I'm always interested in learning from other people's experiences. So I'm curious- in an outdoor environment, what is the most dangerous situation you've been in? What did you learn from it? What have you changed about how you pack or travel because of it?
I have two. The first was an overnighter in Eagle River near Blacktail Peak in July. Just as we got to the top of Blacktail, black clouds rolled in, cut our visibility to about 10 feet, and it started raining, then snowing. I was wearing cotton, my sleeping bag was at the top of my pack and not wrapped in a waterproof bag. I got wet, then cold, then hypothermic. It was a miserable night in a wet bag, shaking and getting muscle cramps. To this day, I don't wear cotton, I always have a hat and gloves, and all my gear goes into waterproof sacks.
The second was a kayaking expedition outside of Seward. We left late, and when we passed Caines Head and started heading west to find a beach to camp on, I lost sight of my partner. It was now dark, and he was paddling into black cliffs. The swells were gentle but 20 feet, and the only thing I could see was the white breakers on two beaches in front of me. I didn't know which beach my partner selected. We had split the gear, so one of us had a tent and one of us had the food. I don't recall any longer who had what. I finally decided to just beach it, and if I picked the wrong beach I would just wait it out. Fortunately for both of us, I selected the right beach. Now I am much more careful about traveling at night, and also try and make sure that even if I don't have the main shelter I've got something with me in my emergency kit that'll get me by. But the most important lesson I learned there was this: My partner was an experienced kayaker and I had ceded leadership to him. This was my first ever trip kayaking. The bottom line was he had shown poor judgment in starting us that late, in not communicating where he was going, in getting so far ahead of me I couldn't see him, and in how we packed the gear. After that, even if I was allowing a more experienced person to lead, when it came to my personal safety I made my own judgment calls.
I'm betting everyone here has some stories- I hope some of you will share. I would appreciate benefiting from other people's experience.
Happy New Year! I hope everyone's travels this year are safe and memorable.