I was inspired after reading a climbing story - "After the Fall" - in the most recent Patagonia catalog (yes, an unexpected place for inspiration).
The story is about three climbers (Austin, Chris, and Sam) who were in remote British Columbia when they had a near-death scare - a huge boulder fell and then Sam fell a short distance. He lived, but was injured in his side. Nothing urgent, but it left him with a serious laceration, in pain, and without his normal strength. The three of them had to figure out what to do as they were 2500 ft into a 3000 ft wall. Even if they were to immediately descend they had to get down the wall and then an additional several thousand feet to the nearest town. The best option was not obvious. To continue to go up and climb down a different route? To go down immediately? How to take care of the injured climber? And they had to make these decisions while, among the three of them, they were feeling stressed, in pain, and guilty.
They ultimately decided to keep climbing, not only because that might have been the safest path, but because Sam, the one who fell, wanted to press on. He was injured, but so what! It's not like going down was much better.
A couple of quotes from the story stood out to me:
AUSTIN: "If we [continued] climbing and had another accident, I would feel so stupid. Would climbing another route really make my life that much better?"
SAM: "I understand better now that the summit is merely our inspiration, or maybe even just our excuse, to head out the door and create meaningful experiences...[making it to the top is] just not that important compared to the beautiful climbing on the route, our camaraderie as a team, and how we walked together through the fire to get ourselves down calmly and safely."
CHRIS: "We played different roles, came from different backgrounds, and had different values that directed our lives..."
These guys gained perspective over what was truly important. And in the moment, what was important were the people, not the experience. This is why it's so vital to cultivate your own HQCs. We know that HQCs help with day-to-day well-being. As shown by these climbers though, when they really matter is when you have fallen and have difficult choices as to how to recover.
Unfortunately I can't find a link to the Patagonia Catalog, so if you'd like to read the whole story, you can request one here.