Last weekend, our son Greg, and I, tackled it together. We rode it from the north side. This is a 17km ride up a mountain. By up, think up. Like climbing continuously without any flat or coasting. Up. We lucked out. We got a warm, sunny day. While heat may not seem to be an ideal condition, we know that at the top of any mountain pass, the air is many degrees cooler than down below, and inevitably there is wind to contend with. We packed our jackets and gloves and made sure we were stocked with spare tire tubes, a pump, water and some food…just in case.
We always go prepared, but this year we were extra vigilant because of Greg’s experience the previous week. He had been asked to join a group from his office who were going to the pass for the first time. Greg is a strong cyclist and has completed this route numerous times. I know this group was glad to have him along.
The day of their ascent was about ten degrees colder than this past week, and the sky wasn’t clear. Greg said they were fine for most of the climb, but at about 5km from the top, it began to lightly drizzle and within minutes the drizzle turned to snow flurries. They made it to the summit and took a nice smiling photo of their accomplishment. Then things quickly turned.
Greg says the only way to describe it was it began to pour snow. They put on warmer gear and started the descent. While biking downhill sounds pretty nice ‘n easy, the slope of this side of the pass is significant and even on a dry day, the descent requires steady concentration. As their group of six started down, they quickly became soaked from the pouring snow. Greg had put on mittens and an extra jacket. Even with that extra layer, he said he could not feel his hands. The group went about 3km and pulled over to stop. Everyone was soaked to the skin and freezing. The road had begun to accumulate some snow and the conditions had become slippery.
Greg has battled many elements of nature and developed a strong mental fortitude during his time competing in triathlons and adventure racing, so he knew a few things about what might keep them safe. With the rest of the group being more casual cyclists, he could feel the fear in the group. The plan was set that they would descend a few kilometres at a time and then group-up to make sure everyone was ok. On the second stop, everyone was soaked to the skin and concern for safety, especially hypothermia, was real. After some jumping jacks to get the blood flowing, they cruised on.
As they continued down, they noticed a man running out toward the road from a side parking lot. He was waving his hands wildly, obviously trying to get their attention. The group stopped. The man, a father of a young toddler, had been cycling with his wife, towing a baby chariot. They too had become caught in the nasty weather and the cold and wet became dangerous for them and especially for their little one. The mother and toddler were trying to find shelter in the outhouse at the edge of the parking lot. Their child’s safety would certainly have been compromised had they continued.
I should have mentioned earlier there is absolutely no cell reception in this area. In fact, there is no cell reception for over 40km. To top it off, during the closure, there is no way for any vehicle to access the road to rescue people in trouble. This couple was about 12km from the gate where their car would have been parked. The father asked if someone, once they were down, could inform the park wardens of their location so that help could be brought in. The group reassured the father they would do this (and they did), then they reassured him he had made a good choice in stopping, and being able to do nothing else, they headed onward, not wanting to become casualties themselves.
When Greg texted us about this ride he said, ‘Home safe. Mom, if you can believe it….conditions were worse than when we rode (several years ago Greg and I had a freezing, wet ride up and down). It was completely bonkers on the way down’.
After hearing the complete story from Greg, I couldn’t get that little family out of my mind. I kept thinking about what the parents must have been going through as they realized they were in trouble and their little one could be in serious danger. I was so glad they found the shelter they did, and I was so glad they made the decision they did. It dawned on me their thinking must have been, ‘What is the one best decision we can make right now?’
Greg and his group needed to have a similar thought when the weather turned and they too had to figure out how to navigate the descent. What is the one best decision we can make right now?
Brenda and I needed to ponder this too, this week when we were caught in a sudden thunder, lightning and hail storm on our hike. What is the one best decision we can make right now?
Most of us won’t be biking up mountain passes this week. Most of us won’t be caught in hailstorms or frigid weather. But all of us will find ourselves in situations where we are faced with a variety of decisions we could make. Perhaps we are in a meeting discussing an upcoming project, and find ourselves dealing with multiple solutions, multiple egos and multiple agendas. What is the one best decision we can make right now?
Perhaps it is even simpler. Perhaps we are in traffic, or dealing with being overtired, or having to respond to someone, or juggling a few tasks at once, or trying to listen when we just want quiet, or trying to talk when someone else is not listening, or sitting down to dinner with our family. Perhaps it’s deciding whether to reach out or give space. Perhaps to comment or not. Perhaps to encourage or listen. Every day we make hundreds of decisions. Many of them we do on autopilot. It might make a significant difference to us, or someone in our life, if we turned off autopilot and instead asked:
What is the one best decision I can make right now?
My inquiry for you this week is, ‘What is the one best decision I can make right now?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to consider your decisions.