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the most dangerous

Hi you guys, we've had some really good soul searching posts lately and I think we've all learned from others experiences. Here's one for you. Whats the most dangerous common unexpected situation you have experienced and how did you deal with it and what "good judgment" have you to offer from it?

I'll start, but by no means am I trying to guide this thread, its open to highjack.

Besides a serious injury... I'm gonna say snow camping and having a warm storm front move in. A 35 degree storm especially if you have "snow proof" clothes (because you expected it to stay cold) will soak you and everything. There will be really bad condensation in your tent, it may drip on you almost as bad as being outside making it impossible to sit it out especially with down insulated snow gear. Adrenaline a plenty makes us ineficient in our thoughts and our movements. We are no longer smooth and careful and energy conserving. Did I mention CAREFUL? Being soaking wet and cold really fires up the fight or flight - mostly flight part of our brains and we want to grab everything and run for it which could then cause an injury making a memeber of your party incapble of further flight and the weather makes holeing up impossible and lighting a fire in a cold wet snow storm is nigh on impossible. If you stop and pull on a down coat, do you take off your rain shell and put the coat on under it, thus getting wetter while you do it, or do you willingly sacrifice your down coat by putting it on over wet gear? Only belay jackets are water proof inside AND outside.

What I learned besides BE PREPARED which is easy to say but hard to do, is: Have winter gear with seam sealed rain shells. Wear wicking long underwear. it keeps you dryer, and for me - wear goretex - which some swear by (me) and others swear at. Have footgear that can get you though unexpected streams and tall gaiters. And a compass zipper pull that you might actually take 3 seconds to look at vs a compass in your pocket and a map that is soaking wet and you have too much adrenaline and too little patience to use (or a gps strapped to your wrist). The single most important thing - HAVE A PLAN BEFORE RUNNING FOR IT, DON'T RUN BLINDLY.

????? Jim S - comment on this one or create your own.

I was in a spot like that last year on a 4 day trip covering about 18 give or take miles and the temp was supposed be around a mild 30F - 15F with no precipitation in the forecast and about a previous 6" of snow on the ground (it sounded like perfect weather for a nice relaxing easy trip) but in fact a freak storm moved through the area and between the rain, freezing rain, snow and below 0F temps it turned into a miserable trip quickly.

Day 1 the temps were in the in the expected range but it snowed about 6" (no big deal) actually it was quite pretty.

Day 2 it rained most of the day between the rain and freezing rain I decided to just stay put at the camp area I was in. The temps that night dropped to about 5F - 0F still not too bad though.

Day 3 it snowed 18" - 24" and the temps stayed around the 10F range during the day and that night it dropped to 0F and below.

Day 4 I had enough and it was time to move out and head home the only good thing is that the temp came back up to the predicted range and the snow and rain stopped.

Over all it was a pretty miserable trip being cold/damp/wet/frozen most of the time. And the trip out was a real treat wading through snow with ice underneath 4 miles and with no snow shoes. the only saving grace I had was where I made camp the first night (where I stayed for the duration of the trip) was in a simple lean-to so at least I had shelter from the elements.


I'm thinking that you were lucky to be in a lean to. The hike out sounds pretty bad though. What kind of foot protection were you wearing? I guess you didn't have a lot of condensation in a lean to, how crude was the structure? Any modern roofing materials? I think I'd like to build a lean to up in the mountains above me and go camp there. Since this is Oregon I could light a fire if I wanted to.

Jim S

You don't have to be in the bush to get into trouble. The MN Ironman is an annual 100 bike ride held the last Sunday in April. Weather is usually cold and sometimes downright nasty and I typically overdress. This year I intentionally underdressed, a couple of light wool layers and a windbreaker. BAD MOVE. The ride is broken into five stages. Midway through the second stage rain started falling hard, but fortunately the wind was at my back. I made it to the second rest stop completely soaked (the windbreaker wasn't waterproof), but doing ok. I refueled and got on my bike for the third stage, but this stage went straight into a very strong headwind and the rain was coming harder now. The headwind felt like riding with the brakes on. I was alone and passed two people while riding 8 mph (which cheered me up as I was doing better than those two). By the time I got to the next rest area (I had to walk the last two blocks due to a cramp) I was nearly hypothermic and shivered uncontrollably for some time before I warmed up. The medic people came over to check on me as it was that bad. The final two stages went better as the remainder of the course was not always straight into the wind and eventually the rain let up.

The third stage of the ride was one of the hardest things I've ever done, I was just wasted when it was over. I've ridden in much colder weather before (below zero windchills) and I've ridden in cold rain before. However, those times I had much more appropriate clothing.

Moral of the story - pay attention to the weather forecast, a windbreaker makes a lousy substitute for a rain jacket and an extra layer is worth it's weight in gold.

