UPDATE: This contest expired Nov. 8, 2011

Not me!

Extreme hiking stories inevitably boil down to: at which point did you decide to turn back? At the first sign of trouble — when it made sense — or after a string of mishaps left you scared, cold, wounded or in some other condition of extremity?

For those who missed the first round, or who need a reminder: A couple weeks back I asked folks to submit their most extreme hiking stories. More than 30 replies poured in. I narrowed it down to my favorite five stories of the bunch.

What’s next: Sometime between now and Nov. 8, read each of the entries (click on the link to read the full posts), then come back here and vote. There’s a poll box down below the summaries. On the 9th of November I’ll announce the winner.

1) J.K.: Wild night by a waterfall

Sulking and with no other real options, I climbed into bed and hoped it could find a way to sleep through the night. Politely summarizing, I was freezing to death. However, this was quickly mitigated by one thing – massive winds picking up my tent at about 1pm and standing it on its side while I was inside. Now this may be a problem for most, but it was a serious problem for me. I was camped on TOP of a roughly 300’ waterfall, in fact, about 15’ from the edge. I had originally put my tent there because I thought it would be good for photographs when the sun was setting. Yet now, I was just about to fall right over it. I kept running through newspaper headlines in my head about my pending death and acknowledged I was the most stupid human on the planet.

Read J.K.’s full post

Takeaway. Some things are not best learned the hard way: like when you discover what you thought was a stove was actually a miner’s headlamp.

2) Gambolin’ Man vs. hungry bear

Carefully, I approached the feast site and was amazed to discover the bear had only eaten half of the food, and left the other half for us, how nice, thank you, Ursula! But that wasn’t the case. The bear still had my pack and a lot more food. I salvaged what I could, banging on the shovel head with a smaller trowel, and that seemed to keep the bear at a distance (of about 50 ft., still too damn close for comfort).

Read Gambolin’ Man’s full post

The lawyers forced me to add: Never, ever attempt this, folks. You can go two weeks without food; a bear can end your life in two seconds.

3) Clarke Green: Rough night in the ‘Daks

Started hiking up around three that afternoon. Rain, then sleet, then snow. Hand over hand scrambling up, thick forest, steep, no place to shelter. It’s dark, handheld flashlights quit; only my headlamp with a remote battery pack keeps on working. Fifteen degrees, wet, hypothermic kids, who are giving out; very bad news.

Read Clarke’s full entry

The upside of surviving a mess like this: you learn you’re fit to deal with children.

4) Tgabrukiewicz: Taking a beating in the Trinity Alps

A granite boulder the size of a soccer ball nearly took my head off; I put up my arm just in time and deflected it off my Timex Ironman watch (killed it) and into my outstretched shoulder, severely dislocating it.

I managed to climb to the trail and sat on a rock, rubbing my Saint Christopher medal and saying a silent prayer. I walked back down to camp (about a mile) and told my camp-mate that we needed to seek medical attention. Immediately.

Read Tgabrukiewicz’s full post

You know what they say about flying a plane: any landing you can walk away from is a good one. Same’s true for backpacking trips.

5) Zachary Robbins: Chillin’ in Linville Gorge

It was late so we made camp by the river, in a valley. It was cold, it got down to 2 degrees F that night. And we couldn’t really make a fire. All the wood was icy and frozen. The only thing we could keep burning was these tall grass we cleared out and would burn for a couple minutes, no logs would catch on fire. My hands froze pumping water out of the river. That night I basically spooned my friend in the tent to contain warmth, while wearing all the clothing we had.

Read Zachary’s full post

It’s funny how the rules of acceptable guy behavior change below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.


Here are the final results

Honorable mentions — Their stories weren’t as extreme as the finalists’, but they still had a certain charm:

  • Dijukno: Glissade gets out of hand.
  • Sarah Barlow: Dealing with the bear is the husband’s job.
  • Bryce: 52.2 miles in 23.5 hours (that’s movin’!).

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