Going it Alone: What to Know Before You Go

solo mountainWhether you’re climb­ing moun­tains or just going for a hike, explor­ing nature with oth­ers is a won­drous chal­lenge. If you’re look­ing for even more of a chal­lenge, try doing it alone.

It’s a safe bet that if you adven­ture alone in the wilder­ness, you have cer­tain skills. You are most like­ly aware of the basic sur­vival gear you should bring incase of an emer­gency, no doubt you under­stand weath­er pat­terns and how they can shift dras­ti­cal­ly the high­er you climb in ele­va­tion, and you cer­tain­ly under­stand that adven­tur­ing alone requires, in most cas­es, more pre­cau­tion than adven­tur­ing with friends. That said, here’s what all pro­fi­cient peak-bag­gers should known or be remind­ed of before the head off into the great unknown alone.

Leave Your Con­tact Information
You know this, but it’s worth repeat­ing. It’s easy to get com­fort­able and to take our knowl­edge and expe­ri­ence for grant­ed. Per­haps you’re plan­ning to bag a peak in an area you’ve hiked dozens of time and there’s a minus­cule chance of you get­ting lost. Leave a note. Per­haps the peak you’re eye­ing for the day isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly chal­leng­ing or tech­ni­cal.  Per­haps you have the climb­ing skills of Alex Hon­nold (doubt­ful) and the route find­ing skills of Saca­jawea (dou­ble doubtful).

Remem­ber to include the following: 

  • Your des­ti­na­tion
  • When you are leav­ing and when you plan to return
  • What you are wear­ing and car­ry­ing i.e. a knife, bivvy, first aid kit, etc.
  • The make and mod­el of your vehi­cle, along with the col­or and license plate number
  • The num­ber of the near­est ranger sta­tion or search and res­cue oper­a­tion should you go missing

Have a Plan If Things Go South
For those who solo adven­ture reg­u­lar­ly, hav­ing a plan and run­ning through plans for a vari­ety of sce­nar­ios can be ben­e­fi­cial. Just as ser­vice­men in the army train for dif­fer­ent com­bat sit­u­a­tions, it’s impor­tant to think about the var­i­ous dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions that can arise when sub­mit­ting alone. For example:

  • What will you do if you encounter aggres­sive wildlife? Do you have bear spray or a weapon? How and when should you use a weapon on wildlife?
  • What will you do if you encounter an aggres­sive human who intends to do you harm?
  • Are you ade­quate­ly pre­pared for chang­ing and severe weather?
  • If you become strand­ed due to weath­er or injury, what are your options?
  • Are you pre­pared to respond to an avalanche or rock­slide situation?

Hav­ing a plan empow­ers you and can allow you to think more quick­ly and clear­ly should any of these sce­nar­ios become a reality.

solo mountainKnow the Near­est Place to Get Help 
Even in remote areas, there are usu­al­ly places to access assis­tance. Per­haps there’s a ranger sta­tion near­by, or a back­coun­try camp­ground where peo­ple who are sum­mit­ing the same moun­tain as you typ­i­cal­ly start their trek.

Know­ing the area in which you are adven­tur­ing well means that, should a bad sit­u­a­tion arise, you’ll be more like­ly to find assis­tance. Here are some things to look for on your next peak-bag­ging adventure:

  • Parks and Wildlife Trucks or vehicles
  • Ranger Sta­tions
  • Back­coun­try Campgrounds
  • Areas along the trail where you could seek shel­ter if the weath­er is severe

Speak­ing of Weather
Weath­er is the “X” fac­tor when it comes to hik­ing and sum­mit­ing moun­tains at high alti­tudes, because the weath­er sys­tems up high are often unpre­dictable and fast mov­ing. Check the weath­er before you set out. Check it twice. Then, as you’re gain­ing, check in with your nat­ur­al sur­round­ings, keep an eye on the sky, and notice when tem­per­a­tures start to change rapid­ly. Also, don’t be afraid to turn around if the weath­er gets to hairy. Nature will still be there tomorrow.

Remain Calm and Confident 
Adven­tur­ers have been going on solo treks for hun­dreds, if not thou­sands, of years. John Muir was known for his solo wan­der­ing and often wrote about the peace­ful soli­tude that comes with being in nature alone. Based on his writ­ings, it can be assumed that Muir felt con­fi­dent and adept in his sur­round­ings, even when sum­mit­ing Mt. Whit­ney, the high­est moun­tain in the con­tigu­ous Unit­ed States.

The anti­dote to fear, for peak-bag­gers, is prac­tic­ing your skills, stay­ing calm, and being con­fi­dent that you are capa­ble of respond­ing to a vari­ety of sit­u­a­tions on the mountain.