Asking What If Before Heading on a Trip

It should come as no surprise that outdoor adventurers of all experience levels get caught in unexpected weather, but that isn’t always the case.  Regardless of the season, from winter to summer, scores of people get surprised by bad weather and quickly find themselves in a dangerous, if not lethal, situation.

Just 2 weeks ago, two experienced mountaineers were interviewed by the News Tribune out of Tacoma.  They had just been rescued from the upper portion of Mt. Rainier after a “shockingly fast” storm caught them by surprise.  Luckily this story didn’t end up as a body recovery, because these two climbers brought just enough emergency gear to hunker down on the summit and survive the two-day storm.

Regardless of your outdoor sport, we all face the questions, “Should I bring this piece of gear?  Do I need it?”  Often it’s an issue of minimizing weight or managing limited space.  What tends to get left at home?  Sadly, it’s emergency gear, since you don’t often need it.

Thankfully, when the predicted Mt. Rainier storm showed up several hours early, the two climbers had life-saving tools with them.  They told rescuers that it was their shovels that made the biggest difference.  Each had one and used it to create a minimalist shelter: a depression chipped into the ice they could lay down in.  Additionally, they had a tarp, sleeping bag, and other tools essential for survival.

After reading the story, think about how often you rely on weather forecasts.   They are often quite accurate for urban areas, however mountain weather plays havoc on forecasts.  A sunny day can quickly turn into a flash flood, thunderstorm, or if you are at 14,000ft on Mt. Rainier, a blinding snowstorm of sub-zero temperatures.

Big mountain expedition leaders like to ask, “What if…”  What if a piece of equipment breaks?  What if someone is injured and we can’t leave him or her?  What if a heinous storm rolls in while we are traveling?

Before you head out on your next adventure, ask yourself lots of “What ifs…” and be sure you have the emergency gear with you to survive the range of unexpected problems that are common in the outdoors!

(Need a list of gear to always carry?  Start with the 10 Essentials!  Then add on to them to match your sport and “What If’s”)


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