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Re: [John Muir Trail] Weather Expectations & Planning

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  • Karpani
    Thank you, Ned, for this writing . . . lots of good reminders and some new things to consider, for me.  I m on the trail from Reds on 9/6 and my pack is
    Message 1 of 6 , Sep 1, 2010
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      Thank you, Ned, for this writing . . . lots of good reminders and some new things to consider, for me.  I'm on the trail from Reds on 9/6 and my pack is heavier than I had hoped for, but I must have had some common sense/wisdom thing going on when I added some of those things you talked about to plan for the worst and hope for the best.:-)  Thanks again for your valuable input.

      Karpani

      --- On Wed, 9/1/10, ned@... <ned@...> wrote:

      From: ned@... <ned@...>
      Subject: [John Muir Trail] Weather Expectations & Planning
      To: johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: "PCT MailingList" <pct-l@...>
      Date: Wednesday, September 1, 2010, 1:25 PM

       

      We all know that mountains create their own weather. As a collective body, we have lots of personal experience on-trail in the High Sierra where the weather has changed dramatically within a few hours. We, also, know that you may experience snow in any given month there.
       
      So, why not just prepare for the worst and hope for the best? Why do we choose to trust the statistical averages found on-line somewhere, then, based on that, decide to bring whatever gear, clothing, and food that will get us through that degree of anticipated weather condition?
       
      For example, and not to be too redundant, say the statistics state that it is usually warm and dry up there when we want to take our hike, so we select sleeping bags rated to that warm standard, clothing that is light and thin for the "warm weather," and just enough food to get us through from one end to the other. Is this in order to optimistically carry the lightest pack?
       
      OK, we're smarter than that, because we are aware that it can rain in the summer, so we carry a poncho and maybe another layer of clothing--just in case. That's good preparation. So, what happens to "Joe Hiker" when the weather suddenly takes a turn worse than rain and the air temps fall into the twenty's, the wind kicks up because of the pressure gradient change, and it starts dumping snow? He suffers. As a collective body, we need to advise hikers to consider history. That's wisdom.
       
      I guess this is the great trade-off:  either be prepared and have a large and heavier pack (and have to deal with the fact that you didn't have to carry all that stuff because the circumstances didn't require it after the trip) or just deal with a short-term freezing experience that can kill you while having a lighter pack for the longer term.
       
      Is Planning and Preparation just coming down to "the odds?" Are we all so willing to risk enduring a health and safety crisis like hypothermia because, if you survive it, it doesn't usually last long compared to all those hours and days enjoying hiking with a lighter pack? Who can say how much time you're going to have to suffer rain, snow, dehydration, or starvation on your next trip--statistics? Plan for the worst and hope for the best and have a great time out there.
       
      Why not just be a little wiser, maturely acknowledging that "the s___ can hit the fan" at any given moment, and plan on dealing with it and preparing for it by carrying what it takes to safely experience these aspects of mountain life in a warm and dry setting with lots of food and water? Yes, you'll have to carry more stuff, but it doesn't have to be the heaviest versions--just make sure they'll take the expected punishment while keeping you warm and safe.
       
      Hey, you can even look at this choice for a lack of realistic preparation for these obvious changes in weather conditions from the Search and Rescue point of view. When you deliberately put yourself in jeopardy, by not preparing for the worst, and suddenly find yourself there and need outside help, you are putting other people's lives in the same jeopardy in order to save you.
       
      Oh, well.... Hike Your Own Hike, right?
       
      Yes, some of this is self-discovery, finding out who you are, what you like, what you can get by without, how strong you are, and so forth, but aren't we supposed to learn from those who have gone before us (History and Common Sense)?
       
      I just don't get why we strive for the lightest pack (by not bringing all that stuff that will help me get through what may never happen anyway) at the expense of our safety under the statistical-odds-assurance that "it doesn't usually happen" or "it didn't happen when I was there last."
       
      Strive for the lightest pack that you can have, but be prepared (for the worst so that you don't have a bad experience, suffer for it, or cause others to suffer from your decisions).
       
