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#202044 - 10/30/18 09:50 AM Turning around
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1820
Loc: Napa, CA
I think you can see why.©http://backpackthesierra.comThere are all kinds of wonderful quotes about adventure, epic voyages, and the need to keep pushing forward despite the conditions and the odds. We haven't found quite so many quotes that urge common sense and caution in the face of danger. And yet each year we read about people who lose their lives in the backcountry primarily because they just wouldn't admit that it was time to turn around.

(Note that despite these fatal accidents, it's still much safer to be hiking than driving in your car to the trailhead--or the local supermarket.)

And this got us thinking. We have made the decision to turn around because we didn't like the option of pushing forward on a number of occasions. Twice, that involved the potential crossing of a roaring creek; Mono Creek towards Second Recess in early July, and Frog Creek Towards Laurel Lake in late May in Yosemite. In both cases there was a log that provided at least a hope of getting across. But it was a long crossing, the log was high across the creek, and to fall into the creek below would have been disastrous---it was at full flood.

And so we turned around, and selected another route, and another destination.

We did the same thing as we worked our way cross-country above Yellowhammer Lake in the Emigrant Wilderness. The cliffs got steeper, the manzanita got denser, and we decided that there had to be another way.

There was. And we found it the next morning.

And just six weeks ago we did the same thing in the face of strong winds below Bishop Pass. With the winds blowing a steady 30 mph and with gusts to 50 mph where we were, a full 1500 feet below the pass, we decided that we didn't want to make the effort. Those we met on the trail who had come over the pass looked shell-shocked, to say the least.

And so we turned around, and chose another ending to our trip.

In each case, we were really happy with the decision. We love hiking, and seeing new things, And we are really that we are still here, still able to hike, and enjoying the benefits of turning around when it was the right thing to do.

So when have you turned around...and why?
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#202046 - 10/30/18 02:52 PM Re: Turning around [Re: balzaccom]
4evrplan Offline
member

Registered: 01/16/13
Posts: 761
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
Back in September I was hiking up Guadalupe Peak with two friends. We had just done an overnight the night before up a trail with 2000 ft of gain and then back down again that morning before we started on the trail to the peak. We'd made it to about 1200 ft above the parking lot and were making good time, when we stopped momentarily at the turn of a switchback to get our bearings and enjoy the view.

Now to protect the innocent, let's call my friends Paul and Art. Paul points to a flat wooded spot roughly 1000 ft above us and says "I think that's where the camp is". Art looks up to where Paul is pointing and suddenly, his knees give out from under him. He ineffectively grabs at Paul, but he can't hold on; he's going down, flat on his face, and he's out cold.

Now, there could have been any number of life threatening medical issues going on, but long story short, Art ended up being fine. When he came to, we all came slowly back down, together, and he got checked out by an EMT.

Thing is, it's a 12 hour drive for me out to GUMO, and we had to get back the next day. On top of that, I don't get out much, as budget is limited and commitments monoplize my time. It was really hard for me to turn around, but I knew it was the right thing to do. Once I'd made the decision, and Paul mentioned going for pizza, it was a lot easier laugh. GUMO will always be there, but you've got to look out for your friends.
_________________________
Hiking is the ultimate realization that the journey is more important than the destination.

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#202047 - 10/30/18 04:40 PM Re: Turning around [Re: 4evrplan]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6599
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Last time I turned around and aborted the trip was in Wyoming's Wind River Range. The cause was medical issues with my late dog Hysson, who got into spells of vomiting. It turned out to be just his sensitive Lab stomach, but of course vomiting in dogs can turn out to be a symptom of something serious requiring immediate surgery. The second morning this happened, I decided no way was I going to continue. We wandered back to a few miles from the Green River Lakes trailhead; I set up camp and we rested for a day while I fed Hysson very small amounts of food every couple of hours. It worked; the next day as we were ready to leave, Hysson felt good enough to run around the meadow several times at top speed! I kept doing the frequent small meals for a couple more days, as we made our way (by car) back to Oregon.
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#202048 - 10/30/18 04:56 PM Re: Turning around [Re: balzaccom]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1606
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Gosh, there have been so many over the years...

