Letter: Safe Hiking Practices
To the Editor:
The Oct. 19 Valley News reported two rescues of hikers who were stranded on challenging trails in the Presidentials after nightfall. I celebrate their good fortune of being rescued by New Hampshire Fish and Game wardens and volunteer personnel, including an Appalachian Mountain Club hut worker. The story about the Brownsville couple troubled me for being long on adventure and short on emphasizing the risks involved in hiking in the higher altitudes of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I’m writing because I share this couple’s passion for hiking and wish all hikers safe journeys.
Here are a few safety guidelines that all hikers need to observe:
∎ Know your trails. The Appalachian Mountain Club offers trail descriptions in its White Mountain Guide. Trail descriptions are also available online.
∎ Turn back if you’re tired.
∎ Know when sunset is. Subtract your start time from sunset. Half of that time is the longest you should hike before turning around.
∎ Bring a flashlight or headlight and plenty of food and water.
∎ Know in advance what kind of weather to expect on the summit. Bring clothes suitable for the anticipated precipitation, wind and temperature.
∎ Be prepared to turn back if conditions aren’t safe.
Here is some wisdom from the “hikeSafe Responsibility Code” reprinted in the White Mountain Guide: “Even if you are headed out for just one hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don’t assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.”
Both couples were very fortunate that their cell phones had reception, which is often not the case. They were lucky that the New Hampshire Fish and Game staff and volunteers are well trained and were able to reach them on these strenuous trails in the dark.
Perhaps the Valley News could run a story on the training and experiences of the Fish and Game staff and the work of the Appalachian Mountain Club to reinforce safe hiking practices.