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Safety Tips

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Here are some of the most important safety tips we've come across:

  • Plan your trip well. Know where you're going & how to get there, how difficult it will be, where you will get water, where you might camp, etc.
  • Leave your itinerary with someone you trust to call the authorities if you don't come back when expected. Sign all trail registers.
  • Don't travel alone. If you must, stick to well-traveled trails or at least let someone know exactly where you're going. Being stuck a million miles from nowhere with a broken leg ain't no fun.
  • Drink plenty of water & eat high-energy food. Carry an extra meal or two.
  • Carry a first aid kit, sun screen, chapstick, insect repellent, matches, knife, whistle, flashlight, warm clothes, extra food, raingear, & tarp.
  • Be alert. Watch out for rattlesnakes, poison oak, sudden storms, & other hazards.
  • If you think you are lost, STOP. Sit down, relax, get calm, don't panic. Try to figure out where you are by looking for landmarks, using the position of the sun for direction. Check your compass & map (you did bring them didn't you?). Do not start traveling again until you have a pretty good idea of where you're at & where you're going.
  • If you really are lost, STAY PUT. Put out a distress signal (mirror, yelling, whistle, smoke). Three of anything (shouts, whistles, smoke signals, etc.) signifies an emergency. If you left your itinerary with someone, people will be looking for you within 24 hours after you fail to show up. If you get really desperate, an old Boy Scout adage advised to follow water downhill -- a stream leads to a river & people build cities next to rivers.
  • Sudden storms are common in the mountains. During lightning storms stay off high, open ground & away from isolated trees. Find shelter among small trees in low areas or lie on the ground. Carry a tarp or groundcloth to make shelter from the rain.
  • Avoid Hypothermia by staying dry & being aware of the wind.
  • Prevent Altitude Sickness by keeping in good physical condition, eating a well balanced diet, & drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Avoid Giardia by filtering, boiling or treating water.
  • Make camp well before dark or at the first sign of a storm.

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Hypothermia is the rapid & progressive mental & physical collapse which accompanies chilling of the human body's inner core. It is caused by exposure to cold & is intensified by wetness, wind & exhaustion. It can & does happen in temperatures above freezing.

The symptoms of hypothermia are progressive. Symptoms include uncontrollable shivering, slow slurred speech, memory lapses, incoherence, fumbling hands, frequent stumbling, drowsiness, exhaustion & apparent unconcern about physical discomfort.

Treat hypothermia by minimizing further cooling & actively rewarming the victim by:

  • Getting the victim out of the wind & rain.
  • Removing wet clothing & replacing with dry clothing if possible.
  • Getting victim near a heat source -- inside a sleeping bag skin-to-skin with a healthy person is best.
  • Giving conscious victims hot drinks (soup or sugar drinks, NO caffeine or alcohol!)

Avoid hypothermia by:

  • Staying dry. Carry good raingear & put it on before you get wet. Make camp or turn back before stormy weather sets in.
  • Being aware of the wind. Even a slight breeze carries heat away from the body. Wind intensifies cold by evaporating moisture.

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Altitude Sickness

Altitude sickness may occur whenever someone ascends rapidly to an altitude of 7,000 feet or more. Symptoms include fatigue, weakness, headache, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting & shortness of breath with exertion. Sleep may be difficult for the first few nights. Deep, rapid breathing may occur, causing lightheadedness, dizziness & tingling of hands & feet. These symptoms show that the body is not receiving sufficient oxygen.

To treat altitude problems, stop & rest. Breathe deeply a few times, eat some simple sugars such as candy or fruit, drink some water & take aspirin. Most importantly, travel to a lower elevation if symptoms continue. In extreme cases, descend immediately--death can occur from pulmonary edema.

Prevent altitude sickness by keeping in good physical condition, eating a well balanced diet, and drinking plenty of fluids. If possible, stay a couple of nights at higher altitudes before starting your trip to allow your body time to acclimate.

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Giardiasis is an unpleasant intestinal disorder caused by a microscopic organism, Giardia lambia. Giardia my be found in mountain streams & lakes & may be contracted from untreated drinking water. Although giardia can be incapacitating, it is not usually life-threatening. Symptoms usually include diarrhea, gas, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, & bloating which appear a few days to a few weeks after ingestion of giardia.

Use a good quality water filter, boil water for at least one minute, or treat with commercial water purification chemicals.