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Thread: No Franconia Ridge for me, just the folks in jeans (Falling Waters falls after snow)

  1. #1
    Senior Member John in NH's Avatar
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    No Franconia Ridge for me, just the folks in jeans (Falling Waters falls after snow)



    Date of Hike 11/11/13

    Trail: Falling Waters Trail

    Due to family work schedules, I only had a short window first thing in the morning to hike. The higher summits forecast for the day said: in the clouds with snow showers, temps in the single digits, winds 60-80 mph rising later, heavy squalls possible later with a windchill advisory (-25 to -35). Thus I hoped to have a rare experience in a popular place, solitude while photographing the fresh 2-6 inches of snow that had just fallen on the Falling Water Trail.

    Driving through the notch at 6:45 am I93 was a sheet of thin ice, but with low gear and no brake usage I made it to the popular Franconia Ridge trailhead safely. I thought to myself, surely there won't be many people headed up today? Just as I was about to set off, I chatted with a pair of hikers who said this would be their first time hiking it in the snow. I cautioned them about the forecast and said as an experienced winter hiker I wouldn't do the whole loop today. They seemed to have adequate gear though, they decided to still head up and I wished them luck. They were by far the most prepared people of the day. As I hung out at the various falls for a few hours photographing, I encountered about 10 parties. All had tiny or no packs, non-waterproof sneakers/trail runners, jeans or mesh shorts, no traction. It was icy!! Some were starting at 10am. I only cautioned the first few of these groups, as a I gave up doing so feeling like an @$$ and that it wouldn't have mattered. I prayed that the forecast squalls would not hit till later and/or that the brutal windchills would trigger the common sense to turn back. As I drove home, I felt very guilty and a little scared that I could even somehow be held civilly liable if one of these parties needed rescue/ didn't make it. Since the Hike Safe code posted in green at the start of the loop says to "share the code with others," would I be in trouble for not doing more?

    What do you guys think, should I have done more?

    Anyway, here's some of the highlights of the day:









    Stairs Falls




    low flow allowed me to set up the tripod low right in the stream



    Cloudland Falls, the main event





    Headed back down a cold and snowy falling waters trail. Clearly a good day for sneakers a water bottle in hand.

    Oh well, now that I know (assume) nothing too bad happened I can mentally enjoy the experience of hanging out at these falls I have whizzed by ten times before whilst peakbagging.

  2. #2
    Junior Member mncta5's Avatar
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    Hi John,

    We are our brother's keeper, to an extent, but I've certainly been in the same situation where we met folks ill-prepared and starting a bit late. I may have done the same as you did, making a casual remark about the hazards ahead and even the time of day, and even asked about what type of gear they may have. I have left it at that.. It's every hiker's responsibility to know the code and, by those casual remarks/questions, you've shared it. I never feel guilty about that.

    I like your use of slow shutter speed to soften the water flow. Nice to take the time to take some quality shots, isn't it? Like you, I'm usually hiking with others and we're going for a peak and don't take the time to stop to compose good photos. I try to carry my Lumix camera and a compact tripod, but still end up taking the usual summit shots. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother, when my iPhone takes pretty good snaps, but you just never know when you'll get a good opportunity, so I'll keep carrying it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    I say nothing unless asked period.

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    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
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    I would caution, using my own experience as my reasoning, as it appears you did, John. Surely, let people decide but give them a bit to think on or discuss as they go on their way. Nothing wrong with friendly conversation. I suppose those who don't talk to others on the trail would find that unnatural, but I've been noted for carrying communication in my pack and sharing it.
    Last edited by erugs; 11-19-2013 at 02:59 PM.
    Ellen

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    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

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    Senior Member John in NH's Avatar
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    I guess the biggest question I had is: Has any hiker ever been held legally (criminally or civilly) liable for failing to warn (or talk to, however you want to phrase it) obviously unprepared "hikers" about significant and unavoidable dangers? (such as the forecast I mentioned in my post, lots of ice when all they have is sneakers, etc) The fact that "sharing the code" is mentioned specifically in the hike safe guidelines got me thinking of that question.

    sierra-- in summer/y months I take your approach, figuring experience should be a good teacher. It's these shoulder seasons months late Oct, Nov, early December that I worry and wonder most. The ice bulges are worse than winter and it can be just as cold/windy. Some of these casual folks headed up from Boston (or other warmer places) where the grass is still green just don't seem to be aware of what they are getting into.

    mncta & erugs-- Yes, I definitely brought it up in a more conversational way, sharing my experience or a comment on the forecast. That seems the best route.

