Benighted [bih-nahy-tid]: adjective. 1. overtaken by darkness or night. 2. to unexpectedly get stuck out on a climb overnight, an unplanned “suffer” bivouac.
Over the past few days, a number of climbers have been posting about getting benighted on big rock routes in Western Canada. Many climbers have experienced getting benighted, so it’s good to always expect the unexpected when heading up a big route or peak.
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This is what 5:30 am one pitch from the top of Marble Canyon’s Upper Wall after it rained on us all night, looks like. Yup, we unplanned bivied after slogging it out on the legendary, Yellow Brick Road. I’d been convinced we needed to climb it. Now I can say I’ve climbed it, but god was that stressful. Just the shittiest rock and the sketchiest climbing! Stoked we executed safely and rang in my 40th year like a real boss, though. That’s right folks, I’m freaking 40 years old! . . . . . . #noplacetoofar #julbocanada #40yearsold #mostlyundercontrol #hotguysofinsta
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A great adventure on the Homer Wood route on The Wind Tower with Phil. Such a wild and exposed setting just outside of Canmore. Involving a fair bit of cerebral engagement and use of “tricks of the trade” (yes – don’t leave the pitons behind). We ended up spending the night on the wall as darkness came too soon (start early!!). A spectacular experience on a local peak; I can only imagine how they felt on the FA!! Although I have a new appreciation for why it is called the “Wind Tower”. A suffer bivy, accompanied with a friendly rat who kept biting on my foot…..🥶
If you’ve ever been benighted then you know what the implications are and how to be prepared in the future. It’s often less dangerous then continuing to climb in the dark in an attempt to summit or descend to safety.
Traveling in the dark can lead to getting into more hazardous terrain or a more exposed position. The only complications with spending in unplanned night out is when you don’t have enough supplies or layers.
If you’re on a rock or alpine climb and you decide to spend the night, you want to make sure you have a few essentials. Don’t be afraid to hunker down for the night, it’s often better than trying to bail or rush to the top.
One of the biggest issues with the “suffer bivy” is that it leaves your friends and family wondering what happened to you. Always let someone know that you plan on making it home that night, but unforeseen situations might force the climb into the following day.
Here are some other things to keep in mind when heading into terrain that might leave you benighted.
Let others know: Leave a note or tell someone what you’re planning to do. This includes details about the route location, who is going, what vehicle you’re driving and where you’re parking, when you plan to be back and who should be called if you don’t return.
Be prepared: Bring some extra food, water and a warm layer; even on summer rock routes. Toss in a small headlamp and emergency blanket. They’re lighter than a bivy set-up but will help you get through the night.
Devices: Let others know that you won’t be returning that night with a device. Checking in will put people’s mind to ease. Research if your route has phone reception. If not, then consider bringing a SPOT personal beacon, the Delorme inReach or any other communication device.
Call 911: Many cellphones boost their signal and jump on the best carrier when 911 is dialed. Report that you’re spending an unexpected night out, give them your check-in person’s info and leave a message for them. If 911 is called by family or friends because you’re late, then at least they know you’re OK.