The cold wet weather is a hazard that proper clothing can handle. Think layers, Polypro or other synthetic next to the skin, Synthetic or wool 2nd layer, over that goes the rain gear, your choice of waterproof or breathable shell. Synthetic parka or thick pile jacket with hood and a warm wool Balaclava and mittens. Extra thick morino wool socks. A good stove that will heat water goes a long way to help you stay hydrated and warm.
I was a OL in Mountain Rescue and have seen the results of of bad choices and poor weather.
Get good gear and learn how to take care of yourself in less than ideal conditions.

I have good gear, I simply left it behind in a moment of poor judgement.

I thoroughly agree on "carry the right clothing".

On winter backcountry trips I always wear my Gore-Tex mountain parka and carry PacLite GTX rain/wind pants or just wear my North Face "HYVENT" w/b ski pants, which have zippered thigh vents. Yeah, "HYVENT" is not very breathable when all zipped up but it IS waterproof. Also my gloves are all Gore-Tex, as are my gaiters.

After living in NW Pennsylvania for 35 yearsI know changeable winter weather. Now that I live in Nevada I still prepare for the worst.

As far as tents go I've always used double walled dome tents for winter. Now I'm getting ready to buy a TarpTent Scarp 2 (when Henry Shires begins releasing the newer lower fly version.) In the mornings double walled tents always have a bit of frost on the inner wall and a lot under the fly. You just have to shake and beat it off every morning befoe packing up. AND you need a poly painter's plastic ground cloth to preclude your fabric tent floor from freezing to the snow/ground. (It happens!)

A way to test your winter tent's ability to handle snow loads is to cover it with layers of rugs to see which poles BEGIN to give first. Then try to make some fixes, such as sewing guy line loops to the fly at the weak points so you might be able to use trees or skis to support guy lines and handle the weak point.

In a winter storm set your alarm for, say 1:30 AM for a "snow load check". Get out and remove the snow from the roof and side walls along the ground. Then you can sleep in peace for another few hours if the snow is still falling hard. (Of course avlanche danger is greatest during and just after a storm so be VERY cautious travelling the next morning.)

But "rain is the bane" of winter campers. Hypothermia in wet, 40F weather is a real hazard that often goes unrecognized until it's too late. And in itself rain can cause avalanches by heavily loading snow that was only moderately stable prior to the rain.

...avalanche danger is greatest during and just after a storm..., no, this is a generalization as is so often the case on forums of this type, where topics such as Grizzlies, carrying guns and wilderness survival are concerned.

It CAN BE most dangerous after a storm, but, this really depends on the storm, topography and preceding snow conditions. It CAN ALSO be most dangerous after a bout of "nice" weather and predicting avalanche danger levels is pretty difficult, even with decades of experience.

The Canadian Avalanche Center is predicting "high avalanche danger" at this time in southern B.C. I have spent almost all of my life here and lived in the mountains extensively; I have had very experienced professional guides and "techs", colleagues and friends killed in slides and this was sometimes when most thought that conditions were relatively "safe".

I know places I would go, alone on snowshoes for a few days from the summits of some of the mountain passes here, without much concern and others nearby that I will never go to in winter as I am a wise old geezer and do not want to come out on the skid of a 206.

No offence intended here, but, as with "bearspray", there are a LOT of generalized comments I find a little questionable and more specific info. may be useful to novices in avalanche country.

I agree with Dewey.Even after years of snow camping in may types of terrain and with many classes and shared experiances with the pros i have seen and been involved in some avalanches,small ones,that have suprised both me and the "pros."There are alwyas the odd cases and with out digging a pit to check the under lying layers you never know what you may or may not be heading into.Error on the side of caution and always be aware,this is were a topy and the knowlege to use it, become usefull in picking the site for your camp.

I gues the real answer to all of these ideas is "It depends". We try to help people by recalling our experience, but judgment can only be made on location by the perple involved. Sometimes the "best idea" isn't, and knowing which is which isn't easy. If you step on a piece of snow and hear a loud crack like a gunshot, you better jump back to where you were. Sometimes a sharp knife is dangerous, sometimes you shovel out your tent, sometimes you push the snow away from the tent from the inside - it depends. Those who survive a lot of trips either had good judgment or were lucky, sometimes the flip of a coin is correct.



I had just the regular old boots that I always ware. In that department I seem to only end up with Wolverine brand boots thy seem to be the most comfortable for me. I should have been better prepared on that trip but I guess I was just stupid and relying on the weather man too much. I like camping in shelters, about 50% of the time I use them the other 50% I use a tent there is a lot of them here in NY. You asked about the lean to here is a picture of it

I glossed through the quotes and didn't see much about fire. I've been in the backcountry during a fire and it was something else. Everything around us was smoldering and there was smoke hanging down real low. We spent most of our time trying not to panic and watching the wind. We knew enough to walk parallel to it so we could keep out of its path.

Luckily, it was not one of those 'ragers' that make the news and had only tourched one of the valleys we were parallel with.

What gear would I have wanted? How about a water truck and a fire hose?

