The Point of No Return

It goes without saying that at some time in our outdoors life, we will all have to deal with injury of one type or another. If you’re lucky, it won’t happen on a trip, requiring a rescue, however one of the issues that many of us have to face over time is over-use or recurrent niggles.

Over the last month or so, I had been fighting a dodgy knee. [For us Aussies, we may even call it a Dicky Knee.*] I’d been doing all the right things and consulted a variety of professionals and had got it to a place where I wasn’t experiencing any pain. I was ready to test it out on some big hills.

The perfect opportunity came up when the fabulous Helen, a leader from my club, was leading a 22km day walk into the Grose Valley. You see, near Sydney, our mountains are more about the yawning valleys, stretching out between plateaus, than the traditional Paramount Pictures peak.

Grose Valley and it's yawning

The Grose Valley and it’s yawning valleys

Alas, not even 2kms into the trip, the stabbing 8/10 pain that only happened when stepping up, had returned. Although the pain wasn’t good, the timing was. The point of no return was still ahead. I knew that in about 500m the group was going to turn off the main rim track, that affords incredible views across the abyss, and descend around 600m to the valley floor below. And although stepping down didn’t cause me any grief, I knew that the reverse is true in what Blood, Sweat and Tears (ironic, eh?) sang about in 1969.

I had 500m (at a cracking pace that Helen was setting, mind you!) to make up my mind. It got me thinking. How many times on hikes do we have this opportunity to make a key decision before a point of no return?

Only 500m to decision time

Only 500m to decision time (Track between Pulpit Rock & Govetts Leap)

The decision for me that day was an easy one and sadly I said goodbye to the speedy group as they disappeared down into the lush ferns and waterfalls underneath Govetts Leap. However, the lesson of being constantly aware of not getting yourself into a situation that you can’t get out of, brought about this new video… kinda like a mini risk-assessment.


Pulpit Rock through grass, Blue Mts NP

Q: When should you have made a tough decision in the past and didn’t? (Yes folks, I want some war stories!)


*Still curious as to how hilarious I thought Hey, Hey was when I was a kid and how downright moanable it truly was on reflection.

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  1. says

    I had a moment this weekend where I made a similar decision– we were meant to climb Fletcher Mtn which is 13,951ft(not sure the translation….)– but i was hacking and coughing so badly tht i just decided it wasn’t worth it– and just went to the pretty lake instead! :)– Glad you were safe this weekend! :)

    • says

      Wow, that’s 4252m for those of us not in the USA! An impressive altitude in anyone’s books (note library reference! ;-)… You definitely made the right choice too!

  2. says

    Oh no :( That’s a shame.

    I love the phrase ‘yawning valleys’.

    Sorry, no war stories today. Not because I’ve not been injured but because I can’t think of a suitable story :)

  3. says

    Sorry to hear this. I felt a bit of a pain in the knee the other day on a section hike with Chris Townsend, thankfully after a stop and food it cleared up, but these things do play in your mind. Hope yours clears up soon.

  4. says

    Two stories one with a turn around and one without. First, I took my best friend for his first rock climbing experience in Squamish, BC. A couple days before his wedding by the way. When we got there I discovered I had somehow forgot my Belay device. We still managed to put in a couple routes using the classic Munter Hitch. However, he has never climbed with me again.

    Second, My wife and I were determined to try backpacking with our one year old. About two hours into a five hour hike when the trail became overgrown with Salmonberry bushes and lots of evidence of recent bear activity in the area. Parental instinct kicked in and we just didn’t feel comfortable with our baby out there. Probably just F.E.A.R “False Expectations appearing Real” but it was the right decision for us at the time.

    Hope your knee gets better I understand the frustration of sore knees.

    • says

      Heh, geez I hope that your best friend (and his wife) are still your friends after that, oh and I think that PPW (Protective Parental Wisdom) prevailed in the second story. Thanks for stopping by!

  5. Richard Barrett says

    Years ago, on a solo trip across Dartmoor, a stumble left me able to go slowly on flat terrain but not uphill or down. I elected to alter plans and to stay overnight in poor weather and to eat, sleep, and then re-assess in the morning rather than try a long but flat escape route. Weather improved, I moved better after rest, and came out by the normal route the next morning. Several years later I had a similar injury but got the idea that good weather meant it’d be right and easy to push for home. That idea was wrong – my injury should have been the focus and deciding factor, not good weather and home. My response to the wrong idea was also wrong and continued walking meant hip damage was made worse. Seven miles took eleven hours to cover, I was in hospital the next day, off work for a week and the joint didn’t recover enough to hike unrestricted for over six months.

    I can also recall late abandonment of a suddenly ill-weathered trip for three to Lake Angelus in NZ. Turning back was felt as a grave personal disappointment but the decision to do so and made by my Aunt as an experienced tramper, was entirely correct. The difficulty caused by worsening weather was evident in later news reports – reports that we gladly heard from armchair comfort, without personal disappointment, and delighted not to have been named in!


    a) You’re right

    b) Decision making is a good topic for solo or group hikers to consider before difficulty clouds a clear mind.

    c) If we fail to see and pick up the right response to a difficulty, we fail to gain a resource that’s handy to carry in case difficulty should occur again.

    d) Take care on a painted pony! 8)

    • says

      Thanks for your war stories Richard and for stopping by! Nothing like a lesson learnt the hard way. I hope it helps others learn too…
      … On and yes, those painted ponies can be tricky 😉

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