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How is surviving a mountain climbing accident like GTD?

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  • How is surviving a mountain climbing accident like GTD?

    I watched a documentary-style film last night called Touching the Void. It's about two young climbers who survive a horrible accident during their descent of a mountain in the Peruvian Andes.

    <Spoiler Alert>
    The story of what happened to these climbers is well-known, but if you don't already know about it and prefer to be surprised, don't read on!










    There's a lot to say about the film and the experience of the climbers, but I thought people here might be interested in the coping strategy of Joe Simpson after he had accomplished a grueling climb, broke his leg, was abandoned (justifiably, in my view) by his climbing partner, crawled out of an ice crevice, and slid down a mountain.

    He pulled himself backwards across a glacier on his butt (and later stood up and hopped on the rocks) with discrete goals for himself (I have to make it to that boulder in 20 minutes). That strategy kept him alive in his crawl back to camp.

    I know the analogy is far from perfect but I was struck by the similarity between his strategy and recommendations to break up the tasks (in our admittedly mundane and not life-threatening) activities into smaller parts. It was very inspiring.

    And for lots of reasons, it's a movie worth renting.

    Theresa

  • #2
    Survivors of catastrophic situations and atrocities often have to employ a variety of psychological devices to overcome the fear and despair that accompany prolonged real life-and-death challenges. Accounts of long-term POWs, Holocaust survivors, and victims of natural disasters often detail a curiously pragmatic approach to facing what could seem like a hopeless situation.

    That said, I resist drawing a parallel between our managing the minutiae of our lives with a system like GTD and the mental processes of individuals in dire distress who are experiencing profound pain and psychic suffering. For example, I think of the tsunami victims, and my gut sense is that it's unseemly to make a comparison between what they've endured and what we're doing here. I understand your point, but it makes me uncomfortable. The comparison inadvertently trivializes the trauma of people who've gone through horrific experiences.

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    • #3
      I think there is a comparison to be made between the two situations- everyday life versus survival situations. Both involve how people respond to stress, and the approach that worked for a man in the mountains is certainly something to examine for application to our lives.

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      • #4
        I think there is a comparison to be made between the two situations- everyday life versus survival situations. Both involve how people respond to stress, and the approach that worked for a man in the mountains is certainly something to examine for application to our lives.

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        • #5
          I have often thought that there are many analogies between mountaineering and everyday life. If I am forever focussed on the top of the peak and fretting about how far I still have to climb it makes the process enervating and tiring. If I concentrate on each step as I take it and enjoy the sensation of my muscles, the surface of the rock under me and the rhythm of my breath then when I eventually look up I am amazed at how far I have come.

          I was also luck enough to have dinner with Joe Simpson a number of years ago and he is, to say the least, an amazing guy!

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          • #6
            I saw Touching The Void. My take on it was that his "lizard" brain took over. The concious part of his brain... the part that he's aware of could observe the activities of the lizard brain, but he was being controlled by the part of him that controlls breathing, his heartbeat and digestion - the most basic survival elements. He would mentally pass out and find himself somewhere else, etc.

            I think there could be some 'lesons learned' from this kind of thing, and some parallels could be drawn:

            His path was laid out by his higher, thinking brain, but followed by his lower, reptilian brain. Any decision he made, except the most basic, was a concious one, but it was followed by an almost unconcious part of him.

            That sort of thing. A clear enough plan, with solid next actions could be followed almost mindlessly.

            But I'd be cautious of anything much stronger than that.

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            • #7
              Potential

              I've seen the documentary, "Touching the Void", too.

              I think this film shows how great our potential as humans is - how we can endure the most amazing things.

              It's extremely inspiring and moving.

              It certainly puts things into perspective - if humans are capable of surviving those conditions on a mountain, then I am certainly capable of overcoming a mountain of paperwork!

              Trisha

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