solo mountain

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.

Depend­ing on where and when you’re hik­ing, you could find dis­ease-car­ry­ing ticks on your body,  clothes or dog—especially in warm, heav­i­ly wood­ed areas. Here are five tips to reduce your chance of tick bites, and some bite treat­ment advice.

1. Wear the Right Clothing
Cloth­ing is your best weapon against ticks. Wear long sleeves and pants instead of a tank and shorts. As an extra pre­cau­tion, tuck your pants into your socks to make it even hard­er for ticks to access your skin. Pro­tect your feet, ankles, and head by wear­ing a hat and prop­er shoes or boots—no sandals!

Don­ning light-col­ored cloth­ing makes it eas­i­er to spot ticks that have jumped aboard. You may also con­sid­er invest­ing in clothes pre­treat­ed with tick repellent.

2. Check Yourself
Most hik­ers know to always do a full body check after a hike, but few remem­ber to do quick checks through­out a hike. Why? Because ticks typ­i­cal­ly spend a bit of time hav­ing a wan­der around your skin before they decide on a spot to bite. And it is much eas­i­er to remove a tick that has­n’t yet sunk its teeth sunk into you!

3. Stick to the Mid­dle of the Trail
Instead of fly­ing, ticks hang on grass blades and bush­es just wait­ing to latch on to a passer­by. This is why you should walk in the mid­dle of the trail if you are hik­ing in a tick-rid­den area.

4. No sit­ting on the Ground
Ticks also crawl on the ground, so avoid sit­ting direct­ly on the ground. Instead, choose a bench or large rock.

5. Choose and Use a Repellent
Tick repel­lent tends to be very effec­tive, though it’s worth research­ing which repel­lents have the best reviews. You can also use per­me­thrin, as it has been found to reduce the chance of tick bites.

6. If You Dis­cov­er a bite
If you get a tick bite, you’ve got to remove the tick. Start by wip­ing the area with an anti­sep­tic solu­tion, and then remove the tick using tweez­ers. Place each side of the tweez­ers on each side of the ticks head, and then pull the tick out. Don’t squish the tick or pull it side­ways, as this can leave part of the tick still in your skin. If part of the tick is still attached, use a ster­il­ized nee­dle to remove the remains. When you are cer­tain all tick bits are removed, clean the area again with an anti­sep­tic solution.

Impor­tant! If you notice a rash or devel­op an itchy feel­ing near a tick bite, speak to a med­ical pro­fes­sion­al imme­di­ate­ly. It’s pos­si­ble the bite is infect­ed or you may have con­tract­ed a tick-borne disease.

avalanche tips

avalanche tipsAn esti­mat­ed 150 peo­ple per year die in avalanch­es in North Amer­i­ca, a sta­tis­tic that’s made even more hor­ri­fy­ing con­sid­er­ing the rel­a­tive­ly small num­bers of peo­ple who ven­ture into avalanche-prone ter­rain. As you gear up for your out­door adven­tures this win­ter, keep these tips in mind.

Learn To Read Terrain
As you start to ven­ture into the side­coun­try, keep in mind that no mat­ter how acces­si­ble an area might be from a ski resort, it can still hold all the dan­gers as the full-on back­coun­try. Treat unpa­trolled areas with respect, and learn to rec­og­nize ter­rain traps and slide paths. Do you know what slope angles are most like­ly to slide? If you were hit by an avalanche, what’s below you—trees? A cliff? A smooth runout?

Get Edu­cat­ed
The gold stan­dard for edu­ca­tion in snow safe­ty is the Amer­i­can Insti­tute for Avalanche Research and Edu­ca­tion (AIARE), who offer cours­es at Lev­els 1, 2, and 3. The first lev­el, “Deci­sion Mak­ing in Avalanche Ter­rain,” is a 3‑day, 24-hour course that was specif­i­cal­ly designed for recre­ation­al back­coun­try users like skiers, snow­board­ers, and hik­ers on snow­shoes. Stu­dents learn how to pre­pare for and exe­cute trips, under­stand basic deci­sion-mak­ing in the field, and res­cue tech­niques required to find and dig out a buried per­son if an avalanche occurs.

Pay Atten­tion To What’s Hap­pen­ing Locally 
Check­ing local avalanche forecasts—which you can find through the Amer­i­can Avalanche Asso­ci­a­tion—is a great way to get a gen­er­al sense of what’s hap­pen­ing in your region. Pay atten­tion to recent weath­er, and avoid avalanche ter­rain with­in 24 hours of a storm that brings a foot (30 cen­time­ters) or more of fresh snow, which is when slides are most com­mon. Check local trip reports. Ask ques­tions. Stay engaged with the moun­tains as much as possible.