Dehydration overcome by too much and too quick rehydration. I was on a dry hike where I had stashed water where I could. I drank all the water I could posssibly hold when I hit the stashes. I then took off and overly conserved the water untill the next stash could be reached. The combination caused me to purge my system of electrolites and I eventually became disoriented, confused and passed out. When I came too, I consciously made wrong decisions but caught myself in time to do the right thing to get me out of the woods.

short version of a long story: For out 10th wedding anniverasry, I convinced my wife to go backcountry backpacking for 2 nights in a wilderness area I had been to several times. Basically park, hike in 3 miles (very rugged small path) and camp for a couple of nights and expolre, see waterfalls and then hike out. A Large creek crossing is required right at the start. Going in it was about thigh high, swift and cold. After a night of heavy rain and Thunderstorms, we decided to head back a day early. We get back to the creek crossing and it has risen several feet and is now a raging river at least neck deep and we had not seen another soul except for some kyakers earlier that day. After much fretting on how to cross and with the sun setting and our car in sight, we decided the only way was to jump in and swim. We aired up our brand new Thermarest pads and attempted to "float" our packs across in front of us as we swam. In the chaos, I ended up letting my pad go to reach back and help my wife who was struggling a bit... but we finally made it across wet and cold, but alive. It was a very serious situation. We were afraid that if we waited another night that it would be even worse in the morning because more rain was predicted that night and we were expected out by then... also no cell coverage at all. Lesson learned was to always check the weather forecast thoroughly.

well the worst time for me was before we even got on da trail.was camped at a state forest campground waiting for a friend to drive up from detroit and we would hit da trail in da morning.the forecast was for a little freezeing rain then turn to snow.well no rain but when i woke to pee at three it was a blizzard friend never made it.i woke in the morning to 36 inches of snow on da marmot swallow and my 2 wheel ford ranger not going to was about 100 yards to da road but i had no shovel.i kicked a path with my down booties to da road.took me 3 hours.took down camp loaded da truck.took me sevral runs back and forth to make it up onto da road.when i got there there was an area blown out about 20 foot by 20 foot.a single 4x4 had been through some time in da night and der was a faint was down hill for da first 1/2 mile after dat up hill were i found my self stuck in da middle of da road on da crest of a hill.i could only go backwards so i drove in reverce all da way back getting stuck sevral times along da way.i made it to da campground and was thinken about setting up da tent when low and behold came a big orange snow plow.i beet feet to get on da road and drove 10 miles on da wrong side of da road to get back.i dont go anywhere any more with out a ham strings were so sore da next day i could hardly walk.

Hi All: I agree with your premis, I would only add that I reluctantly join you on Goretex and that a candle lantern will help immensly in the tent or snow shelter.

r riger

TNhiker. Often waiting for morning the streams will be lower, but that's my mountain experience, in warm weather a storm it might only get worse. Using a rope to cross is IFFY. If one can get across on a long rope anchored upstream, and then tied on the other side it might help, but few people have the finger strength required so some kind of harness would be required. Also you can be dragged under by a rope so you would anchor the one end as high as possible and use both thernarests (tied to you?) and cross. If you could get a good rope across you could also maybe move your gear that way too.

BUT as you say - checking the weather, watching the weather AND mostly I hope you have learned a lesson about hiking where you have to cross a stream that can become a river. Leaving a fixed rope might have been a good idea, but just in general stream crossing can be lethal for the reasons that you describe.

Jim S


Its a good ting da snoplow came huh? Sometimes taking a two wheel drive rig into places with no snow plow can be bad. It doesn't sound like you had the right tent or clothes. With better gear and by simply waiting for da snowplow cause yu said it wus a state park, might have been better.

Good luck next time

Jim S

I went hiking in the late fall in prime bear territory with out my usual precautions--my bear bells and bear mace. I was enjoying the walk nearing dusk (feeding time) and came to a glen where I heard the thrashing of bushes and trees. I was curious so moved in closer only to find a bear standing on his hind legs stripping berries off of this large bush. He was 7 feet, about as big as a black bear gets. Lucky for me he was more interested in the berries than me. I noticed that he was penned in from my direction--I was the only way out for him--another stupid thing to do. So I backed away. I did have my dogs with me, but they could not see him as we were in think scrub oak. I am certain they could smell him and hear him. Early Spring and late fall are when the bears gorge, they don't care what they eat, they just need it fast. We had a lot of rain this year so the vegetation was plentiful. I had been seeing his scat for days and he was feasting on berries and it looked like the husks of acorns. I was lucky this time. My wife wants me to get a gun. I came across some mountain lion tracks a few weeks back. I am certain me with my two dogs are pretty menacing looking to a cat--unless its real hungry--but there are so many deer, turkey, and small game that that would have to be one bad hunter. Nevertheless, wonder what handgun would put down a cat...