  6. #6
    Senior Member TJsName's Avatar
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    It's possible that some/many of them turned around when they got higher up. The warnings of others tend to pale in comparison to being cold and wet. I suspect that you won't face any criminal or civil penalties for your actions as the hikers are assuming the risk. I believe they would have to say to did something grossly negligent to come after you, but even that would be difficult to prove, especially if they are all dead.
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    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJsName View Post
    It's possible that some/many of them turned around when they got higher up. The warnings of others tend to pale in comparison to being cold and wet. I suspect that you won't face any criminal or civil penalties for your actions as the hikers are assuming the risk. I believe they would have to say to did something grossly negligent to come after you, but even that would be difficult to prove, especially if they are all dead.
    Cool avatar and a voice of reason.
    Ellen

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    "Through winter-time we call on spring/And through the spring on summer call/And when abounding hedges ring/Declare that winter's best of all/And after that there's nothing good/Because the spring-time has not come... William Butler Yeats

  8. #8
    Senior Member John in NH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TJsName View Post
    It's possible that some/many of them turned around when they got higher up. The warnings of others tend to pale in comparison to being cold and wet. I suspect that you won't face any criminal or civil penalties for your actions as the hikers are assuming the risk. I believe they would have to say to did something grossly negligent to come after you, but even that would be difficult to prove, especially if they are all dead.
    TJsName-- I agree with what you said. My personal answer to my question is that everyone is responsible for their own actions and safety, and assume the responsibility to learn enough about any pursuit they are undertaking to do so. Unfortunately, we live in a very litigious society, and there are plenty of instances where people sue others for failing to be warned of dangers. So I was just wondering if anyone knew if that had ever happened in a similar hiking scenario I previously.

    One minor disagreement with your post, plenty of cold and wet people continue to press on towards summits. Also not all rescue victims die, some are found, some suffer injuries such as frostbite, etc. So it is certainly possibly for someone to be around to complain.

    Nice job with the redlining, I'm at 44.1%. See you out there.

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    Beautiful photos, as always, John!

    That's a very tricky question you pose. I agree with TJ. Ultimately, they are responsible for themselves, although that doesn't mean we can't share a kind word of advice now and then. On the flip side, we should be humble enough to listen to the advice and warnings of others and then apply it if the situation calls for it.
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    Senior Member iagreewithjamie's Avatar
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    Legally, I don't think you're liable for not telling someone something they should know in the first place. If it were a threatening situational circumstance (i.e. "I turned around because an avalanche just engulfed the trail"), then you should share. But someone wearing shorts and sneakers on a snowy icy trail is beyond needing any type of warning.

    I think liability comes into play (legally) during injury. If you encounter an injured hiker and do nothing to help, some states would hold you liable. Not sure about good ole libertarian NH.
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    Senior Member sierra's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John in NH View Post
    I guess the biggest question I had is: Has any hiker ever been held legally (criminally or civilly) liable for failing to warn (or talk to, however you want to phrase it) obviously unprepared "hikers" about significant and unavoidable dangers? (such as the forecast I mentioned in my post, lots of ice when all they have is sneakers, etc) The fact that "sharing the code" is mentioned specifically in the hike safe guidelines got me thinking of that question.

    sierra-- in summer/y months I take your approach, figuring experience should be a good teacher. It's these shoulder seasons months late Oct, Nov, early December that I worry and wonder most. The ice bulges are worse than winter and it can be just as cold/windy. Some of these casual folks headed up from Boston (or other warmer places) where the grass is still green just don't seem to be aware of what they are getting into.

    mncta & erugs-- Yes, I definitely brought it up in a more conversational way, sharing my experience or a comment on the forecast. That seems the best route.
    Know offense, but that is just crazy. People are responsible for thier own actions, me just sitting there minding my own business is not a crime and I do it all the time. I took the time and learned how to do everything outdoors on my own, the hard way, mostly alone. If someone ask for my help, by all means, I would be glad to take all the time I had to offer any advice I could. Ive offered on this site many times to beginners to take them hiking and spend the time to teach them. All that being said, Im a huge fan of my rights, I can respecfully do what I want inside the law. Some knuckhead pulls over and says, " Hey lets go up here!'' that in no way is my responsibilty, period.

