Backpacking on Ice

I describe a dilemma called ‘backpacking on ice’ that I thought of when hiking across the Rhone Glacier in the Wrangell St. Elias Mountain Range in Alaska years ago. When you are backpacking, you split up the shared group materials, and in this situation your partner is carrying the food, and you have the map.

You have an incredibly big fight, and decide you have to split up. He won’t let you take any of the food unless you give him the map to have. You don’t have any paper or a pen to trace or replicate the map, and your fight has been so bad that you know your partner will not help you a bit (won’t let you follow if he has the map). You are on a glacier which means nights are very cold and there is little food (although water is easy to come by).

Do you trade the map for the food?

More below the fold.

Either choice has the strengths, but I think there is an obvious choice.

In deep wilderness, you can starve for days with the right direction and survive by finding a cabin, road or town. Being well fed will increase your odds of making it to safety, but your mental state will suffer if you don’t find it quickly. It is straight direction with less time vs. educated guess with more time and comfort. In the first option, it will be an uncomfortable journey, but will have a good chance longterm success. In the latter you will be well fed, but the chances of the end game resulting in death are much higher.

I see this dilemma relating to startups as well as how people live their lives. I see quite a few entrepreneurs starting small, building up their reputations knowing they will find the road to warm nights and food ahead. I see others that talk a big talk, guessing they will find this same ending, if not a brighter one.

Both work for different types of people.

Some people know their personal strengths and work toward their goals, however meager their life should be (or interesting, with some people choosing safer jobs vs. the higher risk).

Something to think about for the next time you are backpacking on ice.






4 responses to “Backpacking on Ice”

  1. Kevin Menzie Avatar

    Nice analogy. I like that you accept that both can work for two different types of people.

  2. hubs Avatar

    how about memorizing the route before handing over the map. i’m unsure how this would fit into your startup allegory. Possibly “find a mentor”, “be aware of your general direction regardless of your tools” or maybe we can just say, “keep your enemies close”.

    this sounds like a spam email, but i think you can see where i was heading.

  3. Jim Turner Avatar

    Now let’s add to the stress of your situation. Your trip is also a family trip and you have the safety and protection of your spouse and children to factor into your decision. This can also make for a longer journey, because you can;t travel as fast if you were alone. How do you respond in that instance?

  4. Andrew Avatar

    @Kevin yes, both can work, I showed my bias

    @Hubs it would be nice to have it both ways. Find a mentor is key

    @Jim don’t go backpacking on ice with kids. If so, bring the minivan

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