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Rational Solo Fear
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Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Rational Solo Fear on 05/10/2014 09:03:42 MDT Print View

In July 2010, my sister and I were on the SHR in hiking a pass around Marion Peak. Crossing a small talus field, I dislodged a large-suitcase-sized boulder onto my left foot. It didn't hurt at first, but when I tried to push it off, I couldn't. Terrifying. "Kelsi, I'm really stuck. Like really stuck." It didn't take us long to get it off, but it felt like forever and when we did my foot hurt like hell. We cut the trip short and I painfully limped 20 more steep miles to the JMT then out.

As I sat there on the side of the mountain with my shoe off inspecting the damage, I thought about how I had been planning on doing the trip even if she couldn't come. We had a SPOT, but in my more cavalier moments, I might have considered leaving that at home, too.

Does anyone else have examples of when they were very glad they didn't go solo?

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Solo vs group think on 05/10/2014 10:15:37 MDT Print View

Does anyone else have examples of when they were very glad they didn't go solo?

No. My solo trips are on trail while anything with more risk is a group trip with experienced hikers. The reverse is usually true when I find group hikers in my group wanting to be climbers, ... not knowing when to yell "rock" when dislodging rocks, etc..

Sometimes a strong personality can attempt to, or actually, take over a group who has no idea what he (or she) is doing.

tl;dr ...Probably depends on how much scrambling or actual climbing needs to be done

Owen McMurrey
(OwenM) - F

Locale: SE US
Re: Rational Solo Fear on 05/10/2014 11:08:58 MDT Print View

My only "fears" relate to injury, but it kind of goes both ways. I'm probably more likely to have a trip ruined by someone else's injury than my own-always feel safer alone, not having to watch out for another person. Almost got hurt dayhiking with my girlfriend a few weeks ago. Wasn't doing anything dangerous, but I was watching where she was going instead of where I was going...

Anyway, several years ago, on the last day of a vacation after driving back to Las Vegas from UT, I took a fall while boulder-hopping down a canyon at Red Rock. Tore a bunch of ligaments in my ankle/foot, had to wrap it up and hobble out by trekking pole. It was a short dayhike, and I was not far from the TH. Couldn't hike for four months(THAT is my greatest fear, actually!).
I think the key point there is that I would not have been doing that while backpacking.

This week I had to wrap a sprained ankle for another hiker on the trail, very early into day 1. Fortunately, he felt able to return to the TH on his own, encouraged me not to worry about him, and continue on my way. So I did.
It would have been a really short trip if we'd been backpacking together, though.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: Solo vs group think on 05/10/2014 16:37:35 MDT Print View

Does anyone else have examples of when they were very glad they didn't go solo?

No +1

Solo trips are precious little trips in my world. To be savored.

When do you get to be alone like that?

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Solo vs Group Think on 05/10/2014 16:53:44 MDT Print View

My closest call in the backcountry was a kayak trip I never should have taken. I assumed my idiot friend leading the way knew what he was doing. He didn't and he led us into some scary rapids. I would not have taken that trip solo, or at least I would have scouted better.

Bob Moulder
(bobmny10562) - M

Locale: Westchester County, NY
Re: Re: Rational Solo Fear on 05/10/2014 19:43:36 MDT Print View

I like solo trips (well, with the dog nowadays) and when I do trips with others I prefer to go with people who also feel comfortable doing solo trips.

Back when I was doing a lot of multi-day, sub-zero trips in some pretty nasty Northeast winter weather, my philosophy was (and remains!) that at the very least you should be able to take care of yourself.

On one trip in the Whites in the mid 1990's, one guy in our group of about 6 was kind of a "sloppy" guy who was not attentive to detail and did not have adequate self awareness and self monitoring. He was getting hypothermic, and somebody actually had to tell him to zip up his jacket. We were in whiteout conditions - "inside the ping-pong ball" - when we took a food/drink break somewhere below Mt. Adams in the lee of a big rock at a trail junction marker, so we knew where we were. In these proto-GPS days we (well, a couple of us, anyway) navigated by map and compass, so when the rest of the group was ready to depart they followed a bearing with my co-leader for the trip, and I waited for the schlock guy to finish eating and getting underway. We weren't all that far from "The Nest" campsite of the Randolph Mtn Club. As the guy packed up, he was so out of it he didn't even realize I was still there. The correct bearing was just a few degrees West of North, but he took off due East, down toward a very steep ravine. I used my whistle to get his attention and motioned him to follow me, which he did.

I am fairly sure that if I had not waited on that guy he would be dead. That thought did not occur to me until about 15 minutes after the event, but the feeling that came over me is the kind you get a few seconds after narrowly avoiding a major car wreck, sort of a wave of realization that comes crashing over.