  12. #12
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    John, don't sweat the liability stuff. Even the scummiest bottom-feeding slip-n-fall lawyer would have nothing in this situation. Now, on to more important things....really nice photos.
    These are not easy exposures. Waterfalls in dark shaded areas have so much contrast, it's tough to capture it all. All you can do is expose for the water (or maybe the snow in this case)
    and hope to bring out some of the shadows in pp. Also, some of your photos have a sepia quality to them......is that intentional? Either way, nice job.
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    Senior Member John in NH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sierra View Post
    Know offense, but that is just crazy. People are responsible for thier own actions,.
    Again I agree. If the answer to my question was yes, that would be crazy. I stated basically your position in post #8 in this thread. It's common sense. Unfortunately, the law doesn't always follow common sense and was wondering if there was ever such a case, not saying there was. There was a case, Bodine v. Enterprise High School, where a 19 year old breaking into the school fell through their skylight and was hurt. The case didn't go to trial, because the school gave him $250,000 as a settlement. That's the kind of thing I was wondering about. But I am done wondering about it. I will not stop wondering what the hell people are thinking when headed up to sub zero socked in peaks with nothing but jeans and sneakers and why it takes them so long to turn around, if ever.


    Quote Originally Posted by Billy View Post
    John, don't sweat the liability stuff. Even the scummiest bottom-feeding slip-n-fall lawyer would have nothing in this situation. Now, on to more important things....really nice photos.
    These are not easy exposures. Waterfalls in dark shaded areas have so much contrast, it's tough to capture it all. All you can do is expose for the water (or maybe the snow in this case)
    and hope to bring out some of the shadows in pp. Also, some of your photos have a sepia quality to them......is that intentional? Either way, nice job.
    Thanks! You are right about the contrast making getting a good exposure difficult. I only shoot waterfalls on cloudy days, and it was lightly snowing when I shot these. The light was thus pretty even. Nothing kills waterfall shot faster than splotches of intense sunlight mixed with shadows. As for the sepia, I shoot in RAW file format so I can adjust white balance or turn images into black and white ones in post production. Going with sepia tone black and whites was just a judgment, since there was a lot of rich reddish brown in the rocks, but not much color going on naturally otherwise. Sticking with regular black and white could be better as the scenes look colder.

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    Senior Member BobC's Avatar
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    Thought I would add some comments even though I realize this thread is over 2 months old. I ran into a similar situation a couple of summers ago where I came across a hiker that was clearly unprepared for what was ahead. He was on a backpacking trip with his son and carrying more than I've ever seen anyone carry on a hike - a backpack stuffed to the extreme, a separate soft-sided cooler slung over his shoulder, even a non-backpacking tent that looked like it came from Walmart, carried separately and slung over his shoulder. It was probably around 2:00 and this guy was just about a mile into a hike that would take him up over Jackson (which I would learn after talking to him) and over the summit and down to the Nauman tentsite. He was so loaded down and so winded that I was pretty sure he wasn't going to make it, and his teenage son looked nervous. I felt bad for not warning him after hearing his story initially, so after thinking about it a bit, I turned around and ran back up the trail to explain to him how much hiking he had ahead of him, and suggested other options. I've never done this before (speaking to an unprepared hiker), but I felt it was the right thing to do at the time. I'm not sure if he listened but I felt a little better that I at least tried.

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    Senior Member Dave Bear's Avatar
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    Not true BobC! You've seen me carry a 25 pound stainless grill up a 4K with 16 pounds of good grilling meat! ;-) Excellent photography John and kudos on the good samaritan advice! Usually, and not to stereo-type, the jean crowd "gets it" later in their "Duh! That guy was right!" moment further into their callous adventure.
    The heart of the journey is in the path not the peak!

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