|Distance and height gain of route, and time required for completion.|
|The amount of daylight available and estimated time of return.|
|The size, fitness and experience of group.|
|Nature of the terrain, and possible conditions underfoot (e.g.. ice).|
|Possible escape routes.|
|The local weather forecast, and poor weather alternatives.|
You may wish to prepare a detailed route card, you should also let someone know your intended route and your estimated time of return. Do not forget to notify this person of your safe return!
If you leave word of your intended route, it also goes without saying that you should stick to your plan, unless, of course, you feel that this will place you or your Patrol at risk.
When selecting the best route line during your walk there are many obvious dangers to be avoided, such as cliff tops in windy weather and icy slopes, however you should also be conscious of less obvious hazards. This includes such things as grassy slopes and lichen covered rock slabs, which may look innocent, but which can be every bit as dangerous as the more obvious hazards, particularly in wet weather.
It is a good idea to get into the habit of asking yourself how great are the chances of a slip, and what the likely consequences of that slip might be. Remember that a simple slip is the cause of a large proportion of serious wilderness accidents.
If you are on a slope where rocks could potentially be dislodged, keep your group bunched tightly together so that any dislodged rocks do not have the opportunity to build momentum, but can be stopped immediately by the person behind. Be particularly aware of the danger you may pose to other groups below you, and of the danger you may be facing from careless groups above you. If a rock is accidentally dislodged, the standard procedure is to shout "Rock!" or "Below!" as a warning to all others.
As a general rule of thumb you should always pack with the assumption that you may end up having to stay out after dark, even if it is through no fault of your own (for example you may be required to help another hiker in distress). Try to be an asset and not a burden to any group that you are a part of. A minimum list of equipment to carry on a day's hike includes the following:
|Waterproof jacket and pants|
|Plenty of warm clothing (nylon or fleece, but not cotton)|
|Hat and gloves|
|Map and compass (and the ability to use them!)|
|Food and fluids (and spare food!)|
|Space blanket and a large orange garbage bag|
|First aid kit (including pencil and waterproof paper if possible)|
|Flashlight (+ spare battery and bulb)|
Temperature decreases with altitude, at a rate of approximately 2-3°C per 300 meters height gained (known as the lapse rate). In reality, what this means for the hiker is that the temperature on the mountain tops may be as much as 10°C lower than that at the valley floors, and when increased wind-chill is taken into consideration, winter temperatures may fall as low as -4°F (-20°C). These are severe conditions indeed, and require the best of equipment just to survive.
Precipitation on the other hand increases with altitude, and may be up to 300% greater than in neighboring lowlands. Mountain rivers can become raging torrents extremely quickly, and what was crossable in the morning may not necessarily be crossable on your return in the evening. Drowning may not appear on most hikers' lists of potential dangers but it does happen and should be regarded as a very real danger. If in doubt, do not attempt to cross!
Mist and fog present obvious complications for navigation, and can appear surprisingly quickly in the mountains.
Despite all the best preparations, the wilderness is hazardous and unforgiving, and accidents can happen at any time. It is also possible that you may find yourself first on the scene of an accident involving another party.
When things do go wrong, above all else Stay Calm! Think Clearly! Think Logically!
The initial time you spend assessing the situation is critical. If early decisions are rushed, you may pay the price later. By its nature, Mountain Rescue is a slow business, so do not be afraid to take as long as necessary to think your situation through and decide on the best course of action. Making the right decisions at this stage may well save time in the long run.
If a Search and Rescue Team needs to be called out, try to send at least two competent Patrol members to raise the alarm, with a written note explaining the nature of the problem, the number of people involved, the exact location (both with a 6-figure grid reference and a written description), and your intended course of action. Consider carrying a pre-prepared blank incident report form and casualty card on waterproof paper in your first aid kit, which can be filled in when needed
To call a Mountain Rescue Team, dial 911 and ask for Search and Rescue. The messengers may be required to wait by the phone for further instructions, and may be used to guide the Team to the exact location of the incident, so they should be the fittest group members if possible.
Be prepared for a long wait: including the time it takes for your messengers to reach a phone, the team callout and assembly time, and the time required for the team to walk to your location with heavy equipment.
You may decide that if there is a danger of hypothermia it is best to evacuate most of the party and leave a small group remaining with the casualty. You may also decide that it is necessary to move the casualty to a more sheltered or safer location (if so, ensure that someone will be on hand to guide the Team to your new location).
Consider how your group members or passers-by can best be deployed, and how the equipment carried by the group can best be redistributed and utilized. Consider 'alternative' uses for the equipment you are carrying, for example camera flashes can be used to attract attention in the dark, a rope laid out along the ground will maximize your chances of being located in poor visibility, and a survival bag can be used for attracting attention. The standard distress signal is three sharp whistle blasts (or flashlight flashes) followed by a one minute silence, repeated.
Don't lose touch with common sense when coming to any decisions!
A good piece of kit to carry in the wilderness is flashing red strobe light used on bicycles as rear lights. They can be seen over a great distance at night.
Crossing rivers and streams can be perilous and unpleasant, but with proper steps can be fun and safe. It can be even more dangerous crossing water if a person has poor balance and a lack of confidence at it. Here are a few safety tips:
as well. Always carry critical gear and clothing in waterproof bags. The first time you topple into the water, you'll understand why!
|Physical Fitness: Every swimmer must prove that he is fit and able to swim. An adult should be in possession of and familiar with a health history from a physician or guardian for every swimmer.|
|Ability Groups: Know your own swimming ability as well as those in the Patrol. If there are any non-swimmers do not allow these individuals into the water past their waist.|
|Discipline: All simmers should be aware of the rules and follow the directions of the Lifeguard and Lookout without exception.|
|Buddy System: Never swim alone; always use the "buddy system".|
|Adult Supervision: A qualified adult must be present at all times. If a member of the Patrol or Troop is noticed missing or lost, bring it to the attention of someone (preferably an adult leader) immediately. Reporting a person missing as soon as possible increases the chances of them being located unharmed.|
|Lifeguard: Try, whenever possible, to swim where a trained lifeguard is present.|
|Lookout: When you bring members of your Patrol to any swimming area, make certain to have one person responsible for keeping his eyes on them at all times. In many cases the swimming area is very populated. If a Patrol or Troop is brought, a "head count" every 10 - 15 minutes can be very beneficial.|
|Safe Area: Be aware of your surroundings. Know the depth of the water, direction of current, strength of current, and any objects in the water. Only swim in designated areas. Do not swim where swimming is not allowed.|
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Last modified: August 20, 2012.