(UPDATE) It’s the season for hiking – when many inexperienced people take to the trails during vacations, holidays, or summertime pleasure. Unfortunately some of these hikes are not as pleasurable due to mistakes that are made – some of them being potentially very dangerous.
Here’s one scenario where the hikers make mistake after mistake, with disastrous results…
A group of four friends set a date in late spring for a mountain hike, making the date months in advance. The night before the hike, they drove four hours from home to a lodging near the trail-head. The next morning the weather forecast predicted the day will be in the 60s to low 70s, but that late-season storms can be expected in higher elevations. It was warm and sunny when they left their overnight accommodations, so they set out in cotton shorts, T-shirts and sneakers…
HIKING MISTAKE #1
Weather can change very quickly, particularly in the mountains, and the higher you go, the colder, windier and wetter the weather is likely to be. Late spring storms can mean snow on mountain tops, and summer storms can be nearly as cold.
When bad weather hit, in this case, the friends should have either elected to TURN BACK and post-poned their hike when the weather turned very cold and wet, or should have been PREPARED WITH KNOWLEDGE AND GEAR for winter hiking.
The friends are each carrying a candy bar and a bottle of water; one person has a cell phone, another has a compass, but has never used it before. They had no map.
HIKING MISTAKE #2
They are not PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES. They don’t have a pocket-knife, maps, flashlight, First-Aid kit, rain or wind gear, or anything to start a fire. Cell phones often don’t work in the mountains. A map and compass can only get you home if you know how to use it. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
On the way to the trail-head, one member of the group suggests they take a different, more difficult trail because he’s heard that it’s a quicker route to the summit.
HIKING MISTAKE #3
They changed plans. If they had told anyone the trail they planned to hike and when they expected to be back, the information would send rescuers off in the wrong direction. They should LEAVE THEIR PLANS with friends or family before setting out and stick to those plans as best you can. You should also sign a hiking register, if available.
One friend, who has never hiked before; the others assure their friend that it’ll be a piece of cake. If you lag behind, we’ll wait up ahead for you to catch up.
HIKING MISTAKE #4
They didn’t pace their hike to the slowest member of the group. They should STAY TOGETHER, starting as a group, hiking as a group, ending as a group.
They set out up the mountain. The weather is increasingly colder as they gain elevation, and it starts to snow. The friend who has never hiked before falls further and further behind. When the three stronger hikers emerge above the tree line, they are caught in a snow. Two of the group decides to make for the summit since it’s closer than the base.
HIKING MISTAKE #5
Not only have they again failed to stay together, they didn’t TURN BACK when conditions changed. One member of the group heads back to find the slower friend. Not finding the friend on the trail, this hiker returns to the trail-head and summons help. It’s only been a few hours since this group of friends started out. The weather continues to get worse and it takes many more hours for search and rescue teams to find both the single hiker and the rest to bring them out safely.