Connect with us


How to hike safely when snow, ice make mountain trails dicey



#hike #safely #snow #ice #mountain #trails #dicey

Eric Lewis’ Christmas Eve hike up Cucamonga Peak affords a worthwhile lesson for anybody who’s serious about scaling the Southern California heights within the snow.

Lewis, 57, had been working his manner by way of the SoCal Six-Pack of Peaks Problem, and Cucamonga was his fifth within the sequence. However it was the primary time he’d hiked a summit blanketed in snow.

So earlier than he made the journey early on Dec. 24, the Riverside County resident researched the path, the circumstances and the tools he would want — microspikes and mountaineering poles — to make the trek. He additionally grabbed the beanie his daughter had given him, not realizing the essential function it will quickly play.

Lewis mentioned he bumped into barely anybody on the path, however he does keep in mind encountering a feminine hiker who commented on his microspikes and her lack of snow-hiking gear.

After making it to the highest and snapping a couple of pictures, Lewis mentioned, he got here throughout the feminine hiker once more on his manner again down. She had fallen badly and was being attended to by three different hikers.

“She received a reasonably vital gash on her head and she or he was complaining that her neck and again harm so much, however general she was aware,” he mentioned.

Lewis took out his Garmin inReach Mini, a satellite tv for pc communicator, and activated the “S.O.S.” operate.

He and the opposite hikers stayed with the girl for nearly two hours earlier than a primary after which a second helicopter arrived to airlift her to security. The rescuers hadn’t been in a position to spot the group at first, so once they requested Lewis for something vital they might search for, he talked about the emergency blanket he’d positioned across the injured hiker and his beanie — each of which had been shiny orange. That did the trick.

Snow is now piling up on peaks throughout Southern California, together with popular hiking spots within the Angeles Nationwide Forest and the San Gabriel Mountains. And as Scott Elliott of the California State Parks system famous, mountaineering within the snow, or just coming to the mountains within the winter, could be a spectacular expertise.

“That mentioned, it’s completely important that everybody plan forward and assume by way of issues for climate, vehicular journey and leisure security as soon as mountaineering to make sure a protected, and due to this fact pleasing, time within the mountains,” mentioned Elliott, the system’s deputy chief of legislation enforcement and emergency providers. “Keep in mind that even a seemingly fast jaunt to the snow could be problematic, or a lot worse, if hikers should not correctly ready.”

Listed below are some suggestions from Elliott and different specialists for having fun with a hike within the snow this winter season.

Earlier than you determine to go

Know your talents. Whether or not you’re a seasoned snow hiker or planning your first trek, Elliott mentioned, keep in mind that even a brief journey within the snow could be “grueling in comparison with a stroll on a maintained pathway.”

“The additional resistance from boots or snowshoes going out and in of the snow in your trek can rapidly put on an individual down,” Elliott mentioned.

For individuals enthusiastic about mountaineering Mt. Baldy or Ontario Peak within the San Gabriel Mountains for the primary time, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Division advises in opposition to it until you may have strong mountaineering abilities.

Donna Newlin, one of many division’s search and rescue crew members, mentioned Mt. Baldy is usually discovered on lists of probably the most harmful mountains within the U.S., and skilled mountaineers have died mountaineering it within the winter.

“Hikers new to touring within the snow ought to choose extra average terrain to realize expertise,” she mentioned.

Climate adjustments the terrain. An individual is likely to be very acquainted with a path or park within the spring or summer time, however the winter could make navigation tougher.

“Trails, path markers and landmarks can all be obscured or look solely completely different in a snowy panorama,” Elliott mentioned.

For instance, he pointed to the calls he used to subject on the Donner Memorial State Park ranger station in Truckee round this time of 12 months. Hikers would grow to be misplaced and name for assist though they hadn’t made it very far down the path, Elliot mentioned.

You possibly can be a few “baseball-park-length away” out of your automobile and nonetheless get misplaced as a result of it appears to be like so unfamiliar, he mentioned.

Newlin added that snow is a extremely variable floor and circumstances can change all through the day, relying on the results of the solar and the temperature.

