I’ve seen some stories lately that bring to mind some wise words and a few bad memories. They mostly deal with people getting hurt or even killed while trying to enjoy the outdoors.
Last week, a Wyoming man was hiking a mountain called Quandary Peak near Breckenridge, Colo. Quandary is a busy peak, and its famous east ridge is thought to be the ideal place to try summiting a 14,000-foot peak for people who have never done one before. In other words, it’s a beginner route.
Even so, that doesn’t mean it’s “easy.” And it’s not always safe. This same man, in his early 50s, had already hiked up the most strenuous portion of the route, a somewhat steep final pitch just below the summit. Two-hundred feet below the top, he went into cardiac arrest and died. Had he been hiking anywhere else but there, he’d likely be alive today, but a pre-existing heart condition was magnified under extremely physically taxing conditions.
This is not an isolated incident. Although Quandary’s east ridge is not considered dangerous, its altitude and the sheer number of people who try it make the mountain one of the most common places for search-and-rescue calls. No doubt, this is because people think of the peak as “safe” and may or may not take the endeavor as seriously as they should.
I’m reminded of stories closer to home that have ended badly. Like the Texas man a few years back hiking around Mount Scott in the middle of a winter storm. He fell, broke his leg and spent several days in cold, harsh conditions exposed to the elements before he was found by a couple of hikers. Luckily, this man lived. Going solo in a winter storm on a rugged place like Mount Scott showed some disregard for the risks at play in what many might think of as a pretty tame environment.
Lastly, I remember back to my own misadventures that occurred exactly a year ago today. I was in Colorado, climbing Mount Yale. A pre-existing respiratory condition that seemed minor that morning blew up into full-blown edema and pneumonia once I reached the summit and made for a dangerous and potentially deadly situation for me. I’m grateful to have survived it and recovered.
I’ve related this story to friends and co-workers, but have been hesitant to tell it here. But after reading about last week’s tragedy on Quandary Peak, I figured now might be a good time to relive last year’s Labor Day climb of Mount Yale and all the things that went wrong. I’ll be doing that in a series starting tomorrow. So please check in and take a look at what I fully admit was a series of mistakes that I made which cost me dearly.