The Expedition Equation

For me, a good expedition is the solution to a complex math problem. The equation consist of multiple unknown variables and it is up to the expeditions planner, the mathematician, to balance the calculation.

The first variable, A, is the most obvious one; the objective. What actually is the goal of this expedition? Sometimes this can be straightforward; a clean aid climb the Muir Wall Route on El Cap. Other times it is far less defined; explore the Mariposa Valley, and see if the inspiration to climb stikes. People often assume that this is the most important variable, though this is rarely the case. More often than not it is the next two that most define the others.


See anything inspiring to climb? Lots to do in the Mariposa Valley, Argentina,  Northern Patagonia.

B, Timing. What time of year will your trip happen? Often these expeditions coincide with other life events. Maybe there is a slow time of the year at work. Or, maybe you are trying to link up with a friend who has their vacation booked for a specific few weeks. Life has a way of setting some serious parameters on this variable. In many cases it proves advantageous to work with, rather than against them.

C, Partners. I am fortunate enough to have a lot of great climbing partners. Many of them I would be pleased to go on an expedition with. Still, not every partner is suited for every trip, every time. Why choose a strong, fair-weather rock climber who complains of the cold to go on a winter mountaineering trip with? You’ll be better off to save their talents for a trip they will enjoy more, not to mention your two’s climbing belaytionship!


Always match the right partners to the right objective. Arrigetch Peaks, Alaska

The forth and final variable of this simplified equation, X, is the place holder for all of those other smaller variables that, while important, are not individually as important as the big three. This includes but is not limited to; trip cost and duration, climbing difficulty and discipline, pre-trip training and commitments, etc.

So, A+B+C+X=one great expedition. With so many variables, this equation is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the other hand, it is a complex problem, and often takes multiple attempts to solve correctly. On the other hand, all these variables offers you countless opportunities to have a grand adventure. So, pick a single variable as a starting point, and see where it takes you. Before long, you might just find yourself on one great expedition.


Summertime climbing fun in the magical Lofoten Islands.


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