No matter your personal view of risk, trips away from home can involve certain unknown and unforeseen risks and unplanned surprises. Such contingencies can be as innocuous as a flight delay or as serious as a week-long white-out at high altitude. And even though advanced planning will not eliminate such surprises, it will mitigate the impact of such events on the goals and enjoyment of the endeavor, as well as on the legal liabilities stemming from unexpected incidents.
Expeditions are inherently risky, and it is this risk quotient that differentiates garden variety trips from expeditions. Most risk exposure on expeditions is derived from the potential for bodily harm, and for this reason books such as this one, providing specialized information on medical care in expedition contexts, are important references. Knowing what types of medical risks will be present and methods for preventing and/or treating them in the field are vital pretrip evaluations, but simply knowing the medical risks is not enough. Often overlooked in the expedition planning phase are steps and methods for reducing the entire range of risks and the legal liabilities that may be present. For instance, after the medical triage is complete, considerations inevitably turn to the rights and obligations of those involved, and if the proper framework is in place prior to the trip, such matters can be resolved in an orderly fashion with minimal dispute. Moreover, the risk of liability does not always end with the expedition itself but may arise long after the crampons have been hung up.