Trail Life, getting back to the Basics:

The Wet & the Cold

I spend a lot of time teaching wilderness knowledge and skills to people who want to push the limits, whether their own or that of Nature. We talk about “Thru-Hiking,” the finesse of over-snow navigation, and in-tent cooking during nasty weather – sort of “advanced backpacking” stuff to those who have already done lots of initial trips out in the mountains.

But, what was needed to be learned before those “First Steps,” what was needed to be tested and tried before even leaving the house, all upon which the foundation of hiking began?

One such question was raised, today, and I loved hearing it and having the opportunity to answer it!

“So, what are you supposed to do when you get wet while hiking in a cold environment?”

If you find yourself getting wet from sweat or rain/snow while hiking in near-freezing temperatures with an increasing wind suggesting the arrival of a nasty storm…

1. Get out of the exposed situation as soon as possible! I don’t care if you have to camp on the trail. Remove yourself from the wet and cold before you start shivering and unable to pitch your tent.

2. Get inside, strip out of all wet clothing, put on new, warm, dry clothing, put on your down parka with hood or fleece hat, get in your sleeping bag, and start heating up something to eat or drink. Insulate the outside of you while you warm up the inside of you.

3. Prepare to ride out the storm.

The most important “environment” you can control begins within you, your thoughts, actions, and decisions of warmth, layered protection of clothing, exposure to wind, and, in this case, near-freezing rain, direction of travel, where and when to camp, and so forth.

Realize that you are a visitor out there, a “guest” in a foreign and austere environment where you are no longer able to control everything around you – unless you are paying attention and know what to do, as in this case.

There is great enriching and empowering wonder and amazement to be seen and discovered out in our mountainous wilderness. Know what you’re walking into and be prepared for all its inconsistencies and extremes!

[photo: 1984 casual summit of Pyramid Peak in Desolation Wilderness]