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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 12:21 pm 
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What is the point of this post?


Wiki summmary last edited by ratherbhiking on Tue Jul 08, 2014 9:10 pm (this post can be edited by any member)
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jenjen
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 9:05 am 
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Here's a place to discuss staying safe, staying found, and the lessons you've learned from close calls and mistakes.

How to ice-axe self arrest:

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If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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Red Squatch
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 9:10 am 
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Tip of the day: always carry a compass, no matter how routine your adventure might be - you never know when it's going to come in handy (spoken from experience after an unscheduled 14-hour trek from Mission Ridge to Ellensburg on alpine gear a number of years ago... shakehead.gif )

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Good judgment comes from experience... experience comes from bad judgment... PPE
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dacker
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dacker
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 12:56 pm 
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Always leave word with someone responsible detailing where you are going, your planned route (if known) and when you expect to be back. If there is some doubt as to your destination, at least leave a list of possibilities.

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We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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Grannyhiker
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 1:02 pm 
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From what I learned at the winter survival course I once took, you should always have a means of melting snow for water.  Above timberline this means always carrying a stove, fuel and a pot.  Below timberline this means having the materials and skill to start a fire in extreme conditions (a skill that requires lots and lots of practice!) and carrying a pot.  In addition to sufficient clothing and staying dry, adequate hydration is extremely important to prevent hypothermia.   You can go without food for well over a week (especially those of us who need to lose a few lbs. anyway) but you can't survive long without water.
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Grannyhiker
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 2:05 pm 
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On being lost:  The #1 rule I was always taught is, when you realize you are lost or at least confused or just not sure where you are or where to go, sit down and get your wits together.  Panic is your worst enemy.  Think along these lines: you are not lost, your car/camp/whatever is lost.  Once the initial panic is over and you're somewhat calmed down, then work on figuring out where you are.  Only then do you start planning a course of action.   In most cases the action should be either staying put, retracing your trail to be closer to where you were before (and could more likely expect searchers to look), or finding an open place where you can be spotted from the air.  When in doubt, stay put.  If you realize there's little chance of a search party and you have to hike out, follow your back trail; don't try to go where you haven't been before.   This last is more apt to be successful if while hiking you turn around every so often to see what things will look like when you're returning.  Most important, stop several hours before night falls and build a fire (always have fire-making stuff with you and know how to use it).   Unfortuntely, many people don't learn fire-building skills these days.  Practice in a campground fireplace until you can light a fire every time, even with wet wood.

Since childhood I have been good at landmark-spotting and with map and compass, and as a result have been lost only once--that was in France, in the Cevennes, during a sudden thunderstorm with an inadequate map and a tiny zipper-pull compass that earlier in my trip suffered reversed polarity (evidently due to Swiss electric trains).  I was in such a hurry to get off the top of the mountain due to the oncoming lightning that I went down the wrong side.  I stopped (had to crawl under bushes to shelter from heavy hail anyway) and carefully worked out where I was and needed to go before going any farther.  (It took a lot of working out with my compass needle pointing south instead of north!)   I found that eating a snack and drinking water really helped me with this process.  I of course thought I had calmed down, but I nearly collapsed with relief when I arrived at familiar landmarks!  Fortunately the sun came out after the storm--it could have become foggy, which would have been serious.  Somehow I had the idea that the "ten" essentials are not needed in civilized Europe, so I wasn't prepared to be out overnight.  I also didn't have rain pants with me (saving space to take home several bottles of Provencal wine) so I was soaked from the hips down--the pouring rain even ran inside my boots.  When I finally squelched my way to my car, I was one thankful hiker who will never be caught unprepared like that again!
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dacker
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dacker
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 4:31 pm 
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For anyone who might possibly not have been following the McClellan Butte avalanche thread, it started out as a TR, but quickly morphed into a very worthwhile discussion about avalanche safety and is definitely worth the time it takes to read through it.

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We don't stop hiking because we grow old; we grow old because we stop hiking. --Finis Mitchell
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jenjen
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 8:01 pm 
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Always pack a bit more food than you think you'll need for a trip.  If you're stuck out for an extra night for whatever reason, a meal of questionable cheese, stale tortilla half, and instant mashed potatoes beats bedding down with an empty stomach.

Avoid splitting the party up unless it's necessary.  When Dayhike Mike, Adi, and I were delayed on one trip because my knee was acting up in a big way we considered having Mike go on to the trailhead alone.  Then we thought about the steep terrain and brush (a route none of us had done before) before even getting to the trail itself and decided that it would be silly.  If he got off-course, Adi and I would never see him.  I was slowed down, I wasn't incapacitated.  We could get out the following day - a day late.  And that's what we did.

When we hit the trail, I forged on ahead while Mike stayed back with Adi (who was having knee problems of her own).  I met SAR literally 10 minutes from the trailhead.

If you are injured while out on a backpack or hike, make it easy for searchers to find you.  This is not the time for an inconspicuous camp.  Set the tent up in the biggest opening you can find.  Tie your brightest colored clothes to the trees close to the trail.  Make arrows and messages with rocks.  Make the camp as obvious as you can.  If you have to hobble back and forth and spend the day moving your camp to a more obvious spot, it's probably worth the effort if you know searchers will be looking for you and know your approximate wherabouts.

I not only leave a destination with my contact person (husband), I leave the map with my intended route marked on it.  If possible, I mark down the camp spots I intend to use.  My contact person also knows what tent (or tarp) I'm using, and what gear I have with me.  In the above incident with DHM and Adi, the searchers knew exactly where we intended to come out.  And we made certain to stay on route.  Those searchers are volunteers, make things as easy as possible for them.

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If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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jenjen
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 8:07 pm 
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Here's another thread that has some valuable information in it.