In the "hyperphagic phase" of their annual cycle, bears, especially Grizzlies, tend to be far more selective in foods than most seem to think. This might have been obvious to you had you thought about the "evidence" in the foecal material you saw.

Bears do not ...gorge..., as such, in early spring, they are still somewhat somnolent and actually tend to seek out very new growth forbs and grasses and consume these as their metabolism adjusts from the winter period of largely sleeping and very seldom eating anything.

Unless, you are an experienced Cougar hunter/trapper, I would try to avoid them, if possible, they can and oftimes will quickly kill MOST breeds of dogs. They are also dangerous to humans and WILL attack, although not usually.

I keep and train German-strain purebred Rottweilers and was born, raised and worked in resource management in Cougar, Grizzly and B.Bear country; I have in excess of a half-century of both dog and wilderness experience and even my largest Rott., mighty "Woden" a rockhard 140 lbs. that was the strongest dog, including Bernards and Danes, I have ever handled, would be killed within 3 minutes by a 140 lb. Cougar, NO contest.

To hit a Cougar with a handgun, you MUST be a VERY fast and accurate shot, unless the cat is treed. I would choose my .44Mag. Ruger Redhawk first and my .357Mag. Ruger GP-100 second, BUT, I never carry these anymore and would choose a carbine like a .30-.30 over ANY handgun for a Cougar and a larger cartridge for bear I do and have done for many years.

Yearling Cougars, who have not learned "the tricks of the trade" fully when Mama boots them out into the cold, hard world, as with young bruins, are usually the troublemakers. They CAN be ...real hungry...and are dangerous.

While packing a gun CAN lessen this, IF, you are truely expert in it's use under stress, caution and avoidance are better options for most hikers....and a proper "bay dog" like a Laika or Karelian can be useful, as well. Rottweilers WILL attack and give their life for you, but, a "bay dog" will deke the Cougar/Bear and let you get the h*ll out of Dodge...a better situation for everyone.

wrong i had a great tent and was never cold plenty of down.the fear came from not being able to get out and not knowing when or if a plow would come out that far.had enough food for 2 days.

Caldgargan, Dewey

Someone once said that anyone who can hit a charging bear or lion in the ten ring is an expert shot and already owns their gun. If this does not describe you, do not think that merely possessing a gun will help in a situation with a high end predator. Caution and avoidance are the best methods. If you knew the bear was in the area, you should stay away. As for lions, they love dogs, dogs are delicious. Anyone who takes their dog into a dangerous situation for the purpose of protection is threatening their dogs life. Lions make a living by being faster than their prey. I have had two encounters with lions, where I saw them, in my years of wilderness travel, and I have seen them for a total of maybe 6 seconds, whereas I know from tracks that they sit and watch me.


Jim S, I am a former professional wilderness worker in BC, Alberta, and the NWT. I have also spent bush time in Alaska and the Yukon. I was born, raised and trained by oldtime trappers in the Kootenays of BC and have a total of well over a half century of bush experience. I also have over 40 guns, was trained by a Bisley World Champion and the former Chief Conservation Officer of BC; I have shot actively since 1958.

I don't know exactly how many Cougars I have encountered, maybe 20-25 and about 60 Grizzlies plus hundreds of Black Bears; I have also raised and trained large breed dogs since 1958 and Rottweilers since 1986. My suggestions for dogs come from one of the foremost Karelian and Laika specialists in North America....I do not currently have one as they are NOT suited to an urban yard and are too aggressive with other dogs....NOT a "good idea" with Rottweilers.......

My first and only bear kill was a quick headshot with an old Remington Rolling Block on a wounded bear and he dropped instantly and never quivered. I agree with you and both own purpose-built Grizzly defence guns and regularly am asked for advice on this by working wilderness people, prospectors and silvicultural specialists, so, I am not a novice and am very confident with my "tools".

Cougars are often, NOT always ...faster than their prey... and, like all Felidae, have rather small lungs and cannot maintain high running speeds over long distances. The major prey animal of the Cougar is the "Mule Deer" and these are usually ambushed by the Cougar through the stalking ability of these fascinating felines and then a sudden dash and spring to kill by a bite to the "cervical spine" does the job.

RM Bighorn Sheep, Elk and even deer will often outrun or outclimb a Cougar and CAN go longer distances at speed, especially a frightened cow Elk and the Cougar is left in the dust. There are more Cougars in BC than anywhere on Earth and we are pretty used to them; they ARE "dangerous", but, not so much to adults and have only killed a very few people in BC during the past century.

It is simply part of my former occupation to live among bears, wolves, wild felines and other fauna; I DO use dogs, they are very well trained and carefully selected and I have yet to have a problem. Bears, Cougars and other wild predators are frequently found in mid-town Vancouver ansd Victoria and Eagles, Ospreys and large raptors are commonplace....BC is still pretty wild.

