Assessing Personal Risk when moving on Steep Ground
When considering how to ascend or descend a particular section of steep terrain, whether steep wet grass or a rocky outcrop, it is important to make a personal judgment on your ability to safely negotiate the ground ahead of you.
When assessing the risk to your personal safety it can often be useful to think in terms of a chart of the likelihood of a slip, and the possible consequences of such a slip occurring.
This is depicted below in the form of a traffic light system, green (safe); orange (caution); red (danger):
The likelihood of a slip is can be considered as either:
- Low (not likely to slip here)
- Medium (there is a chance I might slip)
- High (there is a good chance I might slip here).
Equally the consequences of such a slip can also be considered as either:
- Low (very little chance of injury)
- Medium (some chance I might get injured)
- High (very likely I will get injured)
If both likelihood and consequences are low, when you are ascending easy angled ground for example, then the chart puts us firmly in the green sector, safe to proceed. This is also true for a low likelihood of a fall but a medium consequence, green again.
If we venture into ground where there is a medium chance of a fall, and the consequences may result in injury (medium consequences) then we are into the orange zone on the chart. A warning to take care.
If we consider the likelihood of fall to be medium or high, and the consequences to be high, then we are entering the red territory on the chart and need to think very carefully before proceeding.
The likelihood of a slip will change depending on the prevailing conditions. Wet or icy ground will make a slip more likely, as will high winds.
This assessment of risk is personal to the individual, what someone considers a moderate or high risk is often determined by their personal experience and level of skill.
Ultimately this is your decision to make, take care.
Russ Mills is the founder of Mountaintrails.ie, a guided hiking and mountain training company based in Dublin.