Thursday, June 28, 2007

Another rescue

This time it was on the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. Allan Angeles, while hiking alone along the JDF Marine Trail, lost the trail in heavy rain near Sombrio Beach.
I just slipped, fell off a cliff and landed on a couple of rocks. Luckily I landed on my backpack, which cushioned me and most likely saved me.

Angeles thinks me may have passed out for an hour or so. Upon waking, he managed to climb the cliff and make camp for the night. The next day, he tried to make it back to Sombrio, but after hiking about 1.5km he was still unable to find the trail. He then went out on another cliff and started waving his tarp to flag down a fishing boat.

Luckily, two American fishermen were able to pick Angeles up and ferry him to Jordan River. From there, he was taken by ambulance to Victoria General Hospital. Angeles was diagnosed with a fractured pelvis, effectively ending this year's hiking season for him.

Once again, I wish I could have some more details on this one. Hiking 1.5 km and not being able to find the trail is quite astounding on a coastal trail. On the other hand, the particular section between Chin and Sombrio goes inland a considerable way, and in heavy rain it would be very difficult to navigate off-trail.

I'm glad we have another relatively happy ending, and I'll spare the lectures this time!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good News

A whole bunch of happy news as far as my hiking goes!

Next weekend Ian and I are going to finish the section of the Juan de Fuca trail that we missed on our last hike. We're planning to make this a 20km day hike, and use the opportunity to do some stove and fuel usage testing when we cook our lunch.

A few weeks after that, I'll be hiking the first half of the JDF again, this time with my brother. He has never hiked the JDF before, so I'm looking forward to sharing this with him. The goal will be a one-nighter, from China Beach to Sombrio, with the sleepover at Chin Beach.

And.. drumroll please.. Ian and I are planning to hike the John Muir Trail next summer. It will be our first hike requiring a resupply, so I'm looking forward to the logistics planning. Watch this spot for step-by-step planning updates! I'm already so excited to get back into the Sierras, one of the most amazing places I've ever seen.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hiker Survives Fall From Bridge on West Coast Trail

This Sunday, a couple from Edmonton had their West Coast Trail hike end shortly after it began. The Times Colonist reports that Kristie Wenger and her boyfriend, Jonah Krauskopf, accidentally left the main trail and started following an old, out of use section of trail. Wenger attempted to cross a broken, slippery log bridge, but fell when she turned around to look at Krauskopf. The fall took her 25 feet down to the creek bed, but miracuously she wasn't seriously injured.

Luckily, as they were less than 2km from the trail head, Krauskopf was able to protect Wenger from the steady rain with a sleeping bag and tarp, then head for help. At the shore of the San Juan River, he was able to wave to a group of people on the other shore. One of the group, Victoria firefighter Cody Gidney, took charge and grabbed a rope, first aid kit, and radio from the Park Wardens. With two other men, he canoed across the river, then hiked the rough trail in flipflops to Wenger.

Gidney was able to assertain that although Wenger's injuries weren't overly serious, she would need to be airlifted off the trail. Two wardens arrived and helped Gidney prepare the site for the evacuation. Roughly 5 hours after the fall, a Cormorant helicopter from CFB Comox arrived and performed a successful evacuation.

So what did we learn from this?
It's hard to determine whether this mishap was caused by poor trail marking, careless hiking, inexperience, or just plain bad luck. We've all taken a wrong turn on a trail before, which in itself is a scary experience. Maps and compasses wouldn't have helped them avoid this, only experience.

Krauskopf did everything right after the fall, from protecting Wenger from the elements to quickly heading off for help. Some things I would add that he may or may not have done:
  • Leave a note with the victim indicating which way you went for help, what time, and what injuries there may be. The victim may lose conscoiusness or otherwise not be able to communicate with a would-be rescuer.
  • Remove all scented and food items from the hiker and hang from a tree. A bear or cougar may sense the defenselessness of the victim.
  • Indicate on your map where the incident took place, so you can show rescuers. A digital photo may even help them find an obscure area in case you aren't able to return with the rescue team. Tie some gear around a tree where you left the main trail, and spread out your tent or tarp at the rescue site to aid helicopters or boats. Give them the colour and description of the gear.
Once again, luck and good decision making helped this incident to have a happy ending. Thank you to Cody Gidney for going above and beyond the call of duty.

(note: the above photo isn't the area where they fell, but illustrates the disrepair some areas of the trail can be in.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Warm Clothing

I always find it hard to decide how much clothing to take on a hike. Over the years I've found I don't need many changes of clothes, and have gotten quite good at doing laundry on the trail. Where the indecision comes into play is for clothing to wear while in camp. I never get cold on the trail, as long as I keep moving. I typically hike in shorts and a tshirt, with a windproof/water-resistant shell for particularly cold mornings. Once I'm in camp, I cool down quite quickly if I'm not careful.

Rather than packing fleece pants, wool sweater, and gore-tex jacket as I used to do, I've found a few tricks to stay warm without having to carry any extra weight:
  • Change as soon as you get to camp. Remove wet, sweaty clothes, hang them up to air, and put on a light shirt exclusively for camp use.
  • Eat a warm meal as soon as possible. Even if it isn't dinner, have a cup of soup or something else quick.
  • Get in your sleeping bag. When we were in the Sierras, we often got to camp in the early afternoon. Rather than stand around shivering all evening (it got very cold after 5:00) we would just get into our sleeping bags and read, chat, or nap. Later, we might get up and make dinner, go for a walk, or visit other campers.
  • Wear everything. If you're still cold, put on a couple of shirts, your jacket, rain poncho, whatever you have that's dry. I have lightweight silk long underwear that add a surprising amount of warmth under my pants. Socks on your hands can serve as gloves, and a toque (wool hat) is on my essential gear list.
  • Don't sit on the ground. Cold ground or rocks will suck the warmth out of you. I use my z-lite mattress around camp, folded up to make a makeshift chair. Your pack would also suffice.
  • Keep busy. Go for a walk, take some photos, make dinner, hang your food.
  • Start a fire. Gathering wood and building a fire keeps you as warm as the fire itself. Invite some of your fellow campers to share your fire, you'll make new friends and conserve wood. Practice lighting a fire in the rain with wet wood, it's a skill that comes in very handy (as illustrated by Ian above.)

