I started to write this in the pothole thread but it got a bit long winded and I felt that it deserved its own topic. I will share personal experiences that have taught me the value of adequate mental and physical preparation as a package and how I have come to appreciate the value of experience. ---------------------------------------- A few years ago, 3 of us went into Poe. Technically prepared, but perhaps not as physically or mentally prepared as we could have been. And I'm not talking cardio. 2 of us had just gotten off of a week long trip with some great canyoneers in a venue that yielded much learning. Among them was the incomparable Jenny West. After getting to know her over the course of a week, I was all the more inspired and excited about my pending Poe trip but I was already ignoring some details of preparation. She assured me that we'd be fine. I let her vote of confidence go to my head and to let my guard down and to set aside the importance of adequate prep. Indeed we were "fine" in the end but I learned a valuable lesson, that of mental and physical preparation in concert with each other. I didn't know what I didn't know. As the trip approached, the weight began to settle and I became increasingly anxious every day. After a sleepless freezing night, a later than desired start, route finding difficulties, and a narrowly averted disaster involving rockfall that surely would have ended my canyoneering days or perhaps even my life, we suited up and I was already rattled and mentally taxed. I was keenly aware of my compromised faculties but I didn't want to show my partners any weakness. I think I had placed too great a mental load on myself and felt entirely responsible for the success of the trip. I felt the whole thing depended on me. There was no reason to doubt my partners skills and after several trips together already that season, I knew they were good natured, talented, and cool in the heat of battle. I didn't trust that knowledge and that lack of trust only served to impose an unnecessary mental load to my already anxious mind. Once we were in the canyon things went smoothly enough but admittedly, I was not enjoying myself. We arrived at the pit and went about the business of dispatching the crux of the canyon by the prescribed method. It didn't go so well. We spent way too much time there. I seem to recall it being about at least 2.5 hours. We relied on the now mostly washed-away rubble pile to stick our bags on for the escape. Providence? None of us could make the throw. I think by dumb luck maybe we got one bag over the lip. We had blown out 2 sand bags already and resorted to using rope bags with gravel as ballast. I attempted climbing out once and pulled the bags. Total reset. Starting over at such a formidable obstacle so sapped of energy was a significant physical and physchological blow. After another round of less than ideal throws, I went into the pit a second time. I slithered up over the edge and screamed a scream of anger and frustration, not one of triumph or satisfaction. We eventually got everyone out, cleaned up, and got moving again but the delay meant stumbling into camp without a minute of daylight to spare. Poe ain't over till she's over. The pit may be the crux but you're by no means out of the woods at that point. Much fatigue followed and I was deteriorating right up to the moment I limped into camp. Feeling so defeated and being utterly exhausted, we spent another chilly night in halls creek. I felt like I had let my friends down. I know they didn't feel the same, but we tend to be our own harshest critics. Feeling beaten and being disappointed with both my physical and mental performance I vowed to spend more time training physically for specific make-or-break, do-or-die type skills, and also to improve my mental game as well. To work on being sharper mentally and physically would prove to be a very worthwhile endeavor. Fast forward one year. I got an invite to go back to Poe with a different crew. Over the course of several trips earlier in the year I was afforded many opportunities to really sharpen my skills. I was privileged to learn from very talented people not only technical skills, but logistical skills and I observed what a talent these people have for putting together and executing some serious big time, high stakes trips. As the Poe trip approached I knew what I needed to do. My mental game had improved considerably and I knew how to prepare mentally. As for the physical prep, I had spent time lifting weights for canyon specific muscles and had spent many a session in the yard throwing sandbags to the point of exhaustion. The body was ready. I had thought and learned much about how to move better in the canyon environment and was much more confident and proficient in my technical skills. I had though about some of Poe's unique challenges and how to best deal with them. Not the least of which was The Pit. It occurred to me to remove my wetsuit top for throw so as to free up my arms and a have maximum mobility. I had considered how to stage people at some key obstacles and to anticipate a variety of conditions. We definitely had a strong and experienced team and in no way do I intend to minimize or take away from the value of their positive demeanors or the value of their talent. It certainly reduced my mental load knowing that while I anticipated being the point man on most of the tough stuff, I was among cool heads and skilled canyoneers. The mind was ready The movement through the canyon was relaxed and I enjoyed the journey much more, not feeling so anxious about the whole thing, despite the conditions being considerably more difficult. We arrived at The Pit with a plan. People were staged gear was organized and everyone was helping in the effort. It went so smoothly and I stuck throw after throw. Of a total of 8 throws, 5 bags easily reached the lip on the far side. I suited back up and into the pit I went. I was out in a flash and the others soon followed. 2 man hauls had the lighter members easily sailing up out of the pit. The coordination with which we executed the plan and the cooperation of the whole team had us all out of the pit, fed, cleaned up, and moving on in an hour and a half. The rest of the canyon went smoothly and we were back in camp, eating dinner with ample sunshine to spare. I slept very well feeling satisfied that I had fixed so many things that had bothered me for a year. All because I made it a goal to better prepare physically and mentally. The ability to do so was certainly the dividend of the invaluable experience I had gained in the intervening year.