Hiking AdviceHIKING SECRETS
on this page include hiking in the heat, preventing and/or dealing with blisters, logistics of hiking, winter hiking and the answer to the question: When is the best time of day to cross a mountain stream?
Plan ahead for a long hike. Are your boot laces about worn out? That small tear in the rain jacket could get bigger and give you trouble. When was the last time you trimmed your toenails? You really ought to see the dentist about that toothache.
Unless your pack comes with special instructions, pack the heaviest things lowest in your pack, so your hip belt carries the weight instead of your neck. You can adjust how your pack carries by
hiking some with your hands on top of the pack frame (also good if your hands swell a little from altitude, exercise and gravity).
Drinking lots of water is the biggest secret many people don't know. So, drink more water than you're used to, regularly throughout the day (about 1/4 liter per 1/4 hour for maximum efficiency,
maybe with a diluted sports drink).
When you get thirsty you're already 1.5 liters low on water, your endurance is reduced 20 per cent, and your maximum oxygen uptake (a measure of heart and lung efficiency) can drop 10 percent. All this can happen after less than one hour of hiking. Drink enough water to keep your urine light-colored and enough that you never get thirsty.
Don't drink water directly from streams or lakes. You must purify it (the club owns pumps). Please learn how to use one in advance.
HIKING WHEN IT'S HOT
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control)says:
"What is the best clothing for hot weather or a heat wave?
Choose lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. In the hot sun, a wide-brimmed hat will provide shade and keep the head cool.
Should I take salt tablets during hot weather?
Do not take salt tablets unless directed by your doctor. Heavy sweating removes salt and minerals from the body. These are necessary for your body and must be replaced. The easiest and safest way to do this is through your diet. Drink fruit juice or a sports beverage when you exercise or work in the heat."
SO, Drink more water
Light colors reflect
sun--dark gets hotter
Wear a hat. You can soak some hats in water.
Short sleeves or tank tops are cooler--but if you wear them use lots of a potent sunscreen (SPF 5 is joke)
Cotton or open-weave synthetics are coolest. Cotton will retain your sweat or water you soak it in to cool you (that's why you don't want cotton at night or in the winter.)
Hey, wear a hat!
ON THE HIKE
Get up early enough to get moving early, drink extra water and have plenty of time. Warm up and stretch a little before your hike. You could injure yourself and end the hike at the trailhead if you swing that heavy pack up on to your shoulders too quickly.
Avoid following the person in front of you too closely so you won't collide with them if they stop suddenly or either of you slips, and so the branch that caught on their pack won't slap you in the
Walk at a regular but slower pace until you get your 'second wind'; also use a slower pace uphill when you need to. Don't worry about the people without packs scurrying past you.
With a pack, at a higher altitude (less oxygen) than you're used to, you may need to take uphill 'staircase' parts of hills very slowly. One step, then a couple of deep breaths. One more step and more breaths. It is much wiser to hold yourself to a snail's pace and keep going than to go too fast, then stop too long and get cold.
Take short 'breathers' to drink water, look at scenery, munch a little, check the way the trail looks behind you at a trail crossing so you will recognize it on the way out. These should be short stops. Don't
take your pack all the way off, just lean against a tree or boulder to take weight off your shoulders. Don't stop long enough for your legs to get stiff.
Make a mandatory (this means everybody) stop in the first half hour to check for 'hot spots' on feet where moleskin is needed, tighten or loosen bootlaces, adjust packs, take off or add layers of clothes, stretch thoroughly, and drink more water, even if it's not warm yet.
If the moleskin and proper fitting boots don't always work, don't pop or drain the blister, it is there to protect you and you can get an infection.
When you're about to do a long downhill, tighten your bootlaces so your feet won't slip and create blisters on the ends of your toes. Go slower than gravity would push you to. It's easier on your body and you're less dangerous to others. On slippery downhill surfaces, like wet leaves, mossy rocks, wet rock slopes, sandy granite steps or wet wooden bridges/steps, use shorter steps and really plant your feet so your whole boot contacts the surface. The compacted section of snow is slipperier than the still fluffy snow more at the side.
