A while back I created a SOTA map based upon the AT, and then hit up the reflector to ask for some opinions on trail corridors and what not. Well one of the responses was “since you’ve done the Rim Trail, why not considering doing the West Highland Way?”. After a couple of trips to Scotland and having already climbed Ben Nevis and just having a crazy overall desire to see more of the Highlands I decided to bump the WHW up to the head of the list and SOTA-ify it. Plane tickets are booked I am headed there the first two weeks of May (my annual get away from everyone for my birthday birthday trip).
For those not aware, the West Highland way is 94 miles long, starts in a suburb of Glasgow, skirts along Loch Lomond, heads into the Highlands and goes by the base of Ben Nevis the high point of the UK, then wanders a couple of more miles down into Fort William which is at the Southern end of Loch Ness. It is also a part of the International Appalachian Trail. This is a hike that takes most people 7-9 days to do, but I have added some days dedicated to peak bagging some SOTA peaks. I am also splitting from the Way at Kinlochleven to head up into the mountains to the South of Ben Nevis as well cutting over to the peaks to the West of Nevis (It is some circuit that has it’s own “Challenge” name that escapes me). Overall I am looking to do about 140 miles in 12-13 days. I am also thinking (hoping) I will be able to do most of the activations via 2M. I will be bringing my ultra lightweight MTR3b kit for HF as a fallback. Doing 2m for the bulk of the activations will cut down the amount of time I am on peak and speed my movement along. (I promise to work as many chasers as possible, I will not cheat anyone).
For now the plan is as follows…
Land at GLA and take a taxi/shuttle/train over to Milngavie and start walking after snagging a pint and a steak pie and picking up whatever last minute needs I might have. I am planning to stop off at Glengoyne to pick up some scotch to accompany me along the two weeks. I will be doing a mix of wild camping, maybe try the glamping pods I have read about and BnB for those days where I’m looking for a little extra rest to handle the peak bagging days. For those interested, I have also heard that there are baggage shuttle/carrier services, but I will not be taking advantage of those.
Day 1 the goal will be to make it to Glengoyne before they close, and then camp or BnB in Drymen, no SOTA just getting the plane muck off me and getting out into some open country. Oddly enough the wife and I had lunch in Drymen this past October, neat little town as are all the smaller UK towns. I could see myself retiring to one of these peaceful and quiet hamlets in my older days.
Day 2: Drymen to Rowardennan and the first SOTA summit. Conic Hill. This is the lowest peak on the trail, and close enough to Glasgow this should be 2m only. I have booked the youth hostel in Rowardennan and will spend an extra day in order to activate Ben Lomond.
Day 4: This will be my longest walking day, intending to walk 20 miles to get to Crianlarich because you guessed it, the next day I am going after two SOTA peaks: Ben More and Stob Binnein. Both of them are a little off the Way, but they are 10 pointers, and 001, 002 for the GM/SS region.
Day 6: Back at it with both walking and peak bagging, headed up to Tyndrum and picking up Beinn Odhar during the day.
Day 7: is off to Bridge of Orchy, staying at one of the nicer hotels there (I think there is only one anyway) and going after at least Beinn Dorain and maybe Beinn an Dothaid
Day 8 is another move along day as I head up to Glencoe Mountain Resort. I have not decided if I am going to try out those cool looking glamping pods, or if I will just wild camp in the campground.
Day 10: So I have no clue how much snow is going to be up in the high country, but if it is clear I am going to leave the Way at Kinlochleven and go after the seven SOTA peaks up in that area. Sorry, not going to list them all out, but Ben Nevis is one of them :D. Grab SotAtlas, or Sotamaps to see what the others are.
After spending 3 days up in the high country wandering around and bagging summits I’ll finally end up in Fort William on day 12 or 13.
I have given myself till May 16 to be back in Glasgow so I will have some leeway with the schedule above if necessary. If I bag every peak intended it will be 16 peaks in 12-14 days for a total of 127 points. So you can expect some sort of write up towards the end of May as I digest the trip and get settled back in.
