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What to do when things go wrong in the outdoors, how to minimize risk

Posted at 3:53 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 18:59:48-04

BOISE, Idaho — If you venture out on the Idaho back roads, there are several things people can do to minimize risk, starting with the proper safety gear, helmets, clothing to stay warm, a medical kit, a Garmin Inreach for the backcountry and a safety plan.

But there is no substitute for going on adventures with experienced people. Idaho News 6 reporter Steve Dent found the outdoor community in Idaho will go the extra mile to help each other even if they don't know each other.

Here's what he's learned over the years:

This holds especially true in the whitewater community as I have pulled several people and their gear out of the river, but I have also been on the receiving end of getting help when I needed it.

Three years ago I attempted to kayak Big Falls on the South Fork of the Payette River, normally this is a mandatory portage and this rapid has killed people before, but the water levels were low so we came up with a safety plan and went for it.

My brother Scott expertly made it down the rapid, I did not make it but my sister-in-law Heidi tossed me a rope and pulled me out of the rapid and Scott gathered my boat and my paddle so I didn't have to hike out of the canyon.

Another example came on the Grey's River two years ago when I met a stranger who ran Snaggletooth Rapid with me, myself and another friend planned a trip to Wyoming but the river levels were really high by the time we got there, looking back I should not have tried to run that rapid.

I ended up having to wet exit from my kayak as I floated into the right channel where we didn't want to be, I knew there was a log across the river so I frantically swam to safety as to avoid a dangerous strainer and I watched my boat float down the river.

I didn't expect this, but my new friend James chased my boat for miles before he eventually pulled it out of the water. I wasn't expecting this it was one of the most impressive displays of kindness I have ever experience he also got my paddle, I ended up selling James that boat at a very discounted price.

I've probably pushed the limits more than I should in the outdoors and sometimes nature pushes back, but I haven't suffered a serious injury in more than 15 years because I have a lot of practice falling while skiing, riding a mountain bike and other activities.

Every scenario is different but during a crash it's important to protect your head and your neck, but if you can let your body take the brunt of the impact that is normally better than trying to catch yourself with your hands because they break rather easily.

The best thing to do is go limp and try to ride out the fall if that is possible, but if you push the limits sometimes they will push back.

I would say the toughest part of recovering from a crash is the mental aspect of overcoming that fear of a bad situation.

Be safe out there and don't be afraid to ask for help, it's one of the best parts about recreating in Idaho.