After that, no more trips with him, or people like that. Confident solo travelers have my respect.

Brian Mix
(Aggro) - MLife

Locale: Western slope, Sierra Nevada
Re: Rational Solo Fear on 05/10/2014 22:33:53 MDT Print View

The last time I backpacked with a group was in '98 IIRC, I have no solo fear, if I deem an activity dangerous I avoid it when I can. My life insurance policy won't make up for me being gone.
I'd love to try out hiking with others but it never seems to happen.

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
worse luck with people on 05/11/2014 03:42:53 MDT Print View

Alone I do fast high mileage hikes, 25~50Km, one or two times per week. I've slipped two or three times, but nothing too bad.

First time I went with a group however, there was this very experienced guy who knew the area well and climbed lots of mountains there etc. He brought a lady friend with perfume and make up in place, a pretty scarf around her neck. She had trouble keeping up with the rest of the group from the start, even on the easy approach. I resigned myself that it was going to be a slow day, focussing on the new area and talking with people, which was a first. About 30~45 minutes in the terrain got steeper and the lady was below us when a rock went down. We shouted rock, she looked up and it slashed her head.
The rest of us went down as quick as we could (careful not to send other rocks down). Everybody was trying to help but I was surprised to find out I was the only one with a first aid kit. We covered her wound and the friend was going to try to take her down by himself, so the other people could continue their hike. I said no way, if she ends up not being able to walk then how do you carry her out? I carried her pack down and they made it back to their car. (Fortunately we later heard she turned out ok - wound was superficial).

We climbed back up and because it was later than normal we decided to forego the peak, and stopped at a river. Summers are pretty brutal here and we took a dip in the ice cold water. When we were done, and put our clothes and shoes back on I noticed my toe hurt a bit. Climbing down it got worse and I figured it was a loose toenail that finally really got loose. I decided to keep my shoe on and tough it out on the last hour down. On the way home from the train station I started limping badly and it started throbbing real bad. When I came home my toe was the size and colour of a small eggplant. Turned out I broke it against a rock, but the water was so cold I only winced. Took me out of the rest of the season.

Edited by jakuchu on 05/11/2014 04:18:32 MDT.

Ito Jakuchu
(jakuchu) - MLife

Locale: Japan
edit on 05/11/2014 04:15:25 MDT Print View


Edited by jakuchu on 05/11/2014 19:10:06 MDT.

TKB 1979

Re: Re: Re: Rational Solo Fear on 05/11/2014 09:48:42 MDT Print View

"... when I do trips with others I prefer to go with people who also feel comfortable doing solo trips."

I never thought of it that way - that's a good way of looking at it.

I haven't had any time I wished I hadn't gone solo (I don't have too much solo experience though).

I do empathize with those who see less liability in solo hiking. Last Fall, a couple buddies & I had a Fish Creek, Az hike planned. There's no trail, really, mostly navigating rocks. Anyway, there were some last minute additions to the group. One of them was a teenager and showed-up in *skate shoes*. Flat bottom, zero traction, may as well hike on marbles skate shoes. They weren't even tied. I'm thinking, this kid is coming home a walking scab. Neither did he have a pack, jacket, hat, sunscreen, anything - not even a water bottle.

I had an extra pair of Montrails in my truck (actually wondered whether they'd be just as bad for being too grippy) - he tries them on, likes them, & I hand him a water bottle.

No more than *5 minutes* into our hike, he takes a flying leap off a boulder, lands wrong (weird, right?) and twists his ankle. It swells up to about twice its original size. Turns out, he'd torn a ligament in his ankle & chipped off a piece of bone.

The conversation afterwards begins with, "Okay - new rule ...."

Kelly G
(KellyDT) - F
Fell on 05/14/2014 22:12:45 MDT Print View

Never had an incident when solo, but fell once with my husband a ways off. Tripped uncontrollably on a rock. My only time for thought was "don't hit your head". Managed to curl up enough to keep my head up, to avoid any rocks that might be there. Was glad I wasn't solo that day. Ended up with hip, leg & arm bruises several inches big each. OTOH, I've hiked the same place solo since then. Sooner or later, something is bound to happen, whether solo or not.

Luis Acebal
(lmacebal) - F

Locale: Northern California
Different State of Mind on 05/15/2014 09:54:05 MDT Print View

When I'm hiking solo, I'm more keenly aware of my surroundings because there is no "safety net" if I get hurt. It places me in another mindset. Often times, I find myself having these internal dialogues when I'm alone and confronted with a challenging situation. There are times when I've had to "talk myself down" and control my fears. These situations have allowed me to know myself better and my limits. There is no possibility of having some other person help me out during those moments. On the other hand, I become more complacent when hiking with others because there is a sense that we can assist each other in case of mishap. The bicycle helmet analogy captures the feeling of solo hiking for me. When I don't wear a helmet, I'm just more cautious with my riding than when wearing a helmet. I've wondered if wearing a helmet in some ways provides a false sense of security because of the illusion that I'll be protected in case of a mishap, similar to being with other persons while hiking. By the way, I'm not advocating for not using a helmet- but solo hiking is an experience to be cherished.

