Sundered Peak

through the mind of kyle tolle

Mountain Etiquette

We’re all familiar with the rules and conventions of sidewalks and streets. This past weekend, I went hiking with my girlfriend, Karla, and I was reminded of similar rules to follow when hiking or driving on mountain roads.

Each person is there to enjoy the beautiful scenery and physical activity. If we increase our empathy and compassion toward others, and follow these guidelines, we’ll help improve everyone’s trips!

This etiquette is helpful to know both if you’re an avid mountain-goer, or someone who only visits occasionally. You’ll be the recipient of this courtesy just as often as you’ll be the donor.

Let Others Pass

On the Road

Perhaps your car isn’t well suited to the terrain. Or you’d rather drive slowly to appreciate the scenery. Or you’re unfamiliar with this type of driving, and are being cautious.

This should be easy to notice, using your peripheral attention, along with a glimpse in the rear-view mirror. If you have one or more cars behind you, please be courteous to the other drivers with whom you share the road: slow down and pull over to let those vehicles pass.

Highways and other roads also have this concept of “stay right, unless passing”. It’s even more important on narrow, unpaved, unmarked, and winding roads.

Allowing others to pass will make the trip safer for everyone. Traffic will flow more smoothly, with less jarring braking and accelerating. There will be less congestion and potential for fender benders, especially when road conditions aren’t ideal.

On the Trail

People of all experience levels share the trails. If you notice someone behind you who has a faster pace, step to the side and let them pass. This goes for traveling up and downhill.

You’ll also likely come across someone you outpace. Making a bit of noise while you approach can help get their attention. If they fail to notice, politely ask to pass on their left. I’m sure they’ll be more than happy to let you by.

With taking breaks, you might even pass or get passed by the same people multiple times. Being polite goes a long way when you’re on a lengthy stretch of trail.

Down Yields To Up

On the Road

Drivers going downhill should yield to those coming uphill. Momentum, grip, and traction are often critical to safely passing over roads made of loose gravel, dirt, snow, or ice.

Cars climbing which are required to stop may become stuck, slide around, or slip back downhill. That’s even more dangerous when considering there may be others in tow.

On the Trail

Mountain trails are typically narrow. And there’s a good chance hikers traveling down will have a wider field of view with which to see those coming from below. When they meet, downward travelers should pause and give the right of way to those making their way uphill.

People use a lot of muscles and oxygen while trekking up. They’ve got momentum, which is important in maintaining pace.

Your muscles, breath, pace, and energy levels will all appreciate it when you’re on the receiving end of this gesture.

Remember that, if you’re on a mountain bike, you have increased speed and mobility, so pedestrians always have the right of way. Be particularly cautious around bends and narrow areas.

Lend A Hand

On the Road

A dead car battery is much more problematic when there’s no cell phone reception to use to call for help.

It’s easy to let diffusion of responsibility convince you that someone else will help, but that might not be the case on sparsely-traveled, unmaintained roadways.

A quick jumpstart could make the difference between someone being stuck in the middle of nowhere, or only having a close-call to share when they get back home.

On the Trail

Remember to keep an eye out for someone who may need some help. It’s always better to ask if you’re uncertain than to pass them by.

A twisted ankle is much more serious when miles of isolated trail and thousands of vertical feet separate a person from the car or campsite. Someone’s fear of heights may suddenly overwhelm them, while their companions have gone on ahead.

When you’re the shoulder to lean on, or the guiding hand over a boulder field, you may be the only person who helps get them to safety.