Assess your threat. It’s all about weighing the results of a fall.

“When you begin sliding down an icy slope, it is extremely tough to cease that slide,” Newlin mentioned.

She prompt contemplating what the floor circumstances might be later within the day when the temperature drops.

“Our groups rescue a number of hikers who’re in a position to cross steep slopes early within the day when the snow is comfortable, solely to seek out their route again out to the trailhead has grow to be dangerously icy,” she mentioned.

New hikers ought to attempt to persist with established routes which might be nicely tracked to get used to the footing with their winter mountaineering boots.

An avalanche can at all times be a priority when mountaineering on steeper slopes in snowy landscapes. Elliot mentioned the chance is normally (however not at all times) increased throughout or instantly after heavier snowfalls.

Hikers must also be looking out for posted notices or crimson flags warning of areas of a doable avalanche.

The National Avalanche Center lists the next warning indicators:

  • Latest avalanches point out that the snowpack is unstable, making it susceptible to extra of the identical.
  • Indicators of unstable snow embrace cracking or collapsing and whumpfing, or “‘drum-like” sounds.
  • Heavy snowfall or rain could make the snowpack unstable for a number of days.
  • Windblown snow is a big consider avalanche exercise. Keep away from cornices and drifts on steep slopes.
  • Rain, sturdy photo voltaic radiation or prolonged intervals of temperatures above freezing could cause the avalanche hazard to rise.
  • Persistent slabs of snow could also be triggered to break down weeks after a storm.

Newlin emphasised that folk new to mountaineering within the snow ought to keep away from terrain steep sufficient for avalanche exercise.

Verify the National Weather Service, U.S. Forest Service and different regional centers listed on the Nationwide Avalanche Middle web site for extra details about avalanche warnings.

Make a plan

If you’re able to plan your journey, test the climate forecast and hold checking it.

Newlin mentioned the rescue crew is usually referred to as for assist as a result of hikers attempt to squeeze in a hike proper earlier than a storm and get caught in it.

“Helicopters aren’t in a position to help in these conditions, and rescue by floor is a really time-consuming operation that places the rescuers in danger as nicely,” she mentioned.

Whether or not you’re checking the National Weather Service or your native broadcast information station, monitor the climate forecast understanding that circumstances can steadily be worse than predicted, Elliot mentioned.

Checking the climate consists of highway circumstances, mentioned Dana Dierkes, public affairs officer for the Angeles Nationwide Forest.

Particular to the Angeles Nationwide Forest, the key roadways are managed by L.A. County Public Works Department and the California Department of Transportation, so test their web sites for updates on highway closures as a result of impending climate.

If you’re within the Angeles Nationwide Forest, Dierkes mentioned, roads within the forest could also be very slick and/or closed as a result of rain or snow. If there’s snow at increased elevations, you’ll in all probability be driving by way of rain on the best way there, she mentioned.

Snow chains or cables on your tires could also be required on principal roads.

“Even when tire chains or cable necessities should not in impact while you depart on your journey, chances are you’ll want them to exit the mountains safely,” Dierkes mentioned.

The view from the top of Cucamonga Peak that includes the summit sign and snow hiking gear.

Riverside resident Eric Lewis, 57, photographed the Cucamonga Peak after reaching the summit in December.

(Eric Lewis)

As you’re checking circumstances, familiarize your self with the path route. Verify the web site or name for steering; if the path is in a state park, Elliot mentioned, name the park ranger’s workplace. The U.S. Forest Service maps enable you to plan your route based mostly in your skill, time and curiosity. Get a bodily copy of your path to take with you on the path.

Staffing is likely to be seasonally low on the park ranger workplaces, Elliott mentioned. So should you can’t attain somebody, contact a division office in your space for help.

Whether or not that is your first time or not, invite a buddy or two. Mountaineering is at all times greatest completed with a number of individuals, for security’s sake.

And don’t neglect to inform a buddy or member of the family of your plans. Let that particular person know what route you propose to take and while you anticipate to start out and end.

Schedule an early begin for the day’s exercise. Dierkes mentioned time just isn’t in your aspect.

