday morning climb or hike — 70 percent chance of thunderstorms is probably a little too high to safely bag that peak, isn’t it? Depending on your risk tolerance, 30 percent might be, too.
2. The Are We Having Fun Yet Bail
Things sometimes change between the time of planning and the time of execution of the plan, and new variables can be introduced that changes circumstances in such a way that the theoretical fun activity will no longer be fun.
In the words of a friend while standing in the Lumpy Ridge parking lot one Saturday as we argued about the wind being 40 mph or 50 mph: “I’m not worried about it being dangerous, I’m worried about it being not fun.”
3. The I Have a Better Idea Bail
When morale becomes questionable, propose to your partner that a different activity would be a better way to spend the remainder of your Saturday or Sunday: “Come on. Do you really want to keep slogging up this thing? Let’s go to Ed’s and get a couple beers/get a burrito/grab a cup of coffee/milkshakes/whatever.”
4. The Worst Case Scenario Bail
In a time of doubt, propose the worst, the way your mother used to when she didn’t want you to do something in junior high (i.e. get a Red Rider BB gun): “What if we get through the first ten miles of trail and it starts downpouring? We won’t be able to ride the trail back without tearing it up and ruining it for everyone else.”
“What if we get halfway up the climb and it starts storming? I don’t want to leave half your rack up there trying to rig rappels.”
“What if we get to the summit at the same time as that thunderstorm? Nowhere to hide up there; it’s a lightning rod.”
“Someone might get an eye put out.”
5. The Don’t Be Selfish Bail
Because when you die out there, it’s selfish. Example: “You could drop that highly wind-loaded line. Or you could think of your husband/wife/kids/parents/dog.”
6. The Injury Bail
High school football coaches say you have to know the difference between pain and injury. But it’s a fuzzy line in the outdoors when you’re the one calling the shots, and you’re certain you don’t need a rescue. From, “We better get you out of here and get some ice on that sprained ankle/wrist,” to “I think you’re gonna need stitches in that,” to “No way you can finish the climb/ride/run with that hangnail.”
7. The Whose Idea Was This Bail
Sometimes the seemingly best laid plans turn out to be bad ideas. It’s your call whether you admit this or not, and when. Examples:
“Man, this climb is a chosspile.”
“Wow, I didn’t think it would be this hot in the desert.”
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to tag all these summits in a day”
“Did you actually check the snow report/weather forecast any time in the last week?”
8. The Wrong Turn Bail
You don’t ever have to say the words “We’re lost” to validate this one. You just have to get a little lost at some point. Example:
“Well, if we hadn’t gotten lost on the way to the trailhead/taken the wrong trail at the junction/gotten off-route, we would have time to finish, but continuing on at this point would be suicidal.”
9. The Crowd Bail
You arrive at a climb to find three parties on the route, or a crag to find someone’s birthday party there, or your favorite trail to ride after work to find a troop of Boy Scouts putting on heavy backpacks, or start a ski tour just as the local mountaineering club is hitting the trail with a group of 50 snowshoers. Solitude is lost. You bail.
10. The I’m Not Feeling It Bail
Vague, all-encompassing, useful in just about any situation, pulling out the “I’m Not Feeling It” bail is the last resort of the uncreative quitter. Works best with people you don’t know well. Doesn’t work at all with bros.