Grand County Colorado is blessed with sunshine and beautiful days year-round. It is also blessed with weather that can (and does) change on a dime. As the old adage goes, “if you don’t like the weather…wait five minutes.” The beautiful winter days, in combination with the quick weather fluctuations can and does get people into sticky and deadly situations year-round. Unfortunately during the fall, winter, and spring those situations can become deadlier much faster!
It’s a beautiful 60F degree-day. You and a friend are planning a quick 8-mile hike up to Columbine Lake. You each pack a liter of water, a light jacket, and a couple of granola bars. (After all, you should only be hiking for about four hours.) There is 8” of snow on the ground and all is going well.
Within an hour and a half you get to the lake. You go exploring for a bit, and then begin heading down the way you believe you came up. Within twenty minutes a storm starts dumping, temperatures drop, and snow covers the tracks you are following. You’re wet, cold, don’t have cell service, are running low on food and water, and aren’t really sure where the trail is. Your “easy” hike has becomes a potentially deadly situation.
Here are some tips to stay safe:
ALWAYS tell someone where you are going and the approximate time you will be back. Once you are out of the woods, be sure to check in with them so they know you are safe and sound. Tell them if they do not hear from you by a certain point, to notify 911 of your situation. (Better safe than sorry and better sooner than later!)
Check The Forecast:
Before you head out, be sure to check the weather. Even though it can and will change, at least you’ll have an idea of what you might run into prior to heading out and can plan attire accordingly.
Charge Your Phone:
Charge and save your battery! You never know when you might need your phone. Airplane mode is a great option to save some juice. If you’re in a group, take turns turning your phone off in case of an emergency.
Pack Like a Scout:
We’re not advocating that you pack everything including your kitchen sink…but we are suggesting that you are prepared with the essentials. Grand County Search and Rescue has a list of 10 essentials that they recommend you carry in case of an emergency. See the full list and descriptions of the 10 Essentials here.
Here is a list of the basics needed for a short day hike:
1. Navigation (map/compass/GPS) – Download the GPS app on your phone so if you need help and have service you can provide coordinates to a rescue team.
2. Sun Protection – Sunscreen, sunglasses, SPF lip balm. (The sun can be brutal here!)
3. Extra clothing – Remember Cotton Kills! So stay away from cotton. Bring layers and waterproof clothing to keep you dry and your core warm.
4. Light – (These can be used to help find your way or help you flag down a helicopter or search party.)
5. Fire Starting – Matches, lighters and a candle. You want to make sure you are prepared to make a fire should you need one to survive.
6. First aid supplies – At least carry athletic tape, gauze, triangle bandage or bandana, dressing, latex gloves, paper, and a pencil.
7. Tools – A knife, cord/webbing, and safety pins.
8. Extra food – Think lightweight, easy/no preparation, and packed with calories. Dried fruit, jerky, nuts, candy, granola, and protein bars are good options.
9. Hydration – Extra water and iodine pills or a water filter that will allow you to acquire consumable water.
10. Emergency shelter – Garbage bag, bivy sack or survival blanket, etc.
If You Need Help?
Should you end up in a sticky situation and have cell service, call 911! They will put you in touch with Grand County Search and Rescue. Grand County Search and Rescue will interview you to get clues regarding your whereabouts and will begin organizing teams to search for and/or rescue you. (Grand County Colorado Search and Rescue provides these services at no charge!)
If you don’t have service but can get to where you last had service. Head that way, or try to find service. Tops of ridges are good options.
If you are immobile, stay put. Stay warm, dry, comfortable, and hope your safety contact will notify authorities of your situation to get a search started.