The fine line between bravery and foolhardiness.

I love walking in mountains on my own. There is something about relying on your own experience and competence under pressure that is incredibly rewarding. But it takes very little to switch from feeling like a hero to feeling like a chump.

A couple of years ago I climbed a pair of Munros, Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’ Chroin, in winter. Visibility dropped to about ten yards above 2,000 ft but to begin with navigation up Ben Vorlich and along the ridge between the two hills was pretty easy. However the gully that the path was meant to take up Stuc a’ Chroin was blocked by a huge snow cornice. There appeared to be a track heading round to the SW so I decided to follow this on the oh so often erroneous assumption that if others had followed it “it must be ok”.

It wasn’t. I ended up crawling up this slippy, crumbly, near vertical gully clinging on with everything I had. It got to a point where I could see no route above me but did not want to reverse because of the very real risk of slipping off the hill and down into the glen. There was no mobile signal that side of the hill and a very real chance that if I did fall my body would not be found until the next stalking season!

Needless to say I did make it up, eventually having to squeeze my way past a smaller cornice than the one that had blocked the main route. But I felt considerably chastened. In fact I was so rattled that I made a schoolboy error navigating on the top ending up heading in the same wrong direction—twice!

Why am I telling you all this? It struck me that the same fine balance between hero and chump faces us at work. The choice between playing safe and taking a risk. Heading out on our own or staying with others in the valley.

The whole point of taking risks is that it can go wrong. There are no guarantees that things will work out. All you can do is prepare the best you can and keep your wits about you.

At least at work there is more chance of having a mobile signal!

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