Decided to do an overnight for two peaks in the Sierra
Disclaimer: The two peaks I am going to talk about here do require some offtrail/overland navigation skills, and have some high consequence results if something goes wrong. This is a trip report of my experience, and is in no way beta for you to go and tackle these peaks. If you take this data and get hurt, or your loved ones get hurt that is on you period..FWIW I did cut up my hand pretty good on a fall I had while descending Lightning Mountain. In both cases these peaks are thin spine rock piles; one being a large pile of talus and boulders, the other is decomposing volcanic material. Also note these approaches are steep, think avalanche terrain steep. The approach to Disaster Peak was in the Donnell Fire zone from 2018, there is a lot of fire damage along the way including sink holes forming from burnt out tree root systems. Sink holes that could give out and definitely put a damper on your day if you fell in. I had NO cell service from either peak at all, and I was not getting any APRS beacons until I was up high enough to hit something to my west. That said, enjoy the read!
So I have this map of SOTA summits between Carson Pass (HWY 88) and technically the Northern border of Yosemite, but HWY 108/Sonora Pass for all intent and purpose that I have been working off of primarily the past two years. The area I have primarily focussed on this year is along the PCT corridor South of HWY 4. So far this year I had hit up Bloods Ridge, Antelope Peak, Mineral Mountain, Deadwood and a couple of numbered peaks in the area. I also missed 5-6 weeks of hiking in Sept/Oct because of a knee injury sustained doing Tinkers Knob/Mt Lincoln. Funny too, that was probably the easiest hike I had done to that point this summer. Here we are in mid Nov though and my knee was feeling good again five weeks after a meniscectomy, the weather is still plenty warm, there is plenty of sunshine, and the last remnants of any early season storms from back in September were long gone. The only signs of snow were left over patches from the previous long Winter season. So LETS HIT THE TRAIL and get a nice fall overnight in!
I have had my eye on three particular peaks that are all in close proximity, and oddly enough two of them are accessed on the same trail (but from a different direction) as my approach to Arnot peak, specifically the Disaster Creek Trail. The two in question for this trip are Lightning Mountain, and Disaster Peak. The third peak I will have to go after some other time. Compared to some of the other peaks I had done around this area these two peaks were right off a trail, and the on vs off trail ratio would be about 50/50 for once. For context, Antelope Peak was a 15 mile day for me, only 2 miles were on trail, rest of the time I was picking my way across open fields, manzanita and willow thickets and whatever else the mountain could throw my way. This area is the Carson Iceberg Wilderness area and overnights do require a permit. As a day trip (and this is totally doable as a long single day two-fer) no permit needed. The Trailhead is off of Stanislaus FS Road 7N83.
I started heading up the Disaster Creek trail at 8am, and the walking was pretty easy. In 2018 the Donnell fire ravaged some of this area pretty bad, there are plenty of large trees that have fallen as a result and even more on the verge of falling. I stopped at what I think was a Jeffery Pine to count the rings, and made it to 100 but was only 2/3 of the way across, and was easily a 10 foot diameter tree. I’d noticed some recent tracks along the trail, some that looked real recent, but the cattle grazers had already pulled out for the year, and I could tell I was going to be totally alone in the wilderness this weekend =).
Once I had my basecamp setup I started looking for a way up, and wouldn’t you know there was an animal use trail right behind my camp, so up I went along a shoulder that I had planned as my approach for Lightning Mountain. The approach was approximately 1500 feet and was 3 miles each way. I was in the trees until 8500 feet. Oddly enough along the way I found a fire ring in the strangest place ever at 8300 feet. No real trail, not very flat but someone had spent some time here. After this weekend I actually wondered if the owners stay with the cattle most of the summer.
The last few hundred feet is where the pucker factor starts, but not for the full duration. Depending on which shoulder you ascend, you come to a crumbly rocky knob that has bad consequences on one side and devastating consequences on the other. Choose your route, be choosy with your footing and proceed. For the next little bit you just kinda traverse over to the saddle at the base of the rock structure that makes up the summit. The summit is long and spiny, and a little bit of class 2/3 that is crumbly and slidy so again, be careful, and be choosy and test before you weight your foot placement.
