Backpacking Achilles Heel

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SweetSierra
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by SweetSierra » Fri Dec 27, 2013 7:41 pm

Tom_H,
Thanks for your story. I enjoyed it! I was also free to wander around small plots of land near my home when I was a girl. The wilderness has always been a refuge, a joy, and solace for me as well. It's home. Though I've experienced that anxiety at times, it's a fleeting feeling. One of my favorite experiences was at a camp site in Fish Creek valley with my ex-husband several years ago on the evening before the season's first snow storm. Our dog was beside me, the creek was slowly circling an oxbow, and the vast old growth conifer forest with their immense trunks and swaying tops was at my back and seemed to be breathing. There's nothing like a wild place.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Dec 28, 2013 10:06 pm

All of the above at various times. Depends on the degree of danger- the threshold thing. I have bumped up to my threshold in all areas, and thankful I lived to tell about it. Probably the least rational is fear of animals- but only when I solo. I feel I am a tasty little meal when I am alone. I am more afraid of mountain lions than bear. Also moose (not in the Sierra, obviously). Grizzly bears more so than black bears. Rattlesnakes too. I do not fear mountain sheep or goats. Ran around a corner once into a porcupine- that made my heart skip. I have also done a few stupid things- like descend a very steep icy crevassed glacier (100-foot deep crevasses) with nothing more than crampons and trekking poles. Also feel through and got stuck in a melt-out next to a rock wall (in Ionian Basin) on a very steep slope. I was nearly upside down with my leg painfully stuck and the pack was too heavy so I feared hurting my leg so I unbuckled the waist strap and let the pack fly down the slope towards one of those deep blue lakes! Thankfully it stopped short of splashing into the water. Another objective danger that really frightens me is rockfall and avalanches. I have had bowling ball size rocks bounce from one side of a steep chute to the other while I just sat there and hoped I would be OK. I think a lot depends on how far you push the envelope when "backpacking". As I get older I do less of such stuff. Definitely afraid of lightning- sat out plenty of severe lightning on rock ledges while climbing. Rationally, it is true that nothing could be done, but I never was able to "enjoy" the light show.

Thanks old ranger to remind is of our aging bodies. We forget that flexibility and balance are so important as we age and if you really work on these as you age (staring at 40) you can slow down the demise.

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SweetSierra
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by SweetSierra » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:24 am

WD, speaking of porcupines, I was awakened by one while camping in Colorado last year. It came up to the side of the tent and grunted. I sat up straight. I didn't know what it was. I thought, young bear? I said, kind of gently, go away, go away! That didn't work. Finally my light sent it off. When I finally got up, I saw it waddling away. It was fun to see one, from a distance.
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by John Dittli » Sun Dec 29, 2013 9:47 am

Bivied in the Mt Rainier backcountry, I was awakened when the boot I was using as a pillow began to move. Fortunately I slowly opened my eyes; I was looking face to face with a large porcupine. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, I think it was surprised that this salt lick had eyes!

It slowly backed away and ambled into the woods.
Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by Tom_H » Sun Dec 29, 2013 6:16 pm

John Dittli wrote:Bivied in the Mt Rainier backcountry, I was awakened when the boot I was using as a pillow began to move. Fortunately I slowly opened my eyes; I was looking face to face with a large porcupine. I'm not sure whose eyes got bigger, I think it was surprised that this salt lick had eyes!

It slowly backed away and ambled into the woods.
OMG, that is absolutely hilarious! Thanks.

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by Bargy » Thu Jan 16, 2014 11:10 pm

Stream crossings and lightning for sure - cos I don't climb, or hike in snow....

I never had a problem with stream crossings until crossing on the boulders at the last little lake on the north side of Donahue Pass. I got to the 3rd boulder, felt very wobbly and sat down. My husband had already crossed. He came back and took my pack, and I was then able to cross on the boulders. Later in the same trip we came to a log crossing over Rush Creek and there was no way I could do it. The next summer I once again baulked at boulder crossings - this one at the inlet to Evolution. It looked easy til about the third one and then I had to turn back. That time I ended up wading across and bursting into tears on the other side. This had begun to turn into a phobia. The rushing water seemed to give me vertigo and the higher I was above it, the worse it was. I hated to be dependent on others to hold my hand or carry my pack. So the next summer, I told myself it was OK to wade, and just to see what I could do - no pressure. Taking it slowly, using my poles, I gradually managed what had been scaring me before. But it's been low water years for the last two, and how I'd do in higher-than-my-knees stuff, I have no idea.

