The scariest moment of my life

There are few things that frighten me. I’m not a fan of spiders or snakes but I won’t scream and run in the other direction if I see one.

I’m not afraid of the dark.

I don’t get paranoid about being robbed when I walk the streets in a foreign country.

New places excite me, rather than frighten me.

But on a recent hike up Mount Joseph I experienced the scariest moment of my life.

View of Mt Joseph from below Double-Barrelled Travel

Looking up at Mt Joseph from below. There was still snow on the top of the mountain even though it was the middle of summer

The scariest moment of my life

I saw Dave fall and for a few seconds I thought he’d broken his back.

Someone I love being badly injured is probably the one thing in life I am afraid of.

And thinking Dave had hurt himself very, very badly made me panic.

My heart raced, I screamed, I even hyperventilated a little.

I later joked that I acted the same way to Dave injuring himself as I did when he proposed.

But at the time his fall was no laughing matter.

Dave contemplating the summit of Mt Joseph Double-Barrelled Travel

Dave contemplating the hike up the most difficult part of Mt Joseph – the scree pile and boulders. Little did we know what was to come

 How we got to this point

Let’s back up a little – how did we get to be in this tight spot in the first place?

We had spent nearly 10 hours hiking up a huge mountain – Mount Joseph in Oregon – with 16 of our friends. The group had split up – some people had turned back before us, while some had carried on to reach the summit.

There was just myself, Dave, and two of our friends sliding our way down the mountain at this point.

I say ‘sliding’ because that’s literally what we were doing. There had been a rock fall in the area before our hike, meaning not only was the mountain steep and dangerous, there were also loose rocks everywhere which meant you could slip and slide your way down the path.

Not that there was a path – this was not a trail that was regularly hiked.

It was certainly back country.

Part of this sliding was actually quite fun. But once we had made it to the bottom of the scree pile we still had a long way to go and were feeling exhausted.

There was a small section of about 100 metres where we had to bushwhack through to get to some large sharp and unsteady boulders (from a fresh rock fall) that we had to clamber over.

Beautiful view of the lake from Mt Joseph Double-Barrelled Travel2

The view of the lake from the scree pile was spectacular – and we felt we’d earned it

 Our first injuries

As we were going through the bush, I put my foot on a boulder and it gave way from under me. Frightened, I reached out to steady myself on the boulder behind me but that also fell and gashed my palm open.

I screamed for my friends to watch out below as two boulders thundered through the bush straight at them.

They quickly jumped out of the way.

Blood streaming down my hand, I squeezed my eyes shut briefly to block out the pain and continued bushwhacking.

Dave came closer to take a look, but as he did he began screaming.

“Ahhhh!! It burns, it burns! Get it OFF ME!!!”

Two black-faced hornets had flown up his shirt, stinging him on his back.

Having been stung by a black-faced hornet on my ankle a few days beforehand, I sympathised.


Our friend Preston scrambled back up the mountain a little to help us out. After he’d checked Dave to make sure the hornets were no longer in his shirt, and bandaged my hand, we continued bushwhacking to the giant boulders.

Carmen's cut from falling down Mt Joseph Double-Barrelled Travel

The cut on my palm

Dave’s accident

Hiking experts say that the descent is often the most dangerous part of a hike, because you are tired and not concentrating enough.

This was certainly us by this point.

Not only were we longing for our beds, but we were in mild shock after being injured.

What we should’ve done was take a few moments to relax and catch our breaths before continuing over the boulders.

But instead we went for it because we wanted to get to the bottom of the mountain before darkness came.

Dave was clambering over the boulders parallel to me when all of a sudden in my peripheral vision I saw him slip and fall.

I screamed as he back-flipped off an unsteady boulder, flying through the air and crashing on to larger boulders below.

There was a loud thud as he hit the ground, landing on his back.

It was frightening.

In a split second I was by his side, thinking he might have broken his back and having visions of him being air lifted off the mountain.

Thankfully, he was moving and I realised that he wasn’t as badly hurt as he should’ve been from that fall.

View of the mountains Mt Joseph Double-Barrelled Travel

The spectacular mountains. A tough hike indeed!

 What saved Dave’s back

And guess what saved him? Our video camera!

Dave had been adamant that he wanted to hike up the mountain with our large video camera so he could film the experience.

We’d all said he was crazy, but he insisted.

To carry it, he’d put it into a large backpacking style backpack and attached it to a rope so he could hang it around his neck if need be.

When he’d fallen, the camera had been in the backpack but had come flying out, giving him the momentum which made him back-flip. The rope had wound round and round his body, encasing him tightly which ensured he fell straight without any limbs flailing about and potentially breaking.

The backpack itself had cushioned his fall and probably saved him from breaking his back.

Best of all, the camera had stayed attached to the rope and rather than smashing on a rock, was swinging in the air beside Dave after he landed on a boulder.

So who would’ve thought? This blog might’ve actually saved Dave from serious injury!

Dave's bruised ribs Mt Joseph Double-Barrelled Travel

Dave’s bruised ribs

 Escaping with minor injuries

Crazy how life works sometimes.

Someone was certainly looking out for Dave that day as he escaped with cuts and bruised ribs.

But Dave’s fall certainly gave me the fright of my life. And upon seeing my reaction, guess what Dave said?

“You really do love me a lot!”

As always, we welcome your comments.

What about you? What’s the scariest thing that’s ever happened to you while travelling?

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About the author

Carmen has been nomadic since May 2013 and the co-founder of Double-Barrelled Travel. She loves experiencing new cultures and learning new languages. She is having the most fun when skiing down a mountain, scuba diving in the Caribbean or curled up with a good book.

5 comments on “The scariest moment of my life”

  1. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) Reply

    Wow. If those hornets had stung someone who didn’t know they were allergic to them, you might have been carrying a corpse down. Dave’s fall is scarier than mine, but it is disconcerting to know what is going to happen, but being powerless to stop it. So many people describe their falls as seeming to occur in slow motion. If you don’t mind a link, here’s the story of my fall:

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Wow, the photo of you all bloody looks awful! What a horrible fall. Yes, it was in slow motion for Dave and as I saw him fall it seemed like it was in slow motion for me too – but in reality I think it actually happened very quickly. Thankfully we weren’t allergic to hornets… the whole hike down seemed like a series of disasters but thankfully we made it to the bottom relatively unharmed. It could’ve been a lot worse.

  2. Sally Reply

    Terrifying! I guess not all hikes are wonderful, but the pictures usually make it seem that way.

    I’m glad nothing more horrible happened, sounds like you’ll be much more careful next time you’re headed down a mountain.

    • Carmen Allan-Petale Reply

      Yes, lesson has been learnt! We’ve hiked quite a bit since then and have made sure we weren’t as tired when coming down. It was still a wonderful hike – until the end that was! 🙂

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