Warning signs on the trail are there for a reason - mostly

Prepare for the worst, enjoy the best: A few words on adventuring safely…

Travel Talk

I write about trails, mountain climbs and other adventures. While it should be pretty obvious, let me perfectly clear: these are all inherently risky things to do. Under the best conditions, on the perfect day, and with all the right planning, things can still go wrong — very wrong.  If you want to be totally safe, stick to the photos.

That’s not to be an alarmist or try and scare you out of an adventure, I’m just being honest. In a world of social media photos and stories, it’s easy to get drawn in to some really cool experiences but they can be really challenging ones or just really challenging to you. Accidents happens and they happen more often than you think, even at places where you don’t imagine it. Of course, it happens way more often when people do not plan ahead, do not gear up, do not do their research so if you stumbled here researching something, go you!

Hiking in a whiteout

Thus I’d like to make few points that I hope you’ll keep in mind for your adventures: 

Know what you are getting into

Weather rolls in fast on mountains, avalanches trigger on sunny days, people get lost. The best way to prevent so many injuries is to read up on what’s out there… what are the conditions like, what’s required, how exposed is. Don’t trust one source and certainly not one blog: be as informed as you can.

The 10 essentials (and more), always

You get into your car and buckle up not because you plan to have an accident but because on the very off chance you do have one, being ready will make all the difference. This is just as true in the outdoors so gear up, even if it’s a short adventure (bad ankle sprain + cold day + no gear = uh oh.)

That means plenty of water, extra food, multiple layers, a working headlamp, a fire source, a current map, shelter, your first aid kit… everything you see on the famous 10 essentials list and probably more. Like a few pounds of gear is seriously going to keep you from having a good time.

10 essentials for your hike - water!

Follow the damn signs

I get it, there are some really stupid markers out there but chances are it’s there for a reason and you should really, really understand that reason even if you plan to ignore it. The prime example: waterfalls. Everyone wants a cool photo above it or to swim waaaay up the river but guess what, they kill a ton of people who didn’t do anything that crazy. Thus the sign.

Don’t be afraid to turn around

Sometimes we start too late, sometimes we have an off day, sometimes it’s just not right and still it’s the hardest thing to bail. But honestly, making a safe call is one of the most impressive things you can do, at least in my book for whatever that’s worth to you. The mountain will be there tomorrow.

Tell someone about your plans

Admittedly I’ve been bad about this one at times: it’s a quick trail, I know the route, whatever, stuff still happens. No more excuses for me or for you, we live in the age of texting so shoot a note to that one friend who would find a post like this ideally and let them know what you’re up to.

Glacial travel warning

Get the training

Going to be in snow? Avalanche courses. Around a glacier? Crevasse rescue. Outdoors in general? CPR / first aid or more (hint: NOLS WFA and WFR courses are so worth it.) Every class I’ve taken has made me realize how little I knew before it. 

Don’t underestimate the adventure

So your friend made it up that snowy mountain that one time in trail runners, that’s not the point. Not only do things go wrong, things change. Judging the day by the good stories does not in any way insure you get one of those too.

Look, the idea of adventures are to have fun.

To have an epic day, you really have to be ready for what’s out there even if you never need to use it. That doesn’t mean a 50lb pack for a 2 mile hike on a paved trail but it does mean being aware with the gear and plans for if things do change, go wrong, whatever. Fun is a great adventures, some epic photos, and being back home at the end of it.

So that was more than a few words but I think they’re important and hope you do to. Share a comment, tell me I’m crazy, add a tip.

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