Backpacking Hazards: Falling

On most of our guided backpacking trips, you would have to really work at it to fall off a cliff! That’s partly because we avoid climbing anything that requires technical skills. It is also because we choose routes where exposure to steep dangerous drop-offs are limited or non-existent. This is particularly true on our guided Yellowstone backpacking treks because much of the Yellowstone terrain is a rolling plateau, and even the mountainous parts of the park are generally not too steep, with plenty of safe terrain where trails do not flirt with cliffs or steep, loose rocky slopes.

These are generalizations, of course, and there are exceptions. Some of our walks in the Utah canyon country are unavoidably atop sandstone cliffs, and of course on most of our trips there are opportunities to day-hike and explore without the full backpack — and if you seek them out, you can easily find big vistas with big drop-offs. Nonetheless, I still maintain that you’d have to work at it in order to tumble to your deathly demise, simply because most folks have a healthy innate fear of shear drop-offs. And they have the common sense to avoid curling one’s toes over the edge of a cliff! In addition, we two-legged hominids actually evolved to walk over uneven terrain. So even if we are proximate to steep ground, a bit of care and concentration will get you past the danger safely.

Nonetheless, few summers go by in which at least one careless hominid (of the 3 million or so annual park visitors) plummets to her or his death in Yellowstone. So it is possible. Rest assured, though, that we at Big Wild are appropriately leery of cliff edges, and as we enter our 39th year of operation, every client that we have ever guided has returned to town very much alive and kicking. So worry not; for if you bring along some healthy caution of high exposed places and use your common sense, you simply will not be naturally selected out of the human population by the force of unmitigated gravity!


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