April 25, 2006

Adventures in Misadventure

When I grew up . . . (okay I apologize for starting this entry this way, I sound like an old man) there was this old granite quarry near our house. As kids this was like a dream come true. We would run around on the granite blocks or through the woods to find a sudden cliff. There were tunnels to crawl down and cliffs to scale. Later on we would practice rappelling and climbing in our new sticky rubber shoes.

Okay, before this becomes a pointless nostalgic trip let me say that we had a lot of fun, unsupervised by adults, probably a little in over our heads. It's not that we did anything wrong per se, but we had a few misadventures that wouldn't have happened if there were adults around.

For example there was the time we were rappelling and didn't know how to use the figure 8 so we laboriously threaded the entire length of the rope through the devise pulling the whole thing all the way around the 8. Once we got to the bottom, we popped the rope off and realized how foolish we had been. Or another time that I was lowering my friend Randy over a short cliff with a 6mm static line and the sheath popped over the sharp edge. The core held and Randy hand over handed back up in surprise.

You might ask why I bring this up. Last weekend a couple of students asked me if I could drive them up to Burleigh so they could go for a hike. That sounded fine to me, they were upper class students who I trusted. The only thing was I couldn't pick them up, they would have to walk a few miles back to campus after their hike on Burleigh. They were pumped, I dropped them off and I figured they would be back in an hour or so. A few hours later and I hadn't heard from them. A little while after that I get a cell phone call, "Mr. Mundahl we're lost in the woods and we don't know how to get back."

Right away I started questioning my judgment, beating myself up for making a bad call, leaving students unsupervised etc. What follows is their story in their own words:

"One fine Sunday afternoon, my buddys and myself decided to take a hike up Burleigh Mountain, considering 95% of the population of the school was off campus that afternoon and we were broke. After some asking around we found that Mr. Mundahl could give us a ride to the mountain; granted we hiked back (normally a 30 minute journey). When we arrived at the camp ground / base of what once was a ski slope we decide to hike to the very top of the slope, the summit, just to pass some time. By and by we got to the top of that, made our way to the old ski shack, and eventually got bored and decided to see what was over the top of the summit. We got to the very top and, of course, kept going down in to the valley ahead of us. As we traipsed farther into the forest, it began to get dark, so we made the educated decision to turn around. However, the forest we now stood n front of in no way reminded us of the one we had just hiked through. Nothing seemed familiar. After about an hour of this directionless walking, we decided to call Mr. Mundahl and found out that if we found a creek or logging road, we could make our way down to the bottom of the mountain. Luckily for us we had stopped to call Mr. Mundahl on a logging road, so we didn'tÂ’t have to search for long. We finally made our way to the bottom of the mountain and eventually back to school."

Well they did eventually make it back, and the crazy thing was that they were pumped! They had had an adventure.

So now I'm going to write up an Accident Incident Report calling this a near miss, I'll file it in my binder, report it to the risk management committee, who will make a recommendation that will be reviewed by our underwriters. All as it should be, right? I made a bad call letting them go up to the mountain by themselves didn't I?

Honestly, I'm not sure. Is there a place for misadventure?


  1. This question ties into one that continually pops up for me as an educator and parent. "What is the place of letting folks fail, or at least taking real risks that you can't control?" If the kids don't have a cell phone and they're knocking on some neighbor's door at 11pm because they've been lost for six hours, that's probably bad, or is it? If they get injured... now the risk has become dangerous and liability is an issue...

  2. Anonymous8:45 AM

    I think you made the right chose in letting us go and we made the bad choose of going off the trail unprepared. However we did have a fun adverture and we learned a lot in that one hike, i will never go off the trail unprepared again. We did have vage memories of the woods we were in, we just couldnt figure out specificly which way to go. I had a lot of fun and think that you made the right choose in letting us go up there.