Sunday, November 21, 2010


Risk is a person’s ability to make a decision that can heavily impact their life by stepping outside their comfort zone and hoping that the universe will take care of them.

Risk is a necessary component of our everyday lives. Without risk a typical day would involve internal conflict with oneself. You will always wonder would life be different if I would have just got off the couch. If a risk is not taken a person may never leave their home or get off the couch. With that being said a life without risk would be a boring one indeed. Risk is also fundamental to the human experience it creates character and an appreciation for life. It teaches us about ourselves and our peers and can bring people together through a particular experience. Through proper mitigation most accidents associated with risk can be minimal.

Inherent risks that affect me in my personal and professional life are things beyond my control such as weather, wildlife and other people. You never know what people are going to do, a person could jump in their car and slam into mine. I could trip over a rock and sprain my ankle. A person above me in the backcountry could trigger an avalanche or a rock slide or nature it’s self could cause these too happen. The weather could change on a summit, A Elk could get upset that my hammock is above his bed.

Some people may see the scenario with the Elk as perceived risk and it is now that I have been in the situation. Every time I hang my hammock I now look for signs of elk nearby. I know the chance of being in that situation again is slim but it’s always on my mind. With that being said I see perceived risks as things I have more control over. If I was backpacking in Alaska it would be reasonable to assume I could see a bear, more so if I was on the bank of the river during spawning season. Since I am aware of this risk there are things I can do to mitigate the risk yet still get risky feelings. I could carry electric fencing to put around my tent. I would leave my hammock at home for this one and I would carry bear spray.

Since I have an understanding of inherent risks/perceived risks in the backcountry I am more aware of ways to stay out of dangerous situations. I also know that not all situations can be avoided, so safe travel techniques would be key such as; one person at a time when crossing a possible avalanche area or group river crossing. Through avoidance I can also mitigate risk. An example of avoidance would be I’m backpacking in Colorado and a summit is on the agenda, the group I’m with sleeps in till 10 and we don’t get on the trail till 11. I know that storms usually roll in around 1-2 o’clock on the 14ers and that if we try to summit we will be above tree line in a storm, so we camp below tree line and try the following day. Mitigation is all about research, training/teaching, knowledge and staying up to date on developing techniques for safety.