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Get Off The Map: Analysis Paralysis

In new terrain there will always be more questions than answers.

For the second day in a row I sat staring at the map, looking up at the mountain, and back down at the map. I read and re-read every description of the mountain I could find and poured over high resolution photographs. I was seeking the slightest bit of information that would foretell the future. Any information that would quell my fear and ease the queasiness in my stomach. I was scared and I was nervous.

My climbing partner and I were perched on a satellite peak near our objective, an unclimbed ridge deep in the Alaska Range, and we were both dangerously close to paralysis via analysis. My personal concoction of analysis paralysis came from overthinking and over examining each facet of our physical ascent, his came from overanalyzing and considering every single ounce we would carry on our climb: fuel, climbing equipment, and camping gear. Over-consideration of strategy and tool application was leading us down a dangerous path: no action.

You cannot climb the mountain from the valley-floor. Only full engagement with the challenge will open the opportunity to summit. You have to climb into the unknown, into uncertainty, with knowledge and confidence.

Recognizing our behaviors as fears we packed our gear with renewed commitment and confidence. A simple, yet vulnerable, conversation shifted our collective perspective and motivated us to apply the skills we had to our new challenge. We took our skill set, honed for years in other mountain ranges throughout the world, and applied them to a new arena and a new route. We weren't taking a leap into the unknown, we were applying our skills to a new endeavor - the shift in perspective wasn't earth shattering, but the result was significant.

We shouldered our packs and began climbing as we ascended the ridge we each falling into a familiar rhythm and routine. Challenges and obstacles appeared and we met them with the knowledge we had gleaned from our previous analysis, utilized our chosen tools, and most importantly applied our collective experience and knowledge - getting off the map and onto the actual terrain was liberating. We were doing the work instead of thinking about and considering the work. The result? A new route, an indelible experience, and a shared summit experience.

The ability to move off the map and adapt to real-world changing conditions leads to success.

— Matt Walker is the lead adventurer at Inner Passage.