One of the earliest I can remember was a Scout trip. I was the Scoutmaster, and we were going to a state park; we drove over Friday night. This was back when none of us could afford really good gear, so we were using tarps. We set up in the dark; long story short, it rained. A lot. A whole lot. The next morning, we had about twenty Scouts who sleeping bags, clothing and spare clothing was soaked. Did I mention temperatures were in the 40-50 degree range, and more rain was predicted during the day? We pulled the plug on that one and went home - the hypothermia risks were just too high for that large a group?

More recently, it involved a planned 4-night trip to the Grayson Highlands (along the AT) in December. There were four of us (another old guy and me, plus a young and middle-aged fellow, both of whom had thru-hiked the trail.) It was late November; there had been rain at lower elevations, but the weather looked OK. We all had appropriate gear, and adequate experience for the conditions and time of year.

However, the day before we arrived, there had been an early-season snow that put about 6 inches on the Highlands (rain at low elevations.) We began the hike, and all was well the first day - walking in some snow, but the trail mostly clear. The second day, we got a bit higher, and began to encounter heavier snow and icy stretches on the trail - nothing we couldn’t handle, but everybody fell a couple of times (and the other old guy and I saw boulders pass within a couple inches of our heads on the way down.)

That night, we camped just off a ridge top. Unfortunately, it was the windy side when the rain started; we ended up getting a couple of inches of rain and snow mix, with steady 15 mile an hour winds. Again, no problem. The third day, the trails were significantly iced over; more near-miss falls. Around noon, we assessed our remaining route (which took us higher) and noticed the weather closing in. Deciding that we weren’t really equipped to handle increasingly icy trails, we decided to head out. After one iffy crossing of a rain-swollen creek, and a couple more falls, we got out without further incident. We never regretted our decision.

I know these aren’t as dramatic as the other incidents, but they were cases where we felt that continuing the trip weren’t worth the risks.

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#202049 - 10/30/18 06:12 PM Re: Turning around [Re: OregonMouse]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6599
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I forgot, but Glenn's post reminded me, that if Hysson hadn't gotten sick, my trip itinerary would have put me at ~11,000 feet just in time for a storm with fairly substantial snowfall! (This was mid-August, but such events are not rare at that altitude.) While I was equipped for it, I would probably have been two days behind schedule, so I'd have had to abort the rest of the trip (to Titcomb and Indian Basins) and hike out.

So Hysson's illness turned out to be a good thing!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#202050 - 10/30/18 09:56 PM Re: Turning around [Re: balzaccom]
Bill Kennedy Offline
member

Registered: 02/27/18
Posts: 141
Loc: Portland, Oregon
Most recently, I decided against even beginning a trip due to the smoke from a nearby fire. I got to the trailhead at McKenzie pass, figuring to go in where the PCT crosses, but looking across at the Sisters there was a lot of smoke (from the Terwilliger fire, I later learned) and I couldn't see hiking through it and then sleeping in it. Might have been OK, but...

A long time ago, a friend and I started out to hike around Glacier Peak, in the Glacier Peak Wilderness northeast of Seattle. On the second or third day, we crossed a couple of fast-moving glacial streams, Chocolate Creek and Milk Creek, I think. In the first case, we found a couple of logs and made a bridge, and in the second, we had one of those footlog-way-above-the-creek crossings. These days, I'd scoot across on my butt or something. Anyway, shortly thereafter it became a tangled bushwhack and we turned around, back over the creeks. I recall my friend commented that I looked a bit pale after the footlog crossing. No doubt. We went back around in the other direction, saw some beautiful scenery, but my ankle began to hurt due to the innumerable switchbacks, so we wound up hiking back out without making it to Kennedy Hot Springs. Nevertheless, I think of it as a great trip.
On that same trip, before we reached the creek crossings, we came across a tree that had been struck by lightning in the storm the night before. It had made a hole at the base of the tree about six feet across, and was still smoldering. As we stood there looking at it, wondering if we should do something (the forest was pretty wet), a sapling at the edge of the hole burst into flame from the heat. So, we collected water in everything we had, and managed to cool it off. I still recall lifting up the duff at the edge of the hole and seeing embers glowing quite a ways back in the earth.

On another occasion, also way back when, I went alone into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness around the first of November. There was a light dusting of snow at the trailhead, but by the time I gained some elevation, it was thigh-deep. I didn't have snowshoes, so I turned around, intending to camp lower, but that turned into a somewhat comical disaster due mostly to my lack of experience. So, I wound up walking out in the dark with my little Mallory flashlight (Colin Fltecher influence), hoping the batteries and bulb would last.
_________________________
Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else. -Margaret Mead

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#202052 - 10/31/18 12:16 PM Re: Turning around [Re: Bill Kennedy]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1820
Loc: Napa, CA
You folks have reminded me of three other instances:

Twice we've been turned around by rangers because there was an active fire where we were headed. We couldn't see it...but they had stationed someone at the trailhead to stop all traffic.

And once we had three hikes planned for the South Lake/North Lake area. The first one hammered us with hail from a storm that was expected to end the day before. When we hiked out two days later, the storm was still there, and clobbered us with rain just as we reached our car. We day hiked the rest of our vacation, and ran into many backpackers who told stories of hail the size of quarters pounding them. We were glad we were down below.

And finally, we once day-hiked to Chilnualna Falls near Wawona in winter. The trail was stunning...but the snow got deeper and deeper, And about 100 yards from the top of the trail, it edged along a precipice about 700 feet high. We could not see the trail, only deep snow. And we backed off because we didn't know exactly what was underneath that snow...and we didn't want to find out that there was air.
_________________________
balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#202053 - 10/31/18 02:12 PM Re: Turning around [Re: balzaccom]
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1606
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Your fire stories reminded me of one time in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge. We were planning a hike in one part of the Gorge, but when we got there, an unattended campfire had run amok and started a fire in the area we planned to visit - so that put a finish to those plans. Luckily, we were able to quickly regroup and go to another unaffected area of the Gorge - one of the advantages to revisiting areas you already know.

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#202085 - 11/07/18 08:25 PM Re: Turning around [Re: balzaccom]
Jim M Offline
member

Registered: 11/23/03
Posts: 306
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
When climbing we always figure out a "turnaround time." Nevertheless it is easy to get summit fever when you are near the top and you have reached your turnaround time. Except in ideal conditions it is usually a mistake to continue. I have always considered it an indication of good character to retreat rather than going to the summit when things turn to s**t. Most accidents can be avoided by good judgement. Turning around is sometimes the intelligent thing to do. A few of my most memorable climbs were exciting adventures where we actually didn't bag the summit.


Edited by Jim M (11/07/18 08:26 PM)
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Jim M

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#202088 - 11/08/18 02:58 PM Re: Turning around [Re: Jim M]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6599
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Good post, Jim! This is a vitally important safety precaution!

Especially for fall and winter hikes, it's good to have a turnaround time to get back to the trailhead well in advance of darkness. Particularly on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, in the north-facing forests and deep side canyons, it's getting pretty dark even before sunset. If you calculate your return time at civil twilight (1/2 hour after sunset), you'll be in complete darkness, particularly on the dim, cloudy days that occur on most winter days.

Of course with most of the Columbia Gorge trails still closed due to the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, the question is not so critical. I suspect that as those trails open back up, though, we'll see an increase of SAR callouts due to people still on the trails after dark! It's so easy to walk off a cliff in that area!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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