Backcountry Prepardness

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Hiking in Evergreen Colorado – Backcountry Safety & Preparedness Part 2

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Yes, accidents in the mountains are extremely low, given the number of folks that go out each day. No one actually tracks this number and I am sure that, like all things, it fluctuates greatly.  Again, accidents are accidents, but bad decisions increase the probability of a bad event from becoming a tragic event. If you’re planning to go hiking in Evergreen, there are some things to consider for before heading out!

Critical thinking Skills:

There are many factors such as weather, altitude, health issues, and yes, rocks that impact our hike.  Rocks have one purpose in life and that is to roll downhill, making them unstable and something that you don’t want to get hit with.  Add a little water or snow to the trail and it becomes very slippery.  You need to be prepared to spend at least 6-12 hours beyond your planned hike for rescue.

An informal survey done over the summer at the major trailheads, e.g., Grays/Torrey’s, Bierstadt, Herman Gulch, etc. we counted 300-400 folks going in each day. We see that being a consistent number now days at all the major trail heads.  And, yes, more than often, all make it out ok.  None the worse for wear.  Good for them…  So, what’s all the concern about, why take all that gear in.  One woman told me, “I just have to pack it all out again”.  Or “my partner has all the gear, so yes, we are prepared”.  From a total survey audience of 318 hikers, of varying ages, only 4.9% of the folks carried all 10 essentials.  Having the 10 essentials spread out over the group leaves you or someone else “short” if there is an emergency or if the party separates (not a good thing).  Carry your own gear.

You know, it’s like jumping out of an airplane with only your reserve parachute. Yes, it has opened every time in the past, but what about when it doesn’t open?  The consequences can be definitive.   Wouldn’t it be good to have a reserve chute now?

Aside from carrying the right gear, the 10 essentials (10E’s) +1.  Wait, what’s that Plus 1 thing?  “Plus one” is at least one partner with you.  NEVER hike alone.   So, what are the 10E’s?

First Aid Kit; Map/Compass; Pocket Knife; Waterproof Matches; Emergency Shelter; Flashlight/Headlamp; Rain Gear; Emergency Food; Emergency Water; Sun Protection; and at least one Companion (Plus 1).

Each person should carry the 10 E’s and know how to use them.  Can you really use a map and a compass, what is the current declination for the area you are climbing?  Could you start a fire above tree line?  Maybe carry a small stove in such cases?  Almost every rescue we go on has one common theme, the party separated.  Once you separate to go get help, etc., you are on your own.  Do you have all the gear to survive?

Next, we will discuss trip plans….  Take care and be safe out there…

Bruce Beckmann


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Hiking in Evergreen Colorado – Backcountry Safety & Preparedness 

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Contingency planning, even for a local hike in Evergreen, is highly recommended. You can travel from 7,000 feet to over 14,000 feet right here in our beautiful backyard. With the change in elevation comes atmospheric and terrain changes that can threaten the unprepared hiker.

Over a number of blogs, we will reference our experience as local volunteer mountain rescuers and discuss some actual events and things you should do to be safe in the backcountry.  So why are we discussing this topic, again?  Because many of the “incidents” in the backcountry are preventable.  A very high percentage of folks do not carry all the items recommended to keep them safe and to survive unexpected backcountry calamities. The Denver Post has reported all the under prepared hikers in a detailed story you can find here.

What is preparedness?   Simply, to have the right gear (and training) for the terrain and area you are hiking.  And yes, that will vary depending on what you are doing.  For example, when taking a 6 week backcountry hiking trip, my first aid kit is jam packed with necessary stuff that I might need.  For a simple hike in the park, maybe a couple of band aides, you get the point?

The vast majority of hikers we have talked to simply do not believe “the unexpected” can happen to them – “we don’t plan on getting hurt” – or shall I say, “…that cannot happen to me”, and the “I’ve done this thousands of times”.  These are the “Invincible”.

Folks may have hiked with in-appropriate gear, lack of gear, or no gear multiple times and yes, they have climbed fourteeners, and yes, they have made it back to the trailhead all without incident.  Good for them!  Call it luck, call it wise sub-conscious decision making at critical events during the hike – that ultimately results in a successful hike, or shall we call it “playing Russian Roulette”.  You make the call.

These are bad actions that end up in a positive result.  Such actions reinforce doing the same again, and presuming the same results will happen.   “I’ve done it before without any problems.”  How about speeding through that intersection on the red, whew, I made it!   But what about next time?  Do you want to take that risk, it could be a fatal decision?

Having an incident in the mountains affects not just you, but your hiking partner(s), and yes, those folks that are now confronted with having to stay with you and help you.  And don’t forget the dozens of rescue folks risking their lives to save you.

Stay tuned to our next blog where we will discuss more about Backcountry Preparedness. Share and subscribe to stay up to date!

Upcoming FREE Backcountry Safety Series preparedness training event by Evergreen’s Alpine Rescue Team: