Blake, you open your Wired article in Alpinist 35 with this assertion: “The climber who never fails is either really good at meeting challenges or really bad at finding them.” What are your greatest climbing failures?
Strictly in climbing terms, I'd say my greatest failures are probably simple things like poor belay communication while cragging or almost rapping off the end of my rope while cragging. Those are so easily avoidable, but still have both almost resulted in pretty serious accidents that I could have contributed to. In terms of major on-route or alpine failures, halfway into a repeat of the Southern Pickets traverse (V 5.10), I stemmed out to what looked like a small foot hold, and it ended up being the tipping point for a television-sized block that I sent cartwheeling down directly at my climbing partner. He jumped from the belay ledge at the right moment and escaped major injury, but the experience definitely ruined the remnants of enthusiasm that we had to continue on with our attempt. We bailed the next morning and thrashed our way 5,000 feet down the Terror Creek drainage in a storm, rapping dirt andcliff bands and getting intimate with slide alder.
[Photo] Sunset on the Southern Pickets traverse, North Cascades. Herrington bailed off this climb after sending a TV-sized boulder