Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ten Rules for Wilderness Travel

Dale Matson

  1. Remain orientedDon’t get lost in the first place. Use a map, GPS/compass and wristwatch. Pay attention to your surroundings. What is unique and distinctive? Was there a creek along the trail on your right outbound? Where will it be inbound? Is the highway perpendicular to the trailhead? Which direction are you heading on the trail away from the highway? 
  2. Know your limitations. Your own ego is your worst enemy. Don’t succumb to summit fever. Things you step over outbound you may trip over on the return leg.
  3. Everyone should have basic navigational skills. Lost people frequently began with a group and became separated. Put a good navigator in the rear too. Know your route. Is there water along the way to resupply?
  4. Let someone know where you are going. Do not change your plans and hike a different area. Tell them you will call them when you are in your vehicle and headed home.
  5. Stay on the trail. The trail IS the shortcut. Be careful not to follow the drainage from a trail (which can look like a trail) especially on switchbacks. Watch for blaze marks on trees along the trail.  Many trails are used in winter also and have tags high up in trees. Head out early to your destination if you are alone. People returning to the trailhead behind you are what could be called “trail sweeps”.
  6. Mountains make their own weather. Be prepared for the worst but check the weather. If there is a storm coming cancel the trip. Winter driving itself can be dangerous. Rescuers are more at risk too. Air support is unavailable in a storm. Don’t put others at risk too.
  7. Stay warm, stay hydrated and nourished and stay dry. Have these items with you at all times at a minimum. Know the essentials and have them in your day pack.  Always think of a day hike as a possible overnight. (copy and paste in your browser)
  8. Communicate with each other. Wait for people to catch up especially at trail junctions. The slowest person in a group will determine the pace.
  9. Know when to turn back. How much time do you have? Check your watch frequently. Even If the trail is up outbound, figure on an equal amount of time required inbound.
  10. When all else fails. Stay put unless you have to keep moving to avoid hypothermia. Stay in the open. Do not attempt to travel in the dark. The wind in the evergreens is not cars on a nearby road. Even if you are lost in the forest, you are probably safer than spending the night on the sidewalks of any major city.

Will I follow my own rules? I hope and pray that I will.

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