Mountain Mentality

One of the key differences between sprint racing and longer distances in sleddog racing is that you will be subject to the elements for extended periods of time. You will have to have the tools at your disposal to survive in conditions which may be difficult. Even though I have not done longer races before, I do not go at it unprepared.

Before I started sleddog racing, I was an avid hiker and climber. Initially, my climbing focused on sports climbing, but at some point, the two passions collided and I found myself climbing mountains. Technical mountaineering combines the subjective hazards of sports climbing, with the objective hazards of the great outdoors.

Subjective hazards are those that you can influence directly. For example, your aerobic conditioning directly influences your ability to perform at altitude and for prolonged periods. Another example would be your technical climbing skills, which directly influence your ability to control risks during the steep sections of the mountain.

Objective hazards, however, are very different. They relate more to the environment around you. By definition, you cannot control objective hazards in any other way than by limiting the time you spend in the environment. An avalanche risk is a great example; you cannot stop an avalanche from happening, but by spending less time in its path, you can minimize your objective hazard.

Sometimes the subjective and objective hazards are contradictory. For example, most glaciers can only be safely traversed in the morning. The afternoon sun quickly melts the ice, making it hazardous and unstable. This requires you to climb fast. Climbing fast usually means that you have to limit the number of security precautions you take during the climb. Instead of constructing belay anchors to secure your ropemate across an ice bridge, maybe you decide to use a running belay instead, which requires less time to setup, but if something goes wrong, offers less safety for both.

I am happy that I joined my good friend Eero Kosola on a mountaineering course in the Peruvian Andes in 2011, operated by Skyline Adventure School. I feel like I have many of the necessary tools to at least identify some of the risks involved in longer distance sleddog racing, and start planning disaster recovery options.

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