A Dawn Patrol trip up the South Ridge of Mt. Superior this morning reminded me of an sobering lesson from 2002.
The first time I ventured up this ridge, I read about it in the local guidebook and brought along a rope and rock climbing equipment. The ridge turned out to be so straightforward and moderate that I never used any gear and subsequently did it many more times with increasingly less and less equipment until it had become a race track. There were plenty of willing partners and the faster we got, the easier it seemed. At one point someone asked how hard it was and I remember saying that it had some exposure, but you’d have to try to hurt yourself if you fell.
On September 4th, 2002, I was proved wrong on this theory when a close friend, Dan Rector, slipped and fell to his death. Dan was about 100′ feet behind on an exposed ridge just as the sun was coming up when I heard him say “whooah…” and then tumble off the ridge. I’ll never know if it was loose rock, missed handhold or an untied shoelace, but the underlying premise was that we had become inured to the danger and exposure to the point where we considered it safe, easy ground, which in reality it is not.
In terms of skiing, the same thing happens. The longest fall I’ve ever taken took place on a run which I’d skied so many times it seemed boring and I let my guard down. Five-hundred vertical feet later, I was amazed to be alive and had a new perspective on “safe” terrain. More than any single run, it changed the way I ski. The lesson I took away from this is that at times, under-rating moderate terrain can be far more dangerous than being fully engaged when the dangers are obvious.
Any similar experiences?
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Category: 12 Staying Healthy