A personal reflection by Dr Kate Baecher of two consecutive alpine emergencies in the Baltoro Region of Pakistan and lessons learnt when engaging commercial operators for expeditions. 

"In late September 2018, I decided - along with a couple of outdoor buddies - to sign onto a 25-day trek into the Baltoro Glacier region of Pakistan. We didn’t plan to do anything too hardcore (no summits, no climbing), just a good, old-fashion walk into some remote, harsh environments. Our ‘goals’ were pretty loose; a circle around Snow Lake. A meander onto Hunza. A traverse of the 5151m Hispar Pass.

As it turned out, two separate, serious incidents book-ended our adventure. Both were easily preventable and both highlighted a number of missed red-flags, poor preparation and a general lack of planning on our behalf. I sit here and write this as a reasonably ‘experienced’ outdoors adventurer. I’ve served in the ADF, travelled fairly extensively, climbed more than a few mountains and volunteered with medical deployments in some downright disgusting places.

However, I also sit writing this red-faced in shame, thinking of the very simple – and stupidly preventable – actions we should have taken but didn’t.

I wonder, a lot.

I wonder if part of the issue was that we had become complacent; that after years and years of self-travel through remote and volatile regions, the idea of being ‘on a trip’ with guides, led to a false sense of security and complacency.

I wonder if (as the sole female of the group), I was just pleased to have two burly alpha-males with me; perhaps I felt that I could step back a bit and let them make the decisions and initiate the necessary interactions.

I wonder if we were all just plain tired and that the trip came at a time when each of us needed different things from the expedition. From life.

I wonder if any of our goals really, ever, aligned."

Read the full article, printed by Austere Risk Management which can be accessed by this link.

Dr Kate Baecher, an ArmaSkin Ambassador, runs her own consultancy that specialises in the provision of psychological support in high risk or complex environments.

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