Ridiculously Difficult Route
When a route is usually never used because it's just too difficult and/or there are other, easier ways.


(permanent link) added: 2013-12-02 00:32:51 sponsor: Sahira (last reply: 2013-12-29 17:07:32)

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Thor: [On seeing where Loki is heading the ship] ...Loki?!
Loki: If it were easy, everyone would do it.
Thor: Are you mad?!
Loki: Possibly.

Not many people use a particular route. Why? It's damn difficult, that's why, otherwise most people probably would. But, for some reason, the protagonists need to use it, probably because the usual route has been destroyed or otherwise blocked off. This is a case of Don't Try This at Home as the success of such a plan is rarely Truth in Television due to the probability of things going wrong.

The route is either difficult because the terrain is physically difficult to travel, in which case any enemies will also find it difficult, or (more commonly) there are lots of hostile mooks in the way, in which case whether enemies find it difficult to travels depends on exactly who the mooks are hostile to. Often it is a combination of both. But, either way, because of the difficulty the route is mostly never used.

Usually (though not always) this route is rather shorter than the main journey, and sometimes (though not necessarily) shorter than the usual route. Sometimes said route is the only route to a place, in which case that place is also rarely travelled to. The route may have a dangerous-sounding name like "the Devil's Backbone" or "Dead Man's Pass".

This trope is more frequently seen in media that tend to have longer stories such as Literature or a series of Films rather than things like Live-Action Television (TV series can have long story arcs but the individual stories are usually quite short). The reason being the route can take a long time to travel and is therefore impractical in shorter stories unless Played for Laughs.

This trope often appears as a part of Walking into Mordor, can be a part of The Homeward Journey, and is sometimes a necessary step in The Quest. However, this trope is not about a whole journey generally being difficult. It is more about a specific route to, or sometimes through, a specific place, which if not for the whole "difficult" thing would probably be rather frequently travelled.

If the route is picturesque then it is also a Scenic Route. If, in a game, a route is chosen deliberately because the most challanging path seems the most likely to yield good results in the long run, then the route is instead the Path of Most Resistance.

In games this trope can overlap with Railroading (Tabletop Games), and No Sidepaths, No Exploration, No Freedom and But Thou Must (Video Games).

Compare That One Level. Contrast Took a Shortcut and Shortcuts Make Long Delays.


Examples

Film
  • Thor: The Dark World. Loki and Thor use a secret "back door" from Asgard. This involves flying a ship at top speed into a tiny crevice in a very rocky mountain, with, one can imagine, disastrous consequenses if one misses. Even with Loki's 'expertise' they barely avoid crashing on their way out. See page quote.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean At World's End. Getting from the normal world to Davy Jones' Locker can be considered this.
    Barbosa: We're good and lost now.
    Elizabeth: Lost!?
    Barbosa: For certain ye have to be lost to find a place as can't be found. Elseways everyone would know where it was.

Literature
  • The Lord of the Rings. Oh so many. Here are a few:
    • Passing over(Caradhras)/under(Moria) the Misty Mountains was this trope for the Fellowship.
    • Frodo and Sam have to get into Mordor. How? By climbing up hundreds of "stairs" on an almost vertical mountain and crawling through a giant spider's lair. Because they obviously can't use the front gate.
    • Aragorn has to go through the ghost-infested mountains that no-one has ever returned from before. Though perhaps in this case the trope is not entirely played straight since he went in there to gain the alliance of said ghosts...
  • The Obernewtyn Chronicles. In The Farseekers Elspeth's expedition can't travel on the main roads due to the Corrupt Church's Burn the Witch! policy. They therefore decide to take an "olden way" through the mountains instead of the main pass. It turns out the reason no-one uses that route anymore is that it is now (after the Great White) extremely difficult to travel due to multiple landscape obsticles plus dangerous levels of radiation.
    • When they can't at first find the olden way they Take a Third Option. By rafting down a river swollen by torrential rains, through a radioactive Ghost City and down a waterfall.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe. The Kessel Run, a hyperspace smuggling route between Kessel and Tatooine, skirts a black hole cluster near the Kessel System where it's easy for a less competent pilot than Han Solo to get killed. Most people don't go that way.
  • In Elspeth Cooper's book Songs of the Earth, Whistlers Pass is this because of freezing temperatures and, well, the whistlers (ghosts).
  • Invoked in the H. Rider Haggard novel King Solomon's Mines. The heroes follow a route given in an old account that turns out to be barely survivable; at the end of the novel they discover the natives know of a longer but less risky alternative.
  • In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident, Artemis and his friends are trying to find a way inside Koboi Labs. The good news is, Mulch has a cousin who worked as a contractor during the labs' construction, and they discovered an underground fissure that leads straight to the labs' foundations. The bad news is, the fissure opens and shuts periodically as it expands and contracts with heat from the Earth's core, it will only be wide enough for their shuttle to navigate safely for three minutes at a time, and it's at it's widest for a few moments right before the next magma flare.

Tabletop Games

Video Games
  • Half-Life 2. You end up having to go through Ravenholm (a zombie infested town on a route that "no-one uses anymore") because the other route you were originally going to take gets cut off by the Combine attack.

Western Animation
  • In the Regular Show episode "Busted Cart", to make up for lost time and to get the cart fixed before the warranty expires, Mordecai and Rigby take Highway 13 to get to the dealership faster. It's considered the most dangerous highway in the country due to the road crumbling, spikes on the road, giant boulders rolling down the valley, and a crater with a green portal in the center.

Real Life
  • Hannibal Barca during the Second Punic War famously marched his army, elephants and all, through the Alps to get them behind the Roman defense. No one saw this coming.
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