10% More

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.'

I learned 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 life!'

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 their boots!'

Another good 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.

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Bob Laney

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Bob is the site curator and writer of Blue Ridge Outing. Since starting the Blue Ridge Outing travel blog in 2002, Bob has written, recorded and documented countless expeditions in the US and around the world.