The Risk of Familiarity

Luck wins over short days, a lying watch, and a low visibility rain storm.
David Shema David Shema
July 28, 2014

November 2 - The Tooth/South Face
Injury: None.  
Cause: A number of converging factors.


[Leader]
We arrived at the trailhead just before dawn. We had planned for a 9 hour day and had a little more than that in daylight. The forecast was for weather to deteriorate by evening.    

I had a problem with my watch setting and a delta with the time displayed on my phone. Net/Net, I was referring to two different time references, and I didn't realize it was as late in the day as it was. Complicating this, I didn't bring my altimeter on this trip, and it began to rain at 4:00, much earlier than planned. The wet talus was super slick below Piss Pass, and that slowed us considerably heading out.   

In total darkness with it pouring, I wasn't able to determine if we had made it to the Source Lake boulder field or whether we were still short of it. With the humidity, rain and darkness, we maybe had 50' of visibility. Without an altimeter, we were operating blind. We got lucky and found the main exit trail. Emphasis on lucky.   

I underestimated the risk of Familiarity, and we could have easily been benighted on an otherwise innocuous Basic route.  In hindsight, we should have started an hour before daylight to provide a buffer, brought an altimeter, and possibly have bailed at the top of pitch 2. Any one of the three would have averted the situation. The students were not aware of how close we were to spending an uncomfortable night in the rain. 


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