“Plan to be off the path lengthy earlier than sundown, which comes very early at the moment of the 12 months,” Dierkes mentioned. And assume the hike will take longer than you anticipate, she mentioned, as a result of the path might not be simple to seek out within the snow.

Deep snow may also make the hike take longer than anticipated. Put together for being out later than deliberate by having a flashlight or headlamp in your pack.

Pack the correct gear

Making ready for recreation within the snow means staying heat and dry. The necessities are wool socks (that are naturally water-repellent, in contrast to cotton, which doesn’t dry simply), waterproof boots or snowshoes, layered clothes (you could shed or put again on when mandatory) and sun shades.

Some individuals won’t see the necessity for sun shades, Elliot mentioned, however “mountaineering within the snow even on a cloudy day can result in extra eye pressure and even snow-blindness.”

Subsequent, be sure to have mountaineering poles and “shoe chains” (microspikes or crampons) for further traction on snow and ice.

If the one potential consequence for you from a fall on the path is a bruised ego, Newlin mentioned, “a hike within the snow might solely require snowshoes or possibly shoe traction gadgets and ski poles for steadiness.” However should you’re going to journey in steeper terrain “the place a fall might lead to harm or loss of life, you’ll need an ice ax, crampons and the talents to make use of them,” she added.

Your tools checklist must also embrace a “area blanket” that retains warmth, sunscreen (as a result of snow displays a number of daylight), water, snacks, a primary support equipment, hand and toe heaters, a compass and a satellite tv for pc communications gadget (cell service is poor within the mountain areas).

“You must at all times carry sufficient clothes and emergency provides to outlive an evening out within the occasion you get misplaced or injured,” Newlin mentioned.

Check your tools and, should you’re shopping for new gear, think about asking for an indication at your native out of doors tools retailer to verify it’s working correctly and you understand how to make use of it.

It’s additionally worthwhile to join a wilderness first support or fundamental navigation course to amass or brush up on these abilities. Programs are supplied by REI, the Red Cross and the California Survival School, amongst others.

Getting there and again

If you’re en path to your mountaineering vacation spot, you would possibly end up driving within the rain or snow. So earlier than you hit the highway, test your tires and windshield wipers, changing them if mandatory.

When driving within the rain, at all times decelerate on moist roads. Dierkes mentioned the primary hour of rain is often the worst for driving as a result of oil remains to be on the roadway and, when blended with rain, could cause slick pavement.

The pace restrict identifies most pace below splendid circumstances she mentioned, including that rain and snow don’t present splendid circumstances.

Hydroplaning — that’s, having your tires lose their grip on the pavement — can happen at speeds above 30 to 40 mph.

On the highway, give your self further time and distance to make protected stops.

“Be cautious when driving [an] empty pickup [truck], as the shortage of weight might trigger the again finish of the automobile to slide and slide,” Dierkes mentioned.

Right here are some recommendations on drive safely in wet climate.

For those who plan to drive when it’s snowing, ask your self if the journey is important. It’s possible you’ll need to postpone it.

If it begins snowing on the best way dwelling, or should you see indicators advising you to use snow chains to your automobile, do it. Verify the proprietor’s handbook of your automobile for the correct sort of snow chains or cables. Know prematurely set up the chains or cables, and think about training forward of your journey.

Dierkes prompt understanding the front-wheel, rear-wheel, all-wheel and four-wheel drive operate of your explicit automobile. She mentioned not all react the identical manner within the snow.

And be careful for black ice on the roadway. This slippery floor can type when snow on the pavement melts after which refreezes.

About The Instances Utility Journalism Crew

This text is from The Instances’ Utility Journalism Crew. Our mission is to be important to the lives of Southern Californians by publishing info that solves problems, answers questions and helps with decision making. We serve audiences in and round Los Angeles — together with present Instances subscribers and various communities that haven’t traditionally had their wants met by our protection.

How can we be helpful to you and your group? E-mail utility (at) or one among our journalists: Matt Ballinger, Jon Healey, Ada Tseng, Jessica Roy and Karen Garcia.