Sixtymile - Grand Canyon Notes

About the Theory of Mistakes and Bad Luck

This is my own pet theory about risks, mistakes and misfortune. The chances for survival in the event of a mistake or bad luck are usually promising as long as they don't occur at the same time.

Therefore, the often-fatal combinations are:

  1. Two serious mistakes together.
  2. One mistake combined with bad luck.
  3. Very, very bad luck.

Very, very bad luck includes items from the list of Hazards and Risks like rockfall, stepping on a rattlesnake in springtime alone and far from help, earthquake in a bad place, or a sudden and very severe storm. Really bad luck like this doesn't allow much chance of escape.

Examples of a mistake combined with bad luck might be stepping on a loose rock (mistake) near a big cliff (bad luck), or camping in a streambed during a storm and then the storm turns out to be a big one. Examples of two mistakes together might be losing your way and then deciding to climb down a cliff, or forgetting your map and then trying a new route.

There are other examples that might be a bit more difficult to classify, like running short of water and then finding the next spring is dry. If the spring is generally reliable from your own experience or a good reference this might be a mistake with bad luck. If you just saw it on the map and assumed there would be water, then it seems to me more like a case of two mistakes... being short of supply and counting on an unknown source. But either way, what matters is that you're in big trouble.

I'm not trying to be an alarmist about the possibilities. I just believe that one of the worst things, regardless of the severity of consequences, is to take on risk without realizing it, without judging the value of the choice, and without being prepared (at least mentally) for the possibility of a bad outcome.

If this theory should ever catch up with me someday, I will have made my best effort to be sure I was doing something that I wanted very much to be doing, knowing risk was a part of it.


Catalog of Places - Trips - Routes - Notes