As for lightning - it never bothered me at all until we got caught on the way to Duck Creek from Reds - rain then hail then thunder and then really close lightning and thunder. We spread out and all assumed the position, and argued the merits of pushing on or staying put. Finally we were getting cold, so camped at the side of the trail. There was still a lot of tree cover. The lightning crashed around us and hail piled up against the tent for a few hours, then moved off. The next day it moved in again, but we went lower and that was that. But the following year on the JMT, I found myself continually scrutinizing the sky for clouds, then feeling the anxiety build, fast heart rate, cotton-mouth, it was very unpleasant and I'm sure nasty for my hiking partner too. And of course this culminated in a huge, out of the blue, over our heads, lightning storm at Charlotte Lake. I lay in my tent, repeating various nonsense rhymes as a way to distract myself. I know all the science and the wilderness advice on what to do and not do, and which tree to avoid and so on - but all that is really not much help. The previous person who said the more that they know, the more panicked they get, had it nailed! Any advice on dealing with this one, would be much appreciated. I know Maverick hikes up and photographs those strikes - amazing!

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by SweetSierra » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:59 am

With lightning, I feel as oldranger said, that if normal precautions are taken, then the rest is out of my control. If up high and exposed, it's more unnerving. In the usual circumstances of sometimes being caught in the semi open or camped among trees, I tell myself that many many people encounter thunderstorms every year and aren't hit by lightning. So chances are everything will be okay. It sounds like you do things that help you relax. Perhaps with more experience in thunderstorms and practicing relaxation techniques, I think that you will likely lose that fear.

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by Flux » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:19 pm

Don't know if it's my age or whatever, but I have definitely become more paranoid about all the things you mention on the list, except for bears maybe. I haven't had any bad encounters with them and always take precautions.

Lighting got to me in the Royce Basin 2 years ago and chased me out of there the next day. Laying in my tent in the middle of the night counting flash to bang intervals had me worried. When it FLASH-BANG hit the top of Royce above our camp I definitely had a moment. It did again that the next day after we summited Meriam and my buddy came down after doubling up and hitting Royce I basically tucked tail and headed out as soon as we got a break in the weather. I felt very exposed up there and very unnerved after those events.

I have always been pretty good with lightning and have had some strikes near me that were very close. I guess the exposure up there was just too much for me even though it was striking Royce 1300 feet above me. No shelter except for my little aluminum arch of poles.

I feel the same way about height exposure. It's not the height necessarily, it's any precarious exposure. Looking down over the backside of Agassiz made me a bit nervous. I backed away from the sidewalk to Conness. Yeah, I am chicken. I'll scramble and hike, but unroped exposure is not my thing.

I have a lot of anxiety about getting into a medical emergency in the backcountry. This is all in my head, but I am always checking my physical state. I have bonked before out there and suffered nose bleeds from dryness that made me nervous. I am careful about my condition and maybe pay too much attention and just need to relax.

So my achilles is mostly due to having not eaten constantly and bonking a couple times. I have since changed my diet a lot but I have no idea if I will still suffer the same hypoglycemia type thing that I ran into before. Lighting?? I am going low. Heights?? Good footing and no cliff edges. And just try and relax, it's all good out there.

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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by oldranger » Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:17 pm

Flux,

Low isn't all that safe either, one year a guy was killed by lightning along Bubbs Creek just a little below the Sphinx Creek Bridge. A couple of years later lighting struck a tree about 200 yards from the roaring river ranger station right at a campsite occupied by two of my friends. Luckily they were having dinner with me when the lightning struck. So you do what you can do but there are no guarantees so why worry?

Mike
Mike

Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!

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rlown
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Re: Backpacking Achilles Heel

Post by rlown » Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:44 pm

oldranger wrote: Luckily they were having dinner with me when the lightning struck.

Mike
Were you cooking? I thought that was off limits. :)

On another lightning note, I see the Rio Jesus got hit. Lost it's right thumb. Lightning is never fun.

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