As a young child I was taught that Mother ALWAYS Knows Best. Many of us were taught this, or more or less, were forced to have this engraved into our psyche at a young age. We are given the opportunity as we grow to learn and develop our own sense of what we should and shouldn't do. But in the end of course - Mother Knows Best or as I have modified - Mother is Always Right (and now that I'm married I'm constantly reminded that Mommy is always right).
What does this have to do with outdoor adventure you may ask - well it has everything to do with it. It was the first outdoor lesson that I was taught without my parents even realizing it. Let me elaborate a bit.
2014 saw it's shares of mishaps and misadventures in the canyons. Early on in the year it looked like it was going to be a rough year for adventurers. For those of you that have been in our office you might have seen my white board above my desk with the quote on it "Without Risk There is No Reward". In adventure sports this rings very true. We risk our lives in search of that next great thrill, or to see the next great landscape that many others are not willing to put risk into to see. When I take clients out I explain to them that the places they will see today, the majority of the human race will never experience. It is only with that step off the edge into the abyss and the trust in the rope do we see some wonderful sights. "Without Risk There is No Reward."
What does this have to do with my Mother? Well, not in the sense you are thinking, although I did tell a friend, Ram, this year that my mother would die if she saw what I was doing as I slid down a rock slab landing into a pool of water in a crevasse about 16" wide. The Mother I refer to in adventure sports is our very own Mother Nature. She always knows best, or in any sense, she is always right. Her laws and rules are permanent and we had better be mindful of them.
One issue that has always plagued us is the decision to go or not to go. This generally has more to do with the laws that Mother Nature has outlined in regards to weather and the safety that comes from the issues of diving into a slot canyon filled with water, or where water can potentially accumulate and take control of you. I try to instill in students during our courses that the hazards in canyons can be mitigated to a point to enjoy the adventure, but that when the hazards start adding up to more than we can mitigate at once, the risk becomes too great and it's not worth the reward anymore. The canyon will be there another day, let's make sure that we are as well.
I make no hesitation when booking trips to tell potential clients that if the weather seems questionable or the canyon seems out of reach at the time, then we won't be going in. I know there has been many that have been disappointed in this. A little over a year ago some potential clients booked and then proceeded to fly in from the Netherlands. After frequent communication and constant weather checking I cancelled the trip. They drove to our town just for the trip and showed up to talk with me. I explained that the recent storms and the future forecast has me too concerned for the safety to feel it will turn out in our favor. They, while being disappointed, expressed understanding and went on their way. Their natural path of travel took them past the canyons we were going to do and they spent the night there getting up early in the morning to look around. There were many other recreational canyoneers also camping at this location and they tried to convince these guys to go out with them instead. The clients declined relying on my hesitation they later told me. When they contacted me after getting back to the Netherlands they sent me some pictures of the wash outs in that area that happened that day from rain storms. The entire campsite where they were was flooded out and later reports surfaced that some of the groups who had gone into the canyons were caught in flash floods and some minor injuries incurred. Thankfully nothing serious.
Another client this year booked a trip and the weather the days leading up to it was pretty bad, but the day of the trip was really nice. We headed out and entered the canyon drainage. We donned our wet suits and harnesses and started down. 50 yds into the canyon we hit the first technical section requiring some gear to drop in. I observed that the prior storms had filled the canyon with a large amount of debris and I knew that if this was just the beginning, and the rest of the canyon was like this we were gonna have a rough day. By starting out this way we may hit spots that would be impassable. I aborted the trip right there citing the potential obstacles and the hazards that may be encountered causing us some undue hardships and potential dangers.
Currently in the past few weeks ending off the 2014 year, we have cancelled two trips that once we started down the road, the light rain we left town in turned to heavy snow and the roads were snow packed to a point that we were not sure about even getting to the canyon which was still over an hour away. Trip aborted, clients taken back to town.
As I began typing this out the other day, I sat here wondering if I was gonna be in a canyon the next day for the Annual FreezeFest Black Hole trip. Due to the weather forecast it was predicting some snow fall. The day came and the snow was there. Not only did I not go, but the rest of the crew that had been out camping also chose that the risk of attempting any canyon that day was far too high to make the venture worth anyone's safety.
This year several video's surfaced on YouTube outlining the question, do we sometimes risk too much in the outdoors. Do we often push that envelope just a little to far? Maybe with a little more training and some respect for our Mother things will look up this year. I am hoping that the New Year will start off wonderful, that we may all be out in the back country enjoying our favorite activities, but that we head the call of Mother Nature in a way that will be able to bring us back again and again and again. May the New Year bless you all with safety, entertainment, enjoyment, and fun. The canyons will be there another day if only you will be too to enjoy them. See ya in the Canyons.
WARNING NOTICE - SOME VIDEOS ATTACHED HERE CONTAIN STRONG LANGUAGE. LISTENER BE WARNED!
Zion: Rock of Refuge from Eric Hanson on Vimeo.