I made an observation on this trip when hiking out of the Rae Lakes basin and over Glenn Pass. I kept to a reasonable pace, taking a certain number of breaths in a strict ratio with a certain number of steps. I didn't loaf, but I avoided pushing myself beyond a certain point. I found that when I reached the pass I recovered almost immediately and felt great on the descent and the rest of the day. I discussed this with a bicycle racing friend of mind, who told me of a saying he got from his coach:
If you didn't bring it, you aren't going to find it.In case this doesn't immediately make the light bulb come on in your understanding, I will take the liberty of belaboring this point. When you are out and involved in a physical activity (such as bicycle racing, or climbing over a pass at 12,000 feet) your ability is entirely determined by your level of conditioning, and in particular your previous training. Willpower counts for little or nothing. Willpower can simply push you out of the realm of loafing allow you to push to your real limits. If you are training in any realistic and useful way, this will be a very familiar place and you will already have an excellent handle on how to pace yourself and how far you can push at your limit.
In particular, beyond a certain point pushing is counterproductive. On my ascent of Glenn Pass heading into the Rae Lakes area, I pushed quite hard and into a realm where I did not quickly recover. This was largely motivated by threatening rain and the desire to reach a good campsite before serious rain started. My observation though was that by pushing hard, I had depleted certain reserves that were not going to be quicky recharged or replaced. If my intent had been to continue hiking the rest of the day instead of making camp, this would have been a strategic error. This kind of depletion is a factor in getting to camp utterly exhausted, skipping a decent dinner, and having a cold night of sleep.
Tom's hiking pages / email@example.com