The 10% More Rule
One thing I
have learned about life is that giving a little bit more effort than the
average guy, maybe just about 10% more, is some times enough to open up a whole
new world of fun. Putting up with a 0
degree weather and 4 feet of snow, when it would be easier to stay home by the
fireplace, may yield your best day ever of powder skiing. Dealing with buckets of rain may show you the
sky clearing scene that produces an award winning photograph. Handling hordes of mosquitoes may bring to
your landing net the largest rainbow trout of your career. Climbing the extra half mile of altitude may
reveal an awe inspiring vista that stretches for miles. Dealing with a difficult to handle new piece
of gear may be the ticket to a whole new sport.
Like a rocket ship heading into
space, it may be going 16,900 miles an hour, but that is not enough to get out
of the earth’s orbit. Until it hits that
magic number required by the rules of physics – 17,000 miles per hour – then it
will never get to the moon.
this rule the first time that I tried to randonee ski. I got into the sport simply because I had
torn up my cross country skis by taking them in rougher places than they were
designed to go. I had read about off
trail, or mountaineering, or alpine touring skiing, and they seemed to describe
what I wanted to do. The gear choices
were either randonee or telemark. These
sports use tougher and heavier gear than cross country, but it is more flexible
and useful in more kinds of terrain than downhill skis. They are not bound to a lift served slope
and do not require buying a lift ticket.
I chose to go with randonee more or less at random. [A few years later I switched to telemark,
but that it is a different story.]
That first day, sometime in January
of about 2001, there were dozens of factors stacked against me. I had never done randonee before. I had never seen any body else do it. I did not know anybody else who had done
it. My equipment was ordered by phone
and mail without the benefit of an advisor.
I assembled the new parts myself, without the benefit of a ski
shop. I was not sure how it worked. The weather was tough – up on the Parkway in
10 degree weather, high wind and blowing snow.
I parked the Bronco beside a pasture
and hauled my gear over a split rail fence.
Putting on the boots, pasting the skins to the skis and clamping the
boots into the bindings, in the heavy weather, were a chore. Doing it in all my heavy clothes was a bigger
chore. After hiking to the top of the
hill, it was time to re-arrange the gear.
I had to remove the skis from the bindings. Then remove the skins from the skis. But…the skins…would not…come off!
The skin removal process required
gripping the ends of the skins (almost impossible with heavy gloves), bending
the skis from the middle with the toe of my boot (which kept jumping off the
slick tip of my boot) and pulling the skin with my arms hard enough so the end
came off the ski (for which I did not have enough arm strength). I struggled…and sweated…and fogged up my
glasses…and yanked off my gloves…and froze my fingers…and cussed…and slung snot
from my nose…and yanked off my glasses…and wore out my arms…and kicked the
skis…and cussed some more…to no avail!
I just could not get the dastardly
things off. How could I ski downhill
with the skins still on? How could I get
the skins off? I had spent hundreds of
dollars and dozens of hours outfitting myself for this great new sport. It was totally unfair that I could not make
it work! What was I supposed to do? Was it all going to waste? I have never been more frustrated in my
That is when I envisioned the 10%
rule. I calmed down, and slowly did all
three things at once, and bore down, and concentrated real hard, and got the
skins off! The rest of the day was a
small scale, but decent, success of randonee skiing. Since then, I have been astounded, and
embarrassed, to see movies of experts removing their skins in just a few
seconds, using a few flicks of their wrist, without even taking the skis off
example of the 10% rule is making a fire with a bow and drill. As demonstrated by Eustace Conway, you can
have the correct kind of bow, string, block, grease, spindle, base and
tinder. But unless you bear down with
the fullest pressure physically possible, you will only make some charred
wood. You can saw away for 10 minutes and
not get a live coal. I have seen many
Boy Scouts do just that. But sufficient
pressure for only 30 seconds will bring a fire. Knowing the real degree of pressure needed,
and applying it, gets the job done.
Hunting and fishing can require
several hours of quiet observation, followed by 5 seconds of frantic activity.
Without the intense focus for those several hours, then you will miss the
opportunity. The animal will walk or fin
past, a few feet away, totally undetected.
And without the final concentration of frantic effort, you will not make
the shot on the turkey or set the hook on the trout.
Why go to this extra effort for
randonee skiing? Why not just go to Sugar
Mountain and buy a lift
ticket? Randonee requires all the
clothing and cold of downhill skiing, plus putting on and removing the cussedly
tough skins. Then you have to do all the
work to hike uphill before skiing back down.
Often, the hike uphill is on a remote western mountain requiring an
expensive trip to get there. Then you
have to push through 8 foot deep powder snow up steep canyons. You are exposed to avalanche danger with
little to no chance of rescue. No
friends want to go with you. The forest
service rangers won’t let you go without a partner, and even more gear – snow
probe, shovel, avalanche transceiver,
knowledge of today’s avalanche forecast…and on and on.
If you want to experience the joy
of no lift lines, no crowds, first tracks in big open bowls of snow, deep fresh
powder, fantastic scenery, physical fitness without lifting weights in a room
full of other stinky people, the sensation of flying on a magic carpet of
springy, rebounding bindings hooked to skis and the pride of accomplishment in
climbing to the top of the mountain, then there is no short cut.
Most things in life work this
way. Sometimes it takes a goodly amount
of effort – as Paul Anderson says about scuba diving, a lot of schlepping gear around
– to do some rugged or remote outdoor sport.
Many people miss the fun because of the extra work, discomfort and bother.
But just a little more effort – say 10% - may yield 90% more fun than
sitting at home.