Getting lost can have serious consequences. You might even have to spend the night or worse! Preparation and paying attention to the terrain are key to staying on track. A good guidebook, route description, or GPS with waypoints are the first step for preparing for a hike. After reading the hike description you should be able to answer the following questions: How long should the hike take? You do not want to come back in the dark. Does the hike follow a trail or is it a cross-country hike? Cross-country routes are much harder to follow than trails. Is the hike up and back or round trip? Up and back hikes are easier to follow, since you’ll descend familiar territory. Are there dangerous areas? If so, what can you do to make these areas safer. By answering these questions you’ll have a general idea of how easy it will be to stay on course. If you are unsure or feel uneasy, do a different hike or go with people who know the route.
If using a GPS, make sure you know how to use it. GPSCity.com has over 1,700 video tutorials! It’s a great resource. Also, make sure you bring extra batteries. Your GPS is worthless without batteries. If the waypoint is leading you in a wrong direction, use common sense. Some waypoints are wrong. There are several reasons for this, which are not the focus of this article. Remember, a GPS is just a tool.
You should always hike in a group of four or more for safety and to reduce the chance of getting lost. If someone gets hurt, one person can stay with the injured hiker and the other two can go for help. Check if anyone is a nurse or doctor in your group. You can try to call 911 with a cell phone, but reception is spotty in the mountains. Also, keep your cell phone turned off. If your cellphone battery goes dead, you can’t use your phone. The more people you hike with the greater chance someone is familiar with the route and more likely someone will recognize a key landmark if the group becomes lost. This is especially true during the descent.
The leader should keep track of everyone in the group. He or she should take a head count at the start of the hike and confirm it after each break. If it’s a big group, the leader should assign someone to be the last hiker (sweeper) making sure no hiker is left behind or becomes lost. Periodically the leader should turn around and make sure everybody is present. The group must wait for slower hikers. This can become a problem on a cross-country hike with lots of hikers, even with a sweeper. The leader should screen unknown hikers before the hike by asking them questions about their fitness and their hiking experience. If the leader determines they are not in good enough shape to do the hike, they should not be allowed to join the hike.
One of the quickest ways of getting lost is to wander off trail. This is especially true in wooded areas with little elevation change. If you are hiking on a trail that is poorly marked, keep track of forks and turns you make. When on a cross-country hike, turn around often and look at key landmarks. By turning around, you have the same view as when you return. You can mark the route with cairns or plastic surveyor’s tape if you feel it’s necessary. Make sure to remove all your markers on the way back; however, don’t remove established cairns that mark the route. The above tips only apply if you return by the same trail or route.
With proper planning and paying attention to the terrain, you’ll have a safe and fun hike. For more tips about staying on course and other hiking information, visit my Web site at: www.hikinglasvegas.com
Hiking Resources for You:
The 52 Peak Club: Safe and smart group hiking: http://www.52peakclub.com/
Branch’s bio here: http://www.hikinglasvegas.com/about.html
Branch’s Facebook Hiking Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/HikingLasVegas/
My next Hiker’s Safety and Learning talks are:
July 27th at 6:30 pm at the Sahara Library
Aug. 29th at 6:30 pm at the Windmill Library
Sept. 22th at 6:30 pm at the Rainbow Library +