I have bailed on 2 major routes in the last year. How does my decision process work when I throw in the towel on a route?
I would bail if a member of the team was injured due to accident, falling, cold, objective hazards, etc.
I would bail if there was an unexpectedly high risk of injury due to conditions being sub-optimal. I would not bail if conditions/hazards were as expected.
I would bail if there was no foreseeable chance of succeeding on the route. I would bail if there was little to be gained by continuing further, with a further risk of injury, with no potential for success. Come back and climb another day.
I think there are 3 factors which determine your success on any route:
1. Preparation and training
3. Objective factors
If you train hard, come well prepared, and have the best gear, then 1 and 2 are poor excuses for failing. You shouldn't show up at a climb hoping you get lucky that it's easier than expected. That being said, you learn more from failing than succeeding. Sometimes it takes a few attempts at a route to get 1 and 2 right.
North Face of Mt. Terror - Picket Range, North Cascades Washington
Primary reason: The day before our best summit day we had pouring rain. On summit day it was white-out conditions. This slowed down our approach from immensely.
Secondary reasons: We carried too much stuff. We should have woken up earlier on summit day. We also could have trained more.
Ciley-Barber Route - Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park Maine
Primary reason: Route had much more ice than normal because of low levels of snow. This made us too slow on route, we belayed sections we shouldn't need to. We should have soloed all the easier sections. We need to walk in there with every team member comfortable with that.
Secondary reason: We carried too much stuff. We should have woken up earlier on summit day. We also could have trained more.