Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
If I Only Knew Then (Feature Narrative) | Recognize Grizzly Behavior | Save Yourself in Whitewater | First Aid Emergencies | Unsafe Snow Conditions | Unexpected Accidents | Make Good Judgment Calls
After a multiday downpour, four friends and I tried to ford the waist-deep McKinley River, in Denali National Park. I was the last in a single-line chain (each hiker holding the waist of the person in front). But the chain broke, and I ended up floating down the glacier-fed river, with my pack dragging me down because I’d neglected to unbuckle it. My fingers went numb almost instantly, yet I got lucky and was able to open the buckles by batting at them repeatedly. Now, when I cross a river, in addition to unbuckling my pack, I remember these precautions:
1. Look for braids, which indicate shallower channels.
2. Avoid areas that have strainers, sweepers, or a cut bank on the far side that will be hard to climb up.
3. With multiple people, use the “pyramid” technique: Link arms, spread into a V with the point facing upstream, and move sideways across the river.
4. If you fall in, float feet forward and swim like hell for shore.
Choose Your Partner Wisely
Erik Weihenmayer, Blind climber, Everest summiter, and competitor on ABCs Expedition Impossible
Learn Patience in Alaska
Andrew Skurka, ultra-long-distance hiker
Don’t Always Trust A Topo
Jim Gorman, BACKPACKER contributing editor