There is no cell service (or AT&T) on this peak, so I was relying on APRS to handle my spotting. Back in the summer ON6ZQ did some fun hackery to put all SOTA activators on aprs.fi, and low and behold because I was hitting the summit, a welcome message appeared on APRS. :D. I could hear some guy squawking away on another summit up in North Lake Tahoe area, so I waited 20 minutes to get a QSO with him. Kind of a mistake since he was not actually doing SOTA, but it was at least my first QSO for the first activation on this peak. Overall today I ended up with 1 2m contact 7 on 40m with an S2S, and 4 on 20m. After about 2 hours on the summit, decided it was time to head down mostly retracing my steps. Back at that dicey knob, I did end up losing my footing in one spot, but not on the steeper section, but because the rock was all crumbly and such I did manage to tear up my hand some.
Camp was camp, nothing to speak of here, but I did have a nice sunset glow (I am looking East in the photo I posted above).
Next morning my plan was simple, get up, break down camp and go find the trail to Disaster Peak; todays peak would be ~2350 feet of gain and another 3 miles each way. I would leave my pack at the bottom, and normally I would say this is probably not a good idea, and I’ll admit there were a few times I was like “damn, hope there are no bears today down in the valley”, but it is what I did. I wonder if the scent of used TP in a ziplock would ward animals away from my pack 😉 (pack it in, pack it out). Reality is I did not bother bringing any extra food on this trip, so I’d eaten my allotment already. Once I found the use trail to Disaster peak (more on that in a minute), found a somewhat hidden place under a tree to park my pack, grabbed my Z-lite sit pad and the case I use to carry my MTR clipped it to my belt, killed a liter of water and went on. (yes, I set off for a 6 mile hike on a hot summer, I mean fall day with no water).
The nice thing about the setup I have, is it weighs < 2lbs. Super easy to just carabiner to a belt loop. I have a trapped EFHW made with 30awg silicon wrapped wire that a buddy built. This thing is LIGHT, the MTR3b, and my 1400mah battery which I am running an experiment on to see just how many operating hours I can get out of it. The battery may be the heaviest part of the kit
So, I mentioned “use trail” before, what i had read was a hard to follow use trail was only partially true, and this was a trip report from well before last years fire. The trail once I did find it was actually a well used pathway that was easy to follow, plus had its fair share of cairns along the way. That was until I got about half way and walked into one of the areas that was damaged pretty bad by the fire. I had never seen the results of a fire that burned so hot it burned out the root system of a tree, but here you go:
You definitely had to be careful because those roots ended up being sink holes, and if you were not aware of where you were stepping it would be easy to cause a sink hole to happen and you would be done hiking for the day. Once past the burn area, you just round a shoulder/corner, and it does get a bit exposed for a minute or two, but you round a corner and your destination is there in full view. At this rate, just work your way up the hill as best you can. In some cases there are some cattle trail, and it does look like if you attain the Southern shoulder the jaunt along that shoulder to the peak is a much easier ascent then straight up the gut. I also saw plenty of camps/fire rings in some more strange places, nothing like what I saw the day before, but strange enough..
On the summit, it was your typical activation, since I was further East on this summit no one could hear me in the central valley, I did pick up someone out in Yerington NV though. Also managed another 11 HF contacts on CW, more 20m today then 40m, so another successful activation of a virgin peak.
Takeaways: Always enamored by the fact that I have studied this area extensively on the maps, and you think it is all spread out, but it is not. I drove some 200+ miles to ultimately access two peaks that were 35 miles crowfly from my home.
Do the cattle grazers stay in the field all season, and where can I sign up for that gig without going out and buying a bunch of cows? 😀 (and does it pay as well as my current job?)
SOTA Activation of a peak I’d been eyeing for a while
So for those that have been following me in anyway know I’ve had a desire to knock off all the peaks that are in some proximity to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This was also the final weekend of the W7N bonus weekend (W6 cuts out on 3/15, that is in the process of getting updated though). There are three possible ways to get to this peak, and as a day hike, all are kind of ambitious. Doing this when there is still a good amount of snow on the ground amps up that factor more.
So the three possible ways to access this peak are from Tahoe Meadows on the Mt Rose hwy, Spooner summit to the South of US-50. Both of these are primarily the Tahoe Rim Trail. I chose to use the Flume Trail/Tunnel Creek route to go up, then hop over towards Twin Lakes. According to my CalTopo route this should have been ~5.23 miles each way and 2722 feet elevation gain. Mt Rose to Herlan peak is ~10 miles each way and has a fair bit of up and down (+2050, -1830 elevation change). Not quite ready to drop a marathon on snowshoes since most of the stuff up high was fluffy and untracked. Half Marathon? No problem.
