Saturday, April 19, 2008

Falling rocks

For some reason lately I've been thinking about hiking and rocks coming down hillsides and over cliffs. Maybe it is because of the recent Outside Magazine article ( Dropped, in January 2008) of a NOLS climber killed by a rock pushed by another hiker. Maybe it is because I'm planning upcoming vacations to Utah canyon country and Yellowstone and both are areas where hikers have been killed or injured by rocks started by other people.

I've not been hit by any rocks although I've seen a lot started downhill, sometimes accidentally and sometimes purposefully, by others. I had one closer than I would like encounter on a local trail which switchbacked up a mountain. Some horsemen who had recently passed me started a head-sized rock coming down which was quite frightening as I tried to guess which way it would bounce, and what other rocks it would start, and stay out of the way. I've also accidentally started individual rocks or small slides a few times. When I do, I yell down to warn others but it can be hard to dodge multiple rocks especially on an irregular hillside.

All too often, I see people throwing or pushing (trundling) rocks deliberately off of cliffs without any attempt to ensure no one is below. It is fairly common at Yellowstone NP in the Canyon area and people have been killed by rocks deliberately tossed. I sometimes tell rock trundlers there are people below and sometimes I'm ignored. Trundling can be fun, I've done it myself but lately I'm more and more aware that it is hard to know whether people are below or not. I think that trundling is another activity responsible backcountry users should avoid.

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