      Make sure, before you leave, that the lighter fabric rain gear you have is durable enough to last, the tent you're carrying can take horizontal rain and you'll still stay warm and dry or has the strength to withstand a foot of wet snow piled up on top, the shoes you wear will keep you warm, dry, and protected, and the bag you've chosen is more than warm enough should the temps plummet (you can always sleep underneath it). If you have considered all that may happen and have found a proven way to you to be adequately prepared where you know that your health and safety will not be jeopardized (or be jeopardized to a level that you can endure through), then you have planned responsibly. 
       
      However, some will always opt for the odds, figure "they can make it through," and choose to hike unprepared for the "less likely." Sometimes we hear of their "misfortune-fortune," as if it was just chance that they had to survive what they did, but not usually. I guess because we live in the mountains and serve on two Sheriff's Department's Search and Rescue Units that we see more of these sad situations than most.
       
      Oh, well. What happened to "Common Sense," anyway?
       
      We all know that mountains create their own weather....
       
       

      Ned Tibbits, Director
      Mountain Education
      1106A Ski Run Blvd
      South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150
          P: 888-996-8333
          F: 530-541-1456
          C: 530-721-1551
          http://www.mountaineducation.org
    • Don Amundson
      Good advice Ned. I fully agree that less gear can show a lack of common sense but I have an issue with the idea that light gear is somehow inadequate. I carry
      Message 2 of 6 , Sep 1, 2010
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        Good advice Ned. I fully agree that less gear can show a lack of common sense but I have an issue with the idea that light gear is somehow inadequate. I carry light gear because I came to realize heavy gear wasn't going make hiking any safer and certainly not any easier for me. My pack is lighter than most and every piece of gear I carry has proven adequate for the conditions I've experienced including low temperature, rain, hail, lightning falling trees (they missed) and wind.  Admittedly I have not had a foot of wet snow to contend with and though I know it can happen common sense would dictate I do everything possible to avoid such a situation, including weighing the odds of it happening in the Sierra in mid August. If the s... did hit the fan I would have hoped I had some enough sense to have kept a careful watch of the sky above and a careful ear tuned to hikers/backcountry rangers for news of predicted weather so I could plan accordingly.
        Being prepared for such an occurrence though does not mean non-light gear is going to work any better than light gear.  Is a fleece layer combined with a bells and whistles down jacket going to be any more adequate than a merino wool base layer and a lighter weight down jacket? Is my 20 oz. 20 degree rated quilt any less efficient than a 32 oz. 20 degree sleeping bag? And again the odds are a consideration.  Should I be carrying a 4 season tent all year due to the possibility I might need it? 
        Your contention that there is somehow a fatal trade-off between being prepared by having a large and heavier pack as opposed to a lighter pack seems a bit extreme. I fully agree with your position on preparedness and common sense but equating it to pack weight doesn't make sense.

        Don


        CC: pct-l@...
        From: ned@...

        Subject: [John Muir Trail] Weather Expectations & Planning

         

        We all know that mountains create their own weather. As a collective body, we have lots of personal experience on-trail in the High Sierra where the weather has changed dramatically within a few hours. We, also, know that you may experience snow in any given month there.
         
        So, why not just prepare for the worst and hope for the best? Why do we choose to trust the statistical averages found on-line somewhere, then, based on that, decide to bring whatever gear, clothing, and food that will get us through that degree of anticipated weather condition?
         
        For example, and not to be too redundant, say the statistics state that it is usually warm and dry up there when we want to take our hike, so we select sleeping bags rated to that warm standard, clothing that is light and thin for the "warm weather," and just enough food to get us through from one end to the other. Is this in order to optimistically carry the lightest pack?
         
        OK, we're smarter than that, because we are aware that it can rain in the summer, so we carry a poncho and maybe another layer of clothing--just in case. That's good preparation. So, what happens to "Joe Hiker" when the weather suddenly takes a turn worse than rain and the air temps fall into the twenty's, the wind kicks up because of the pressure gradient change, and it starts dumping snow? He suffers. As a collective body, we need to advise hikers to consider history. That's wisdom.
         
        I guess this is the great trade-off:  either be prepared and have a large and heavier pack (and have to deal with the fact that you didn't have to carry all that stuff because the circumstances didn't require it after the trip) or just deal with a short-term freezing experience that can kill you while having a lighter pack for the longer term.
         