Those people (like me) using cross-country ski poles, trekking poles or hiking sticks aren't weak. They really can help lessen the load during downhills on your knees and ankles and give you better balance.
Don't step on top of anything you can step over.
Don't step over anything high you can walk around.
Before stepping fully on a rock that might slip, test it partially.
When going downhill, give uphill hikers the right of way so they don't have to break their pace.
When you need to take a breather, especially on narrow sections of trail like parts of the Mist Trail in Yosemite, move aside so others can pass. When people get momentum moving uphill it can be hard to regain if they have to stop everytime the person in front of them wants to stop.
Ask permission to pass instead of elbowing past.
Horses and pack trains have the right-of-way. Yield to them by stepping off the trail on the uphill side and stand still and quiet until they are well past you.
Whenever possible, stay on the trail. Don't cause erosion by cutting across switchbacks (trails with lots of U-turns on steep hills).
Remember--the plant you step on is dead, or if it's not it "may take 300-500 years to recover once trampled or destroyed" (according to Grand Teton Nat'l Park rangers). If you must cross
meadows, spread out your group. Don't stay in single file unless there's an existing maintained trail. If there is a trail, stay on it even if it's muddy or sandy and difficult to walk on, don't erode
another trail scar. Hey, no baseball, frisbee, kite flying, soccer or other trampling of meadows!
Leave no trace
Sliding down snowbanks or sections of scree (like lots of loose, large gravel) is dangerous with a pack on, and not real smart in general on a backpack trip. Some people recommend running, sliding and almost skiing down scree slopes. But consider how far you are from help and how difficult it will be to try to hike out with even minor injuries. Also consider that you might not be able to stop before that huge boulder and you could start rocks sliding into the path of others.
Any hike to the top of a mountain must start early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms. No matter how close you are to a high destination, you must turn away if lightning is seen or thunder heard. Thunderstorm and lightning safety has more.
Leave no trace camping and hiking has these basic principles:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
To truly be able to leave no trace and follow backcountry rules about camping the proper distance from a lake or digging your personal latrine hole the proper distance from water, etc., you will need to know how far 100 feet is. Lay out a tape measure at home and walk it and count your paces.
A few clues about other distances:
about eight miles away the shapes of prominent trees and buildings become distinguishable
about 2 miles away you can see individual windows in a building
about a mile away a person looks like a moving dot without limbs
about 400 yards away (a little under a quarter of a mile) you can make out a person's legs or a kayaker's arms
about 250 to 300 yards away faces are discernible (but not recognizable)
Info on the Yosemite Half Dome hike, with good advice in general:
In 2010 they started requiring permits for day hikes to Half Dome on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays. They will issue a maximum of 400 permits per day. Backpackers in the area can get a Half Dome hike permit with their backpack permit for free. You can face misdemeanor charges if you go up without a permit - up to a $5,000 fine and/or six months in jail.
Why the permits? In summer of 2009 on Saturdays and holidays Half Dome hikers averaged 840 per day (estimated at a peak of 1100 to 1200) and people have had to wait up to an hour to go up.
March 1, 2011 permits to climb the cables to go to the top of Half Dome will be available for May and June 2011. Permits will be required every day of the week, with each person needing their own individual permit. Up to four permits can be obtained under one reservation. There is a non-refundable $1.50 service charge for each permit. Subsequent permits will be available at the beginning of each month for permits three months in advance. Reservations can be made through www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
a 360 degree view from the top of Half Dome:
From Sierra Nature Notes, Volume 4, June 2004
When is the best time to cross a mountain stream?
