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They use axes for support poles while they descend. The accident on Mount Hood involved two big categories of effects: the mechanical system that the climbers were using and the psychology and physiology that contributed to the accident. In system accidents, unexpected interactions between forces and components are generated naturally by the complexity of the system.

So Ward had slipped in the past, but he had always managed to catch himself before a fatal fall. He had also already belayed, but without ever falling to the point of it being useful to him. Thus Charles Perrow observed that most of the time, nothing serious happens, which leads operators — in this case climbers — to believe that the behavior of the system that they see is the only possible state of the system.

When a system is tightly coupled, its effects can expand in an exponential manner. Therefore in a closely arranged row of dominoes there is a strong relationship between the state of an individual domino and the state of all the dominoes: if one falls, all the others will be affected. It was a logical consequence of the self-directed system. So the Mount Hood accident was predictable, but no-one could know which mountain climbers were going to fall, nor where, nor when, nor with what injuries.

The climbers were familiar with the system and had a good idea of how it worked, but only of its most common states. There are two environments, two worlds, on Mount Hood. One is designed for the survival and comfort of humans.

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The other is not. There are mechanical chair lifts, pavilions, and a five star restaurant with its pinot noir and its rosemary crostini. In that place you can look out over thousands of square meters of natural wilderness while sipping your white wine, with an indifference more impudent than any animal would dare to entertain. The mountain is safely contained behind double-paned glass. But we can only reign over our little model of the world.

It is easy to cross this invisible line between that which has been adapted for us and that which requires that we adapt to it. But it is also easy to forget and bring with us this false sense of security that can be fatal for us when we cross the line. So the nine mountain climbers could have taken a little bit of this attitude with them from the pavilion to the mountain. Their success in life, their objectives, their plans and their imaginations took them there. They earned money to do this sort of thing. They earned the reward that their life mastery had bought them.

People are part of a mechanical system but they are also a system in themselves. Risk homeostasis theory states that people accept a certain level of risk and the more you perceive the environment as less risky, the more risks you take and vice versa.

Therefore when the ABS breaking system was introduced in cars, the number of accidents overall remained the same because drivers who had them felt safer and took more risks. In the same way, the mountain climbers who have tackled reputedly dangerous mountains with maximum precaution, have a tendency to relax when they are climbing on reputedly safer mountains. Studies of mountain accidents show that there are three factors that contributed to Mount Hood: 1 the descent, 2 everyone was roped together and 3 no belay.

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These three factors mean that on a global scale, accidents similar to the one on Mount Hood are very common. In the first place, the climbers, like many, had celebrated their arrival at the summit. The tool that gives vent to emotional response. The pitfall they were up against was that they were only half way there. They partied even though the hardest part still awaited them. Mountain climbers are the only athletes to do that. So the climbers were at the summit and faced the descent with the 5 star restaurant below them. Suddenly, the positive state of celebration upon arriving at the summit was transformed into the perspective of slowly descending the length of the long slope.

Images of previous experiences popped into the minds of all the climbers: they saw themselves sitting quietly in the warm, resting. They saw rest and safety within their grasp: they only had to get down quickly and reach the pavilion as quickly as possible a warm shower, pinot noir, rosemary crostini. So securing themselves by belaying would be long, annoying and tiring.

They were already tired, and had already spent a lot of time climbing. A succession of emotional book marks had already been etched in their minds and one of the book marks reminded them that is was enough to go down one foot in front of the other for safety. Another told them that belaying would mean prolonged pain, thirst, hunger and fatigue.

Deep Survival

And they had no emotional book mark tied to falling meters , or for the energy that would build up with a rope system if the highest climber fell. Thus, piece by piece, unconscious of the fact that their model of the world was no longer valid, they assembled their accident. And they began the process long before their arrival at Mount Hood. One day in , Ken Killip, a strong and experienced firefighter, took a three day hike with his friend, York, in Rocky Mountain National Park, a huge wild expanse of some 1, square kilometers covered with mountains and forests.

They had a specific itinerary to complete of around 10 kilometers with their heavily stuffed packs and one part of their hike took them up to height of 4, meters. They were sharing their load and York was carrying the tent. The latter had to regularly wait for Killip who walked less quickly than he did. After five or six hours, he got tired and left Killip behind — people regularly fail to understand that they should travel at the pace of the slowest, not more quickly. Killip was following York who had been before and knew the way. And while Killip had the map, York had the compass. So when Killip saw York gradually disappear, he did not understand the insidious process that was about to play out.

One type of mental model that people form is a mental map : a schema of the geographic area and what route to take. Killip had formed such a mental map ever since he had left his car. Because he was following York, he did not check his topographic map and it is not a good idea to create a mental map. Now his mind was unconsciously in the middle of creating a mental map of a route from an unknown position to a destination he had never seen before.

He found himself climbing up a slope that he thought was Mount Ida. When he got to the top, he was supposed to find landmarks that York had told him about and would be able to guide himself by, in particular a lake and some rivers of crystal clear water where he could quench his thirst — he had drank the last drop from his water pouch three hours ago. In fact, he was not on top of Mount Ida. He had following a path almost parallel in the beginning, which ended up being further away by more than 5 kilometers to the north.

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It was the result of a minor geographic error. He should have retraced his steps and tried to find the path. Instead of that he continued on. The fact of not having a mental map, of trying to create one in an environment where sensory facts have no sense is interpreted as an emergency and triggers a physical — or rather an emotional — reaction. The brain pushes the body to hurry up and get somewhere more quickly, somewhere that corresponds to your mental map, a place that has everything you need to survive.

By chance, a ray of light lit up a little pond, at which Killip could quench his thirst and fill up his water pouch. He got ready to spend the night there, he had no choice at present. He had food in his pack, but York had the tent. The rules prohibited lighting fires in the park, and Killip, a good fireman, respected the rule. If he had lit a fire he would have been able to find himself more quickly. When he woke up, he had not yet completely admitted that he was lost. He wandered about all day long, becoming even more lost, because he had expanded his circle of confusion so much that he could no longer retrace his steps.

He decided to climb up a hill to see where he was, slipped half way up and slid down the slope, severely wounding his shoulders and his legs. Then he stopped again beside a small pond, refrained from building a fire even though it was freezing cold, and fell asleep. When he awoke, he was filled with frustration.

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  8. He decided to turn back. Everything he tried took him deeper into the forest. He tried again to climb up a mountain.

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    But a storm stopped him and sent him back into the forest. He knew his clothes were dirty. He fell asleep again on the slope, with one arm around a tree to avoid slipping. Two days ago he was a perfectly healthy hiker, competent and well equipped, his pack contained what he needed to live for a week in the wild. Now, he was huddled on an icy mountain slope, exhausted, famished, seriously dehydrated, hurt and hypothermic. What started out as a small navigation mistake had progressed, one innocent step at a time, into a fierce fight for survival. Getting lost is not a matter of the place you are in.

    It can happen in a forest or it can happen in your life. People know it instinctively. Whether you like it or not, you must then make a new mental map of the place where you are. You must become Robinson Crusoe or you will die. To survive, you must find yourself.

    Then the place you happen to be will not be so important. For example, the Xerox corporation, a multinational American company which made its fortune by selling one of the premier photocopiers, got lost on the road that leads to innovation even though that was the spearhead of the company.