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Use Caution When Hiking in the Mountains

Posted by Susan Elderkin at Nov 04, 2011 09:49 AM |
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With the first major snow storm of the season the complexion of hiking in the mountains has changed. Hikers need to be prepared and use common sense. WTA has several late fall hiking tips to share.

On Wednesday, the larches still glowed with their golden needles on the mountainsides around Blewett Pass. Today, most of those needles are buried under snow after the first major winter storm of the season.

While it has been snowing in the mountains over past few weeks, we still had plenty of sunny days to help melt it. However, the snow that has just fallen is likely to stick around until next year.

As a result, the complexion of hiking in the mountains has changed. Backcountry exploration in late fall presents dangers that far exceed those of hiking in the summertime. Rain can quickly turn to white-out, snowy conditions - disorienting even for the most experienced of hikers. Trails buried under snow can be difficult to follow. Ice can make the tread slippery. Steep side slopes covered in unstable snow are a recipe for avalanches. And it gets dark early.

Despite the increased risks, hiking can be a pure joy in late fall. It's easier to find solitude, which also increases your chances of glimpsing wildlife. The air is crisp and exhilarating. And with the trees bare, new views open up.

The best thing to do is to be prepared. WTA has compiled several Late Fall Hiking Safety Tips - essentials for staying safe AND having a good time on the trail. In this piece we tell you the best sources for checking mountain weather, what to pack and some common-sense advice like letting people know where you're going and realizing when it is best to turn around.

WTA's office manager Holly Chambers is a volunteer with King County Search and Rescue. She's told me that it has been very quiet the past couple of months, with very few searches. That's good. Let's keep it that way.

>> Read Late Fall Hiking Safety Tips