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Emergency Preparedness

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  • Emergency Preparedness

    Thereís been a lot of talk about equipment being packed and procedures to follow in unforeseen situations. There is some really good discourse already taking place but maybe its time to shift the focus off the GoFundMe Algonquin kids and apply some other what-ifs and anecdotal situations to helping the community become better prepared for lifeís surprises.
    I wonít bore everyone to death with listing my whole packing list of no-brainers (Map, compass, gps, spare socks/gloves, etc) but hereís some of the things I carry and have a fundamental understanding of how they can be helpful in emergency situations:

    - Lighter, windproof matches, and a piece of starter log, all kept in a small waterproof container. I may start following the advice that somebody else gave and carry a second lighter in my pocket to keep it warm(ish).
    - Orange mountaineer bandana (spare bandana + signaling device)
    - Load bearing static line, 100ft. + two spare load bearing carabiners
    - Mylar shelter, weighs 5.6oz and costs $7.95 on Amazon. Can be used as a tent or blanket.
    - Trekking poles. Duh, right? In addition to hiking aids they can also function as movable shelter supportsÖ or I dunno drinking straws or blow guns if youíre really into Survivor Man. Neither of mine have a self-arrest pick on them so thatís going to be one of my next upgrades.
    - Bright orange dry sack with reflective tape. Keeps my gear dry and also a signaling device.
    - Ultralight butt sled. Yeah, Iím one of the people who packs one of these things on certain peaks. Stop judging me; theyíre fun. Yes, Iím aware of the inherent risk of breaking my leg in half in a boot hole while using it. Not only can they help you get down the mountain more easily with a partially immobilizing injury but they also work well as a snow shovel.

    Some little things I do to help keep myself oriented and/or safe(r) in case of an emergency:

    -Take picture of signs, lean-tos, and other landmarks. Even if Iíve seen them a hundred times before, if it catches my eye, the image could help me out if I fall and become disoriented.
    - Periodically turn around and absorb my environment, especially at junctions. Things donít look the same when youíre heading in the opposite direction. Iíll confess to not realizing that Iíve passed the Phelps junction while walking towards the dam on almost every trip Iíve made towards Marcy. Itís at a Y angle and the sign isnít very visible from the back side. Plus I hike at night a lot. Thatís probably another safety tip. Donít hike at night. I still do and will because I like it.
    - Always know my bailout routes and what leads where. This may be second nature for some folks who either locals or seemingly donít have full-time jobs and are always hiking, but the rest of us monthly warriors donít have the same benefit of repetition. We need to study.
    - Keep a food energy source in my pocket. Frozen Cliff bars sucks. Whatever is going into my mouth next goes into my inner coat pockets first. This means I can spend less time getting cold while my food thaws out when I stop.
    - Donít snowbomb your buddy. Storing your trekking poles on your pack like a Vietnam era whip antenna isnít cool. It knocks the snow off bushes and trees on to you and the person behind you. Nobody wants to be cold and wet. Especially when they werenít expecting to be that way.

    If you have something to share, please do!
    “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” - Ed Viesturs

  • #2

    A big thing that I often suggest to beginner winter hikers in the High Peaks is that they stick to peaks they've already climbed in non-winter conditions for their first couple of winter High Peaks hikes. This allows them to gain winter experience in terrain that they already have some familiarity with.

    Comment


    • #3
      This has nothing to do with gear but one thing I have always considered to be a big part of prevention is being in shape. I believe in strong legs, good single leg balance, a deep well of aerobic power and lots of endurance. That and going out often and regularly to keep one's hand in. Trouble is, it's a gigantic time sink to build and maintain.
      1111111111

      Comment


      • Natlife
        Natlife commented
        Editing a comment
        Good point. I found I need one day hike every 2-3 weeks to maintain muscular endurance, which I define as not feeling it in the legs when I go down the stairs to make coffee the next morning.

