by Randy Pierce
This post is not some romantic melodrama inspired by the majesty of the mountain hikes, but rather addresses a common inquiry from concerned friends. The question is: Do I fall or hurt myself on these hikes?
The reality of hiking is that most folks will bash a shin or two, or even roll an occasional ankle upon the rock jumble that covers much of the White Mountain trails. It is also realistic to expect that I am going to be more susceptible to these pitfalls than other people. While I have joked that my shins are mere “Object Detectors” in everyday life, I am not eager to cause myself unnecessary pain. So, I make solid efforts to minimize the bumps and bruises that I accumulate on my hiking adventures. I use the best-quality footwear that I can find, I stay very attentive to Quinn’s cues and trust his protective guidance, and lastly, I use my hiking trekker pole to help detect obstacles as I stride along.
Despite these and other protective measures, I have fallen on occasion, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. I have a set of rules for falling, through which I pay particular attention to where and how my fall is most safe. Since I do not know what is ahead or to the side of me, I concentrate on falling where I’m standing or where I’ve been, presuming that the area behind me is a safe fall. I try to fall on my pack when possible, or at least minimize the impact using my pack as padding. I have many safety approaches in my mind as I move, and for the most part, I feel very successful at keeping myself safe.
During the entire Mt. Washington trip, I believe I fell twice. The first fall was a very controlled, effective drop in place. This is a great example of the majority of my falls: small, low-impact, little to no harm done. I did, however, challenge Carrie’s claim that I have rubber ankles while on the summit cone of Washington. The second time I fell, I was entangled by loose scree and an angled ankle trap. I was unable to twist my pack under me for cushioning, and in this rare instance, my best choice was to fall in such a fashion as to not further endanger my trapped ankle, even though it meant falling far to one side. It was a risk for me to do this, but my hiking pole indicated that there was at least no drop in that direction. The trick was to stay loose and curl my side, so as to avoid breaking a limb I might otherwise be tempted to thrust out to catch me.
So, the answer to the question is yes. I do fall, and sadly I do occasionally hurt myself. Fortunately, with the right preparation, I’ve ensured that this happens rarely, and has minimal impact (ok, pun intended) upon the fantastic experience of the adventure. Everyone evaluates risk versus reward, and in my case, the risk remains low and the reward is tremendous. And if I get the occasional bump or bruise? Well, it’s just part of the adventure and builds a ‘better’ story!