How Do You Find Your Limits?

It was at about the 18,900′ mark on a remote peak known as Kyajo Ri that I found my risk/climbing limit.  I had posted on this subject before leaving for Nepal and finally got the chance to find my limit him in the Himalayas.  I recorded a video for my daughter that day, just a short little one minute view of the world from 3.5 miles up.  A mere 10,000′ until the top of the world.  I told her I had had enough and how did I know?  Because it wasn’t fun.  More precisely, the pain wasn’t worth the goal.

For a climber, maybe it’s blasphemy to talk about only climbing when it’s fun.  For the record, I don’t only climb when it’s enjoyable, but that’s when I prefer to climb.  At my young, sprite age of 38, and with an awesome daughter to look after, I’m no longer the gung-ho “the summit or die!” type of climber.  I don’t know if I ever was.  Being in the mountains is extremely enjoyable for me and I no longer feel compulsion to be at the top of everything.  I’m happy in valleys as well as 2/3rds the way up a peak and on top.  Just today I turned down an offer to be part of a four man team to attempt Everest next season.  I know I can get myself physically ready and somehow find the money ($17K, zoiks!).  But I knew, right away, when I received the email that my answer was, “No thanks.  That’s not for me.”

Something Brad over at Pemba Serves wrote clarified things for me.  It’s a post about enjoying climbing with women and why it’s different than climbing with men.  I agree with his take on things and while I do enjoy climbing with like minded men, learning my limit means there’s a section of the climbing population I just don’t meld with.

It’s taken me a while to feel comfortable with not being peak-bagging summit crazed like I think I should be as a guy climber.  I still enjoy climbing routes above my ability that push me physically and mentally.  I enjoy testing myself and improving.  I even enjoy failing because I know I’m finding my limits.  I can still find enjoyment in misery if the goal is worthwhile.  But sometimes, sometimes when I’m honest with myself, I admit that the pain isn’t worth the goal.

It took me traveling to Nepal and spending a month trekking and climbing to find my altitude limit.  What about you?  How do you find limits in your own life that you don’t care to cross?  Do you find it hard to balance what you feel comfortable with as compared to what society says the norm for you should be?

7 Replies to “How Do You Find Your Limits?”

  1. Patrick Gensel

    Well played. you should be certainly proud of yourself. I tell myself that I want to climb Everest, but im not sure I would enjoy it. For me I find my limit or Risk Threshold when I begin to feel guilty. by feeling guilty I mean: “How would my friends and Family feel if I died doing this.” Now that doesn’t mean this always stops me, but it certainly affects my enjoyment. Where I really find myself pushing the bar is on rock. For the most part, I can really climb at or above my grade with little risk, and for me that builds strength and ability.

  2. Genevieve Hathaway

    Great piece Peter!! Interesting thoughts! Usually when I’m doing something really hard (really hard for me at this stage of my journey as climber) is when I wonder where my limit is. I find my limit by doing. It’s a tough balance because sometimes overcoming fear and challenging yourself involves pushing those boundaries. Intuition for me is an important indicator of where my hard and fast limit is. I always give myself the option to turn around and bail from a climb, even if it means my partner or partners will never climb with me again. It’s important for me to trust my intuition, even when guys I’m climbing with don’t trust it. On days I haven’t listened to it bad things have happened. I consider climbing often class 4 fun, the kind can be downright crappy while doing but somehow is so fun looking back on. Part of that I think is the sense of accomplishment that comes with pushing our boundaries or challenging ourselves. For me success is not the summit but trying the climb and learning from it.

  3. Laurel Fan

    Hmm, I think for me it’s kind of the opposite — I’m not as self sacrificing and oh-whatever-we’re-just-out-to-have-fun as I’m supposed to be as a girl climber. So it’s hard to balance being comfortable with risk, “misery” (but I don’t think it’s misery, really…), etc., with society saying that I shouldn’t be.

    I haven’t really found any hard and fast limits that I personally wouldn’t cross yet. I’ve turned down invitations to do something, but it’s always been about time and money (and I’ve regretted a few of those decisions). I’ve never regretted going on a trip.

    But I think that’s more because I haven’t been doing anything challenging, I’ve just been doing things that are easy for me and haven’t been pushing my limits.

    If someone invited me to go to Everest, I would probably think that for that amount of money I could not only pay for my dream trip next summer but also pay for everyone else on the trip 😉

  4. wandering educators

    good one. i was forced to learn my limits when i got CFIDS. i felt like it took away everything i had ever wanted (and in a way, it did). i learned to want – and accept – new things in my life. they are just as important to me now, but i might never have chosen them before. these limits? it’s all a factor of if my body can do it or not.

    i am glad you turned down the everest climb. it’s a GOOD thing, to know what you want and don’t. bravo!


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