Understanding daily variations in streamflow
Jessica Lundquist, Soon-to-be PhD
Hydroclimatology Group, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Jessica starts by quoting from an " Issue of Backpacker magazine... I spend my summers doing river research in Yosemite National Park, and for once, something had appeared in my mailbox that actually looked useful. I quickly flipped to a page titled 'Become a stronger, smarter hiker' and looked at a 'Quick Tip' highlighted in a black box. "The best time to cross a stream is in the morning, when the flow is lowest," the tip read. "During the day, snowmelt can dramatically swell a stream. So if it's late in the day, consider camping streamside for the night and crossing in the morning."
Sounds reasonable, but how often is this good advice?"
She researched the issue and came up with the following summation:
"Jessica's guidelines for stream crossing times in Yosemite: After showing more science and complexity than you may have wanted, the following are my rules of thumb for the times of peak and minimum daily streamflow, depending on where and when you are in the park (Table 1):
Size of Stream Small (like Rafferty or Gaylor Creek)
Early spring melt (April and May) Max flow: 9-11 pm, Min flow: noon
Peak melt (early June) Max: 5-6 pm, Min: 8-10 am
Late-season melt (mid/late summer) Max: 7-9 pm, Min: 9-12 am
Size of Stream Medium (like Lyell Fork of Tuolumne)
Early spring melt (April and May) Max flow: 8-10 pm, Min flow: 10-12 am
Peak melt (early June) Max: 8-10 pm, Min: near noon
Late-season melt (mid/late summer) Max: 10 pm - 3 am, Min: noon - 4 pm
Size of Stream Large (like Merced at Happy Isles or Tuolumne at Hetch Hetchy)
Early spring melt (April and May) Max flow: near midnight, Min flow: near 4 pm
Peak melt (early June) Max: still near midnight or slightly later, Min: noon-3 pm
Late-season melt (mid/late summer) Max: morning, shifting as late as 10 am, Min: 3pm-midnight
In summary, it's not always a good idea to set up camp solely for the purpose of waiting for better stream crossing conditions in the morning. This generally works near small streams in the summer, but not if you're some distance from the snowline. However, setting up camp near a stream for several days could be a fun experiment. Watch the water rise and fall and learn what it tells you about the water's journey from the top of the snowpack to the spot where you stand."
Don't cross a creek this way:
from the National park Service Morning Report
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (PA)
Fatal Fall Into Raymondskill Creek
Tatiana Culvert, 44, of Effort, Pennsylvania, was killed on Saturday afternoon when she slipped off a log and fell into Raymondskill Creek. According to friends who witnessed the accident, she was one of a group of six visitors who crossed the creek on a log that was about 30 feet above the water. Everyone else in the group crossed by straddling the log and sidling over, but Culvert attempted to walk across. She lost her balance, held onto the log for a moment with her hands, then lost her grip and fell into the creek below. The water was only about ten inches deep at that point and Culvert struck the rocks below the stream’s surface. Her friends immediately pulled her out of the creek and reported later that she remained conscious for a short time. One member of the party hiked out to the trailhead and called 911. Park rangers, paramedics, and the Milford Fire Department rescue team responded immediately, arriving with a few minutes of the initial call. By the time the rescuers arrived, Culvert was unconscious and had stopped breathing. CPR was begun and a defibrillator unit was used at the scene, but Culvert never regained consciousness. The cause of death is presumed to be traumatic injury associated with the fall. The accident occurred in an area where there are no established trails. Culvert is survived by her husband and five children. [Submitted by Doyle Nelson, Deputy Superintendent]
Teton County (Wyoming) Search and rescue would like you to know:
"Do not stand in moving water, even if shallow. If your foot gets trapped in the rocks, the current will push you over, wedging you foot tighter, and pushing your head underwater. You will drown. Others have drowned in 2 feet of water this way."
Yosemite park has this advice for winter hikes from the daily report of January 23, 2004:
"Plan your trip sensibly anytime you go out, keeping in the mind the
experience level and conditioning of the weakest member of your group.
