A “dash and crash” is the result of moving too quickly over a short distance while at high altitude. When climbers try to cover ground quickly, only to need to take five or six breaths (and seconds) recovering, the initial effort is canceled out by what could have been better spent in a slow and steady slog. As the climber and outdoor photographer Jimmy Chin once put it, “It doesn’t matter how slowly you go, as long as you don’t stop.”
I’m sure there’s a content strategy parallel there as well. When you work in marketing and love the mountains, the parallels are relatively easy to find. More on that later…
Now it just so happens that, in addition to being a writer here at Gorilla, I’m also what I might refer to as an aspiring mountaineer. I’ve bagged (peak speak) a handful of Colorado’s 58 mountains rising over 14,000 feet and summited Mount Rainier in Washington this May after having been turned away in 2012. Again as it happens, my accomplishments are dwarfed by a long-time friend of Gorilla 76 and Chief Marketing Manager with The Korte Company, Todd Imming.
Since I was due to be out in Colorado this summer, Jon Franko and Todd asked if I’d be interested in joining them for a hike on what would be Jon’s first fourteeners, Castle and Conundrum peaks.
And not only that, a pro climber and legend within the Colorado climbing community was set to join us later in the trip for a mountain that many (including Gerry Roach, who literally “wrote the book” on Colorado’s fourteeners) consider to be one of the hardest, Capit0l Peak. It was probably a summit I wouldn’t care to attempt on my own, with it’s famous “knife ridge” consisting of a sharp ridge that’s often crossed by dangling one leg off either side, the toes on either foot pointing downward into the abyss. But Jon Kedrowski, a veteran of the Karakoram and Himalaya, with more than 600 fourteener ascents over the span of his career, was due to join us. It was an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.
A six-mile trek gets climbers to the base of Capit0l Peak. For this reason, many choose to overnight at a beautiful high-alpine lake that signals the beginning of the climb. Our party instead opted to tackle it in one night, leaving the trailhead a little before midnight and arriving at the lake a few hours before dawn.
We started in on some of the more hairy climbing (by my standards) while still in the dark. Nowhere through the course of this climb were ropes and anchors to come into play, so don’t be thinking Alex Honnold climbing that desert tower in that CitiBank commercial. Rather, class IV routes tend to feature crumbly rock and a few sections where your fate would be uncertain in the event of a misstep, to put it mildly.
In the darkness we skirted along sections of rock and through gullies of loose scree, the sound of which told us just how far they had to fall when dislodged from their resting places. I relied more than I care to admit on Kedrowski pointing out for me the best handholds and footholds as we went. Eventually we reached a boulder field, where the going became less precarious, if more tedious. From here, it was a battle of balance and stamina as we hopped over coffee-table-sized hunks of granite until we were above 13,000 feet (watching out for “surfboards” all the way—slabs of rock prone to tipping on a fulcrum-like resting place given the right application of bodyweight)
It was at this point, just before a hump in the ridge known as “K2” alerts climbers that they’ve almost reached the crux— or the most difficult portion of the route— that we noticed an unusual weather pattern setting in. Afternoon storms are like clockwork in the high Rockies, but it was still well before 8 a.m. We had started early hoping to avoid this situation exactly. Jon, whose PhD training had at least something to do with weather and climate, was able to predict cloud movement and the likely severity of any downpours with some confidence. He used the temperature, valleys, surrounding peaks and wind to judge what those clouds might bring, and his conclusions weren’t positive for a summit bid.
I wasn’t positive how Todd would feel about aborting our attempt. It would’ve been his fortieth, after all. With this summit, he would be only 18 away from bagging every 14er in the state. Not bad for a flatlander like myself. But it’s a hard-and-fast maxim in mountaineering that once you reach the summit you’re only half way there. And weather at this altitude is not to be trifled with. Both of us were a little worried, I think, about crossing the knife ridge and still being on the other side when the rain came. We made the decision to turn around.
Where are the marketing parallels in this failed summit bid, you ask? Where are my “11 Things I Learned in the Mountains That Made Me A Better Content Writer” you want to know? I’m not sure. Maybe a slow and steady content strategy is what it takes to see SEO results. Maybe it’s always better to solicit advice from the experts. Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid to steer our marketing efforts in a different direction if the way looks rough up ahead.
I suspect all of these things are true. As writers immemorial have noticed, the mountains are made for metaphors.