I saw something when we were at Bryce Canyon last week that has stayed on my mind. First, a little information . . .
When hiking at Bryce (they have LOTS of wonderful trails) you have to descend the canyon and afterwards climb back out. The hiking isn't hard until you get to the climb out. Hopefully you can see in this photo how nice and tempting the trail into the canyon is.
There are trails that weave all through the hoodoos, for miles and miles.
The most popular trail is the Navajo Loop. It is the most scenic in terms of the hoodoos and redrock. It isn't real long (a couple miles) and is often the one that attracts the folks who are not prepared for the strenuous hike out of the canyon. We've done this particular hike MANY times as its beauty never gets old.
Keep in mind that all this activity is happening at 8,000 feet elevation where the air is thin. Most people are not used to the difficult uphill hike out of the canyon and the thin air makes it even more difficult.
As we descended the canyon, really just 20 yards into the hike, a man was being assisted (nearly dragged) out of the canyon by his son. His whole family surrounded him but moreso to deny the reality of the situation than to actually render any aid. The man was REALLY struggling, nearly unable to walk. As we passed by, we saw his hand and arm were swollen so badly that it looked like the skin should split open. And it was VERY blue. Not a good sign.
The man was probably a few years younger than me. He was a bigger fella. I kept thinking about this man as we finished our descent. I wondered how far the family hiked before the man started to struggle? About the time we started to ascend the canyon, we came across a woman who had nearly completed her descent (we were going opposite directions). She was very obese and I wondered how she made it down. I suspect she would really struggle to get out of the canyon.
Bryce Canyon is remote and they don't routinely do rescues unless the situation is bad enough to bring in a helicopter. But because of the hoodoos it would be rare to be in a spot where one could land so for the most part you are on your own and need to be aware of your own limitations.
As we completed our ascent I could not help but think how lucky we were. I wish more people would realise how much control most of us have over our own fitness levels.