I'm still here and still "truckin" in the bush at 63, so, I must be doing something right. BTW, in an encounter, most Cougars and most bears will run from damm near any dog and a Karelian was bred for this purpose; they are getting popular here where people would prefer not to kill a scavenging or simply curious bear and, man, those little mutts CAN handle Yogi, it is really incredible, but, they psych the bear out and he leaves right quick.

Anyway, you and I have posted much the same opinion on avoidance, etc., however, there are situations, mostly employment related, where this is not an option and this is why I brought Karelians into the discussion as they are now "working" in much of the western US and the densely populated Grizzly areas of BC with great success. I prefer to see most people use a dog instead of a gun and for the reasons you mention; I won't go into "war stories" here, but, I have dealt with many bruins and base my opinions on that.

I went out with my wife for her first winter camping trip to the Wisconsin "North Woods," and after an outstanding eight mile day busting trails through 6+" of fresh snow, we dug out an area for our tent, gathered up some firewood, and had a nice, cozy night. The next morning my wife, migraine safely in head, is dry heaving out the back of the tent by 6am because she didn't rehydrate at the end of the day prior (didn't sweat much, but only drank about a liter (litre) the entire time we were walking), and I didn't notice it. I was really kicking myself for not noticing, because I try to pay attention to these things.

I spent the next 3 hours having her sip water until she could hold it down. I tried to keep her calm, because I reasoned that as long as we don't run out of water, and she's able to keep it down eventually, we'll be fine. A few hours later she was fine enough to eat, and she had regained a lot of color in her face, so we packed up and broke camp. Though the not especially dangerous or sensational, this whole thing was a harrowing reminder that lapses in attention often lead to undesirable situations.


I was agreeing with you and offering advice to the other guy about guns. I know who you are and who you were and I am sorry that you felt the need to use so much bandwidth telling me how knowledgable you are. I know what a bear dog is. I also know that like most of us, you have a very high opinion of yourself. You don't have to convince me of your experience, but I am also not very impressed with your level of humility.

Enough of this BS, we are here for fun Dewey- Kutenay and like you I also hang around for a while until somebody pisses me off, then I leave for a while. OK can we be friends?

Jim S

years ago, i summited mount washington with a group on new year's day, via the lion's head. heavy wind and blowing snow, on the way up, but the sun was peeking out a few times, visibility was tolerable. we spent some time exploring the summit. while we did, clouds dropped, snow started falling, and we were soon in a white-out with the weather deteriorating.

we did a lot of thinking before we acted. thought about retreating via the auto road - a long haul in deep and basically untracked snow, with all our gear back in the other direction. we ended up retreating the way we had come, following a combination of our own tracks and cairns, depending on what we could see. fortunately, we found the trail without getting lost or losing anyone and made our way down - took hours, led to some borderline frostbite on fingers and toes. thankfully, nothing really bad.

lessons learned: 1) winter weather can change in a hurry, so better be ready for it. 2) think before you act - smartest thing we did was to sit still and consider our situation. 3) plan an escape route in advance for winter climbing. we would have been better off had we planned ahead. 4) gear up for the worst possible conditions - most of the frostbite scares were due to inadequate or ill-fitting mitts, boots, crampons. 5) stick together. we weren't roped up, and i am amazed no one got lost given the conditions. i think we got lucky.


I want to make a point here and no offense. Why was "your gear in the other direction'? and why did it take hours without the right gear to get to your gear?

Don't you think the moral of this story is about summiting with inadequate gear for what could happen? Somehow there is this idea that we should leave our real gear that we carried on the less dangerous part of the trip behind while we go on the more dangerous part. The "summit" day pack concept is in my opinion one of the extremely stupid light weight concepts that has "gotten" more people is serious trouble than most light weight ideas.

A day pack capable of holding anything even remotely reasonable for one of the worst peaks in the US is gonna weigh a pound and a half. These days people have backpacks that weigh 2-3 pounds and then they add another pound and a half for the purpose of leaving their gear behind. Does this make sense? I have a 3 pound spectra backpack. If I want to summit a dangerous peak a long way off, I would dump the pack out in my tent and put in my survival gear - which is mostly warm weather tight clothing, some food and water and then carry it up with me. In the worst case the pack acts as a short bivy sack, or a pad to sit on, and its large enough for my coat, warm pants, gloves, balaclava and yes even my sleeping bag if I want it and also a foam pad to sit on. So what does this weigh you ask?

pack 3 lb

coat and pants, balaclava and foam pad 3 pounds

food and water 3 pounds

other stuff, flashlight, lighter, gps, map, err maybe a compass - 1 pound

So I'm talking about a 10 pound summit pack that can save your butt and even help you be comfortable and find your way back to your tent. I am a Traditional rock climber and I climb vertical stuff with 25 pounds. I say if you can't carry ten pounds to the summit, stay in camp and leave the summit for the big dogs.

Jim S

Leadbelly, I cannot be certain from your post if you went to that summit without any emergency gear or not, so, wont comment on that aspect of your experience.