I have done my fair share of 10-15 mile snowshoe hikes, but the 2600 foot elevation gain was adding to the pucker factor some, fortunately DST and the Spring equinox has kicked in, so we’re already north of 12 hours of sunlight per day. I hit the trailhead approximately 9am and already started making shortcuts across the snow to decrease distance. I really do love snowshoeing when there is a good base, do not have to worry about damaging existing trails. Down low the snow was pretty firm, so I was making some good time. Funny though the higher I went the fewer snowshoe/shoe postholing tracks were present. About 2 miles up I was now breaking trail though on my own.
Even in the winter roads and trails still look obvious so navigating was pretty easy. When I reached the top of Tunnel Creek trail/the Saddle I opted to stay along the ridge instead of dropping down to Twin Lakes. So it was spring time, and not sure why I’d not considered this in my planning, but, I was starting to notice more and more bear tracks going between trees.
The uptrack ended up taking a bit longer then I’d hoped, especially since i was making good time earlier on, but off trail, and deep snow being what it is, it took me longer to go that last 1000 feet up then it did the first 1600. Even with the short cuts and such, I ended up doing just shy of 6 miles. I was not wandering around lost, I just think that the mapping software is not accounting for some of the switchbacks that existed. (My uptrack is posted below). If you are planning this route, anticipate 7-8 if you stick to the trail.
Once on top though, I was greeted with some amazing scenery.
One good thing about deep snow on the summit is uh..it’s easier to anchor that antenna mast..just shove it in, and step around it to pack the snow in.
So, I ended up with 20 QSO across 7SSB, 7CW, 10CW, and 14CW. With 4 S2S. 20m seemed to be pretty good today as some of my QSO were the Eastern seaboard. 30m/10mhz was a bit iffy, I’m wondering if I was close enough to Slide Mountain that I was picking up interference from all the transmitters over there (~5miles North crowfly).
I used my KX2 and my QRPguys Tri-band vertical, and as usual it performed well. That by far is my favorite setup.
The hike down I opted to overland navigate and stay on the Western side of the spine I ascended. I was also wishing for my splitboard as the snow was amazing up high, and would’ve made from some awesome cold blower powder turns. My shortcut worked out well, as i ended up cutting off a mile from my up track, and landed back on the Flume trail right where the signpost/tunnel creek turn off is.
After knocking off Herlan peak I now only have two left from the Rim Trail Challenge. Ellis Peak and Scott Peak both of which are easy and in proximity to each other so I may just knock them out as an overnight backpack this Summer. I just need to stop letting myself get distracted by all the other peaks (and travel) I want to do :D.
Thanks for stopping by. Some more images are below..
Wonder where the wind blows from
Sign at the trailhead
Crazy wind depositing on the summit.
South towards Snow Valley Peak (that might be Marlette Peak actually).
So this is my son’s last year in HS and in July he heads off to the Army, so we decided to go REAL BIG for our last “Ski Week” (Presidents Day/mid winter break) trip. Time to head down under to Australia. As usual we were not looking to hit the standard tourists sites, we were just going to go hang out, I would grab some SOTA, he would do some fishing etc. It also helps when a friend from my childhood was living somewhere in country.
I do not get impressed by man made things, humans will never make something as impressive as the (real) Matterhorn, or El Capitan, but here is the opera house
After walking around the Opera House we took a walk thru the Royal Botanical Gardens and then headed back to the airport for our domestic flight up to Ballina where we would setup our base camp for the week.
My plan was to knock out some Summits on the Air before really getting setup, but I wanted to get a place setup for staying, so we booked at the Reflections Holiday Park in Shaws Bay. The view was great I’ll say 😀
We headed up to a camp area near Mt Warning so that Jason and I could roll up the hill first thing in the morning. Mt Warning VK2/NR-001 is a sacred mountain and the climb up used to be a right of passage for one of the local native tribes. I was walking on hallowed ground, and I was reverent the whole way up. We hit the trail head around 5am, and started the 3.3 miles up. Everything I had read said this trail should take about 5 hours total to do. It took us 4:45 including me spending an hour on the summit doing SOTA. It is always fun getting that first QSO on a new summit/continent! I tossed out a CQ SOTA on 2m 146.500, and VK4IB came back to me from Brisbane. Well that pretty much helped me feel like this was going to be a successful activation. I kept calling CQ on 2 while setting up the KX2. Got my four contacts, closed down and down we hiked. The Feature image is the sunrise from the summit! Definitely heed the sign below.
