Guidebook Blamed In Death Of Hiker

By now I’m sure you’ve seen this article mentioned somewhere on the Internet. It’s the story of Christopher Parratt, a 32 year old British man who fell to his death while descending from Tryfan, a mountain in the Snowdonia Mountain region of Wales. Apparently, he and his wife were using a guidebook that contained erroneous information that caused them to get lost, in foul weather conditions, and may have resulted in Christopher’s death.

I first read this story over at Outdoor Magic and then saw it mentioned on Two-Hell Drive and The Adventurist. Tom and Jason from those two sites respectively have both weighted in with their thoughts on the topic, and for the most part I agree with their assessments. You shouldn’t take a guidebook as anything more than that. It’s a guide.

Apparently the chapter in the guidebook on Tryfan is entitled Tryfan The Easy Way, which is where some people seem to be focused in this case. The implication is that the chapter is misleading in that it makes it sound like it isn’t all that difficult to go up the mountain, which is approximately 3000 feet in height and is said to be one of the more challenging climbs in Snowdonia, especially in inclement weather. The question here is whether or not the publisher and/or author of the book is at fault for the death of Christopher Parratt.

Parratt’s wife Jennifer testified that they realized on the ascent that the guidebook was off the mark in several areas, but they continued to climb none the less, and despite the onset of bad weather. The guidebook did note that should rain and clouds move in, that climbers should turn back. On the descent, the rocks were slippery and Mr. Parratt slipped on the wet stones, falling over 25 meters to his death.

Obviously this is a delicate story to make a comment on. Friends and family are no doubt still grieving and I can understand their desire to place the blame on someone else. However, even if the guidebook was completely off the mark, it sounds like the poor weather, and slippery conditions are more the cause of this tragedy than anything else. It’s a bit like the woman blaming her GPS navigation system for her car getting hit by the train. Common sense should take precedent over what the guide is telling you, and as tragic as this story is, it no different than other hikers, trekkers, and climbers who accidently die while on a trail somewhere. You need to trust your instincts more than a guidebook, and if you don’t have instincts to guide you in these situations, than you probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.

Kraig Becker

7 thoughts on “Guidebook Blamed In Death Of Hiker”

  1. As an author of a guide book, I considered the liability I would be taking on when I wrote the book. You try to give as much information about a route or trail as possible; however, nature in in constant change so you can never be 100% accurate. Here in Utah you can look at Michael Kelsey and the problems he has had with people blaming him for their troubles. I feel for the people who find themselves in trouble. But, in the end, hikers should be responsible for their own decisions.

  2. Rhett,

    Thanks for your insights. I can totally understand why you would feel some level of responsibility to anyone using your guide. I am sometimes hesitant to recommend a trail if I don’t know the person or their skill level well enough.

    Still, there is only so much you can do in a guidebook. At some point, the person reading it has to accept some responsibility for how the interpret what you write, and what they see on the trail. Factor in bad weather and you have a whole different issue.

    The article you linked to is a great example of how writers need to be careful and it holds some weight, but I also agree with you that hikers/climbers have to take responsibility for their own decisions.

  3. I agree with the majority of you guys on this one. Guidebooks are excellent resources, but mother nature is unpredictable.

    The best guide is most often your own common sense, knowledge of the terrain, weather and area. Even with all that bad things happen. I’ve gotten turned around on a trail before when it was covered with snow upon my return. But thats when a guidebook has reached its limit and you have to use your orienteering skills and stay calm. I respect authors of guidebooks, I can’t even imagine how much work goes into it. But people need to learn the basics of survival and orienteering before venturing off into the woods.

  4. Agreed Wade. The article says that this couple were experienced in mountain hiking, which makes it even more troublesome that they would blame the guidebook.

    If they were experienced, they should have recognized the dangers. Then again, accidents do happen, and that’s what this sounds like. An accident.

  5. We each are responsible for our own selves…our own actions… and yet at times on the influence this may have on others…
    As I am finding through my most recent post…….

  6. Hi Kraig,
    Thanks so much for your comments…
    I needed to muse over this for some time and still do I guess…
    I think my post says what was important…

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