However, you did THE RIGHT THING and used your most important item of gear, your mind. By stopping to think about your situation and your options, you were able to self rescue and come back home, wiser and more careful as a result of your scary experience......and, buddy, we have ALL made errors in the wilderness,scared ourselves skinny and those here with the most wilderness experience will admit learned from it and sharing it here can help and may save another hiker.

For a wilderness companion in really remote regions, such as northern BC, I would prefer a guy like you who stops to THINK over a hell of a lot of self-styled mountaineers who so often end up as a component of a glacier...we just have had 3-4 killed here in the past month.

Fair questions. We had emergency gear and could have overnighted in the white mountains had we descended the other side - but it wouldn't have been fun. when i say "gear," i mean tents and sleeping bags and most of our food; we probably had a day's worth of quick energy food. it's possible to dig into a drift and sleep in one's down pants and parka, but find me someone who prefers that to a -40 sleeping bag.

the time it took us to descend had nothing to do with the gear we didn't bring - it was a function of poor visibility and moving slowly so we didn't lose anyone. we all had crampons, snowshoes, and two ice axes.

the inadequate gear i had on that trip (i was 20 years old, almost a quarter-century ago) was a pair of ill-fitting boots and crampons that i had to crank down hard to keep on my boots, both of which restricted circulation. coldest my toes have ever been, but no frostbite. had i spent that night out, i probably would have gotten some frostbite in the toes. i have been up the white mountains and adirondacks in worse conditions since then, but sporting proper boots, high altitude liners (scarpa invernos are the current boot of choice), and crampons i fit and test out in advance. i also carry insulated overboots just in case. we live and we learn!

for what it's worth, i waver between using a summit pack and a near-empty big pack. i always carry a bivy bag, overboots, and some other extras now, so i tend toward using my regular pack.

the best lesson i learned was to think ahead and turn back if anything looks funky. last winter, we turned around as were headed toward the top of Mt. Adams - sky was clear, but 80 mph winds and -25. we were well-prepared, but a few people started getting chilled. a no-brainer.

thanks for the helpful comments.

Two useful Norwegian sayings:

"Det er ingen dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær"

(There's no bad weather, only bad clothes)

"Det er ingen skam å snu"

(There's no shame in turning back)

Both have come into play here...

Two useful Norwegian sayings:

"Det er ingen dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær"

(There's no bad weather, only bad clothes)

"Det er ingen skam å snu"

(There's no shame in turning back)

Both have come into play here...

I like that.

how do you say that??

The worst situation I have been involved in was when I was about 13 years old. During the summer my family and another family would tube the Hiawassee River, a beautiful whitewater carving through the lower Appalachians in TN. This was before the Olympic Whitewater competition was held at the Ocoee River a few miles away, so at that time, there were far fewer canoes & kayaks on the water.

So one fine summer weekend the two families, a few other friends, and one ill-fated German Exchange student decided to make a trip. We were to meet at 6am with all gear and supplies, leave Chattanooga by 7am and arrive at the river by 8:30am. But of course someone forgot the air valves for the tubes, delaying us severely. By the time we made it up to the river, inflated tubes for all 15 people, and we were on the river, it was well into the afternoon.

Shortly after we have started out down the river, it became overcast and then rainy. Several people were already cold and unhappy when two of the tubes burst. Fortunately, everyone was wearing PFDs, and we had two extra tubes carrying gear, but they were small. Did I mention that 2 of the people are 8 year old boys, and there are only two people over 20 with us? About half way down the river towards the take-out point, we managed to go down the wrong side of an island, and found ourselves being swept down a narrow and shallow channel, which ended in brackish pools filled with brush and fallen trees. I shudder at the thought even now. We finally made it back to the main current, but by this time the light is waning fast. At this point it is clear that the two children, one of the girls, and the guy from Germany are in stage one hypothermia.

Minutes later, two canoes pass by. They see our dire situation and offer to take as many people as they have room for down to the take out. The two adults with us are the fathers of the two children, and are very worried about them. Very reluctantly they send the children and girl with the strangers. When the canoes disappear around the bend, one of the fathers is nearly overcome with fear and remorse, thinking they have made the wrong decision.

Sometime later, after darkness has fallen, we finally made it to the take out and the Good Samaritans were waiting with the two kids and the teenage girl. Almost everyone at this point is becoming mildly hypothermic, and the poor guy from Germany is well into the second stage of hypothermia.

To say the least I learned a lot about what NOT to do when going out on some whitewater.

