Blog: Hike Another Day

Knowing when to bail out — or stay at camp -can be a defining quality for a leader.

Managing risk in the outdoors has been the subject of books, courses, and scholarly research for decades. One of the things that you often hear — at least in climbing circles — is the phrase,

“There are old climbers and bold climbers. But not many old bold climbers”

The longevity of this phrase has something to do with the kernel of truth that this speaks to. Risk is a part of an adventure, and knowing how much is appropriate is part of what most people would loosely define as “experience.” An experienced person can often see the “snowball” coming from a long way off and circumvent the possible issues well in advance. A less experienced person may fall into “Heuristic Traps” or fail to see the warning signs of change.

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There are countless examples of a well-intentioned adventure turning into a dangerous misadventure — often known in climbing circles as Summit Fever. Sometimes the circumstances leading up to a misadventure are out of your direct control, sometimes they are a combination of lots of small little things that cumulatively amount to a BIG snowball.

New Zealand’s Outdoor Safety Code speaks of “Knowing Your Limits” which is a prompt to think about the hazards and risks you’ll encounter when you are out there, and knowing when to pull the pin and when to push through. This matters just as much on a winter alpine route as it does on a day walk. If your knowledge, skill or equipment is exceeded — for whatever reason -you are then in an outdoors environment exploring the consequences of your actions.

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While having a good plan, the correct equipment and the skill to use it are essential elements of an exciting adventure, knowing when you’ve crossed the line — or are about to — is vital. Nobody (really) wants to be the voice of reason that suggests the group turn around because it’s getting dark or the weather is coming in, but equally nobody wants to go to a funeral.

Avoiding ‘Summit Fever’ — a single-minded and stubborn focus on the goal in spite of itself — to make it home is an incredibly hard lesson to learn, and equally tough to suggest to your peers. “She’ll be right” is rarely the best strategy, and proponents of this kind of thinking lack the awareness of a group’s needs (focusing on their own) and are often letting the situation get the better of their ego.

Know your limits to make it home and do it all over again another day. — Mountain Safety Council

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Find Out More

We have a range of resources and social media channels to help you plan your trip more effectively and make it home! Head to Facebook / Twitter / YouTube and search #MakeItHomeNZ for links to the material.