After we got down, we checked out of our cabin and proceeded to the next summit on the list which was Springbrook Mountain VK4/SE-011 which is for all intent and purpose a drive up. What is funny is that it took us almost as long to drive here from Mt Warning as it took to hike up Mt Warning 😀 even though Warning and Springbrook are only separated by 13 miles/20km crowfly. I noticed that there were two ZS calls nearby also doing the VK thing on a nearby peak, so I S2S’d them. I really should have popped up to that peak too just for the complete :D. I think I helped them get the complete for Springbrook as well.
With some SOTA in the books we traveled on down to the coast coming in just south of Surfer City, checked out the Byron Bay lighthouse for sunset and stayed the night in Lennox Head. It was pretty cool seeing sunrise from a mountain where I could see the ocean, and then seeing the mountain I had climbed that morning from the ocean during sunset! Full Circle
The next morning, Jeremiah and I did a coastal walk the 6 miles from Lennox Head back to Ballina, got setup in our cabin and fished, and chilled out. By Wednesday I was itching for some more SOTA, so Thursday morning I got up at 8am and headed to the airport to pick up a car and then headed inland towards Tenterfield. I had somewhere else in mind, but while at lunch I started looking for two more peaks close together, and there were two such peaks. One being VK2/NT-025 (Mount MacKenzie) (SotaDB has it as just NT-025). I ended up with 5 QSO overall with a mix of ZL and VK calls. After 50 minutes I figured, lets maybe squeeze in one more peak (which would have pushed me past GOAT). I headed over towards VK2/NT-033, and got pretty close until I found the “Please check in with management before venturing onto these lands”. I am not a fan of folks who trespass without permission, and I was not about to break my own rule, so I turned around and looked for another peak. There was a peak over in VK4/Queensland that looked like it would have a short hike, so I headed that way. (Norman Peak VK4/SD-002). Stymied again, this time a road closure due to the fires in the area. So here I sit 7 points away from Mountain Goat. Reality is, I was not really wanting to get GOAT outside of NA because I want to get GOAT with the chasers that have chased me the most so I was not that bummed that I did not get my two-fer today. Headed back to Ballina just in time to get caught in some TORRENTIAL downpours as a result of Cyclone Oma. Had a wonderful evening dinner with friends both new and old.
We were supposed to fly back down to Sydney midday Friday so we would have some time to relax, repack, and maybe catch a few more gardens in Sydney however Oma had other plans. All flights in and out of Ballina had been cancelled due to the high winds. We got a new one way rental, and headed off down the M1/A1 (wait was I in the UK, or AU?) to Sydney. I do love road tripping, and road tripping in a foreign land is also an amazing experience! Jeremiah finally got to see some kanga’s in the wild. That sums up the SOTA portion of that trip, the rest was just me relaxing, and enjoying a break away from the snow of Tahoe.
Now I am back in W6 land and ready for my 120th activation for Mountain Goat! Stay tuned when I finally get it, but who knows when. Maybe this Saturday as part of the Tahoe/Reno meetup being hosted in Sparks NV.
So for those that do a lot of peak bagging in the Tahoe area you may have heard or read about the Tahoe OGUL list. “Ogul” is the Washoe word for Bighorn Sheep. That is kind of fitting since Cali/W6 has an award called the California Bighorn Ram
“The Bighorn Ram Award is available to those activators who have accumulated 500 points activating W6 summits.” –W6 ARM.
The Tahoe OGUL list is 63 peaks in the area of Lake Tahoe, Carson Pass, Ebbetts Pass, the Sweetwater range and a few others dotted here and there. Please note that not every peak on the OGUL list qualifies as a Summits on the Air summit. SOTA adheres to the P125 meter standard for prominence, and some of the peaks on the OGUL lack the prominence compared to other nearby peaks. Case in point Basin Peak and it’s proximity to Castle Crags, the prominence is only 337 feet and on the same ridge as Castle Crags. I will include those peaks as well just for the sake of keeping the list correct as it exists at the OGUL pages but the SOTA Ref will just say “Not in Sota”.
