Saturday, Sprocket and I climbed Uncompahgre Peak. It was a gorgeous fall day although I ran into five other groups of hikers on the trail—it was just a hopping place! (Seriously, how am I ever going to hike 14ers closer to Denver?!?)
All kidding aside, I want to talk about unprepared hikers. You know the ones I’m talking about…
This time, it was a pair of well coiffed, expensive (non-athletic) sunglass wearing people. Neither was wearing a pack and they had matching expensive looking polished walking sticks. Music was playing from someone’s phone and neither was wearing a jacket. Later in the parking lot I discovered they were driving a rental jeep.
The forecast for the day called for a strong chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon and the breeze on top of Uncompahgre had been more than a little bit chilly (it took me a mile or so of brisk downhill hiking to really warm back up).
Curious as to what these people were up to, I asked them where they were headed. I figured it would be presumptuous of me to assume that they were headed for the peak. The woman pointed up at the unmistakable hulk of Uncompahgre. “Are we about half way?” she asked.
Taking in the whole tableau, all that could come out of my mouth was a very emphatic, “No.” Her face fell and her hiking partner asked, “So how far are we?” I told them they were at best a quarter of the way (turns out they were closer to a third…but with only a quarter of the elevation accomplished).
They looked at each other and appeared to be ready to press on and I felt that I just had to say something. I pointed up at the innocent looking clouds that were beginning to gather. “There are thunderstorms predicted for this afternoon. Those clouds weren’t there an hour ago, please keep an eye out. You’ll be the highest point around up there and lightning isn’t something to mess with.”
They looked annoyed. I’d pretty much been a dream crusher, so I mostly understood. “Have fun but watch the weather,” I said, bidding them adieu. I hoped they would get tired before they tangoed with weather (although the weather seemed to stay nice for several hours more). I hoped they’d enjoy their day in the mountain with our without a summit.
Experienced hikers, how do you handle running into someone who might be getting in above their head? How about someone definitely above their head?
Inexperienced hikers, how can someone offer a bit of advice without being rude or ruining your day? Or is that possible?
I feel like I have a decent handle on the risks entailed in most of my outdoor activities. I get annoyed when those who have less experience try to tell me how dangerous something is. I wouldn’t tell Steph Davis that soloing the Diamond is a dumb idea. She knows how dangerous it is and makes her choice accordingly. So is it ever okay to say something to someone? Is it selfish that I don’t want to hear about someone I could have spoken to making a dumb choice on the trail?
I try to err on the side of polite, direct, and factual.