Four come to mind:

1) Back in the day I did one of these “go light” solo trips in the wake of a romantic fallout. I spend such trips under such circumstances relentlessly hiking to burn out the bad karma and energy. It was mid October, and I was camped along the lakes below Bishop Pass in the Sierras. I hiked up to the pass, then over into Dusy Basin, (about seven miles) when suddenly the western horizon grew black, and a phalanx of thunderheads and freezing rain came storming up on me. I was not prepared, wearing only shorts, tee shirt, and a sweatshirt in my knapsack. By the time I got back to camp I was numb from mid thigh down, and numb for most of the length of my arms. I was no longer shivering. Not good, but at least I was back at camp and all I had to do was get into my warm sleeping bag in my tent. I sat there for perhaps another 90 minutes with that very thought racing in my mind, yet was too stupefied to find the wherewithal to do it. Finally I urged myself on, but when attempting to grasp the zip tab of my tent fly, I discovered my nerves couldn't tell my fingers to clamp tight enough to tug on the zipper. I laughed, intellectually realizing this was really a serious predicament, yet was too chilled to feel the fear one would think should accompany sucombing to hypothermia. By random luck it occurred to me to use my teeth to grasp the zipper. It worked, but in my clumsiness I chipped three front teeth. I got stripped and into my bag; the next thing I knew it was the mid afternoon of the next day. One lucky fool.

2) A freak windstorm hit my group while on a early season winter trip from Kearsarge Pass to Yosemite Valley in 1984 (the El Nino year that destroyed all the piers along the west coast). The wind blew away two of three tents in the middle of the night, resulting in the loss of substantial amounts of gear and sleeping bags. Fortunately we had space blankets in our survival kits, were able to dig snow caves, and three days later escaped via a pre-planned evacuation route to the road head at Lake Marry near Mammoth. Bad luck, but prepared with contingencies.

3) Got trapped in snow cave at 12,000’ on Mt St. Elias for ten days, due to bad weather. It happened early in the trip when still in the process of moving supplies into position. It was our first trip to this camp, thus we didn’t have sufficient food for such a circumstance. The weather eventually relented, and we got the hell out of Dodge with our lives, albeit minor frost bite to several members of the party including some of my toes. There is a reason why so few bother attempting this mountain - notorious weather – and I am here to attest it is not worth arguing this point with the mountain; just say yes and stay home!

4) I was with a coed group of seven coming down off the peak of Mt. Baldy in So Cal, when I slipped, fell, knocked the wind out of myself, making me unable to effect a self arrest with my ice axe quickly enough. I slid for about thirty seconds down the gully above the Sierra Club Hut, catching air and caroming off terrain features. A human bob sled! By the time I came to rest I was a short distance from the hut, having slid about 1200 vertical feet. I was dazed, bloodied, and badly bruised up, but otherwise not seriously injured. My party eventually found me, all crying, fearing they were going to find a dead Ed. They reunited me with my axe and other personal articles that jettisoned during my fall. This cat used two lives on that mishap. While the slope aspect doesn't appear steep enough to warrant roping up, I later came to learn this route is notorious for this very type of accident.

Most if not all of you have had your mishaps from regions of high elevations which lends itself well to unpredictable weather patterns.

I'm only exposed to this in moderation on the higher plateaus of WV but none the less they do present some challenges.

I seem to be more cautious and aware of my surroundings the more remote i am,risk taking is for home use only.

My worst experience in the backcountry without doubt was the night i was invaded by deer ticks.

It was an unseasonably warm night and i was awoken by what i thought was ants as i was repeatedly bitten everywhere but further investigation revealed deer ticks.

I simply could not escape them and had to bail in a haste,jamming everything loosely in my pack with my headlamp i hit the trail at around midnight.I was moving quickly and had to hurdle a Copperhead on the way out"i really needed that".

Once i got home in the early AM my wife pulled 7 more burrowed ticks off of me.That section of Forrest won't see me again.

Yes..i was tested for lime disease.

My worst experience in the backcountry without doubt was the night i was invaded by deer ticks...

...I was moving quickly and had to hurdle a Copperhead on the way out"i really needed that".

Much as I love the outdoors, I really hate creepy crawlers sharing my bed.
It also is no fun not seeing a snake on the trail, being forced to hurtle it at the last moment. This may not seem too hairy an event to others, but this kind of mishap while carrying a load can lead to a very serious accident, like falling ON the snake, smacking your head on a rock, or getting impaled on a root.
Alas the mountains have potential danger at every elevation.


That slippery slope on Baldy has produced many injuries and a few deaths. Years ago, I was one of the instructors in the original version of the Angeles Chapter Sierra Club's Basic Mountaineering Training Course (BMTC, early 1960s, earliest version was San Diego Chapter, I believe). We used that slope for the intro to snow and self-arrest. As Vice Chairman of the Angeles Rock Climbing Section in the late 1960s, I got to mentor a young 16-year old mostly in rock climbing, but also in the BMTC, where he was taught self arrest. He has told me that I took him up his first multi-pitch rock climb, the Ski Tracks at Tahquitz, and that Mike Sherrick and I taught him "everything" he knows about climbing. As he grew up, he did more and more climbing (learning, I suspect, a lot more than I taught him), wrote several authoritative climbing guides, and climbed many places in many countries. With that experience, you would expect him to be very careful and safe. A few years ago, he was descending Baldy, slipped, and slid something like 2000 feet, ending with serious injuries and in intensive care for months. His head injuries have left him with speech impediments (though he has recovered remarkably, considering the extent of the injuries, and is back to some climbing). You would recognize his name - R.J.Secor. If that slope caught RJ, you can tell that it is not one to be trifled with, despite the hundreds who pass it every year.

