[pct-l] What to do when bad weather looms?

Ken Murray kmurray at pol.net
Tue Jan 26 12:48:26 CST 2010

You've hit upon a very key issue.  I think what happens is that people get out on the trail, and the moment of truth happens.  At that moment, a decision needs to be made.  And the person thinks:  "There might be circumstances where hunkering down would be less safe than other choices.", and so they choose the easiest course:  continue plodding along.  And get hypothermic

It is exactly the same process that people use when they have a bottle of water in their pack:  "Well, I could stop and get it out, or I could go a little farther."  and get dehydrated.

Or, getting out the raingear, or go a little farther:  and get wet and make it hard to find dry wood for a fire.

Or, getting out the crampons, or see if it gets better:  and get into a seriously dangerous spot, unable to turn around or go forward.

Or, search further up and down the stream and wait for others to try a crossing, or give it a try:  and get swept away.

I think that those who've not faced any of these (and more) situations, are at highest risk for doing the wrong thing, because they don't appreciate, through experience, how bad things can go if they choose wrong.

Often, when things go wrong, mistakes are compounded.  Last year when the hiker got into trouble in snow, and called for a SPOT rescue, there were multiple issues:  She did not deal with the weather soon enough, so got soaked, then cold.  She decided to camp, but discovered that her shelter was somewhat inadequate (and was not in a physical position to optimize it).  She decided to go off-trail to set up her camp.  Other hikers passed ON THE TRAIL, and noted her tracks off-trail, but no contact was made, and no help was rendered, because she made that decision.  If you are in real trouble, and you make camp, do so ON THE TRAIL, so that you are easily found, and the next person by can help you.

All of this stuff is best decided beforehand, and is the value of these discussions.

Seems logical to me. But I'm a novice hiker. There might be circumstances where hunkering down would be
less safe than other choices.

Don Billings

----- Original Message ----
From: Jeffrey Olson <jolson at olc.edu>
Cc: Pct-l at backcountry.net
Sent: Mon, January 25, 2010 4:13:44 PM
Subject: [pct-l] What to do when bad weather looms?

All this talk about making good choices has me think of what I've 
learned to do after my last bad choice to continue walking in wind/rain. 


Now that's a good choice, one that any hiker out for more than a month 
can appreciate.  And it's a matter of looking forward to bad weather so 
that you can hunker down for a while.  "Oh boy, a storm is coming.  It's 
11AM and I've got 12 miles in, but it's starting to rain and the wind is 
blowing 30 mph + and I get to HUNKER DOWN!!!"

Part of the trip's mindset might just include such an attitude!

Jeffrey Olson
Martin, SD

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