The news of Chuck's injury brought back the memories of a couple of near misses, and got the rusty brain cogs squeeking again.
I think we can all agree that falling is a real and ever present danger when pursuing game in the mountains.
Slopes are usually steep and footing is almost always treacherous--If it's not wet, or snowy, or icy it's a thin layer of scree on rock.
We hunters usually have a heavy pack on which affects our agility and compounds footing dilemmas, or we're simply ignoring the alarm bells going off in our heads because we're in the final phase of a stalk and all hopped up on adrenalin, or it's the next to last day and we're under self-imposed pressure to close the deal. Any number of things really. And what's really amazing is how often we will crawl into spots with a rifle on our backs that would make a seasoned mountaineer question our sanity while asking why we went there without being roped up?
So, with the hope of having a possibly enlightening discussion on risk assesment on mountain hunting, a few questions...
1) Have you ever fallen or had a near miss in steep terrain while hunting?
2) If so, how did you come to be in that spot at that moment?
3) What errors of judgement did you make?
4) Did your equipment make an impact, positive or negative?
5) How did that experience alter your hunting style/method afterwards?
1) I took two tumbles on different days on a goat hunt.
2) The first came after the shot. I succeeded in getting above the goat and after the shot it took a few steps and disappeared behind the convex curve of the hill. I took off in a hurried sidehill across a 50* slope of slanted shale ledges peppered with scree. My intent was to intercept the goat for a finishing shot (I thought it would flee uphill). Within 50 yards I came to a gully about 8 feet across filled with old, hard, icy snow.
3) 1st error was not detouring 100 feet uphill to cross this gully at it's origin. 2nd error was convincing myself that the 1/2" deep groove I was able to kick into it was adequate. 3rd error was commiting to this dumb idea. I placed the edge of my left boot sole in that groove and as soon as I put my full weight on that foot it slipped. I was rapidly accelerating towards a series of mini-cliffs in the 6'-10' range that would have eventually sent me flying to a 50'-60' drop onto a large, icy hard snowfield below. I managed to roll right, off the snow and back on to the broken shale and scree. I slid another 20 feet or so and ripped up my pants and the skin on my hands.
4) I had on good boots (Meindl's) but no instep crampons. I also had no ice axe or trekking poles.
5) I upgraded my equipment and practiced with it. I also added a small amount of climbing gear (rope, 8, carabiners, ascender) in the event I ever need it for a recovery.
The second fall came two days later during the pack out. I had left my pack behind because I couldn't get traction to climb out of the snow bowl, and pushed for home with the intention of going back after getting the proper gear (borrow or buy). I went back with a borrowed set of full 16 pt crampons, and some fiberglass CC ski poles as impromptu trekking poles. On the final descent, I tried to step down off a small ledge about 30" (should have taken the 125lb pack off first) and just caught the tip of one of the heel spikes and teetered forward.
The ski pole snapped and I came very close to impaling myself on it before tumbling, as they say, ass-over-tea-kettle down the mountain side. Fortunately I was at the top of a "soft" scree slope and escaped injury minus a few minor scrapes. Somewhere in the 2nd or 3rd somersault my Cabela's Alaskan II external frame pack pulled right up over my head taking my anorak, fleece top and long john top off with it! The chest strap was snug and hip belt tight, and the whole thing slipped right off like a parent peeling a tee shirt off of a toddler.
So, half naked and picking tiny pieces of scree out of my armpits I made my way down the mountain to my pack and the rest of my clothes and got dressed again. (Pack had only some minor dings on the frame tubing).
Unfamiliarity with the gear--first time in my life on crampons and never before humped a pack that heavy, and wrong tool for the job (should of had insteps and proper poles) played a role and I knew instantly how lucky I'd been.