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Proceed at your own risk

The Avalanche Hazard warnings blazed yellow at the mountain base. It was hard to ignore the U. S. Forest Service signs, right in the middle of the snowshoe trail. It was worth a stop to read.I had never climbed St. Maryís Glacier, just a few miles west of Denver. This glacier is a semi-permanent snowfield at about 11,000 feet. With the snowfall in the region, everything around was a snowfield. Climbing a glacier seemed like an interesting thing to do ó and the weather was favorable.One bright sign warned of potentially dangerous avalanche paths, and said to proceed at your own risk. But the notice didnít stop there.The fine print disclaimer read (I kid you not):ìAccess Point Notice to Backcountry Travelers ó Hazards are not limited to, but include: changing weather conditions, landslides, caves, overlooks, falling tree limbs, high or rushing water, contaminated water, wild animals, becoming lost, over-exerted, hypothermia, remnants of mines, tunnels and shafts, decaying structures, and changing trail conditions …îAnd …ìYou may also be exposed to unreasonable acts of others.îSeriously? Unreasonable acts of others? What could that be?Despite the unwelcoming advice to hikers, I pressed on. Snow shower clouds now built ominously, fresh sugar powdering the surrounding peaks. But the sun broke through in patches where I ascended the steep glacier slope. Curiously ó and perhaps more than telling ó no other snowshoe prints preceded me. It seemed like no one had been on the glacier in some time, perhaps heeding the advice on The Notice.Near the several-hundred-foot elevation gain to the top, I watched snow blow off the cornice overhangs on adjoining ridges. To hike up farther would mean crossing the remaining section, rather than staying close to the boulders at the edge. A layer of new snow on the winter pack seemed ideal to break loose. Although I wanted to see higher and farther, I decided it wise not to ìproceed at my own riskî at this point. My family, and search and rescue teams, would thank me.I just hoped now that I wouldnít be exposed to any unreasonable hikers on my way out.T. Duren Jones spends time in the Colorado wilderness as often as possible. He has hiked hundreds of trails, completed the nearly 500 miles of the Colorado Trail, and has summited all 54 of Coloradoís 14,000-foot peaks. He loves the outdoors. He hates snakes.

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