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Climbing, Real Estate and Emotions

Climbing, real estate and emotions


Ice climbing and mountaineering are not for the faint of heart.  It takes hard work and mental fortitude to enjoy.  Everytime we go into the mountains success is not guaranteed, if it was then it might not be as interesting. Often, we invest a ton of energy, effort, money and emotion to get to the top of a climb.


When I work with clients in real estate it can sometimes be the same thing.  Typically, buyers invest a ton of energy, effort, money and emotion into finding their perfect home.  One thing I think that buyers should be careful about is emotions, sometimes unchecked emotions in climbing can lead to injury or death; just like unchecked emotions in real estate can lead to losing your dream home or over paying for a property.


Turning around sometimes is hard to do.


This past weekend, I was able to get out climbing with Vanessa and Sarah on an ice climb called the Sorcerer located an area of Alberta called the Ghost River Wilderness.  I was along on the climb to take pictures, Vanessa was visiting from New York and Sarah was showing her some of the classic ice climbs in the Canadian Rockies.


The forecasted high for the day was somewhere around -18c but it felt colder then that.   The Sorcerer is a classic 210m climb and is a little more adventurous then the ice climb Sarah and Vanessa had done the day before.  On Friday, they had climbed Circus Circus, an ice climb that feels steeper and more sustained than Sorcerer but without the longer approach and feeling of a full day adventure.


The Ghost is located about 1.5 hours west of Calgary and is accessed by a sometimes serious off-road adventure just to get to the spot where you start walking.  Then, getting to the base of the route is another 2ish hours of hiking with full packs.  Before we even started the climb, all three of us recognized that it was really cold but with an awesome climb and a fantastic route like the Sorcerer sitting in front of you it's hard not to give it a shot.


On the climb


Sarah started up the first pitch of ice and made the 55m of moderate terrain look easy.  During the time that Sarah was Climbing Vanessa and I talked a lot about how our hands were getting cold.  Vanessa had large mitts on, a hand warmer in her mitt and was still unable to feel a few fingers in her hand.  I too was having a hard time keeping my hands warm and found that using my camera was really cold to do, then Sarah finished climbing and it was our turn to start.  For those of you that don't climb ice there is an expression in ice climbing called the "screaming barfies", it is when your hands get really cold, basically, you lose the feeling in them and then when the feeling starts to come back it hurts so much that you want to scream and then, sometimes it can be so painful you want to barf...  Fun times.


Sarah was diligent in fighting off the "screaming barfies" as she climbed and took the steps to make sure she didn't end up getting them.  Often, I find as the person climbing second it can be easier to get the "screaming barfies".  When you climb second as an ice climber it typically means you hiked to the base of the climb, got really sweaty and then waited for your partner to go first while you sat at the bottom in the cold, slowly getting colder and colder.  It can be hard to recover from that. 


Vanessa and I had already discussed the fact that she could not feel her hands before we started climbing, we began to climb and that really didn't change much.  Her hands actually began to get worse and about half way up the climb she got the dreaded "scream barfies".  Sometimes, all you can do is put your head down on the ice and suffer; sounds fun right?  After Vanessa persevered through the pain, we carried on and met Sarah about 55m (180ft) up the climb. 


Once, we climbed up to Sarah, we had to have a serious conversation about whether or not we would carry on climbing.  Everyone was cold but it seemed that no one wanted to call it quits right away.  We talked about continuing on and trying to climb the route.  We were at a point where we had to weigh the options.  Was it worth carrying on and risking a cold injury like frost bite or should we go down and get back to the car where we could crank the heat and warm up?  It was a tough conversation to have and I know that it was not what we wanted to do as we were emotionally attached to getting to the top, we had invested time, energy and emotion to get to where we were but were we about to risk too much? 


What did we decide to do?


It was unfortunate that Vanessa was visiting during such a cold snap but the climb would always be there and she could always return and try again.  In the end she decided that heading down was the reasonable and responsible thing to do, risking a cold injury like frost bite was not worth it.  Too many times the out come is different and people remain attached to finishing a climb, they don't make an intelligent decision to turn around because they are too vested in getting to the summit, just like the Canadian climber on Everest in 2012


Everest 2012


In the spring of 2012 I was fortunate to visit Nepal to work with my friend Jona Marie.  We were there to get pictures for her photo and art project, Rivers of Ribbon.  During our time inNepalwe spent a week at Everest Basecamp getting shots of Jona on the glacier surrounding our camp and around the same time, scores of Everest climbers got ready to launch their final attempt on the mountain.  There was a large group that started out from base camp towards the summit just as we were leaving camp to head back to civilization.  We wondered how they would fair on their summit attempt...


