Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Being prepared

In late August, about half a dozen hikers in the Seattle area had problems that ended in SAR assistance or death. A couple of sources wondered whether the unusually cold and wet August weather partially contributed to these problems. I wonder if the hikers, seeing the fast approach of the PNW's wet season decided to get out and make the most of the relatively warm weather and overreached their abilities and preparation. In the Seattle lowlands, we rarely get extreme weather and it can be hard to really understand that in the local mountains, even at relatively low elevations from 3000 to 4000 feet, weather can be much more severe. We all should know that mountain weather is treacherous but it can be hard to really believe that around Seattle, unlike say Montana where a June snowfall tends to remind you that mountain weather can be extreme. I've found myself underestimating the local mountain weather and nearly coming to grief.

I don't know with any certainty that the hikers were badly prepared or pushing their limits; the fact they got into trouble they could not extract themselves from certainly suggests this but it is possible they simply had very bad luck. I know I've had difficulty in the past deciding how much "just in case" gear to carry; I've packed so much that it became easy to rationalize taking my lumbar pack instead of my daypack thus nullifying the any advantage of the extra gear. I pack for the worst case I expect, not the worst case which could happen which may be far more trying. And how do you find your limits without pushing them occasionally? Certainly I have done some foolish things pushing my capabilities.

I'm grateful that SAR options exist and that cell phones and various emergency locators are available. I don't normally carry either a cell phone or a beacon while hiking; I probably should carry the latter especially as my health becomes worse. I know better than to depend on outside help but I suspect many hikers consciously or subconsciously depend on backup.


At 8/10/08 10:30, Blogger TINTIN said...

thanks for sharing all your experiences and stuff about hiking..


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