An effort will be underway to promote proper planning and preparation through direct conversations with hikers at trailheads and on the trails in the High Peaks Wilderness, February 16-18, the upcoming Presidents’ Day Weekend.
The organizers hope to increase engagement between hikers and experienced backcountry users to reduce the number of search and rescue incidents in the Adirondacks and help to ensure the public has an enjoyable and safe outdoor experience.
DEC Forest Rangers, Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) summit stewards and educators, Adirondack 46ers’ volunteer trailhead stewards, and volunteers from Keene Backcountry Rescue will interact with hikers to help ensure they are properly dressed, equipped, and prepared for the conditions they are likely to face in the backcountry.
Hikers can expect to see Forest Rangers, stewards, and volunteers at the ADK’s High Peaks Information Center, at trailheads, and on the trails of popular hiking routes in the High Peaks.
Due to the rising popularity of the Adirondacks, DEC Forest Rangers have seen an increase in backcountry search and rescue incidents requiring response. This is especially true in the High Peaks Wilderness, where the most recent four-year average rose to 97 search and rescue incidents per year. During the previous four years, Forest Rangers responded to an average of 65 incidents per year. Many of these incidents are the result of hikers being improperly prepared. You can read about those incidents HERE.
This initiative is based on the National Park Service’s Preventative Search and Rescue program, which has decreased the number of search and rescue incidents on popular backcountry routes in Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks.
“Plan Ahead and Prepare” is the first of the Leave No Trace Seven Principles and the main theme of Hike Safe’s Hiker Responsibility Code. Hikers recreating this winter to plan ahead and be prepared for the elements:
- Know your skill level and physical capabilities – choose trails within your or your group’s ability. Remember it takes more effort and energy to move through snow;
- Inform someone of your travel plans and let them know where you are going, your planned route, when you plan to return, and emergency numbers to call if you do not return at the scheduled time;
- Wear base layers of moisture-wicking fabric to keep your skin dry and insulating layers such as wool or fleece, waterproof or water-resistant outer layers, thick socks, a winter hat, gloves or mittens, gaiters, and waterproof, insulated boots;
- Wear snowshoes or skis and bring trail crampons or micro spikes;
- Bring plenty of food and water. Eat, drink, and rest often to prevent hypothermia;
- Pack a first aid kit, extra clothing, a fire starter kit, headlamp with extra batteries, and a trail map; and
- Keep an eye on the weather, and if conditions worsen, head back immediately.
Always Be Prepared: Properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.
Photo: Forest Rangers lead a search and rescue (provided by DEC).