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A simple but important outdoor rule

Common Ground
Bill Kight
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

When my daughter Shandra returns from the warmer confines of Grand Junction and complains about it being colder here, there’s only one thing for me to do. I have to remind her who she is.

“You’re a mount’in girl.”

Those of us who are truly outdoors-oriented and live in this part of the Rocky Mountains have a certain way of pronouncing the word “mountain.” It is not with a “t.”



It even hurts the ears when you hear altitude-challenged folks from the lowlands visiting here who try and pronounce “mountain.” It sounds like “mountane.”

We are indeed proud “mount’in” people. We also have a few simple outdoor rules to live by while you are with us. You may as well hear them from me. It might save you from embarrassment, hypothermia and even, Lord forbid, death.



Locals, bear with me, because I know how hard it is to have to harp on what “mount’in” people know by heart.

Before I begin, though, allow me to say one thing to those of you who are not familiar with our “mount’ins.” If you are planning on going into them alone, please be so kind as to let me know how to notify your next of kin.

The first and foremost rule is tell someone dependable where you are going and when you plan on returning. That way if something happens and you do not return as planned, we can come looking for you.

The second and last rule is, for lack of a better term, the turn-around rule.

Before we go into this second simple safety rule, let me say there are lots of unspoken rules that are common sense. So common sense, we don’t dare speak of them, for fear of jinxing ourselves.

But even these “rules to live by” can basically be summed up in one phrase the Boy Scouts learn while still wet behind the ears. Be prepared.

This has to do with individual survival skills that over the years accumulate into nothing short of sacred ritual. Safe practices that have worked in the past will keep you alive in the future.

Those of us still around after decades of using the backcountry have our own way of arranging our packs and survival bags with what have become essentials.

Having written more columns than I can count about backcountry behavior, this time my desire is to make the second and last point so clear it can’t be misunderstood.

The turn-around rule is simple. It goes like this. Whenever you head outback, figure out how many hours of daylight are left in the day. You leave at 8:30 in the morning on June 1st and the sun sets at 7:30, you have 11 hours of daylight to do your hike. At 2 p.m., you turn around and head back. That’s your halfway point.

Using motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles, four-wheelers or jeeps, it doesn’t matter. When your tank gets close to half-full, you turn around.

Simple mount’in rules.

With years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight of Glenwood Springs shares his stories and heroes with readers every other week.


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