Close Calls

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Rockskipper

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I was having trouble thinking too much last night (an unusual problem for me) and couldn't sleep, and I started recalling some close calls I've had on the trail. I think it would be interesting to hear what some of you have encountered in terms of scary stuff that happened to you in the outback - whether it be accidents, near accidents, or general close calls of some form or other.
 
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Jackson

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Replying so I can stay updated. I've never had a single truly close call that I can think of.

The only thing that may even be considered "close" was when I was out along the South Buffalo Fork in the Absarokas with a friend two summers ago. We were trying to avoid fording the creek, so we were keeping to the south side of it despite the trail being on the north side. This entailed thrashing through pretty thick willow growth on faint game trails or no trail. So we generally had no idea what was directly around us. We started to smell something pretty rancid, and we couldn't figure out what it was. About a minute later, we came into a clearing with lots of smashed down grass and a half-eaten deer carcass in the middle. Right next to that was a pile of very fresh-looking bear scat. It took us a second to notice all of the details and put it together in our heads, but as soon as we did, we had no trouble convincing ourselves it was time to cross the creek and get back on the actual trail. Probably good odds a grizzly bear was nearby, and the last place we wanted to be was near its lunch. Especially in those extremely low visibility willow thickets. We never saw or heard the bear, so I don't know if this really was a close call or not, but our hearts were pounding and we had our bear spray ready to go just in case.
 

Rockskipper

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That's pretty much what caused the death of the forestry worker on Togwotee Pass a few years ago. He came upon a cache. I wonder how many close encounters we've all had and didn't even know it.
 
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Rockskipper

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Here's an MTB close call. not really the outback, but was riding down Independence Pass (I know, I know) and my front tire popped and I went skidding across the road still on the bike but on my side, coming to a stop maybe a whole 3 feet from the bumper of a car, who had stopped just in time. Broke my thumb, lots of road rash, and damaged some nerves on my hip, but very happy I didn't die.
 
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Jackson

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That's pretty much what caused the death of the forestry worker on Togwotee Pass a few years ago. He came upon a cache. I wonder how many close encounters we've all had and didn't even know it.
We walked past the drainage that guy died in on that same trip, just above Cub Creek. I think he died a year or two prior to our trip.

But yeah, I'm sure there are other times where I've been close to danger and just not even been aware.
 

zionsky

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A few years back, the wife and I were vacationing in Katmai National Park. We were on the trail headed to the observation platform at Brooks Falls. The platform itself is fenced and gated since it is one way in and out but the trail (maybe a mile long) is not. The trail goes through a pretty lush and dense forest so you can't see that far ahead of you. As we made our way down the trail, I heard some brush and limbs crackling ahead of us. We stopped to listen and soon enough, a large grizzly popped out of the brush. He was probably 100-150 feet away from us. He looked at us and stood up on his hind legs. The wife and I froze. I'm pretty sure part of my life flashed before my eyes. After a minute, he returned to all fours and headed back into the woods. I guess he had already eaten.
 

zionsky

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Katmai is for sure a place I'd like to visit. I bet @Scott Chandler has some stories from there.
Highly recommend! We were only there three days but so many memories. Up close bear encounters; first float plane take off and landing; land of 10,000 smokes; waking up with a bear on the front porch of the cabin next to us; nearly tipping the kayak over in naknek lake after a salmon jumped in it. I can't wait to return!
 

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regehr

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Most of my close calls have been self-inflicted dipshittery where at some point common sense was ignored, prepared plans not followed, turnaround times blown off, or similar.

I mean, a bear can always come kill you, or a rockfall smash you, but I always feel about 10 times safer in the backcountry than I do in my regular life where I have to cope with people texting instead of looking for stop signs, etc.
 

wsp_scott

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The closest I have come to a close call is last Labor Day weekend with my oldest kid (she was almost 10). We were in the Smokies for the weekend. All of the campsites have bear cables, basically a wire strung between two trees about 25 feet up with wire loops on the overhead wire to hang packs and food, like this (not my pic)



Anyway, one of the "games" we have played in the past is where she puts her foot in the loop and I pull her up off the ground. We do this once or twice and then she says "I can pull myself up" I tell her no way, but go ahead and try. The next thing I know she is flat on her back. At first I just laughed, but then I realized she wasn't breathing. It turns out, she just knocked the breath out and sort of passed out, but it freaked me out when I had to shake her to get her to take a breath. She ended up fine, just a little sore from landing on her back, but for a minute I thought I had killed my oldest kid. It still freaks me out a little bit when I think about it.

The rest of the trip was great https://backcountrypost.com/threads/dad-and-daughter-go-paddling.8009/
 

gnwatts

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Almost falling into the fire would count, too. ;)
I have almost done that a few times in my career.
My only real backpacking close call was on a trip in Mule Canyon on Cedar Mesa. A friend and I headed up North Mule, and deciced to exit North Mule and hike over to South Mule, descend and back to the car. On the descent into South Mule on slickrock, in a light rain, we were stopped just above the canyon floor and had to retreat back up. In my infinite wisdom, I decided to climb out at a different spot that looked doable. My friend who has brains went back up the way we came. I proceeded up nicely until I realized I was screwed, could not go up or down. It was about a 100' fall to the canyon floor. I started screaming for my friend (who was safely on top above me) for help. I was starting to get the shakes in my legs, scared shitless. Upon reaching a small ledge about 10' below me and to the side he talked me down, telling me where the toe holds were as it was difficult for me to see down. I have since become a dedicated coward, at least when it comes to backpacking.
 

