Friday, December 10, 2010

Be Prepared!

When my dad started hiking in the Adirondacks, he did it alone. Of course, this was much to the consternation of my mother. I can see the appeal of hiking alone. Out in the woods, you set your own pace, see the things you want when you want to see them. However, my dad eventually had a hiking buddy in my cousin and later me. On the trail he would often tell me not to hike alone because if you got into trouble, only you could get yourself out of it and sometimes, there would be no physical way to do so.

The LA hiking area has had a rash of hikers needing rescue with some making it and some sadly not. A few weeks ago, 2 young hikers went to Mt. Baldy, got lost and eventually needed rescuing. Here is the story. And just yesterday, the body of a hiker was transported off of Mt. Baldy after she apparently encountered some foggy patches on the mountain. Here is that story.

These were two different situations with inexperienced hikers being rescued and a very experienced hiker, hiking alone, not making it. We might have better technical gear, GPS and other advantages than our hiking fore-bearers, it can still come down to how prepared you are and the mountain in the end, the mountain can win.

In the Adirondacks they post Ranger Reports for the month, detailing the conditions hikers encountered that were troubling and maybe some ways to avoid that trouble in the future. Check out a sample here. Often times, people do not have the right equipment when things go poorly. They often lack water, properly clothes, no compass, etc. Perhaps the people who run the California parks can start putting together a similar list of do's and don'ts for hikers in this neck of the woods.

For any beginning hiker, I always recommend this great ADK book. It tells stories of adventure misery and woe with many miraculous rescues as well. However, the practical value of Peter Bronski's book is the last chapter where he synthesizes all the mishaps into some general rules of mountaineering and hiking to maybe help you if you get stuck.

While I can see the allure of hiking by yourself and certainly do not begrudge experienced hikers from doing so, I think in the end, you want to enjoy the challenge of hiking, but you also want to come back from hiking. So be a boyscout (not The Last Boyscout) and always be prepared and never hike alone.

On a lighter note, the holidays are fast approaching and if you are looking for the perfect gift for the LA hiker in your life, I definitely suggest checking out The Nobody Hikes In LA guidebook by David Lockeretz. 100 trips all around LA, some hard, some easy. Check it out and have a great weekend!


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