Daring to Dream, Daring to Fail in the Tetons

I failed yesterday. Sean Meissner and I had planned to climb both the Middle and South Tetons. I did not […]

By on September 8, 2009 | Comments

I failed yesterday. Sean Meissner and I had planned to climb both the Middle and South Tetons. I did not summit either peak. I climbed from 6,800′ to within 500′ of the 12,800′ summit when I succumbed to a fear of heights. I was on loose rocky trail when I looked over at the neighboring chute which spilled into a glacial moraine lake seemingly half a mile below. I paused and contemplated whether I could face down climbing so close to the chute if I climbed any higher. I couldn’t. I don’t regret the decision to turn back. Here’s why…

Middle Teton’s summit, the top of which I didn’t reach

I knew going into the climb that I had a fear of heights and, more specifically, of “exposure,” that is having a lot of open space in plain sight in a high location. On the day, I pushed through multiple exposed sections, including some on snow. I even made a push up the exposed final climb before calling it quits. While this challenge wasn’t running-focused, I pushed myself to my very limit and fought until I couldn’t fight any more. Since the attempt, I’ve been thinking about a post I wrote back in February 2007 entitled Daring to Dream, Daring to Fail. In that post, I discussed how I hoped to drop my conservative, fail-safe approach to running races that coming season. (For the record, that did not and still has not happened.) In re-reading the post tonight, my favorite line is: “It’s time for me to dream of what might be, rather than plan for what I know I can do.”

Today, I wasn’t sure that I could summit either of the lesser Tetons, but I dreamt I could and tried to make it happen. That was enough to make me pleased with my effort even though I failed.

Call for Comments
I’d love to know when and where you’ve attempted a run, a race, or any other venture in a manner that was beyond what you knew you could do. Did you succeed in achieving your dream? Did you fail? Either way, how did you feel and what did you learn?

Is it really failure, if you get to enjoy views like this?
Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.