Learning from Mistakes


“There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience.”

~Laurence J. Peter


Human nature means we learn best from stories.  When a person reads or listens to a story, both sides of the brain are working. The logical brain is processing the words while the creative brain is filling in the gaps, anticipating the story. Good trip reports (or case studies) use visual, auditory, olfactory and kinesthetic descriptive words to give the story depth and to stimulate the right brain to enrich the meaning of the story and store it in the memory for easy recall.

If the trip report story is personally interesting, the information in the story is captured in a deeper, unconscious way as the brain searches for a deeper meaning. The story is reformulated to have personal relevance and relationships and patterns are developed.  Sometimes the reformulated, personalized story stays at the unconscious level and causes unconscious behavioral change, or it can rise into the conscious awareness when the “light bulb” turns on.

Here I have collected a set of case studies of mountain adventures that went wrong.  They didn’t end in disaster or get reported in the newspaper, but they almost did because of poor planning and poor decision-making atop the high peaks.  We can already learn two things from this: 

  1. By being lucky, not all mistakes end in tragedy, and
  2. There are far more disasters happening than we hear about. 

Learn not to live by luck.  Embrace the “yield and overcome” mindset and reach a thousand days atop the high peaks or more.

Read these case studies carefully and write your own.  Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others.  Use the lessons to reinforce the ideas of “yield and overcome.”  Imagine what you would have done differently, better.  When faced with a similar situation, the story will appear in your memory.


Case Studies

  1. Starting late & getting caught by weather (Thatchtop case study)
  2. Preparing poorly & getting lost (Arrowhead case study)
  3. Making poor decisions & taking foolish chances (Castle-Conundrum case study)
  4. Failing to plan (Longs Peak case study)
  5. Preparing poorly & making poor decisions (Maroon Bell case study)


Please post your own “lessons learned” so other can learn from your mistakes.


5 Responses to “Learning from Mistakes”

  1. Castle-Conundrum « PeakMind Says:

    […] to “Learning from Mistakes” […]

  2. Thatchtop Traverse « PeakMind Says:

    […] to “Learning from Mistakes” […]

  3. Arrowhead « PeakMind Says:

    […] to “Learning from Mistakes” […]

  4. Longs Peak Keyhole Route « PeakMind Says:

    […] to “Learning from Mistakes” […]

  5. The East Face of Pyramid « PeakMind Says:

    […] and my “nose” to guide me to the summit.  Faith comes hard, but I have learned some hard lessons. Looking up at the Upper East Face of […]

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