      • All Downhill From Here
        Editing a comment
        This. If you are fit, you are much less likely to get hurt, and at the end of the day, still have enough energy to keep your wits. One of the big "Plan Ahead And Prepare" bits I used to teach people was fitness - once you're tired, you're not going to step through puddles, or make that leap to a rock w/o grabbing at a tree, or you're going to step on moss vs. stretching just a bit farther and supporting yourself. Even in pristine conditions, fit hikers leave less impact on the trails.

    • #4
      Just putting on snowshoes (or Microspikes, or whatever) doesn't mean you automatically know how to use them optimally and efficiently. I got my start hiking behind some experts and saw how they used their snowshoes in various situations. Things like how to use the claw for grip on icy rocks, how to slide/jump down ledges safely, or (like yesterday) how to deal with waist-deep snow. By the end of the day, efficient snowshoe technique saves a lot of energy and time, increasing safety and fun of a winter outing.

      Adding to Neil's comment, you would never take a 6 hour battery out in the winter and expect it to function for 12 hours. Yet this is what a lot of people do when they are not at a sufficient level of fitness for the planned hike. Winter hiking season starts BEFORE December 21st.

      Comment


      • FlyFishingandBeer
        FlyFishingandBeer commented
        Editing a comment
        Do you know of any online instructional videos that can provide more information about back country snowshoe usage on steep terrain? I'd certainly watch them. I'm about as graceful as a baby giraffe on ice in mine.

    • #5
      A Ranger who i know well likes to say that if nothing else, a cheap bic lighter always kept in your pocket may one day save your life. This simple single item could have made a difference in multiple lost person incidents over the past couple of years. Personally I would add a small folding knife, along with a length of 550 line, and a light aluminized mylar sheet or tarp, plus a whistle to the minimal always-go-kit
      "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

      Comment


      • All Downhill From Here
        Editing a comment
        Gathering materials and keeping a fire going is hard and consumes a lot of time, especially in bad weather. That time and energy is better spent getting off the mountain. Will snow-and-ice-crusted live krummholz even burn? Watch thruhikers - they spend no unnecessary energy, and they almost never light fires.

        Stove all the way.

    • #6
      Originally posted by Nessmuk
      A Ranger who i know well likes to say that if nothing else, a cheap bic lighter always kept in your pocket may one day save your life. This simple single item could have made a difference in multiple lost person incidents over the past couple of years. Personally I would add a small folding knife, along with a length of 550 line, and a light aluminized mylar sheet or tarp, plus a whistle to the minimal always-go-kit
      Not in the winter if it is stored in your pack. Bic lighters won't work in the cold because the butane does not have sufficient volatility. I found this out a couple of years ago, and set a lighter outside the door today for 15 min at 10 F...dead.


      Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

      Comment


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        I wonder how many people give up entirely on a lighter without attempting to warm it? If you're willing to recreate your experiment with a warming period after cold exposure perhaps we could discover how quickly they return to normal. I've been told rubbing it in your hands or putting it in your pocket for a just a few minutes does the trick. I don't believe it's a lengthy process. Maybe we could get an approximate length of time to revive a butane lighter.

      • Natlife
        Natlife commented
        Editing a comment
        -20f this morning here. Close hand around cold lighter, shake for 30 seconds, fires right up.

    • #7
      Originally posted by JoeCedar View Post

      Not in the winter if it is stored in your pack. Bic lighters won't work in the cold because the butane does not have sufficient volatility. I found this out a couple of years ago, and set a lighter outside the door today for 15 min at 10 F...dead.


      Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
      I (and the Ranger) said keep it in your pocket, not your pack.
      "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

      Comment


      • Trail Boss
        Trail Boss commented
        Editing a comment
        I assume the tip is to have one *in addition* to something that isn't easily defeated by the cold, like matches (or fire striker)?

        Or because it's cheaper and more convenient to carry a small lighter on your person than a match safe?

        Those fire strikers on a key chain, attached to one's car key, seem quite compact as well.

