Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail?


Display Avatars Sort By:
Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 10:59:08 MDT Print View

Have any of you had any near death experiences or close calls while on the trail?

Hypothermia? Broken legs? etc.

Would be nice to hear from real world experiences so we can all be a bit more paranoid and safer out there.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 12:15:45 MDT Print View

My knee was killing me on my last hike - does that count? ;-)

Dena Kelley
(EagleRiverDee) - M

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 12:22:08 MDT Print View

Near death? No. But I have had hypothermia. It was on my first ever backpacking trip and I was going with an "experienced" person (my boyfriend at the time). That was a lesson in and of itself, but I digress...anyway, as I was inexperienced I wore cotton clothing, had my sleeping bag in a non-waterproof sack, and didn't have much in the way of emergency gear. It was a gorgeous 70 degree summer day (July) in Alaska at 4500'. Then it became a snowstorm in July with temps below freezing at 4500'. And it was quite literally that fast- it was sunny, we saw a heavy cloud come in, it began to rain, and then it began to snow. I was completely unprepared. My bag got wet, my clothes were wet, I got chilled, and I got hypothermia. What saved me was my boyfriend reluctantly allowed (after I begged) me to get into his warm sleeping bag with him. I learned a lot from that one experience- no more cotton clothes, I keep my spare clothes and sleeping bag in waterproof sacks, I always have a hat or balaclava and gloves, never depend on the weather to stay nice, and I learned that I need to be able to depend on myself and not an "experienced" partner. I learn on every trip, but that one trip was one of my biggest learning experiences.

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Not quite near death, but a close call on 08/27/2012 12:31:58 MDT Print View

I took a slide down the chute on the south side of Forester Pass last year on the PCT. You can read all about what I did wrong here : http://Postholer.Com/journal/viewJournal.php?sid=ef61922009621f72594ad85d87dd0989&entry_id=23810. If you click on the pictures you will see five photos pop up. The second picture shows the steps across the chute then a butt slide in the middle with a second set of steps cut back to the far side. I had another pretty sketchy ascent of Mather a few days later then had a very iffy stream crossing in north Yosemite that swept me downstream a ways. Of the three Mather was by far the scariest because it was the only one that I had time to think about. But I don't think any of those were near death though they may have been a bit closer than I want to admit.

Art ...
(asandh) - F
Re: Re Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 12:54:25 MDT Print View

several incidents while climbing that I try hard to block out of my mind.
but nothing nearly so exciting while on trail ... although I did step on a rattlesnake once, turned a switchback and felt something squishy under my foot. looked down to see a nice 5 footer coiled up underneath my shoe, trying to warm himself in the morning sun. jumped about 10 ft real fast and both of us were fine.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 13:30:03 MDT Print View

Almost hit by lightning one summer about 5 years ago. Retreated to a tree line as a storm rolled over and watched as the open area I left got hit.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
"Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail?" on 08/27/2012 14:32:51 MDT Print View

I had a scary crossing of the Lyell fork several years ago. I didn't go in but but it was a close call. Anyway, this summer (a much lower water year) I spent about an hour looking for a better crossing upstream. No luck. I kept my boots on and very tentatively entered the stream...and just started laughing out loud. It was nothing! I'd completely psyched myself out.

christopher smead
(hamsterfish) - MLife

Locale: hamsterfish
I dropped by packpack off a cliff once. on 08/27/2012 15:28:48 MDT Print View

In big sur. Never did find it. Was only wearing a thin baselayer. Others shared clothing but I still had mild hypothermia by morning. Really sucked.

Roger Dodger
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: Wess Siide
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/27/2012 15:29:04 MDT Print View

1) giant sized rock slide, they were about the size of the old tube computer monitors before flat screens. but not only the size, by the time they reached us 4 secs after we heard the noise, they were flying downhill and had accelerated from 1000 ft elevation above us. They sounded like rumbling in the movies with a buffalo stampede. I hid behind a big tree, friend body dived in a trench (bad decision)

after thought it was obvious, but as it was happening, did not know what or where the rocks were coming from. I assumed the horses would be running down the single track trail we were climbing. Turned out that gravity prefers straight lines. Up there going straight down. perpendicular to the switchbacks.

Calling it rock SLIDE is an understatement, they were high speed flying boulders from a catapult.

2) near death: everything I did between age 16 to 25.
no gear, no water, no food, no experience, no map, no hat, no pack, no phones back then. only a Milky Way bar and a Cherry Coke. just go and explore mountains and canyons, till I get tired 6 hrs later, then figure out my way back starving, thirsty, disoriented, headache, altitude sickness, sunburnt, blisters, with a stupid smile on my face.


Since those days, I conservatively calculate a risk assessment, my existing gear and skill to mitigate the risk, the likely probability of bad luck and Murphy's law. Then I abort or adjust to safety. My motto these days is that the mountains will still be there, I cancel that day, or modify the route and return another time.

Edited by RogerDodger on 08/27/2012 15:36:25 MDT.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
close calls on 08/27/2012 20:03:13 MDT Print View

when I was working in the Bob Marshall I had a couple very close (close as in feet) calls with grizzlies, never attacked, but inadvertently coming within a few feet of a grizzly is an experience you tend remember :)

probably my closest to "near death experience" was working the same job and getting swept away by the Middle Fork of the Flathead during a ford, that was very scary- I ended up over 2 river miles down stream before climbing out

not a trail, but dumped a canoe on the Bighorn River in December- that was a little too close for my liking

eric chan
(bearbreeder) - F
Smokey on 08/27/2012 20:08:36 MDT Print View

I almost go smoked by a 30 lb rock on a climb 2 weeks ago ... A few feet to the right and id be tenderizes asian bear meat

Its a risk you take when you climb

Bill Law
(williamlaw) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/28/2012 10:11:23 MDT Print View

I had a heart attack while snow-shoeing in the Sierra 5 years ago. Not really near-death, but it makes you think about it.

