posted Jan 28, 2012, 7:05 AM by Paul Wagner
P has an old joke that he often told our kids when they were younger.  He would announce that we were approaching Fishhook.  "What's that?" they would ask.  "It's the end of the line," he would announce.
And they would groan. 
But there are times on the trail when it is important to recognize when you are at Fishhook.  We once climbed up to the top of Chilnualna Falls in Yosemite in the winter.  The trail was covered in snow, but we were fine until we got to with about 100 feet of seeing the top of the falls.  Because at this point the trail had three feet of powdery snow on it, and followed a narrow ledge along a 500 foot drop.  And we couldn't exactly see where the trail actually went.  We poked our feet around in the snow for a minute or two and decided that we were at Fishhook.  The benefits of seeing the top of the falls just didn't justify the risks of having one of us slip off that ledge. 
(You can get an idea of the terrain in the photo at right.  And yes, if we'd had hiking poles, or climbing ropes, the decision might have been different.  We didn't.)
So we turned around.
What brings this to mind is our recent trip up Fairview Dome in Yosemite.  It's steep, and the wind was howling.  And because it was January, it was cold.  And so we decided that it didn't really matter that we weren't going all the way to the top.  As a friend told P many years ago: "Summits are all in the mind." 
We've stopped our hike or changed our route many times because of swollen creeks, time of day, or icy or overhanging snow.  And we have never once regretted it. 
When we hear of people getting rescued off mountains, we usually don't admire their courage or their adventuring spirits.  We dp find ourselves questioning their judgment, and wondering why they didn't turn around when it made sense to do so.