While skinning along a long ridge yesterday, I couldn’t stop thinking about risk in the mountains. We’ve already had so many tragedies this winter and I was brainstorming on how to expose the dangers of the mountains in a more humanistic light.
At dinner tonight in the Hakuba Powder Lodge, I asked the pertinent question to all my experienced mountain friends: “What scares you the most in the mountains?”
Their answers were all very interesting and very relevant. Surprisingly, nobody said avalanches. In general, it seems that my friends are most afraid of situations that they have no control over. Lack of control is a very scary thing…
“What Scares You the Most in the Mountains?”
Matthias: “Being exposed to something I have no control over, like a huge cornice collapse or a serác fall. Ending up in a situation, by myself, that I can’t get out of on my own. Uneducated people who drop in above me when I’m in an exposed position. Something bad happening to someone in my group because of a decision I made. Sluff in tight couloirs.”
Charlie: “Blind rollovers and just the general sense of not knowing what is below me.”
Zach: “Unnecessary exposure. Being underneath something really big that you can’t control. Or when skiing up to a ledge/cornice when you don’t know how close you can get to it.”
Txema: “People skiing/riding above me when I’m in an exposed position.”
Eika: “When you’ve been waiting a longtime and you’re super stoked and a big storm dumps a huge amount of snow. In this situation, it’s easier to make bad decisions as you’re so fired up and been waiting so long.”
Nick: “Visibility. I know I can keep myself safe for the most part when I can see where I’m going. When the visibility goes away quickly, you don’t know where you are, and you can end up in a dangerous place you normally would avoid. Not being able to see in the mountains and not knowing where I am scares me”
Patrick: “Me or someone in my group getting hurt in the backcountry.”
Ryan: “Peeing on yourself when you’ve really gotta go and it’s really windy out.”
What are you most afraid of in the mountains? Lets get a list going and help put some of these ideas into our heads before we head out into the backcountry.