Adventuring in the age of Covid-19. This changes everything.
What is responsible behaviour? When there is a deadly virus that can kill you and others, what should we do as a community to keep everyone safe and potentially stop the virus from spreading.
We must self-isolate and practice social distancing when doing the necessities, like buying more food. What better way to stay away from other people than escape to the mountains? Sounds like a great idea! Until everyone else and their dog does it too.
Last weekend there was a crush of humanity in Kananaskis Country, Alberta’s mountain playground for the locals. All the local ‘hot spots’ were crammed with cars and people all looking to get some fresh air. Unfortunately, fresh air does not prevent you from getting Covid-19! There is nothing special about mountain air that will protect you.
Canadians on the whole are pretty law-abiding and non-confrontational people. We do what we are told. Apparently, that doesn’t apply to the back-country community. I am on several online forums and groups. While the majority of back-country skiers and mountaineers seem to be on board with staying home, there is also ‘that group’ of people who defiantly refuse to end their ski season early.
So, what is so bad about a small group of people continuing to travel and recreate in the back-country?
- Backcountry skiing, ice climbing and winter mountaineering are inherently dangerous sports. Even low impact sports like winter hiking / snowshoeing and fat biking can lead to injuries. Stuff happens all the time, whether or not we hear about it. If a skier or climber gets hurt, that puts even more strain on an already overburdened health care system. Plus, do you really want to be admitted to a hospital that is teeming with Covid-19 infected patients and staff?
- Mountain activities are not done solo. I have seen people from different households actually car pooling to the mountains. Yikes! Even if you try and keep yourself to yourself, you WILL touch something that a potentially infected person has touched. If an infected person coughs in the car, you my dear, are done for.
Once on the trail, there is NO WAY you are going to stay 6 feet away from your buddies. Why? Because you will automatically bunch up so that you can chat. Yelling across a chasm will not last long, despite your best intentions.
What about route finding? It is natural to bend your heads together when looking over a map or a GPS.
- Going into the mountains encourages others to go. This is a weird phenomenon that I’ve seen by following backcountry skiers online. If one group does an iffy line, and it holds, the next weekend everyone is out doing it. There is a false sense of security in that line now, all because it held once. It is the same phenomenon with the general public. When Joe Public looks online and sees a post from someone who could be hell and gone in the backwoods, this gives them the courage (and the permission!!!) to head into the mountains.
Unfortunately, Joe and Jane Public do NOT know where to go other than the usual touristy hot spots. This leads to masses of humanity showing up at the usual haunts. This is bad because there is no social distancing.
- I have had several people ask me where they could go for an ‘easy’ hike. In the winter, there are no easy hikes because they are all covered in snow and ice. Most of Joe Public does not own spikes, snowshoes or even hiking poles. To head into the mountains without spikes is a sure way to land yourself in hospital.
This is NOT the time to experiment with a new sport. Two days ago, a member of Joe and Jane Public landed themselves in hospital because they decided to take up cross-country skiing during the pandemic as a way to get out of the house. Even if they don’t get Covid-19 from the hospital, they will now be in enforced quarantine from being in the health care system. Kinda the exact opposite of what they were trying to accomplish.
- Mountain trails are single file. This becomes a problem with you encounter a group coming towards you. Even if you step off the trail to let them pass, it’s not always possible to get 6 feet away! In the winter, this is even more problematic. Stepping off a winter trail can land you hip deep in soft snow. Getting out of a post-hole is bad enough, but what if you twist an ankle while doing it? Now you are back at the first scenario of going to the urgent care clinic with all the Covid-19 patients – which was the exact opposite of what you were trying to do in the first place by going to the mountains!
- The mountain community does not want us. Yes, people actually live in the mountains. The Mayors of Banff and Canmore are BEGGING non-locals to stay away. They are trying to keep their own local populations safe, but when people from all over the province converge in their towns, we are bringing the virus to them. Even if all you did was stop for gas, you have potentially contaminated the gas station attendant, and who ever uses the pump after you.
If you are an avid and experienced mountaineer like myself, being denied optimal spring snow conditions is killing me! I’ve frozen my feet and hands so many times this winter, I feel like I ‘deserve’ some warm weather and blue-bird skies skiing on the glacier to make up for it. But that is not going to happen because I am trying my hardest to stay home, stay safe, and not accidentally encourage anyone else to follow in my footsteps.
Personal Responsibility and Adventure Blogging
So where does that leave me? I love to share my adventures and write trip reports. How do I continue to write about adventure, yet not encourage people to follow, to head out and expose themselves to danger?
Do I write my posts, but delay making them public until this blows over?
Do I write new posts, but put on a disclaimer to NOT adventure until the pandemic is over? What about the other trip reports that are readily available on my site?
These are questions that I do not have the answers to. I welcome your feedback and comments as I try and work during the age of Covid-19.