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Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable

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avatar When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 03, 2017 01:44PM
On July 1, 2017 about an hour before sunset, a wilderness law enforcement ranger on a routine backcountry patrol encountered three separate parties, seven hikers total, all completely lost while facing darkness. They were in the Sunrise Pass area south of Tioga Road, Tuolumne Meadows general area.

Although the Tioga Road opened just two days before, many high country trails remain snow covered, including trail signs. All three parties discovered how challenging route finding is on snow buried trails and lost their way going to Clouds Rest and back; this trail is misperceived as an easier route and some of the hikers had done this trail before. While lost, one party found another trail which they could not identify and it did not lead to where they needed to go which only worsened their situation.

Through route finding efforts and cross-country travel, the ranger successfully lead the hikers to their destination arriving at 11:00 p.m. By this time, one hiker was suffering from altitude sickness and another was asthmatic. None of the hikers were enjoying their experience.

Although the cross-country travel occurred after darkness, only two of the hikers had headlamps and the ranger had to loan out his spares.

It was fortuitous that a ranger in a vast backcountry happened across three lost parties. He was not looking for anyone specifically nor were there any reports of missing hikers as cell service is unusual in this area. Otherwise, searches would not have started at least until the following day and this would have required numerous resources, at least one miserable night outside, and an outcome that could not be guaranteed.

Lessons Learned:
  • Traveling over snow covered trails requires route finding skills. This includes carrying a detailed topographical map, compass (GPS optional), and, of course, mastery of these items.
  • Always, and we cannot stress this enough, have the ability to retreat or return to where you have come from by the same route. This requires you to remain aware of what’s behind you while hiking to your destination.
  • Hike prepared with the 10 essentials. Few hikers intend to hike in the darkness but a headlamp, preferably two, and spare batteries, can be a game changer.
  • Hikers sometimes place rock cairns for their own reference. These are not official Park Service markers and they may or may not be accurate. Bottom line, follow someone else’s markers at your own risk.
  • When in doubt, hike on well-defined trails until the high-country trails are snow free.
Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 04, 2017 09:27AM
Yesterday I hiked to Piute Pass. Lots of snow but I surprised myself, after every larger snow crossing, I ended up right at a small section of trail. Hikers (mostly backpackers) were mostly off trail. While I was off the route taking photos a group of three said that they were lost. I pointed out where the trail would be. But, there, you can see where you are going...up or down...you are not lost!

(I chanced going out on the holiday weekend and was not disappointed. Since North Lake Road was "closed" I figured it might not be as crowded and there were hardly any day hikers. Not many fisherfolks at North Lake either.)
Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 04, 2017 03:55PM
At the Summit Ranger Station in Pinecrest, they had a table set up outside with a team of about 5-6 rangers and volunteers, all explaining that most of the trails were closed...and asking people to please be careful. Quite a scene.



Balzaccom

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avatar Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 04, 2017 04:17PM
When I started hiking at the Bayview Trailhead (Desolation Wilderness) Saturday morning there was an area volunteer describing conditions, including the fact that El Dorado SAR had gone out twice Thursday to rescue people who went the wrong way on the snow and ended up in the Cascade Falls drainage.

Going out Saturday, and coming back Monday, one could see the well-trod incorrect track in the snow these folks would likely have followed.
Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 04, 2017 10:53PM
Maybe someone ought to write a book (: about the July 4, 2017 weekend when more hikers and backpackers across the Sierra Nevada got lost than ever before over any weekend or holiday.

Of course it doesn't surprise this person because for decades the first thing I ask people on the trail when they ask about directions or where places are is for them to take their maps out. So I can show them on their map starting with them looking at their map...

sounds like a neighbor making loud popcorn all evening around here,
David



http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/04/2017 10:53PM by DavidSenesac.
Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 05, 2017 05:08AM
We were asked the last Yosemite trip (a couple of years ago) how to get to Glen Aulin. I pointed down the drainage said it is that way and clearly marked on the map. They took a picture of my map after I insisted. I would imagine that my family is one of a small percentage that we have at least two compass and maps.
avatar Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 06, 2017 12:15PM
While maps are handy, they're basically worthless for those who don't know how to read a map which is becoming a rarer skill for those who have grown up with smart phones and GPSs. Many people have a hard time using compasses too. A good hiking GPS is probably easier for the youngest generation of people to understand and use than an old-fashioned topo map.