Since I've started doing all these things, I've been able to leave the extra clothing at home, saving a pound or so, but not risking getting sick or being uncomfortable. I've tried it in all conditions, from torrential rain to freezing mountain altitudes without a regret.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Multi-use Gear

A good way to lighten up your load is to avoid redundancy. A lot of gear has more uses than its original intention, or can be modified for other uses. This is different than a multi-use tool such as a Swiss Army Knife that does 10 things you don't need, rather, it's eliminating 3 items where one would suffice. The following is a list of examples, but as some of them may affect comfort/safety levels it's a good idea to try them out first before leaving something at home.

Poncho: can be used as a tarp, pack cover, emergency shelter, groundsheet, pillow...
Trekking poles: tripod, tent or tarp poles, emergency splint or crutch, fishing rod...
Spork: replaces spoon and fork (long handled version great for prepackaged meals)
Bandana: wash cloth, towel, head cover, pot holder, sling, bandage, water pre-filter...
Parachute Cord: clothes line, tarping, hanging food bag, securing splints...
Clothes: pillow, sling, socks as gloves, extra layer under sleeping bag...
Cooking Pot: bowl, cup, bucket (for emergency sandcastle building), noisemaker...
Tent Peg: splint, shovel, punch for leather repair...
Duct Tape: gear repair, blister treatment, pretty much anything...

Once you get into the habit of it, most gear can have many uses. Obviously you want to be safe and comfortable, but with a bit of work you can easily eliminate a pound or two from your load.

*note: the photo is Ian, he's smiling because our lightweight packing practices have enabled him to bring his somewhat-heavy camera equipment!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Five Hikers Rescued from West Coast Trail

An article today in my local rag, The Times Colonist, describes a narrowly averted disaster on the West Coast Trail yesterday. It seems that this group was attempting to cross one of the surge channels near Owen Point and were struck by a rogue wave and swept into the channel.

After reading the article, there are several quotes that I think are worthy of mention:
The rogue wave hit the hikers about 9 a.m. A park ranger spotted the hikers and called for help about 6 p.m.
That's 9 hours before the call for help even gets placed. Owen Point is a (fairly difficult) half-day hike from the Port Renfrew trailhead, so this should be a warning of how prepared you need to be when on a remote trail. If they were further along the trail, it could have been much longer, perhaps the next day. When I spent 5 days on the trail, I only saw a ranger once.

Joe Ellis, 24, a theology student from Anchorage, Alaska, and a friend of the Petersons, jumped the wide crevice.

Don't do this! Everyone hiking the West Coast Trail gets a mandatory lecture about the dangers of surge channels and other trail dangers. None of them need to be jumped, there are trails around all of them. At least these hikers had their packs off, otherwise the outcome wouldn't have been so happy.

Peterson, who initially had reservations about hiking the trail, but decided to go along to be with her brother and father.

If you aren't 100% sure you are up for hiking a difficult trail, don't do it. You endanger yourself, other hikers, and rescue workers. For the West Coast Trail in particular, going with an experienced guide isn't enough, you need to be experienced yourself. This group had exceptional luck, combined with keeping their heads and making some good decisions, the only reason nobody was seriously hurt or killed. This is also stresses the policy of keeping your group together, and, if you are a solo hiker, wait for another hiker or group before you attempt any dangerous sections.

I'm happy that this story ended happily, and admire the courage of this group. Hopefully we can all learn something from it, and try to lower the current statistics of 50-80 rescues on the West Coast Trail annually.

Monday, June 11, 2007

West Coast Trail

Well it looks like Ian won't be able to do the West Coast Trail with me this year. Anyone up for joining me in late August?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Lightweight Tip of the Week: Masking Tape

My new mission is to come up with one weight-reducing tip per week to share. Please comment with your own tips, and I'll feature them in a future LTOTW.

This week's tip:
When loading your pack, put a small piece of masking tape on every piece of gear. When you're on the trail, remove the tape when you use the item. Back at home when you're unpacking, set aside any gear that still has masking tape on it, and examine whether you really needed to bring the unused item in the first place.

Some obvious exceptions are first aid kits, weather-related gear, and other repair and emergency items.

My results: I did this over several hikes in different weather conditions, and managed to shave a few ounces. I eliminated a lexan knife, small bowl, a few bits of clothing, a couple of tent pegs, and a few condiments and snacks.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Summer is here!

Well it took a while to get here, but summer has officially arrived in Victoria. How do I know this? On Wednesday evening, my good friend Jade and I, along with our dogs Gus and Shadow, went to The Lake and it was warm enough to jump in!

I haven't been doing anywhere near enough hiking lately, but a walk around the lake followed by a swim was a pretty close second. Jade and I have decided to try to go to The Lake every Wednesday evening, so hopefully that, along with Ian and I's Thursday Afternoon Hike, and the soon-to-be-resurrected Sunday Hike, should eventually get me back into full hiking shape.

I believe everyone should live near The Lake. Not necessarily My Lake, but to be able to talk about The Lake and have everyone know what you mean. Happy Summer everyone!