Bill S:
I just looked up Robert’s incident; that he was glissading at the time of his mishap alludes how this slope is deceptive in its risk. I think I was somewhat higher on the mountain when I fell, but had deeper snow, as there were few exposed rocks at the time of my visit. Secor’s misfortune underscores just how lucky I was. My slip was in the early 1980s. I was using an older ash shafted axe. Somewhere in mid-slide the axe caught on something, ripping the slider ring limit screw right out of the shaft, yet I did not receive an arm injury from the jerk, nor was even aware this occurred. Thank goodness for the BMTC I attend in Bishop – or was it June - as a scout in the early 1970s; otherwise I might have tried to arrest with my crampons, breaking my legs, and thrown into a tumble. I have since wondered if the leash is better worn on the wrist, waist, and if the leash should breakaway by design, given the hazards of a flailing axe in mid fall. The flash back, musing over this incident and considering what could have been, makes me shiver with dread.

That slip forever altered my French technique. I couldn't recall what my focus was at the moment prior to my slip, but it was a beautiful sunset with clear skies to the horizon, a rarity in LA especially back then. Perhaps this panorama distracts many, and the relatively benign slope lulls one into a false sense of security? I now try whenever possible to descend with shoulders facing slightly across the fall line while using French technique (even when traveling the fall line directly), so should I slip, it is somewhat onto my side and not flat on my back. This also lands me in a position where I can more quickly initiate a self arrest.

I once almost stepped off of Yosemite's Glacier Point in a whiteout snowstorm. I was near the point on snowshoes after hiking up from Badger Pass along the road with two guys from England. When we made it to G.P. we split up looking for a campsite. I started walking and after a ways found a slope going down hill. I stopped and tried to see around me, everything looked the same. I happened to look down and at the tip of my snowshoes was the top railing at one of the overlooks that in summer would be about waist high. One more step or a slip and I would have fallen about 2000 feet down the cliff below Glacier Point. That was in 1980 when I was 24.

After turning around and finding the other two, we made camp and ended up being stuck in the tent for three long days of a snowstorm, with mostly whiteout conditions the whole time. We had a 5 day permit and the first two days had been spent hiking in from Badger Pass Ski Area. So on the morning of the 6th day which was clear, a NPS helicopter flew over looking for us and landed after spoting us a few hundred yards away in a the closest clearing. We were taken down to the valley but had to leave our gear behind and hike back up a day later on the Four Mile Trail, to retrieve it.

When they took us to the health clinic after getting us back to the valley floor, my body temperture had dropped to 93 degree's. I was told I may have gone into a coma or died had they not rescued us. So one just one backcountry winter trip I almost died twice.

Scrambling in the Wichita Mountains (really beautiful area, if you ever get the chance to go) in 1988, reached up for a hold, pulled myself up and was eye to eye with a rattle snake. Retreated and found another way up - figured that ledge was his.

Then there was an ill conceived attempt on Mt. Washington over spring break my senior year in HS (1977)- buddy of mine and I figured it'd be a blast - we didn't sign in, we didn't let anyone know where we were going - we didn't check the weather predictions - a storm hit when we were maybe 800' below the top - we hunkered down in our tent, which shredded in the wind during the night. We dug a snow cave that was home for two cold, wet, miserable days and nights. To its credit our primus stove did start so we could eat hot food. When the winds abated we postholed down off the mountain. When my '64 VW beetle started and we drove back to PA. Asked where we'd been we lied to our parents and said we'd been on the AT.


Secor goes by "RJ", even though the accident report gives his first name. Interesting character, and his father is even more interesting in some ways (or was, since the last time I saw him, he was really showing his age).

Like Gary, my encounter with warm temperatures in warm winter weather occurred at Badger Pass also.

I was with my two sons and my son in-law and we started the day before and the day time temperatures was in the thirties plus it was cloudy. The second day, the temperatures were in the upper forties at least and it was sunny. Skiing along Badger Pass Road headed towards Glacier Point, I could hear the melting water running under the snow towards the sides of the road!I told the guys let's slow down, wear just a windbreaker at most over our polypro... We adjusted our destination so we would cover less distance. Our number one priority was to spend time in the backcountry, take lots of pictures enjoy the skiing with only a few people encountered all day long.

I guess if you have an aggressive schedule, then not sweating could be a problem. Problem or not, the first thing you do when stopping for the day is to change cloths... polypro, wool socks, etc. Then, set up the campsite and put the tent up.

Good Luck!

December 1, 2020
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