The question of “To solo, or not to Solo?”, has been a heated debate amongst sports, adventure, and exploration enthusiasts across the globe, and especially as it relates to the female species. I am, by no means, an authority in this matter, but I do have a very strong opinion on this topic, being a female, an introvert, and a person who absolutely needs to escape from the craziness of society in order to recuperate and rejuvenate. For me and many others, it’s important to experience some of life’s adventures…Alone.
After my mother introduced me to the mountains and hiking, around the age of four, I fell in love with nature. She ignited the passion within me, and I have carried this flaming torch ever since. Ever since I can remember, adventure and the love of nature have been a part of who I am. The mountains became my escape from the stress and demands of family, career, and sheer craziness of everyday life. There are a great many hikers who share similar sentiments. Some people need this escape as a time to be alone, whereas there are those who prefer sharing outside experiences with others. There are merits to both, and neither one should be discounted nor discouraged. I have met some wonderful people with whom I’ve shared the trail! We’ve had great laughs, companionship, shared memories/experiences, and I’ve gained invaluable knowledge from them as well. I enjoy the kinship, and love meeting new people. For me personally, I must also have my personal space, my cave time if you will, and I fulfill that need by being alone on the trail.
Why do I enjoy hiking and backpacking solo? I have pondered this question quite deeply while “sauntering” in the backcountry. I value my alone time and cherish being able to enjoy the nuances of nature without having to worry about entertaining, looking after, or even getting along with another individual. I can be myself, go my own pace, and be in whatever mood suits my fancy. The only person that I have to get along with is me. I can be my worst enemy, or I can be my best friend. Backpacking solo has taught me a great many things about myself and what I am capable of. It has taught me to enjoy my alone time, to trust myself, and to be confident in my abilities. Just as there are many positive reasons to explore nature alone, there are negative ones as well…like the safety issues, long nights, and lack of companionship. After a week of being on the trail, it’d sure be nice to have someone to share the day and chit chat a little. Is it possible to have the best of both worlds?!! Have the cake and the eat it too? Haha!
There are those staunch believers who are of the firm mindset that hikers should always have a buddy with them. I appreciate their concerns, and do understand the reasoning behind their opinions, and here’s why: the dangers of being alone in the wilderness are both great and numerous. They should not be minimized or dismissed. It is important to understand what “could” happen and take measures to reduce the risk or peril that might occur. Many people feel that individuals, especially females, shouldn’t engage in outside activities alone, because there would be no one to help in case of need, or in the event of an accident. I have always espoused the belief that if a person is well-prepared, experienced, and has a means of communicating with others while in the wilderness, the benefits outweigh the dangers. In my experience, it doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female out in nature, accidents happen, and they happen very quickly. It’s the level of competency, awareness, and planning that is vitally important. This fact really hit home a couple of weeks ago, when I was one of the first responders to a winter hiking accident (see blog post “A Learning Experience on San Bernardino Peak”), which made me reevaluate my views on adventuring alone anytime I feel the urge.
After this near tragic event, I have amended my die-hard solitary viewpoint. I am now of the mindset that if there is a high degree of danger associated with a certain activity, and having a buddy along significantly increases the chance of survival or decreases the likelihood of an accident, then it is important to bring someone with you. Winter mountaineering is one of those activities where I will routinely seek a buddy to go with me, instead of venturing out alone. Some other examples of when to bring someone with you might be during a large snowpack year, when the snowfield and river crossings might be treacherous, on dangerous trails, or in unfamiliar countries where the customs/laws/etc. are new or unknown. Most sports (climbing, skiing, river kayaking, etc.), have situations where a companion is necessary. A couple of simple, but good questions, to always ask yourself are: “How much risk/danger is in this activity?” and “Would I reduce this risk/danger by having someone else along?”. Thoughts to ponder before embarking on an adventure through nature…
Don’t get me wrong, I will never give up my alone time in the wilderness, but I will be more cognizant of when it is necessary for a buddy to accompany me on an adventure, and so should you. If you love to be alone, and you trust your abilities and experience in the wilderness, then I fully recommend enjoying the beautiful backcountry by yourself. Memorable experiences are created every step of the way! However, being mindful of what “could” happen is all a part of the planning and preparation process. In addition, taking navigation, wilderness first aid, survival, and/or a winter mountaineering courses will increase your knowledge and skill set, and enable you to be more prepared if something were to happen. Above all, knowing when to enjoy your alone time, and when to share your enjoyment with another person is key. Live to hike another day!
Happy Trails! ~SoloYolo