You might have heard that most hiking and mountaineering accidents occur while descending. The reason is pretty obvious if you think about it: hikers are tired both physically and mentally. If you have been out for five hard hours and you still have another 40 minutes of bouldering through a canyon, you shouldn't let you guard down, but some hikers do. It's human nature.
But I think there's another reason why accidents happen that most people don't think about. Your balance is not as good if your legs are tired. I have seen good hikers trip and stumble during descents on easy class two terrain. It had been a long day and I am sure their legs were shot.
Here's another fact to back up my point. Today in the gym I went extra hard during spin class. Walking down the stairs after the class I could feel how tired my legs were. As I balanced on the Bosu ball, like I do every workout, I could not keep my balance. Everything else was the same: same ball, same floor, and same shoes. It had to be my legs. Obviously my balance could not change that much in one day.
How can you benefit from what I am writing about here? First, be aware that your balance will not be as good while descending after a hard hike. Take less chances and stay alert. Second, work on your balance. Most gyms have Bosu balls. Here's a video my routine of the Bosu ball. They can follow my routine or adapt it and improve their balance. I don't own a Bosu ball (they are $100+) and since the gym has plenty of them, I am not going to buy one. Give me routine a try. Of course, you can modify it.
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV