You’re lying at the bottom of a steep scree slope, clutching your leg in agony. A moment ago, you were scrambling across the hill above–but one wrong step on a loose rock knocked you off balance and sent you careening down the slope. Could this have been prevented? And what do you do now?
WRONG: Head out without considering the conditions you might encounter, such as exposed scrambling, icy terrain, loose rock, or difficult river crossings.
RIGHT: Research the area to find out which skills are necessary, and call rangers to make sure snow or high water hasn’t turned a standard trail into a dangerous route. Make sure you’re in good shape before you go–physical fitness improves your ability to stay balanced in tricky terrain and to avoid injury caused by fatigue.
2. Choosing partners
WRONG: Go with your competitive, stubborn friend who just took a mountaineering course and wants to “show you the ropes.”
RIGHT: Pick knowledgeable companions who won’t get summit fever and push beyond your limits. First-aid training doesn’t hurt, either.
3. Thinking ahead
WRONG: Hit the trail without thinking about what you’ll do if you encounter an unexpected obstacle, like a raging river or icy traverse.
RIGHT: Settle on a plan B with your companions before you leave–what happens if trail conditions are worse than you expect?