Rockskipper

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Here's another one of mine, though I hate to admit this one.

I fell off a cliff into Box Canyon once (that's where they have the ice climbing competitions in Ouray). I fortunately landed in a bush, just like in the movies, only about 5 feet down, and some friends pulled me up. We were night hiking with headlamps, wanting to see the falls in the moonlight. I wasn't even scared until later when it all sank in, as it was such a weird experience that I wasn't even sure what had happened. Ironic, since I've been afraid of heights since I was a kid.
 

regehr

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Ooo I thought of one. I've long had a bizarre paranoia about having my hat blown off when I'm next to a cliff and making a big reflexive lunge for the hat. So a few years ago I was on the traverse between N and S Nebo. It's fairly sketch in a few places. So of course you can see where this is going: the exact thing I've worried about happens!! Luckily I stopped myself before over-balancing, and ended up being able to downclimb to grab the hat anyway. But yikes!!!
 

Dreamer

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Some of you may have heard this story before. https://backcountrypost.com/threads/condensation-happens-my-trip-to-the-bighorns.7590/

I was camped at the base of Cloud Peak in the Bighorns in the middle of August. After a nice warm and sunny scramble to the summit I went to sleep in my WPB bivy sack as a warm thunderstorm broke out. It transitioned to heavy wet snow, still coming down thick with 4” on the ground in the early morning. I had a huge amount of condensation in the bivy and my down sleeping bag was drenched from the waist down. I bailed 13 miles to the trailhead and my truck. At first it was hard to see and keep the route in the snow. As I lost altitude the precip turned to cold rain. Wearing lightweight WPB rain gear and mesh trail runners, I was dry and able to stay warm enough while moving, except for my hands. All I had for them was thin fleece gloves and they were wet first thing in the morning. By the time I got to the vehicle I had to hold the key in between my palms to get in and start it. It took a half hour in the heat before my fingers would work enough to unzip my rain jacket.
 

joeygeo1

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I'm not sure if I count this as a close call, but last May my wife and I were on vacation in Grand Staircase and decided to take a day and do the Red Breaks Big West Fork Slot. Planned it in great detail and decided that after we were done with that, we were going to scoot on over to the Cosmic Ashtray and then back down to Harris Wash. With a nice sunny warm May day, we headed to Harris Wash early and then up Red Breaks wash to the slots. Worked our way through the slot and over all of the obstacles. Tough, but fun hike. As we headed out of the narrows and worked our way towards the Ashtray around noon, we found the geography of the land made it difficult to just hop over that way. No big deal, we worked our way over ridges and realized that we had to work our way further north as eventually the ridges would smooth over and eventually be able to be crossed. We ended up doing this around 1 in the afternoon and the day started getting very hot. As I realized that I had to go north through a sandy wash to eventually go east, and then eventually south about 4 miles back to the car, I thought that we were fine as long as we had water in our 3 Liter Osprey bladders. It was literally around this time when my wife said that she was out of water. After verifying that she indeed was out of water and saying a few F bombs to myself, we found a small shade tree to regather our thoughts and plans. While I knew exactly where we were and where I had to go, I wasn't able to get there due to geography and ridges I couldn't cross. I even had the Backcountry Navigator app to make sure I knew where I was. We left the tree and headed up the sandy wash but thankfully soon found slickrock. Once that happened, the ridges smoothed over and we were able to take a straight line over to the Ashtray. Meanwhile, I had to ration my 2L of water for the two of us and hoped that it would last long enough. We stopped by the ashtray for a quick exploration (our second time) and then headed down toward the old dirt road that runs to the east of the ashtray and then down to Harris wash. After a very long, dry, and sandy hike back to the car, we arrived very tired and thirsty with just a few swallows of warm water left.

In hindsight, I need to take one more liter of water per person to adjust for situations like I encountered. We did encounter one pool of water that I could have refilled at, but I didn't realize that my wife was that low on water. I also thought that I could get over to the Ashtray much easier than we did as I think that we left Red Breaks a little earlier and should have gone a little more north before heading over. In any case, it gave me new appreciation for being thirsty in the desert and more understanding of how things can go wrong so quickly on a hot day.
 

Rockskipper

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Some of you may have heard this story before. https://backcountrypost.com/threads/condensation-happens-my-trip-to-the-bighorns.7590/

I was camped at the base of Cloud Peak in the Bighorns in the middle of August. After a nice warm and sunny scramble to the summit I went to sleep in my WPB bivy sack as a warm thunderstorm broke out. It transitioned to heavy wet snow, still coming down thick with 4” on the ground in the early morning. I had a huge amount of condensation in the bivy and my down sleeping bag was drenched from the waist down. I bailed 13 miles to the trailhead and my truck. At first it was hard to see and keep the route in the snow. As I lost altitude the precip turned to cold rain. Wearing lightweight WPB rain gear and mesh trail runners, I was dry and able to stay warm enough while moving, except for my hands. All I had for them was thin fleece gloves and they were wet first thing in the morning. By the time I got to the vehicle I had to hold the key in between my palms to get in and start it. It took a half hour in the heat before my fingers would work enough to unzip my rain jacket.
Did you suffer any long-term effects?
 

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