    • #8
      #1. Understanding how to layer in winter. As DSetthar noted, starting with hikes you've already done is a great start to building competence.

      #2. Understanding how eating and drinking work in winter hiking. You burn about 800 calories/hour climbing in winter, a combo of your body working to keep you warm and also the energy to work your muscles. Your body, while exercising, can only digest about 200-300 calories/hour. Thus, no matter how much you eat, you are running into a deficit throughout the day. So, on a day where the temp starts out warmer and it gets colder and windier, you are going to feel it more so than if it just stays 15F all day long. Also, sugars, while easily absorbable, burn faster. Eating in winter is like building a fire. Fats and proteins are just as important for keeping that internal fire going.

      #3. Keep an eye on the weather patterns, even if you aren't hiking. Has it be snowing everyday? How much? Has it been below freezing consistently, or more freeze/thaw conditions? This last question can tell you a lot about what water crossings might be like. I've hiked once in the last three months, but I look at the weather roughly every other day. This helps me to made educated decisions about where to go and what conditions might be like. Asking others on social media is ok, but doing your research and being mindful during the seasons is incredibly useful, especially if no one has been to where you are going lately.

      #8335W, Solo 46W
      Four Season 30/46
      46 Grid 254/552
      NE 111 113/115


      One list may be done, but the journey is far from over...
      Half Dome, 2009

      Comment


      • Natlife
        Natlife commented
        Editing a comment
        ATP is the fuel of the muscles. It comes from breaking down glycogen (stored sugar) or triglycerides (stored fat). Breaking down glycogen requires less oxygen per calorie than triglycerides. You have more or less 500 grams of glycogen (2000 calories) stored in your muscles and liver when you start your hike. On the other hand you probably have at least 10 kilograms of fat in your body (90000 calories).

        Now our body isn't stupid, there is a work output requested and it will try to produce it however it can. If the output requested is low, it will use fat, because we have lots of it and it has time to transform it to meet the output requested. However, as the output requested increases, it will gradually switch to using a higher percentage of glycogen as we're getting out of breath and glycogen takes less oxygen per calorie to use, i.e. it doesn't have time to use fat while still meeting the requested output. (search fat vs glucose and exercise intensity)

        If you're going slowly and requesting a low output, you can go all day without eating anything and you'll be fine. Where things get interesting is when you push hard. As you mentioned, the body can only use ingested carbs at a rate that is lower than what you need to sustain high efforts indefinitely. What that means is that at one point you will run out of glycogen and your body will not be able to meet the requested output. You bonk.

        Knowing that, one should strive to calculate, and test, how long they can go for a given sustained effort level (HR is a good proxy) and use that information to successfully complete a hike when there is a need to push more. Sometimes we know we need to push more, with this we can know whether it will work out or not.

    • #9
      Don't empty the contents of your pack on unpacked snow. Before you say " Obviously!" this what the two kids on Algonquin did and lost gear and all their food.

      Don't try to use your gear as fuel or fire starter. Polyester and nylon simply melt and don't burst into flames.
      Looking for Views!

      Comment


      • #10
        I always stash spare clothes sealed in a dry bag. (Even in summer, even in sunny weather, I do this.) In winter, I'll make sure I have at least spare socks, base layer shirt, packable jacket, one or more pairs of gloves, a hat or two, scarf. If it's cold I'll pack a down jacket in there too. All sealed up, I don't have to worry about it getting wet from anything.

        I also always carry zip ties. They can resolve quite a few broken parts. (Hillsounds/Microspikes, shoe laces, backpack, etc.)

        Before I started winter hiking I purchased a SPOT tracking device, mainly for the SOS function.

        I also have more than one light source. I carry a headlamp which takes AAA batteries but also a small flashlight which takes AA batteries, I figure the AA might give more juice if it gets really cold.