Wear a Helmet
Every year brings new gear tech­nol­o­gy and inno­va­tion: inflat­able back­packs, fan­cy probes, light­weight shov­els. Effi­ca­cy rates vary (and they always increase with prop­er train­ing), but experts agree that there’s one piece of gear they nev­er trav­el with­out: the brain buck­et. Buy a hel­met. Wear it. Every sin­gle time.

Under­stand the Risks
Even the best back­coun­try trav­el­ers know that there’s always some risk. “You can do every­thing right and still get caught in an avalanche,” says Jeff Lane, a Snow Ranger at the Mount Wash­ing­ton Avalanche Cen­ter in New Hamp­shire. “Edu­cate your­self and make good decisions—but if you’re going to ski or climb or trav­el in avalanche ter­rain, you’ll have to accept that you can’t be right 100% of the time.” Be pre­pared, stay safe, and always make con­ser­v­a­tive deci­sions. And remind your­self: that sick line will be there anoth­er day.

For more infor­ma­tion, check out Stay­ing Alive in Avalanche Ter­rain, Sec­ond Edi­tion (by Bruce Trem­per), Allen & Mike’s Avalanche Book (by Mike Clel­land and Allen O’Bannon) and Avalanche Essen­tials (by Bruce Tremper.) 

©istockphoto/AscentXmedia

Trav­el­ing into the wilder­ness for a cou­ple of weeks may seem daunt­ing at first. No cell phones, wine bars, ice cold drinks, or hos­pi­tals near­by. Yet, this is part of the adven­ture of immers­ing your­self in the woods, far from town. Keep in mind, though, that adven­ture does not sug­gest reck­less aban­don. Plan­ning is vital, espe­cial­ly if that longer dura­tion finds you head­ing deep into the wilder­ness. This won’t be an exhaus­tive list of what to bring, but rather some con­sid­er­a­tions to help keep you out of trouble.

Plan Ahead
Two weeks can be a long time if you don’t plan cor­rect­ly. That is, don’t begin plan­ning a few days or a week before you leave. Give your­self at least a month—and don’t just do some minor plan­ning a month in advance, then dive in when your depar­ture date looms.

Reeval­u­ate Your Gear Checklist
If you have a check­list for backpacking—an excel­lent idea, even for short trips—build upon it. Look at each item afresh, think­ing about its impor­tance when back­pack­ing for more than just a few days. For exam­ple, you might choose to ignore your sup­ple­ments (vit­a­mins) is gone for three or four days, but a long trip should change your mind if they are a part of your health regime. Have enough socks, or the abil­i­ty to wash them, to keep your feet dry and clean.

Dis­tance and Capability
Con­sid­er what is com­fort­able, and appro­pri­ate, as to how far you go in, how far from “civ­i­liza­tion” you are. Think about how many miles a day you are com­fort­able trav­el­ing, and how many miles you would have to trav­el to get out if an emer­gency comes up. If you feel like hik­ing 10 miles a day, then halfway through your trip you’ll be 70 miles out; but don’t for­get you’ll have to come back anoth­er 70 miles. Remem­ber to fac­tor in your phys­i­cal fit­ness and your well­ness, tak­ing into account any par­tic­u­lar sus­cep­ti­bil­i­ty you may have to med­ical sit­u­a­tions pos­si­bly requir­ing a hasty retreat.

Base Camp
As to dis­tance trav­eled, while you could trav­el 140 miles (or more) in four­teen days, it could be gen­tler to head in per­haps 4–10 miles, set up a base camp, then day hike from there. Alter­nate­ly, you could hike in twen­ty miles, or so, again depen­dent on your com­fort, pre­pared­ness, and health, then set up that base camp. Ulti­mate­ly, it is up to you (and your com­pan­ions, if not trav­el­ing alone) to have a base camp in only as far as you would be com­fort­able head­ing back home from.

©istockphoto/warrengoldswain

Tell Some­one
No mat­ter how short or long your trip, leav­ing an itin­er­ary with a trust­ed fam­i­ly or friends is impor­tant. Leave instruc­tions on when these guardians should be pre­pared to con­tact appro­pri­ate author­i­ties if you don’t return accord­ing to your agree­ment. Keep in mind that there could be sig­nif­i­cant costs billed to you if a res­cue team is sent in, espe­cial­ly if it is deter­mined that you were neg­li­gent or unwise in your back­pack­ing choices.