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If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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MtnGoat
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 8:33 pm 
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Red Squatch wrote:
Tip of the day: always carry a compass, no matter how routine your adventure might be - you never know when it's going to come in handy (spoken from experience after an unscheduled 14-hour trek from Mission Ridge to Ellensburg on alpine gear a number of years ago... shakehead.gif )

that's interesting, the terrain there can be really tricky in the winter, a lot of it looks the same in iffy weather and it's hard to tell where you're headed. A buddy of mine also had an adventure in the same area, he took off from Blewett to XC up diamond head and over to haney meadows, decided to take the ridge back instead of the road, and wound up doing a surprise all nighter when he got turned around and then night fell.

was out for the day with no overnight gear, kept going all night to keep warm and wound up coming out Yaksum Cyn road into Cashmere the next morning, dead dog tired. When the sun came up he hit pavement and he fell asleep on the roadside for a couple hours he was so exhausted.

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Diplomacy is the art of saying 'Nice doggie' until you can find a rock. - Will Rogers
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Hiker Mama
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 10:00 pm 
Hiking Safety
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Thanks everyone, this thread is thought-provoking and educational.  Here are some things I've learned over the years.

Try out your stove before you head out on a trip.  Don't just use one your dad dug out of the garage from his Boy Scout days.  shakehead.gif

Know how to make a fire with matches and wet wood.  agree.gif Then, when your stove doesn't work, you can still boil water from the murky lake to drink the next day.

When you know you have mistakenly followed a game trail instead of the real trail, don't just push on thinking "I know if we follow this creek, we'll come to the lake.  It can't be that far."  Your friend may just slide right down the side of the ravine and scrape the whole side of her leg up.  bawl.gif

Don't dress your children in shorts and leave all the long pants at home (a lesson I keep trying to teach one of my hiking mom buddies, though she still hasn't learned it, and I have decided to stop offering my child's extra pants to her.) Often my son needs more layers than I do, and my friends are notorious for underestimating how cool it can be in the mountains.

Bring a warm hat, gloves, and a long-sleeved shirt or sweater, even in the middle of summer.  It's amazing how many times I have needed a hat and my friends thought it would be warm enough to leave it at home.  I was warm and they were not (or their kids were freezing).

Don't let your toddler play in the front seat of the car while you get the gear ready at the trailhead.  You may just come back from your hike to find out the lights have been turned on and your battery is dead.  mad.gif  Additionally, make sure you have jumper cables in your car, because the very friendly and helpful rangers don't always carry them.  Along the same lines, make sure your spare tire is inflated, so that when you go to change a flat, you don't have a flat spare as well.  down.gif

Finally, if you are hiking with small children, put spare clothes and diapers in waterproof bags.  Those disposable diapers really soak the rain up!  clown.gif
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banzaimf
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PostWed Dec 13, 2006 10:43 pm 
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Lessons learned. MAP MAP MAP... oh yeah, and MAP. Followed closely by CORRECT FOOTWEAR and APPAREL.

I made an unscheduled departure of the lookout on Tiger and learned that
1. calling the person with the map, who won't believe what you did, and why (a separate issue, trust those who you're with) didn't work as well as hoped.
2. my legs got cut to crap (cause I forgot the zip offs a home)
3. I ruined a pair of shoes (because I walked up in skate shoes, not hiking boots and the backside of the lookout wasn't conducive to skate shoes)

Side note to any 911 operators. I appreciate that you'll call people back who witness something, and tell them that the person is OK, but can you call the guy back who said "I'm heading down in there to render aid". He might be in a bit of a dither rant.gif

My pack always contains 50 feet of 550 cord, a few carabiners, and a knife.
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jalepeno
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PostThu Dec 14, 2006 2:54 pm 
Lost
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Don't call it being lost. Call it "being temporarily misdirected." Then when you calm down, try to backtrack to where you last knew your location.
Trust your compass. I have been mixed up when I didn't believe my compass. I was using the map alone to guess where I was and it was the wrong drainage.
Ditto what others have said about carrying extra food and water. I shake my head at some of that "hiking light" advice like not carrying water or food.
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Grannyhiker
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PostThu Dec 14, 2006 3:42 pm 
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One exception on that compass bit--if you've been riding an electric train in Europe and get off  to find the sun setting in the east, which was my experience.   Also, a reasonably good compass, not a cheapie, is a good idea.  The one I had in Europe was a $1 zipper-pull thingy with a moving dial--making it really confusing to figure out east and west after it reversed polarity.  A compass with fixed dial and moveable needle would have been much easier to use.  Not that you're liable to have a compass reverse polarity out in the woods, unless you are struck by lightning.

Not well known is that even on the cloudiest days, with a matchstick (or straight twig) and a watch with a white dial or a piece of white paper, you can produce a shadow that points north at noon standard time.  It won't be exact, but close enough if that's all you have.   I would hope, though, that every hiker would carry a compass and a good topo map of where they're going, and know how to use them.
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Dane
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PostThu Dec 14, 2006 4:41 pm 
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If you're doing an off-trail and/or scrambling route don't just look at the class rating (class 1, 2, 3 etc)...look at the ratings for other nearby routes as well.

The route may be class 2, but if a nearby route is class 4 or 5 the consequences of accidentally going off-route would be very serious, and potentially get you into a position you cannot get out of on your own. In other situations, class 2 may be the hardest route nearby and getting off-route may not be much of a problem.

Always, always, always leave a detailed route description with a reliable person. IMO this is more important than map and compass...those you can lose or use incorrectly. Also more important than map and compass (IMO) is the ability to stay warm if you get stuck out overnight and it begins to rain. This includes warm clothes, shelter, fire starting materials, food (metabolic warm), and/or the ability to improvise some of the above.
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