        Of course, I always have spare batteries, in my case I carry two full sets of AAA and AA for my devices.
        ADK 46/46W, Grid 226/552
        Photos & Stuff

        Comment


        • #11
          I always ensure that the media is standing by ready to report to the WWW. It that fails I tweet.
          1111111111

          Comment


          • #12
            Originally posted by Nessmuk View Post
            ... if nothing else, a cheap bic lighter always kept in your pocket may one day save your life. This simple single item could have made a difference in multiple lost person incidents over the past couple of years.
            1. I recommend the following simple test for everybody.
            On a good sunny winter day without any wind go to a place with one to two feet of snow on the ground and try starting a fire.
            2. If you succeeded, go to a 30 degrees slope with cripplebrush/krummholz on a windy winter day (similar to last weekend case) and try making a fire again.

            Most people would fail even test #1 if they do not have any prior experience with winter fires.

            This is a reason I recommend carrying a stove in such cases.
            Last edited by Yury; 12-16-2016, 05:43 PM.

            Comment


            • #13
              So take it up with the Ranger. He was simply passing on a general tip that would seem to have some merit, not necessarily as a winter only specific tip. No one would expect hardly any fire starting method to work consistently in a blizzard. Certainly it Could be better than the nothing at all that many lost persons often have.

              I'm Sorry that I brought it up in the first place. I'll keep any such ridiculous thoughts to myself from now on.
              Last edited by Nessmuk; 12-16-2016, 05:41 PM.
              "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

              Comment


              • FlyFishingandBeer
                FlyFishingandBeer commented
                Editing a comment
                I thought it was good advice. I believe you've mentioned it once before which is why I said in my OP above that I'll be taking this advice and keeping one in my pocket.

                Something else that makes using a Bic style light easier in colder temps is pulling that damn childproof spring off of the striker wheel. As long as you've got a dry thumb to flick it, it makes firing up your lighter in cold temps substantially easier. This is especially helpful if its windy and you're going to have to keep lighting it repeatedly.

            • #14
              I've held off posting to this thread. The experienced (and there are plenty on this thread more experienced than I am) know that the most important piece of equipment is between your ears. Pay attention to your surroundings; don't go, if going is a bad idea; and turn back, if going forward is a bad idea. And get out of there if things are going downhill, before you can no longer travel.

              I was home today, indoors, working on an electrical project. No need to go out and get killed in subzero wind chill.

              Comment


              • #15
                In the category of emergency prevention.

                If you have MSR snowshoes check the split rings that hold the clevis in place that keeps the binding attached to the frame. Replace the split rings if damaged. It is a lot harder to do that in snow and cold than at home. While your at it check the rivets that hold the bindings together too.

                Work out key bearings ahead of time and tape them to the back of the compass.

                Prepare for leaving places like Marcy or Algonquin as part of your summer weather trips. Figure out the bearings from the summit for the return trip and memorize them. In good weather you can do by sight....no map required. That's my take away from all the rescues due to whiteouts on those peaks.

                Don

                Comment


                • moosebeware
                  moosebeware commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Two winters ago, I started losing rivets on my MSRs. Now I carry the nuts/bolts/washers and split rings needed to fix them. I had to do a summit repair one day, so it was well worth the trouble.

                  I headed out to the Sewards one summer to do the section between Donaldson and Seward as I had never done it before and would be heading back in the winter. The wind that day led me to think, and correctly, that the ridge would blow in in winter. When I went back, I had no trouble getting to Seward, as I knew where the HP went, even though there was about 18" of snow and no obvious tracks.

                  Algonquin and Marcy are no place to mess around in winter. I agree that summer ascents are worthwhile.

                • FlyFishingandBeer
                  FlyFishingandBeer commented
                  Editing a comment
                  This is great advice. Also, Lowes sells small aluminum screws and nuts that are meant for replacing rivets like the ones found in most modern snowshoes. After breaking a couple off on my old LG's I started carrying a small pack of them in day pack. I had to replace two of them along the trail before eventually giving up on that pair of snowshoes. With cold hands and a Gerber tool is took me maybe 5 minutes to pop out the broken rivets and put the replacement screws in.
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