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Complete Backpacking Preparedness

Questions and reports related to Sierra Nevada current and forecast conditions, as well as general precautions and safety information. Trail conditions, fire/smoke reports, mosquito reports, weather and snow conditions, stream crossing information, and more.

Re: Complete Backpacking Preparedness

Postby acvdmlac » Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:03 pm

Here is an updated link for a scoring system to gauge the severity of someone's acute mountain sickness:

http://www.thepeakinc.com/assets/PDFs/L ... _001-1.pdf[/url]

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Re: Complete Backpacking Preparedness

Postby SSSdave » Thu Aug 06, 2015 1:46 pm

Agree with much of what giantbrookie wrote, a fine read. Also thanks to AlmostThere from her experienced inputs. Like GB a prime reason my pack is rather heavy is because I tend to be over-prepared for foul conditions because as an old mountain person I've learned lessons.

More on the Langley tragedy from climber's perspectives who are much more often in danger and show how the subject is rather touchy with our climbing brothers not all of which show wisdom despite experience when goals get in the way:

http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/langle ... 62732.html

Summary of coroner's report:

http://www.marinij.com/general-news/201 ... -foul-play

Last Saturday thru Monday, I was up in the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek basins above Sabrina. On Monday Inyo SAR in their bright orange t-shirts were involved in a full bore search for a 73 year old woman missing from a Berkeley group that were camped at Emerald Lakes, just a half mile from my own location.

http://inyosar.com/two-individuals-sepa ... -same-day/

Sunday the group leader Donald with a friendly dog had dayhiked by my rather remote camp spot between Emerald and Pee Wee Lakes. Was quite surprised anyone might happen by and had enjoyable conversation (physics guy too) for most of an hour. Monday late morning as I left a day early due to smoky skies making photography futile, met the lead SAR team person Ed along trail below Emerald and we talked maybe 10 minutes. He replayed the story told to him by group members how she turned around early on their hike along Dingleberry and I immediately suggested the person probably followed non-trail use paths below Dingleberry along its large outlet creek. Then later met the full SAR team along Sabrina also making their way up and related same logic of why that would happen. SAR team veterans probably had the same suspicions before I said anything. Indeed she was found down below near the creek which has numbers of steep sections.

At the trailhead found Donald and others who gave me a really cold Sierra Nevada Ale so chatted with their group awhile. How could a woman with years of Sierra experience get in that situation? These are really brainy former university faculty people and savvy mountain folks. What it came down to was she was not used to using topographic maps but rather always visited in groups where other leaders led. Thus is an example of a total follower without orienting, map, and route finding skills. Fortunately she was wearing enough clothing to survive the one night despite temps dropping into the 40s. But that is cold enough to die from hypothermia in just a few hours if one does not act wisely.


Late afternoon Saturday August 1, an extremely powerful thunderstorm came over the area that stormed for 2.5 hours ending about 6:30pm. Precipitation was probably 1 to 2 inches with lots of lightning, thunder, and hail. Result was rivulets thoroughly washed trails removing loose dirt and duff while making lots of off trail stream paths look like maybe trails.

One reason she had turned back to her camp on a group dayhike was she as an older person was weak or still sore from the hike up and noticed that early on their dayhike. About a half mile below Dingleberry the creek channel goes through a narrow slot steeply. How might a person not realize they were absolutely in the wrong place and continue descending? Well it all comes down to some people that are under stressful situations, weakened by strenuous effort, under physical distress from even minor injuries like bruises, confused by a lack of knowledge and familiarity, may act irrationally making poor decisions. And turning around, strenuously climbing back uphill, in such a mind may give way to what is easy... continuing to stumble down.

There are a lot of ways humans can die of exposure from cold. It can be a simple as a solo backpacker getting up during a moonless night to pee and walking off a 100 feet in dense forest with headlamp on. But then the cheap flashlight flops off onto the ground and two batteries pops out onto the ground. Person cannot see so frantically feels all around like a blind person and only finds one after a half hour of feeling. Hands are no cold and numb. They get turned around, start moving in wrong direction, slowly moving further away from tent and warm sleeping bag. Not a few of our ancestors would laugh at some of the things we supposedly modern more educated people do and our ignorance of common sense dangers.

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Re: Complete Backpacking Preparedness

Postby oldranger » Sat Aug 08, 2015 1:14 pm

Re comments by femaleexpat:

I've been backpacking in the mountains for over 55 years. During that time I have learned my limits. Maybe thru luck but also thru care I have never had an issue concerning personal safety, injury, or weather despite thousands of miles of solo and accompanied off trail travel over some nasty terrain. Most people I have been in the backcountry agree that at times I don't play well with others because when I am certain I am correct and the situation requires the correct decision I will not go along with the group even if everyone disagrees with me. As a result of this attitude I have passed up some really nice trips because I did not trust the leader to make the right decision when I foresaw that critical decisions might have to be made on the trip. I didn't want to put the group in the position of a possible disagreement between myself and the leader because I would do exactly as Jonathan did. Anticipating that possibility made me write off a great trip. Though I violate one of the basic rules of backcountry travel by going solo, given that choice I become quite conservative. I have turned around several times when topping an off trail pass and I could not find a way down that I felt comfortable with. I have chosen not to go high as planned when thunder storms seem like a real possibility. I know that one cannot eliminate risk but I have the right and responsibility to myself and my family to say "No" when I believe a risk exceeds a certain level of probability. Consequently there is a real possibility that I will come to distrust a leader and feel my own welfare is best served by separating from the group. So I am always ready to break two of the four principles stated by femaleexpat.


Who can't do everything he used to and what he can do takes a hell of a lot longer!
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