        Is Planning and Preparation just coming down to "the odds?" Are we all so willing to risk enduring a health and safety crisis like hypothermia because, if you survive it, it doesn't usually last long compared to all those hours and days enjoying hiking with a lighter pack? Who can say how much time you're going to have to suffer rain, snow, dehydration, or starvation on your next trip--statistics? Plan for the worst and hope for the best and have a great time out there.
         
        Why not just be a little wiser, maturely acknowledging that "the s___ can hit the fan" at any given moment, and plan on dealing with it and preparing for it by carrying what it takes to safely experience these aspects of mountain life in a warm and dry setting with lots of food and water? Yes, you'll have to carry more stuff, but it doesn't have to be the heaviest versions--just make sure they'll take the expected punishment while keeping you warm and safe.
         
        Hey, you can even look at this choice for a lack of realistic preparation for these obvious changes in weather conditions from the Search and Rescue point of view. When you deliberately put yourself in jeopardy, by not preparing for the worst, and suddenly find yourself there and need outside help, you are putting other people's lives in the same jeopardy in order to save you.
         
        Oh, well.... Hike Your Own Hike, right?
         
        Yes, some of this is self-discovery, finding out who you are, what you like, what you can get by without, how strong you are, and so forth, but aren't we supposed to learn from those who have gone before us (History and Common Sense)?
         
        I just don't get why we strive for the lightest pack (by not bringing all that stuff that will help me get through what may never happen anyway) at the expense of our safety under the statistical-odds-assurance that "it doesn't usually happen" or "it didn't happen when I was there last."
         
        Strive for the lightest pack that you can have, but be prepared (for the worst so that you don't have a bad experience, suffer for it, or cause others to suffer from your decisions).
         
        Make sure, before you leave, that the lighter fabric rain gear you have is durable enough to last, the tent you're carrying can take horizontal rain and you'll still stay warm and dry or has the strength to withstand a foot of wet snow piled up on top, the shoes you wear will keep you warm, dry, and protected, and the bag you've chosen is more than warm enough should the temps plummet (you can always sleep underneath it). If you have considered all that may happen and have found a proven way to you to be adequately prepared where you know that your health and safety will not be jeopardized (or be jeopardized to a level that you can endure through), then you have planned responsibly. 
         
        However, some will always opt for the odds, figure "they can make it through," and choose to hike unprepared for the "less likely." Sometimes we hear of their "misfortune-fortune," as if it was just chance that they had to survive what they did, but not usually. I guess because we live in the mountains and serve on two Sheriff's Department's Search and Rescue Units that we see more of these sad situations than most.
         
        Oh, well. What happened to "Common Sense," anyway?
         
        We all know that mountains create their own weather....
         
         

        Ned Tibbits, Director
        Mountain Education
        1106A Ski Run Blvd
        South Lake Tahoe, Ca. 96150
            P: 888-996-8333
            F: 530-541-1456
            C: 530-721-1551
            http://www.mountaineducation.org

      • John
        This is a great topic, thanks Ned. Preparedness is extremely important, it can mean the difference between survival and, well the alternative. But being
        Message 3 of 6 , Sep 1, 2010
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          This is a great topic, thanks Ned. Preparedness is extremely important, it can mean the difference between survival and, well the alternative. But being "prepared" has many variables.

          Being prepared is not limited to what you load in your pack, but how you prepare yourself through knowledge, training, experience and information. In fact those factors should dictate what actually does go in your pack.

          As a ranger in the North Cascades, our packs were always huge; our day packs were bigger then many backpacks you see on the JMT. But in the North Cascades, the unexpected was common place as was soaked clothing, snow, sleet.... If you weren't prepared, you died.

          In the sierra, it's a whole different story. People are regularly out on day trips with nothing but a water bottle in their hand; are they unprepared? Depends on their knowledge.

          Three summers ago I opted to through hike with only a bivy sack and a poncho/tarp. I enjoyed rain free days until my last afternoon. That day was the day the town of Independence almost washed away; I was at Timberline Lake below Mt Whitney. For three hours I hunkered down under my poncho (with my light weight rain jacket) as it rained about 4 inches, after which it drizzled most of the night. Next morning I finished my hike. I knew/know the limitations of my equipment. I know how to "make do", but most importantly, I know when to stay and when to "bail".

          Last summer as my wife and I were finishing a NoBo through hike, we met the masses of JMT walkers heading up from the Valley. Many of them were struggling under big packs, many of them I would guess were not enjoying themselves. I also would wager that quite a few of them didn't finish.