Qual­i­ty Check Your Gear
For these longer trips, it is espe­cial­ly impor­tant to pre-check your gear, espe­cial­ly boots and what­ev­er keeps you insu­lat­ed from the ele­ments. Since the gath­er­ing of fire­wood is often dis­al­lowed, your camp stove must be in per­fect work­ing order, with plen­ty of back­up fuel. Your first-aid kit needs to be a bit beefi­er, since you may need a dai­ly change of ban­dages or addi­tion­al appli­ca­tion of first-aid ointments.

Be Proac­tive in Case of Sickness
Pay close atten­tion to any con­sid­ered onset of ill­ness. Pack up and head clos­er to the trail­head if you have any doubt about your up-and-com­ing well-being or that of any­one in your par­ty. Watch­ing the flu poten­tial­ly take hold 20 miles in, and then final­ly decid­ing to pack up and head home does­n’t end very well.

Weath­er is More of a Factor
The far­ther in you go, the more you need to pay atten­tion to poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous weath­er. It’s not that you ignore this if on a short trip, but a heavy snow­storm when you are two hours from the trail­head is quite dif­fer­ent from a two-day jour­ney to get out.

Emer­gency Options
How do you get help? Ask a ranger about the options where you are going. Some­times there is a remote ranger sta­tion clos­er to you than the trail­head, though this is not typ­i­cal­ly the case. There are satel­lite com­mu­ni­ca­tions devices such as Per­son­al Loca­tor Bea­cons that send an emer­gency dis­tress sig­nal, or Satel­lite Mes­sen­gers (fee-based) that let you send emer­gency “text” messages.

If you are rel­a­tive­ly new to back­pack­ing, make your first trips short ones. There is a great deal to know and pay atten­tion to when in the wild. In oth­er words, don’t head out for a long wilder­ness excur­sion until you are clear­ly an expe­ri­enced back­coun­try traveler.


 

One of the joys of stand-up pad­dle­board­ing is ver­sa­til­i­ty: You can choose whether you’d like to make a work­out out of the day by going on a down­winder, or you can recruit a friend for a med­i­ta­tive pad­dle ses­sion. Even bet­ter, you can pad­dle­board year-round in many tem­per­ate cli­mates as long as you’re out­fit­ted prop­er­ly. Here are some tips on how to dress the part, depend­ing on the temperature.

Year-round, wear or car­ry a per­son­al Flota­tion Device (PFD)
The Unit­ed States Coast Guard rec­og­nizes stand-up pad­dle­boards as ves­sels, which means you are required to car­ry a life­jack­et or PFD and a whis­tle when out­side of surf or swim zones. This is to “give fair warn­ing to oth­er boaters when they’re in the area.” To be on the safe side, it’s always a good idea to car­ry a PFD on a SUP.

Board shorts and a rash guard
If you’re a recre­ation­al stand-up pad­dle­board­er head­ing out in warmer months or cli­mates, you’ll want to wear water­proof cloth­ing that dries quick­ly. For most peo­ple, that means board­shorts and a rash guard - both of which will keep you pro­tect­ed from sun­burn while also dry­ing and wick­ing quick­er than a stan­dard pair of shorts and T‑shirt.

Swim suit or swim trunks
If you’re going to SUP in the ocean or on an excep­tion­al­ly hot day, you can lath­er up the water­proof sun­screen and go out in just a swim­suit or swim trunks. You’ll be bet­ter able to dive into the water on a whim and swim around with­out extra lay­ers in your way. It’s not uncom­mon to see peo­ple on boards in this attire in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and Hawaii, or even parts of Ore­gon on 90-degree sum­mer days.

Wet­suit, booties, a hood and gloves
For some peo­ple, the pad­dle­board sea­son nev­er ends. If you’re one of those peo­ple, then get ready for some cold days. In some extreme­ly cold cli­mates, wet­suits are a must. A great rule of thumb is to pick up a win­ter suit that is 5/4/3mm or even 6/5/4mm, for the cold­est months. That said, a 6mm cold water suit can be pret­ty restric­tive on your move­ments in which case, a dry­suit might be more comfortable.

In cold con­di­tions, lay­er and be sure to cov­er your extrem­i­ties
When it comes to pad­dling when the water is less than 50 degrees Fahren­heit, the most impor­tant thing you can do is pro­tect your­self against both the cold out­side and the cold of the water. You should cre­ate a warm, water-resis­tant base lay­er such as an insu­lat­ed rash guard, and cov­er it with a wind-resis­tant, cozy fleece hoody that you can keep on if your pad­dle doesn’t heat you up at all, or that you can take off and wrap around your waist if you do. If you’re an expert pad­dler uncon­cerned with falling in the water, you may feel warm in thick run­ning tights on your bot­tom lay­er. And no mat­ter what, be sure to cov­er your extrem­i­ties with gloves, booties and a hat.