GRW contributor Caro Ryan lists some all the reasons you might need to turn around on a bushwalk.
Weather: As much as the BOM do their best, the unexpected does happen and sudden storms, flash floods or unexpected heat waves can occur. Whilst explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes famous adage, ‘no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing,’ is fine to a point, if your safety is threatened by wild electrical storms or gale force winds, especially when walking high, exposed terrain, it could be time to pull the pin.
Illness: Being sick sucks. Being sick in the bush, really sucks. If you’re spreading the (un)love to other people in your group or in huts (remember the gastro in NZ last year?) then it’s definitely time to be at home. If you’re more than just a bit crook (including heat related illness such as hypo or hyperthermia), doubly so.
Bushfire: It’s a great idea to get in the habit of checking the bushfire danger rating and not just in summer. Remember winter can be the time our tireless firies get a jump on hazard reduction burns and this is one incident you definitely don’t want to be hanging around for.
Injury: Pulling out due to injury is a tough one and depends on the nature and severity of it. Whilst a broken bone or bad bleed makes for an easy decision to evacuate, a tougher judgement call is for milder injuries, which might appear fine now, but could get worse, especially if you continue. And what if by going further on, your options for easy exit routes are reduced?
Sketchy terrain: Everyone’s got their limit, right? So if you’re not into going the full Alex Honnold and find yourself wishing you were in a full harness as you traverse what the notes generously call, a ‘track’, turning around before the point of no return will let your inner mountain goat bleat another day.
Lack of water: Without the right amount of water, our journeys simply can’t continue. I once had to cancel a trip because I was relying on ‘Dead Goat Soak’ for water. Unfortunately (for the goat) he was still there. If you are counting on a certain watersource to fill up and find it lacking, making a decision to turn around could save you from heading into dangerous dehydration or heat-related illness territory.
Fatigue: If you find that your body isn’t recovering after a rest and you’re not able to bounce back the next day, your body might be trying to tell you something. If you aren’t at your best, the likelihood of injury from a slip or fall is greatly increased. Best to bow out gracefully.
Broken or missing gear: Whilst the US Marine Corp might get away with their motto – improvise, adapt and overcome – if your setup relies on a special piece of gear that’s either been left behind or broken, you could find yourself without shelter.
Hours of daylight
On day walks, there’s a term called benighted and as long as you’re prepared and not facing bad weather or difficult terrain, it’s not necessarily the end of the world. However, if you lack experience or resources turning back is a good idea – the sooner the better.
Everybody has a different tolerance to risk. Factors such as fitness, experience and resources mean that when faced with any of these issues, you need to stop and assess the impacts to safety and get serious about controlling any sense of disappointment from not reaching your goal. Good planning involves contingencies and identifying the triggers that you’ll rely on for pulling the rip-cord. Having these pre-made decisions can reduce the pressure if it all hits the fan and can help avoid dangerous summit fever, when emotions and adrenalin can go into overdrive, pushing you on when you really should turn around.
Words_Caro Ryan (lotsafreshair.com)