Safety Talk – Fall on Trail: The most treacherous terrain can be flat
Lessons from Mountaineer Incidents
Seattle Climbing and Seattle Safety committees are experimenting with raising awareness of safety issues that can arise on climbs, scrambles, backcountry skiing, and other Mountaineer activities.
Identifying information has been removed or disguised.
-- Dave Shema, Seattle Branch Safety Officer
There have been a number of incidents this year where the trail has been the major hazard. Nothing new here – the trail has always been out to get you. The following 3 incidents support that claim.
June 4, 2011 – Ira Spring Trail (Bandera Mt)
Injuries: Cut hand
Cause of Accident: Tripping on the trail
One of our hiking party tripped and fell on her right hand. The result was a 3/4 inch cut which was irrigated and closed up with surgistrips and a pressure bandage was applied. When she returned to Seattle, she went to a hospital to have the wound stitched up.
June 24, 2011 – Ingalls Peak/S Ridge
Injuries: Bruised knee
Cause of Accident: Fall on trail
On the hike down one of our party slipped on the trail and banged her knee on a rock. After we examined her it was determined that she could walk with mild discomfort. There was a small wound which was cleaned and bandaged. Ace bandage was applied for support, and her pack was divided among others, and she was able to walk the remaining mile to the car. Her knee was stiff and sore, and she made a Dr. appointment for the next day.
August 5, 2011 – Dip Top
Injuries: Cut finger
Cause of Accident: Slip and fall on trail
After summiting, we were following the rough fisherman's trail back to camp, when I slipped and got a fairly bad laceration across the back of one finger. Everyone else did a good job of helping me out with this; we irrigated the wound and patched it up. I went to the emergency room when we got home, and am now taking antibiotics just in case, but there should be no lasting damage. This is my worst injury on a Mountaineer's trip, and a good reminder to concentrate even on what seems to be very benign terrain.
Points to Ponder
Why do we fall on trails?
If trails are rough, then just standing up can sometimes be tricky. Yet most of the time, we navigate these trails just fine. Any stumbles are explainable and not unexpected – things were even more unstable than we thought.
Dry and smooth trails almost always provide an easy route. Alas, every now and then we end up kissing the dirt, or tumbling off the edge. What’s our excuse for stumbling?
One thought … it’s our “autopilot”. Most of the time, taking steps is automatic. Only when the going is tricky do we pay attention. Otherwise, eye-step coordination proceeds without any conscious intervention on our part. But if we are distracted or tired, our autopilot misses some of the details and tiny obstructions on a perfectly great trail can do us in.