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Front Page » August 21, 2014 » Focus » Coming home safe from all your adventures
Published 410 days ago

Coming home safe from all your adventures

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Contributing Writer

Whatever you do, the first consideration should be safety. That's probably true of everything in life, but especially in adventure recreation activities.

Parents have asked me many times, is floating rivers safe? Is rock climbing safe? Is kayaking safe? Is rappelling safe?

The resounding answer to all these questions is NO.

But then, neither is football or riding in a car. In fact, riding in a car is statistically the most dangerous thing most of us do. Over the years Carbon Recreation has offered kayaking workshops, rappelling workshops, river rescue workshops, rock climbing workshop, and lots of other adventure activities. Far more injuries have come from youth football than all the adventure programs put together.

No, none of these activities are safe, but there are things one can do to make them less dangerous. The first is seeking instruction. The second is never take shortcuts. The third is always checking your knots.

Unfortunately Carbon Recreation no longer does a lot of the things they once did. That's due to budget and personnel cuts. But there are still options for instruction. Moab is this area's haven for adventure. There are lots of opportunities for training and guided activities just a couple hours away.

If that's not an option find someone who knows what he (or she) is doing. Let me emphasize, going on a river trip or going rappelling one time doesn't make one an expert and doesn't give one the necessary expertise to instruct others. Find someone who really knows what he's doing. Someone who has been involved in the activity for years. If this person doesn't wear a helmet when rock climbing, don't trust him. Competent people wear protective gear. Competent people don't take short cuts.

There is no place for arrogance in adventure recreation. That's what gets people hurt. There is a saying at Carbon Recreation, don't be upset if someone checks your knots. The saying goes way beyond actual knots. Safety requires double checks and triple checks, and then check again. I am proud to say I took nearly a thousand people on their first rappel outing and the worst injury we ever had was a skinned knee. I always told my participants no one gets injured on my watch. I am proud to say, no one ever did. Yes, some of what I do is overkill. I don't apologize for that. I think the record speaks for itself.

What follows are the basics of safety. I will go into more depth in future articles as I delve in individual activities.

Hiking, canyoneering, and backpacking

•Train before you go.

•Never exceed your capabilities.

•Have proper equipment for what you are doing.

•Make sure your backpack fits properly.

•Wear quality boots.

•Get adequate first aid training.

•The first rule of canyoneering is the canyon will be there tomorrow. This means if there is any chance of inclement weather, don't enter a slot canyon. Wait until the conditions are ideal. This rule is a matter of life and death.

•Water in the desert gives life and takes life by its presences, its absence, its presence in great quantities, aka flooding.

Rock climbing, rappelling, and canyoneering

Since canyoneering is a combination of hiking and rock climbing, rules of both activities apply.

•Never trust your life to one anchor.

•Make sure every anchor is foolproof. Then do it again. Redundancy is a good thing in rock climbing.

•Never hurry. Make sure everything is right before you make the next move.

•Always wear a helmet. Always. If your climbing partners won't wear helmets, find other climbing partners.

•Use a locking carabiner for all anchors and anywhere practical. Always make sure the gate is closed and secured.

•Get adequate first aid training.

Floating rivers

Never create a second victim. In other words, make sure you are safe. You can't help someone else by getting in trouble yourself.

•Get training. If you go on a commercial trip, ask the guide questions.

•Have adequate training and experience for the section of river you're floating. If you're going on the Green River Daily, perhaps going on a couple of commercial trips is adequate training. If you're going on Westwater, much more training and experience is required.

•How do you get experience? Go with experienced people. I've taken more than 500 people on their first Westwater trip. We've had a few swimmers (including myself) but no serious injuries.

•Get adequate first aid training. I can't emphasize this enough. Injuries occur. You have a moral obligation to be able to deal with them. In conclusion This has been a very brief introduction to safety for people engaged in adventure recreation activities. I will go into much more detail as I write about specific activities in future articles. If you have questions, email me. I welcome your questions and input. What would you like to see in future articles? Next week's article will be about adventure photography and how to get the most out of your photos.

Tip: If you think something's wrong, something's wrong. It's your life, stand up for yourself. If people don't like being questioned, find other people to join on adventures.

Steve Christensen is an independent journalist who writes articles about many kinds of recreation. He is the former Carbon County Recreation Director. You can contact him at

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