To avoid rescues, plan winter hikes

NEW SNOWFALL ON the Widow’s Clearing trail in Goshen makes for a magical outing. Be sure to check the Green Mountain Club website for tips for staying safe on winter excursions.

A crop of recent books about search and rescue in the mountains will keep you on the edge of your chair (or mountain crag), and give valuable insight on how to stay safe (see suggested reading below). Rescues are time consuming, expensive and dangerous, especially in bad weather and at night. Cell phones may have no coverage or dead batteries.
The Green Mountain Club website, under “Trip Planning,” has great tips on safety, including the 10 essentials of what to bring, and the “Hikesafe” responsibility code — know the terrain and weather forecast, leave your plans, stay together, turn back in bad weather, and know how to rescue yourself.
Yet how many of us really follow these guidelines? One of my best hiking buddies died on Mt Katahdin’s Knife Edge last October, on a route he had been over many times. In memory of my friend Don, I encourage people to learn more about why the Hikesafe code is vital.
Be prepared to spend the night out in the cold, especially if the weather is bad, it is late in the day, and there are not a lot of other people around.
Safety is especially important in the spring, a season with its own hazards, including deep snowpack and overflowing streams and rivers from snowmelt. Also, the state of Vermont closes trails on their land (including Camels Hump and Mt Mansfield) from mud season to the Friday before Memorial Day, to reduce erosion. The Green Mountain Club recommends avoiding other high peaks as well during this time.
More information at Green Mountain Club’s “Trip Planning” at
Suggested Reading
•  “Not Without Peril,” by Nicholas Howe
•  “Critical Hours,” by Sandy Stott
•  “At the Mercy of the Mountains,” by Peter Bronski
•  “Mountain Rescue Doctor,” by Christopher Van Tilburg
•  “Found, a life in mountain rescue,” by Bree Loewen
•  “Buried in the Sky,” by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padgan
•  “Desperate Steps,” by Peter Kick

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