As I have written about before, I am a 14 year member of Alpine Rescue Team, located in Evergreen, CO. Alpine Rescue Team has been safely rescuing people having a bad day in the mountains for 60 years. We are a proud member of the Mountain Rescue Association (MRA) community. This is a prestigious designation conferred on those teams who, every 5 years, demonstrate proficiency in high angle evacuations, scree evacuations, search, and avalanche rescue. We are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and we always provide our services free of charge. This year alone we have responded to over 150 calls. A number that has exploded with the dramatic expansion of Colorado’s population.
In addition to our search, rescue, and recovery services, one of our key goals is to further the learning and understanding of the general public on how to stay safe in the backcountry. To achieve this goal, you can find us: hanging out at many popular trail heads checking in with people heading into the mountains to see if they are prepared, giving presentations to various outdoor groups along the Front Range of Colorado, and hosting backcountry skills clinics at our team facility. I thought I would share some key tips from time to time to get the word out to the blogosphere of adventurers. Hopefully you will find some nugget of information in here that helps keep you safe in the backcountry.
Tips to avoid backcountry peril:
- Take the 10 Essentials on every hike! If you ever find yourself saying … “I’m just going to …” and therefore the implication is you don’t need to take much, please reconsider the decision to not pack any critical items. I can’t tell you how many rescues we do for people who twist / break ankles, fall and hit heads, get lost, the hike takes longer and now it’s getting dark, etc.
- For a list of 10 Essentials please see Alpine Rescue Team
- Please note this list of things can fit easily into a small daypack
- The 10 Essentials give you a chance to survive 24-48 hrs and be found alive.
- Set a realistic scheduled and follow your turn-around plan
- Do not rely upon electronics – have basic knowledge of how to use a topo map
- A cellphone and 911 do not replace preparedness
- Do not separate with your party – this is true with VERY few exceptions.
- Know the weather forecast before you go and heed any weather indications
- Always tell someone your specific plan: where you’re going, what trail, and your estimated return time. Do not deviate from this without letting someone know your changes.
- Temperature drops 4 degrees per 1,000 feet of elevation – be prepared for this
- Lightening kills – be off summit and ridge lines by 11 am (depending on the forecast for storms)
- Altitude sickness is aided only by descent
- If lost, stay put
- Make yourself findable – wear bright clothing, have whistle / reflective device, fire kit, etc. (See 10 essentials)
- Do at least some research on the trail / wilderness area you are going to
- Don’t have summit fever when all indicators tell you otherwise. Like the famous mountaineer Ed Viesturs said … “live to climb another day.” The mountain will still be there.
- Remember … it can happen to you.
Just taking a few steps ahead of time can ensure the best outcomes for when we recreate, no matter what we encounter along the way. If the worst should happen, rest assured that there are dedicated, trained people who will come find you, get you, and take care of you all free of charge.