What happened on Everest?


A few days later, as we were getting ready to leave the mountains of Nepal and head back to Kathmandu we heard that a Canadian climber had died on her attempt for the summit.  By all accounts she was a strong willed individual and while we were at base-camp we spoke with several climbers who told us that she was unprepared to try for the summit.  Climbing between different camps she was taking almost 4 times longer then the average person.  Hiking from base-camp to Camp 2 normally takes between 4-6 hours and this individual was taking 12-16 hours.  This is just one example, it happened between every camp and as she went higher on the mountain the time differences became greater.


She was clearly a motivated and strong willed person, she was taking 4 times longer then normal but was still preserving and making it farther up the mountain.  At some point though, she should have looked inside herself and said is this a smart idea? Just like we did on Saturday.  In the mountains, these types of conversations can mean the difference between life and death.  By all accounts, everyone on the mountain was telling her to turn around, her Sherpa team and the other climbers on the mountain all discussed with her that she should go down but she carried on anyway.


I'm guessing she was emotionally attached to getting to the top, she was willing to carry on at any cost but unfortunately that cost was her life.  On summit day she reached the summit but died on the descent.  Heading up the mountain she was told by her personal Sherpa to go down but instead she said something along the lines of "I am paying you to get me to the top and we are going up".  That's definitely the mindset of someone who is willing to make it at any cost.  On the climb, from the last camp on Everest to the summit a person normally uses 2-3 bottles of Oxygen, on her summit day she used 10!  She used 9 bottles that she paid extra Sherpas to carry for her and she was given her personal Sherpa's last bottle before he had to go down.  He waited until the last moment, helping her, trying to encourage her to descend but he couldn't get her to do it.  She was so emotionally attached to summiting that she died in the process.


How does this correlate to real estate?


In climbing people can become emotionally attached to completing a climb or to reaching a summit.  In real estate, the summit becomes a house or the negotiation process.  Over the last 4 years I have seen people walk away from a dream home over $500.  I have seen buyers overpay for a property and sellers walk away from an offer because they were emotionally attached to to the offer they received.  Similar to the conversation we had ice climbing on Saturday, I have had tough conversations with clients too.  Sometimes, I try to hint that maybe they are emotionally attached to the purchase or the negotiation and suggest that they try to think about the situation logically.  It's hard to do when you are buying a home, I understand and sometimes catch myself doing the same thing.   Just because a seller isn't being fair in a buyer's mind is not necessarily a substantive reason to not purchase a home that is perfect for them.  I get it, $500 is a lot of money, or maybe my clients feel wronged but in the long run is it worth it?  After a buyer lives in a home with their family for several years will they care about that extra $500 they paid or will they be happy that they purchased that home?


I understand, buying a new home can be one of most stressful and emotional processes we go through, that's one of the main reasons I love working with buyers.  I love helping people find new homes, I just don't want someone to regret not buying a home over some minor negotiation which won't matter in a few weeks anyway.  I have seen it happen and it is hard to make logical decisions when we are so emotionally attached to something, whether that is an ice climb, summiting Everest or the home a buyer has fallen in love with.  Sometimes, as hard as it can be, we need to try and remove emotion from the decision making process so that our choice is not clouded.


Removing emotion from climbing and real estate can be challenging


Will power, determination, anger, frustration and desire are all emotions that we need to consider.  At some point the goal is not always worth it, the ice climb and the mountain will always be there, what we decide to do can make an impact on our lives for years to come, whether it is a cold injury or the loss of that perfect home.


All too often, I see buyers and sellers get too emotionally attached to a situation.  Whether or not it is a particular house or the negotiation process itself,  they should consider stepping back and making the best decision for them in the long term.  Should they carry on to the summit?  Are they willing to take a bigger risk for this property?  Will they walk away from a negotiation when it turns into "us vs them"?  Or, can they separate themselves from the emotions that surround them? 


Just like in climbing, real estate can involve a lot of emotions, at what point do we make the right decision like Vanessa did and head down?  Do we stay emotionally attached to an objective and push too far?  Are we emotionally attached to the process or a home?   Separating oneself from a home, just like a climb is hard to do, buyers and sellers should consider taking a step back and making logical decisions during the real estate process that aren't just focused around emotion. 


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