That’s right, I’m getting to the stretch to make Mountain Goat. As of Nov 5 I am sitting on 841 points. I’ve already set the date for Mountain Goat on a peak back east. W4C/EM-003 (Hump Mountain) This mountain has special meaning from the childhood. I have already booked my tickets for Martin Luther King Weekend. I am thinking Sunday. I’ll use Saturday to pick up any extra points needed on the way. As much as this next part saddens me, so long as winter in the Sierra continues to be warm and dry, I am going to keep taking advantage of the open roads, and working those double peak days on drive ups or peaks with a < 1 mile hike. Obviously not as fun as the 20 miles it takes for Pyramid peak, or a long overnight just to get to the launching point for a SOTA summit, but I am close so it is time to push on with a lot of efficiency.
The last time we spoke I had just finished some more Hope Valley peaks, since then I have done 216 points, and have been out almost every weekend. Nothing to epic, although I did do 3 peaks on the same weekend I ran a half marathon. That was interesting given the half was down in Joshua Tree, but all the peaks I did were up in the Whites. Had a few other firsts, I went out on Grouse Ridge on a Friday night for the specific purpose of chasing and/or getting chased by VK/ZL land. I had a contact with VK on SSB, I could hear a couple more, and almost had an S2S with VK. No ZL calls came back to me. That same night I did have a cross-mode SOTA contact with KB6B. For those not sure what cross-mode is, I was operating SSB on an SSB frequency and this individual contacted me via cw. I was able to get the data I needed for the contact. On a different activation I was chased by someone from JP land as well, so I know have Asia, Australia and Europe for SOTA contacts. I have also managed to go out with a few different activators, K6ARK for an activation, and KE6MT and I both also went out for a weekend. Now that we are both involved with the leadership for W6 we did a lot of planning conversations while we were hiking and such. The W6 ARM will be getting updated soon enough.
So, from this point, I have 8 weekends I can do SOTA to get the 149 points I need to be setup to push past 1000. I only need 3×8 pointers, or 2×10 pointers per weekend to accomplish the task. December 1 is the start of the +3 winter bonus for most of the regions I activate. I’ve got most of the weekends filled up with which peaks, but somewhere in there I know it’s going to snow..Hopefully we get enough snow to make it possible to snowmobile come mid December, because that will open up a LOT of territory for me. For now I will keep plugging along hitting the 8/10 pointers that I know I can get 2 – 4 peaks per weekend. One of those weekend’s the Thanksgiving weekend I will head to the Crowley lake area; with that being a 3-5 day weekend I can snag 50+ points as there are quite a few peaks that have very short hikes to reach. That weekend and the rest of Nov should help out with the goal. The reason why I have put such a close timeline is I am heading to Australia in Feb, it will be my last trip with Jeremiah for ski week before he heads off to the Army next August, I did NOT want to make GOAT while on another continent, and since I knew which peak I wanted to do I wanted a three day weekend. what’s yet another challenge? Maybe I can get some more EU contacts that weekend.
So lets also discuss the SLOTH in the room. No I’ve not hit Shack Sloth yet, however i am at 860 chaser points, so long as I do not go out of my way to chase, AND I get an S2S here and there along the way I can actually hit Sloth and Goat on my Hump mountain activation. I’ll probably run my chaser points up to 995 leading into that weekend. Hopefully someone is getting out that weekend somewhere to help me hit 1000 chaser points. Apparently it has not been done yet either. The funny thing is I was not even aware of how many chaser points I had, I was more into the S2S points, and just happened to notice how close my numbers were. Those chaser points add up when you try and work S2S a lot. I’ve had a few activations along the way where I did not post a single spot and just chased S2S.
I will update as time goes on to see how I am doing (even if only monthly). Maybe toss out a quick note if there are some more epic outings etc.
Been a while since i have blogged about SOTA but I have still been getting out there (365 points so far this year). Part of that time though has also seen the usual increase in SAR activity. For those that do not know I am a member of a SAR team located in the Sierra Nevada. So this is going to be a soapbox post, more for the general public then for SOTA people, and most SOTA people seem to be in the know and I hope they are in the know! Still think this is worth talking about though as a nice break from a SOTA trip report
When you read an article in your paper/online whatever and it says “hey go check out this NOVICE trail” do a bit more search then what that article supplies. We’ve had 5 SARS in the past month at a trailhead we maybe see 1 SAR in a year at that this was a direct contributing factor. Oh I’ll pick on more subjects then just these 5, but we’re going to start here! It was nice that some local paper/news outlet/whatever covered a trail to help get some exposure for it (or maybe not since increased use means increased damage) but that should not be the end of it from a research perspective. In the case of this trail maybe ask yourself some other questions like… “This is in the Sierra, what is the elevation, have I ever hiked at this elevation before?” Will my cellphone and google maps/alltrails/gaia GPS/whatever map app you use be enough in an area that probably does not have cell coverage? Have I left a plan with someone? That is the one that most people miss. They do not leave a plan. What supplies will I need? sure it’s warm during the day, but at night, when it’s 50, 40, or even down to 30 degrees, if I do end up being over due will I be warm? Which leads me to my next question, do I have a light? do I have food, enough water, or a way to treat water if I pull it from the streams? That water may look cool, clear and tasty, but chances are if it’s in the mountains it’s probably had some marmot fecal matter in it, or donkey/horse where trail crews use pack animals to take supplies in etc. Unless you want to lose 20-30 pounds FAST, do not drink the water untreated!!! I will not recommend any product or what to carry beyond perhaps consult the 10 essentials. Oh and also, IF you are taking your pup figure out things like what is the longest hike I have taken my dog on? Have I ever had my pup walk on Sierra Granite? Maybe I need shoes for my dog? SAR teams technically are not allowed to rescue animals, some districts may try and fudge it via some other various justification like “the owner was not going to leave the animal, so the owner was going to put his/herself in harm”. Be advised too that if a SAR team comes to help you with your four-legged friend, IF animal services/Humane Society/whatever happens to be in tow there is a chance you might get cited for animal negligence (yes I have seen this happen first hand. That owner started crying b/c of the overall ordeal and this last minute surprise). Sorry but as an animal lover, I concur with AS’s action in this case. The owner should have known better. ” stated they had never heard of shoes for a dog”
So back on the weather angle for a second, and I think I have ranted on this particular group of subjects in the past, but the employees from a large technology company who own a mapping division who thought it would be a great idea to go bag a 9000 foot peak in the Sierras in January. They had nothing more then 2 16oz bottles of water each, no food, blue jeans, their company schotzky jackets, and IIRC one individual of that group of three was actually wearing canvas VANs shoes. If I really need to explain even a few things that are wrong in the above, do yourself (and your local SAR teams) a favor, and stay on the couch. Sorry if I am sounding elitist, but I’ve seen enough folks not using the massive lump of gray material between their ears that just asking themselves a few basic questions would have saved themselves some possible embarrassment..
So what I will recommend is that you at least understand what the 10 essentials are. I have heard a few people often refer to this as “some arbitrary list that does no good” and well there is some truth to that statement IF you do not know how to effectively use the items, you can technically survive for a few days with just these supplies.
What are the 10 essentials? https://www.nps.gov/articles/10essentials.htm
A Pack while not on the list, is needed for carrying this stuff, so might as well put this at the top of the list. They also do not list some sort of knife (I call out a multi-tool below) but I can do more with a 4 inch full tang blade for survival then I can with a multi-tool. (Full tang means the entire length of the knife is a single chunk of steel, it’s not a folding knife etc). If you have to cut on trees to build a shelter you will end up possibly breaking a folding knife etc.).
Navigation: A cell phone alone will not cut it. Even with external battery/recharge capabilities, you are going to be in some areas where you may not have access to a cell tower. (Sometimes you do need Data to pull that map down). A GPS unit, or even just a paper map is a good back up. For you weight weenies out there, paper is pretty darn light.. The important thing here is whatever your nav method, KNOW HOW TO USE IT, or it is basically trash in your pack.
SUN PROTECTION: Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses etc. This is pretty self explanatory, and I’d almost say the sunglasses are more important in winter then summer.
INSULATION – Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear: The weather report may say “0% chance of rain and sunny” but the mountain does not always listen to the weather forecasters. The mountains are capable of making their own weather, and storms can come up out of no where. Even in the Sierras in the middle of July it can snow at night and if you are out there with nothing more then shorts and a t-shirt, you are going to have a long, cold, miserable night.
Illumination: Another one of those “and your cell phone alone will not cut it” items. I remember once i was backpacking somewhere and I was on a nearby peak to my campsite. It was nearly sunset (I had run up to watch sunset) and this group of 6 day hikers were just making the summit obviously very tired. They asked me “how long will it take us to go down?” I replied with “45 minutes quicker then it took you to go up” (which is true for most people). I could see that did not settle well with them, and I went into the “and you have a light and warm clothes? it gets cold and dark up here”. Hit our SAR coordinator via the radio on my way back down the trail to my camp.
First Aid Supplies: This does not need to be that exhaustive; mole skin, some aspirin, some bandaids etc..basic first aid you might keep in your house. Not looking for you to be carrying SAM splints and being able to reset a dislocation here, just enough to deal with the minor discomforts that can happen.
Fire: This is one of those, that depending on where you live, I hesitate to say “be able to make a fire AND control it”. Over the past few years fires in the backcountry end up being banned in a lot of the western states during late summer/fall. Reality is, if you have a jacket, and the rest of the stuff on the list you can go without a fire. While I do love a good campfire I’d rather my house be standing then burned down from a wildfire I caused while trying to stay warm while lost. The Cedar Fire (2003, San Diego) and Rim Fire (Groveland/Yosemite 2013) which is the 5th largest in CA history as well as many others were all started by individuals who were lost and cold, and their fires got out of control. There are others but most folks will have heard of these (if they live in California). Again, I’ll re-iterate, if the fire danger is anything but Green/Low use your clothing layers that are in this list and skip the fire. Winter, by all means do what you can to stay warm.
REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS – Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors: A multi-tool is enough there, and if you happen to use trekking poles, that is a great way to hold duct tape for emergency use.
NUTRITION – Food: You may only think you are heading out for a couple of hours, but part of being out there is enjoying nature and taking some time, so might as well have enough food to last you 24 hours just in case, besides a salami and cheese tastes great when hanging by that alpine lake. Sure we can go 5 days without eating, but if it’s cold out, you’ll stay warmer if you have some extra calories, even something as simple as a few extra trail bars can make a difference.
HYDRATION – Water and water treatment supplies: I think I ranted on this above, just because that water looks clean does not mean it is. Giardia, Cryptosporidia etc. They all exist in our water. If your destination is a popular one, you can believe your water will be contaminated with something.
EMERGENCY SHELTER – Tent, space blanket, tarp, and bivy: This can be anything from a Bothy bag, to the emergency blankets that are the size a deck of cards, reality is, if you have your emergency clothing listed above, you can survive the night (unless you are stuck in torrential rain/heavy snow).
That is the list of things that most backcountry travelers will tell you you cannot live without (with the exception of building a campfire if in a high fire danger area). However it is one thing to carry it, it’s totally another thing to know how to use it when it’s time. So take the time to understand what you are carrying and why.
So when you get to that trailhead, it’s worth it to sign the permit/log book on where you plan on hiking. SAR teams do have access to the permit box/log. Heck I was in the backcountry once when a wildfire broke out, and because the NPS had my travel plans on the permit, they used that to call my cell phone (which I was not carrying on that trip) and leave a message asking me to call them when I got out of the BC. We have done similar. Since that time, I now carry a radio, and I do have it open on part 90 frequencies so I can listen to fire crews in the field, and if needed get beta on where I need to go to stay safe. (as an amateur radio operator I would never advise anyone to just pick up a radio and start yelling into the microphone beyond to say “do what you have to do to ensure the security of human life and limb”). The FCC is not going to fine you if you found someone injured and called “SOS” on whatever frequency they might have programmed in.
While I am at it, I might as well mention and IF you do get lost, STAY PUT! There is a wonderful thing that is being taught to kids now: “If you get lost ‘S.T.O.P’ Stop. Think. Observe. Plan. If you did leave your plan with someone, and you are not that far off your intended path by staying put we will be able to find you quicker.
Good luck and enjoy the nature, be safe, be prepared and PLEASE LEAVE NO TRACE!