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Winter Mountain Safety

Before starting off any hiking or backpacking adventure in the wilderness, there are some things you should do to help ensure your safety and that of your group. 

Below are tips and suggestions on how to make your trip safer.

Plan out your route and gear:
  • Plot the route you will be taking on a map
  • Understand the route difficulties (type of terrain, weather, environment, etc.)
  • Take all the necessary gear you will need
Share your plan with others:
  • Give someone a copy of your trip plan
  • Leave a copy in your vehicle
  • If plans change, update your contact
Check the weather and avalanche forecast for the area you will be traveling
Plans the appropriate types of clothing for the weather:
  • Plan for the worst type of weather (e.g. rain, snow, freezing temperature, etc.).
    • In the Pacific Northwest it rains alot, so its important always have rain gear on you.
  • Don't wear cotton, wear wool and synthetic materials.
    • Wool and synthetic materials don't hold moisture (e.g. water or perspiration) as well as cotton.
    • moisture pull heat away from the body, which can lead to Hypothermia.
  • Layer your clothing to adjust you body's temperature.
    • Your clothes can get soaked with your own perspiration, in cold weather this can lead to Hypothermia.
    • Its important to take off layers when you get hot, and put on layers when you get cold.
Make sure to keep yourself hydrated and fed.
  • Make sure to drink and eat frequently.  You can burn a lot of calories while hiking and can become quickly dehydrated if you're not careful.
  • Try eating a hot dinner before going to sleep.  This will help you use less energy to break down the food while you're sleeping.
  • Depending on the outside temperature watch for signs of hypothermia and frostbite on yourself and in your group.

STOP is a mnemonic used for avalanche safety

Snowpack
  • Assess changing snowpack conditions
  • Perform regular snowpack evaluations
  • Ensure your avalanche transceiver works
Terrain
  • Avoid slopes of 30° - 450
  • Practice safe travel in avalanche terrain
  • Notice natural indicators
Options
  • Frequently assess the current risks
  • Determine if there is a safer route
People
  • Understand the dynamics of the group
  • Practice, practice, practice rescue skills


 Cold Weather Illnesses
Frostbite

Signs
  • A white or grayish-yellow skin area
  • Skin that feels firm or waxy
  • Numbness
Treatment
  • Get into a warm area as soon as possible.
  • Avoid walking on frostbitten feet or toes
  • Immerse the affected area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Warm the affected area using body heat
  • Seek medical attention.
Hypothermia

Signs
  • Shivering / exhaustion / confusion
  • Memory loss / slurred speech
  • Unconsciousness
Treatment
  • Get into warm area as soon as possible
  • Remove wet clothing
  • Warm the core of the body first
  • Give warm beverages, if not unconscious
  • Severe hypothermia requires immediate medical attention
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