Leave No Trace
avatar Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 06, 2017 03:33PM
Quote
plawrence
Many people have a hard time using compasses too.

Many people have a hard time using a GPS. Some can't master simple concepts like turn right onto the road, not the railroad tracks.
Quote
plawrence
While maps are handy, they're basically worthless for those who don't know how to read a map which is becoming a rarer skill for those who have grown up with smart phones and GPSs. Many people have a hard time using compasses too. A good hiking GPS is probably easier for the youngest generation of people to understand and use than an old-fashioned topo map.

And unlike a GPS, map and compass don't require batteries. (That's not to pooh-pooh modern technology - it's neat to be able to follow others' GPS tracks. But there's something to be said for not having to rely on an external power source to figure out where you are and where you want to go.)
avatar Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 06, 2017 06:20PM
I just go until I hit a railroad track.... then hang a right.

(I actually did this in Brussels)

tongue sticking out smiley

Fur realz tho. Everyone has a map now. Itz on der phone.
Things may be better now-a-daze than people give people credit for.
It's just that the mis-steps are publicized in a blink of an eye.

And let's be honest... I'll bet the younger generation are a bit more tech
savy than the older folks.

Just sayin

Respect



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/2017 07:20PM by chick-on.
avatar Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 06, 2017 10:35PM
Quote
Not quite The Geezer, but getting there

And unlike a GPS, map and compass don't require batteries.


Yes, that's an advantage of having a good topo map and a compass. But maps are only useful if you know how to read them and orient them correctly and are able to locate where you are on the map. I've known a number of people who stayed lost even though they had a map and compass because they thought they were somewhere else on the map than where they actually were.



Leave No Trace
Re: When the Road Opens before the Trails are Passable
July 07, 2017 10:39AM
The problem with hikers and backpackers reading topo maps has been beaten to death on boards like this for years. But like a few other of my favorite outdoor complaint subjects like illegal campfires, it serves purpose periodically bringing such subjects back up.

Even before this smart phone and GPS era there were too many groups and visitors that were incompetent map readers because most of the time many novices need do little more than simply follow trails like an ant on a scent track. Of course all we experienced folk know how unreliable that can be due to a list of situations like the above early season snow fields that bury trails haha and then a visitor follows some post holing made by the previous person that was even more clueless. And when an ant comes to one of those black stink bugs with its butt up in the air, its lost in space too the same way.

Per my above post's line, when asked about directions on trails, I immediately smile and ask for a group to take out their topographic map. A fair number of visitors will have a map right at hand and know how to use it. They're one of us, no problemo except they are unlikely to be asking such questions as they already know where they are and are going. So more likely I will see a group chucking their backpacks on the ground looking at each other with a bit of chatter like "who was it that had the map?" Then one person blurts "its in my pack lid" so unzips and rummages about pulling out a Ziplock or whatever with some maps. At the same time I'm probably holding my own map in hand but not looking at it as I continue smiling. Map pulled out, I first may ask. Show me where you think you are now (on the map).

At that point it is a 50% toss up that the map person will be looking at a map upsidedown with text inverted as others next to the map are squinting down at it too puzzled like it is a pirates treasure map. If a person doesn't quickly size up where they are it is a sure clue they are unfamiliar with looking at topographic maps. At that point I will start nudging them after righting the orientation with clues like, there is the trailhead, there is Lake Punyfish, etc. Most such folk did look at the map a bit before a trip so with a bit of help sort of recognize what they are now looking at. Then there are others like a deer in the headlights, on the spot, that anything I may show them probably is lost five minute later by confusion, embarrassment, and emotions.

I may suggest that one of the most important skills to hone as adult hikers while hiking trails is to be able to recognize where one is on a topographic map versus the natural features they see passing around them. And the only way to do so is to have a map right at hand and to let everyone in a group take turns practicing doing so.

David
http://www.davidsenesac.com/2017_Trip_Chronicles/2017_Trip-Chronicles-0.html




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