Two weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to go day hiking in Marseilles in les Calanques (which is French for "the fjords"; trip report to come) with three friends of mine. Two of us had a great deal of experience backpacking and otherwise wrangling with the earth, one of us had some dayhiking experience, and one of us had never seen a mountain, much less gone hiking. We were all in relatively good shape and around 20 years of age with the corresponding levels of pis$ and vinegar.
Of the two with experience, I was the cautious one. I have gotten used to backpacking alone and the appropriate level of care that accompanies it. As such, when a decision involving a dangerous and safe option arose, the more dangerous being the more interesting and the safer being the less interesting choice, I chose the safer path. When the group picked the riskier route, there were no ill consequences, we saw extraordinary things, and the challenges heightened both our skill as hikers and our knowledge of our own capacities.
However, I consider that an extremely lucky outcome, considering the terrain, weather conditions, and level of experience on the trail (I'll save details for the trip report). I can't help but be nagged by the memory of every place where, just as we were very fortunate, we could have been equally unfortunate with disastrous results.
I was wondering what the group leaders, instructors, and anyone who has ever faced a similar situation had to say about these challenges. How does one balance careful risk assesment and caution with the potential benefits of taking chances?
I hope all is well out there! Thanks in advance for any thoughts.