Know Your LimitsWherever you turn in the great outdoors Mother Nature appears to be throwing down the gauntlet. But these natural challenges, as any caver, climber or mountain biker will tell you, have to weighed up against how equipped an individual is to take them on. We all one to excel, to conquer our fears and achieve our ambitions, but it should never come at the price of placing ourselves in danger or gambling with the wellbeing of our companions. After all any team assault, on for example a crag, is only as strong as its weakest link. And if you feel yourself unable to rise to the challenge, then accepting it regardless of the risks to your team mates is irresponsible in the extreme.

Bottom line: know your limits. No, that doesn’t mean you can never improve your skills or fulfil your dream one day of conquering a particular peak. What it does mean is that right now, this minute, don’t ask questions of yourself either mentally or physically that you will not be able to answer.

Suffer in silence

Take, for example, that old problem, vertigo. Many more outdoor enthusiasts suffer from it than admit to it. Indeed, some would rather suffer in silence than run the risk of being ridiculed by the more insensitive. But it is a very real problem that should not be put to the test in a live situation. Rather, talk it through with your instructor or your colleagues. If they are still determined to accept a challenge that will involve heights you know you won’t be able to handle, then wish them the best and sit this one out. You are not being weak; rather, you are strong enough to know this trip is not for you and you are brave enough to admit it to your peers.

A similar situation can occur with fitness levels. Again, you don’t want to admit any inferiority but at the same time you are afraid that this will be a test of endurance too far for where your body is at the moment. By all means, build up your fitness regime and increase the number of monthly visits to the gym. A new weights regime drawn up in conjunction with a personal trainer may be ideal in taking you physically to the next level.

Injury or Excessive Fatigue

But, again, don’t ask your body those difficult questions. Because the answer will invariably be no, either through injury or excessive fatigue which on more remote hikes or climbs will present you and your companions with a problem. At best it will be early enough in the day to turn round and head home; at worst, with night drawing in, it will be time for survival techniques to kick in. No-one will say so at the time, but it is likely there will be recriminations at a later date. Everyone involved in outdoor pursuits knows that Mother Nature is not to be taken for granted. Rather she has to be respected at all times. Build your skill levels and mental and physical fitness steadily, and the rewards will come; rush into challenges before you are ready and you will regret it.