Edited by lmacebal on 05/15/2014 10:00:45 MDT.

Erica Ruch
(skrapp138) - M
I've had a moment... on 05/15/2014 19:47:02 MDT Print View

I feel strange posting this - but my backpacking history is entirely solo (my husband hates hiking! Ha!), and last fall I had a moment where I was camping down in a canyon and a man showed up that was definitely giving me "unwanted attention". There weren't any options to move my camp, and really my only option would have been to pack up and night hike out of there (not really an option). Thankfully nothing happened other than some irritating attention.

That night I lay awake in my tent and had a feeling of vulnerability for the first time on the trail - and I was in a situation I hadn't really anticipated in my wilderness planning. I've prepared (as much as one can) for encounters with a wild animal or a fall on the trail, but I hadn't really thought about what I would do if I was stuck alone in the wilderness with a creepy dude.

I did wish someone else was there at that moment!

I still backpack solo - I'll be hiking the JMT solo this fall. I'd like to think that we're definitely in an era where women can safely hit the trail alone without a worry. Usually everyone I've met on the trail has been very friendly, but it was definitely some food for thought....

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
rational...or irrational?? on 05/16/2014 06:49:45 MDT Print View

I'm (hopefully!) taking my first multi-day solo trip over Memorial Day weekend. I'm lying to my family and I've told them others are going - I would catch so much grief and frankly, I'm not sure I'd be able to go without a fight. Not worth it....

I'll bring the Delorme tho....and my big dog with a deep bark.

I've been backpacking for more than 20 years - all over the world - I think I'm ready. Maybe.

. .
(RogerDodger) - F

Locale: (...)
... on 05/16/2014 07:44:53 MDT Print View


Edited by RogerDodger on 07/01/2015 13:46:42 MDT.

Tyler N

Locale: Vuur-Gin-Yaa!
Re: Different State of Mind on 05/16/2014 07:45:21 MDT Print View

+1 on that Luis. To spend time outside and KNOW you are responsible for for the soul and a great reality-check. Erica's post brings up the immediacy of LIFE - I'm glad you're ok Erica BTW! I grew up running around the woods; now that I have a more rounded skill set though I have a very different appreciation for my capabilities and *especially* safety. That's been a big revelation and refuge I find in spending time alone outside - confronting ALL of reality. Sun, surf, rain, high winds, "Where's water?", possible mugger, "Is this safe?", "What's my out?".
This has built my character better than watching "reality" TV and waiting for someone to fix my faucet. REAL fear reminds me of what *is* important, not just what I'm "worried about".

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: I've had a moment... on 05/16/2014 08:34:45 MDT Print View

Erica, as a man I would not presume to comment on or give you advice on the feeling, the situation or what to do about it. I will only say whether the situation is a real or only potential threat, it has always made me angry that women have to bear this kind of burden - ever since I was about 7 and realized my mom was constantly afraid when by herself.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: I've had a moment... on 05/16/2014 13:44:32 MDT Print View


Interestingly the only thing I've ever been afraid of in the woods are creepy guys. Animals not so much, injuries - a safe respect for them - but the only thing that really gets me is the thought of a guy with a 2nd amendment fetish and a pickup truck full of empty beer cans deciding that I am a target of opportunity.

I guess this is partly a byproduct of really only being able to backpack in areas readily accessible by vehicles and groups of drunken people.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - M

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: I've had a moment... on 05/16/2014 14:00:45 MDT Print View

Jeniffer, pepper spray.

There are some trips that I will absolutely not do solo. They involve wading through creeks and scrambling over wet rocks. The danger here is slipping, hitting my head, becoming unconscious, and then drowning. Having a partner mitigates that risk tremendously.

I do think that having a partner is very advantageous, especially in challenging weather. Especially if you get in a real bad weather/temp drop situation where exercise some basic survival skills to improve your situation and keep warm. You can divide up the tasks, one person gets the shelter up while the other gets a fire going. One person starts cooking food and the other starts drying out wet clothing.

That being said, I have no problem going solo in most situations and I don't think it's a serious increased risk.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Re: I've had a moment... on 05/16/2014 14:09:23 MDT Print View

"The danger here is slipping, hitting my head, becoming unconscious, ....."

How would having a partner mitigate that risk?

Edited by greg23 on 05/16/2014 14:10:44 MDT.