I now carry a Spot messenger (I usually go solo). Also, I always have my down jacket with me as it gets cold when you are sitting around waiting for the helicopter ride.

Also, I almost got run off the road twice in one trip earlier this summer. So going to the mall might be riskier.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
near death? on 08/29/2012 10:27:16 MDT Print View

I wouldn't call this "near death", but the closest I came was getting out of Colorado on the CDT last year in early October as winter decided to make a sudden and abrupt appearance. A couple of other thru-hikers I talked to just a day or two behind me had it worse; one told me that he was literally writing his will in his tarp as the snow was just literally falling in feet rather than inches, from it being all bare ground shortly before.

My own experience was of very low visibility --- not a true white-out, but close enough. Wind was blowing a mix of rain, freezing rain/sleet and snow on me, varying by the hour, but I recall one side of my face numb all the time and just being wet through. It's one of those times when you think to yourself "so long as I feel strong and don't injure myself, I'm fine --- I can just keep going".

Took an alternate route to try to get to lower ground faster. Route markers disappeared, and my bushwhacking led me to a cliff that didn't seem nearly so steep on the topo map contours as it did "in person". It was just sort of one thing after another.

My trail journal entry for this particular day is here:
http://postholer.com/journal/viewJournal.php?sid=1eb9234e1e2711e3684cc8b9388a2e0c&entry_id=27314

That's about as risky a situation as I've been in. My hiking partner was swept off his feet by a "creek" at the start of the trip and injured; I had just crossed that same creek, and went into the water to help pull him out, so I guess I was somewhat "near death" there too, but didn't feel at risk since it wasn't me that went floating down at high speed. And later we were sort of semi-trapped by high creeks (rivers) and high snowy passes with food supplies on the low side, so we had to do some creative navigating to get out of that one.

Overall I'd not suggest doing the CDT as a true thru-hike in a high snow year unless you want to accumulate some "interesting stories to tell".

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/29/2012 16:56:29 MDT Print View

Does a lightning strike about 50 yards away count? Was on a low ridge (50 ft?) at not very high altitude.

I knew from reading that lightning ground strikes start with a low current upstroke that creates an ionized path which the bulk of the current then follows. I now know about that from hearing it happen .... zzzttBANG!

chris Mcfarland
(pecos)

Locale: baba yaga's porch
near the trail on 08/29/2012 20:38:42 MDT Print View

I was heading out late one Friday with two friends to ozette on the olympic paninsula. It was january with freezing temps. A culvert had frozen over causing the road to turn into an ice rink. I lost control and rolled my volvo off a 50' embankment landing upside down in the ozette river.
When all was said and done, no major injuries except my pride. (I had to call my father in-law to come pick us up).
When the tow truck finally got my car up it looked like a gold tootsie roll... and who knew volvo stationwagons had 3 roll bars.
I never made it to ozette, but ive been to the river :)

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/29/2012 21:20:49 MDT Print View

I tried hiking up a creek in a dense redwood forest that turned into more of a ravine. When skirting along the sides, the soil was very loose and I almost slipped down a sort of rock wall or cliff and would have hurt myself extremely badly. I got down to the bottom of the creek and it was almost dark and thunderstorms were approaching. I did not want to be at the bottom of this ravine. It was clogged with fallen trees and I had to go under a tree that had water all the way up it. Going underwater to get under that tree was one of the scariest things I have ever had to do.
If I had fallen off that rock wall, I would have crippled myself and been stuck in a creek that was about to flood with water.

One of my friends showed me a place in Mount Diablo where he once almost fell waaaaaay down and would have instantly died. It was rock that he slipped on and he managed to grab on to a nranch and pull himself up.

John Almond
(FLRider) - F

Locale: The Southeast
Not quite so close... on 08/30/2012 08:08:35 MDT Print View

...but I managed to get heat stroke about a mile and an half from water in Ocala National Forest, in June, in 95-degree heat with 70% humidity and no shade cover.

It was...not fun. Heat cramps, I stopped sweating, the whole nine yards. If I hadn't made it that last mile and an half to Farles Campground, well, the buzzards would be picking at my bones right now.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/30/2012 14:11:32 MDT Print View

"Have any of you had any near death experiences or close calls while on the trail?"

Not really.

I got pretty cold last March on a trip in the Los Padres. I was shivering and wet and all that. But I don't think I was near death.

I experienced a huge rock come tearing down the slope in Washington on the PCT. It wasn't quite a close enough call to say it was a near death experience.

The closest to a close call near death experience, one that I still shudder every time I think about it, happened in India at the Agra Fort. I almost fell out a window when I slipped on a wet spot on the marble floor.

spelt !
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
strainers on 08/30/2012 14:35:05 MDT Print View

This didn't happen to me, but I was watching (and not in a position to help). A couple years ago I was out on the Des Moines river after a flood. The river was still high and debris was everywhere. Some of the people in our party were, charitably speaking, morons. That might not have been so bad by itself, but they were also inexperienced and inattentive. They went broadside and flipped just in front of a huge strainer and they and the canoe were sucked under in about a second. I was downstream and figured I had just seen them die. When they popped up I was astonished. I don't think they had any idea how lucky they were.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Near death experiences (or close calls) on the trail? on 08/30/2012 16:06:26 MDT Print View

An ex walking mate a few years ago neraly died on the trail.
He took so long in the morning to get ready that after 5 or 6 days I was ready to shoot him , sadly I don't carry nor own a gun.

Franco