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Articles written by Molly Absolon

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  • It Can Happen to the Professionals: We Need to Know Avalanches Inside and Out

    MOLLY ABSOLON, Writers on the Range|Apr 3, 2024

    There’s a fine line between learning from the mistakes of others and shaming people for their ignorance. Twelve people have died in avalanches in the United States this winter, including an expert skier in Oregon who was also an avalanche forecaster. He was killed in early March despite deploying an airbag that kept him from being buried. On average, 27 people die in avalanches in the United States each year. The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center has reported three hundred and fifty avalanches since last September. Many of these incidents were t...

  • Backcountry Heroes Always Try to Bring Us Back

    MOLLY ABSOLON, Writers on the Range|Jun 21, 2023

    When I was leading groups into the Wyoming wilderness in the 1990s, once we left a trailhead we were on our own. If somebody got hurt, we could walk or carry the injured person out or send runners to the road to call for support. In the case of a life- or limb-threatening emergency, we could use a transponder to try to send a coded message to a passing aircraft, pleading for help. Things have definitely changed. “People expect to be rescued,” said Tod Schimelfenig, who has been on the search and rescue team for Fremont County, Wyoming, sin...

  • Living With Grizzlies as Neighbors

    MOLLY ABSOLON, Writers on the Range|Nov 30, 2022

    When I was working with a Kenyan outdoor instructor in Wyoming's Wind River Range a couple of decades ago, he surprised me one day by saying, "Hiking here feels like a walk in the park." With armed guards, he was used to moving through wild places in Africa full of dangerous animals. He said he always felt vigilant on those trips, but in Wyoming's Winds? We weren't going to be threatened by anything larger than a GORP-seeking squirrel. But now, grizzlies have returned to the Wind River Range, a...

  • How Do You You-Know-What in the Woods?

    MOLLY ABSOLON, Writers on the Range|Jun 29, 2022

    Poop talk makes everybody fidget and giggle uncomfortably. We like our poop to disappear. We want shiny white porcelain toilets and privacy. But how do you cope when you’re in the woods behind a tree? When I took my first course at the National Outdoor Leadership School in Lander, Wyoming, years ago, the preferred method of waste disposal was bringing a trowel to dig a six-inch cat hole, a practice still the norm for many backcountry travelers today. There was even a how-to guide by Kathleen Meyer, published in 1992, titled bluntly, How to S...

  • A Close Encounter with Wolves and Fear

    Molly Absolon, Writers on the Range|Sep 1, 2021

    This summer, three of us were hiking in Alaska’s western Brooks Range when we encountered a pack of eight wolves. We were far from any help when they moved toward us, paused, and then disappeared behind a low ridge. When they re-emerged seconds later, they’d lined up along the crest of the pass we were hiking toward. They looked as if they were poised to attack. Then … nothing happened. Once the wolves figured out what we were, they turned around and vanished. But for those few anxious moments, I tingled with adrenaline, fearing the worst...

  • Dying For Powder

    Molly Absolon, Writers on the Range|Mar 31, 2021

    Sometimes you hear a crack or a roar. More often the first sign is snow shifting around your feet. The snow starts in a slab and then breaks into blocks that knock you off your skis, careening down in a slide moving as fast as 60-80 mph. If you’re lucky, you live through it, plastered with snow; if not, you’re entombed, hurtled over a cliff, killed. There have been 36 avalanche fatalities in the United States this winter, a streak of avalanche deaths not seen since 1918. The accidents all occurred at a time when forecasters had rated the avalan...

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