Don't separate from other members! Winter backcountry travel is almost
always tricker than summer--conditions are unpredictable and variable,
trails are slippery or hidden, visibility can be poor, and landmarks look
very different under snow. New hazards such as falling rock or ice, snow
bridges, or hollow spots under the snow pack can cause problems. Remember
there is less travel time due to shorter days and more obstacles to speedy
movement than in summer. Make sure someone knows where you are going and
when you are due back."
And from a February Daily report:
"The Wilderness Safety Action Team would like to remind you that when you
work or play outside in the winter, remember that the weather is often
unpredictable. If you are going out for the day, check the forecast, but
be prepared for both ends of the weather spectrum each time you go out.
Carry sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat for shade particularly if there is
snow on the ground, but also carry storm gear and warm clothing. You lose
much of your body's heat from your head, so a warm hat is a necessity.
Remember you need to eat and drink more to prepare yourself for cold
weather activities--you need a gallon of fluids a day during strenuous
winter activity. Creeks will be frozen, so "tank up" by drinking as much
as you can before leaving and carry a couple of quarts of water for a full
Be prepared to spend an unexpected night out when traveling in the
wilderness. If you get lost, or must bivouac, stay put and stay dry.
Carry a lighter to build a fire--lower tree branches are often dead and
dry. Look for pitch on tree trunks for fire starter. Boughs can be used
for a platform in an emergency, and you can insulate yourself from the wind
and snow by huddling together and sitting on packs or ensolite pads. A
shelter can be made by digging a trench in the snow. Three blasts on a
whistle, repeated often, will help searchers find you. Stomp out a big "X"
in the snow to help the helicopter find you if things go that far.
This information is to help you stay safe by providing easy ways to stay
out of trouble. Proper preparation and thought can prevent everything from
unpleasant experiences to rescues, and allow you to spend your time
enjoying the great outdoors comfortably and safely. (L. Boyers)
Here are more rockfall safety tips from the Wilderness Safety Action Team.
We plan to provide more information about these exciting natural events in
the Daily. This text is from the official wording on the rock fall
closures posted at the trail barricades, but applies to all of us.
ROCKFALL POTENTIAL IN THE PARK
Rocks and/or ice can fall at any time. While hiking trails, avoid
lingering near talus or steeper slopes, particularly in winter. If you
observe a rockfall in the area, call 911 or 209/379-1992 with information
on the time, location, and duration of the event.
BE RESPONSIBLE—BE SAFE
Rockfalls are a dynamic—and dramatic—natural process. But it is impossible
for the park to monitor for every potential rockfall. In Yosemite, and in
any natural area, it is up to visitors and employees alike to be aware of
their surroundings and enjoy the park safely.
Rockfalls are dangerous and can cause injury or death. Use caution when
entering any area where rockfall activity may occur, such as Valley walls,
climbing areas, or talus slopes.
Winter is one of the most active periods for rockfall activity in Yosemite
National Park. As temperatures fall in the evening and warm up during the
day, cracks in the granite can widen, eventually causing rocks to separate
To learn more about rockfalls and geology in Yosemite National Park, stop
by any visitor center for an information sheet or visit online at
see also: Snow camp weather, hike safety and first aid considerations
Enhance your hike by reading:
The day hike gear section at Camping equipment checklist
GORP and hiking snacks
Thunderstorm and lightning safety includes the answer to the question: Why can't you swim during a lightning storm? A strike on a lake doesn't kill all the fish in the lake.
see also: Cell phones in the wilderness which has advice on how/when to use a cell phone to contact 911 in the wilderness and a warning about interference between cell phones, iPods and avalanche beacons.
You can't always expect a helicopter rescue
fatal, near fatal or close call incidents/accidents in camping, backpacking, climbing and mountaineering
GPS is not infallible
Can a person who is prescribed an epi-pen risk going into the wilderness? and some sting prevention notes are at: Anaphylaxis quick facts