          So being "prepared" is twofold (at least); you can be prepared to survive, or you can be prepared to survive AND be comfortable in the "worst case scenario". I now chose to be comfortable on 99% of Sierra days by carrying a very light pack (except for all the darn camera gear). I'm willing to sacrifice comfort in the inevitable day or two of bad/cold weather to be comfortable daily hiking. If the bad weather lasts longer then that, I'm out of there.

          I will admit that living here makes it a bit easier to bail, and then return later if I wish. I also know that many would be appalled at what I don't carry. I'm in no way suggesting anyone dump all their gear, just offering another point of view.

          "if you carry bivouac gear, you will bivouac" Yvon Chounard.

          JD
          Walk the Sky: Following the John Muir Trail
          www.johndittli.com



          --- In johnmuirtrail@yahoogroups.com, Don Amundson <amrowinc@...> wrote:
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
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          >
          > Good advice Ned. I fully agree that less gear can show a lack of common sense but I have an issue with the idea that light gear is somehow inadequate. I carry light gear because I came to realize heavy gear wasn't going make hiking any safer and certainly not any easier for me. My pack is lighter than most and every piece of gear I carry has proven adequate for the conditions I've experienced including low temperature, rain, hail, lightning falling trees (they missed) and wind. Admittedly I have not had a foot of wet snow to contend with and though I know it can happen common sense would dictate I do everything possible to avoid such a situation, including weighing the odds of it happening in the Sierra in mid August. If the s... did hit the fan I would have hoped I had some enough sense to have kept a careful watch of the sky above and a careful ear tuned to hikers/backcountry rangers for news of predicted weather so I could plan accordingly.
          > Being prepared for such an occurrence though does not mean non-light gear is going to work any better than light gear. Is a fleece layer combined with a bells and whistles down jacket going to be any more adequate than a merino wool base layer and a lighter weight down jacket? Is my 20 oz. 20 degree rated quilt any less efficient than a 32 oz. 20 degree sleeping bag? And again the odds are a consideration. Should I be carrying a 4 season tent all year due to the possibility I might need it?
          > Your contention that there is somehow a fatal trade-off between being prepared by having a large and heavier pack as opposed to a lighter pack seems a bit extreme. I fully agree with your position on preparedness and common sense but equating it to pack weight doesn't make sense.
          >
          > Don
          >
          > CC: pct-l@...
          > From: ned@...
          >
          > Subject: [John Muir Trail] Weather Expectations & Planning
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
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          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > We all know that mountains create their own
          > weather. As a collective body, we have lots of personal experience on-trail in
          > the High Sierra where the weather has changed dramatically within a few hours.
          > We, also, know that you may experience snow in any given month
          > there.
          >
          > So, why not just prepare for the worst and hope for
          > the best? Why do we choose to trust the statistical averages found on-line
          > somewhere, then, based on that, decide to bring whatever gear, clothing,
          > and food that will get us through that degree of anticipated weather
          > condition?
          >
          > For example, and not to be too redundant, say
          > the statistics state that it is usually warm and dry up there when we
          > want to take our hike, so we select sleeping bags rated to that warm standard,
          > clothing that is light and thin for the "warm weather," and just enough food to
          > get us through from one end to the other. Is this in order to optimistically
          > carry the lightest pack?
          >
          > OK, we're smarter than that, because we are aware
          > that it can rain in the summer, so we carry a poncho and maybe another layer of
          > clothing--just in case. That's good preparation. So, what happens to "Joe Hiker"
          > when the weather suddenly takes a turn worse than rain and the air temps fall
          > into the twenty's, the wind kicks up because of the pressure gradient change,
          > and it starts dumping snow? He suffers. As a collective body, we need to advise
          > hikers to consider history. That's wisdom.
          >
          > I guess this is the great trade-off: either
          > be prepared and have a large and heavier pack (and have to deal with the fact
          > that you didn't have to carry all that stuff because the circumstances didn't
          > require it after the trip) or just deal with a short-term freezing experience
          > that can kill you while having a lighter pack for the longer
          > term.
          >
          > Is Planning and Preparation just coming down to
          > "the odds?" Are we all so willing to risk enduring a health and safety crisis
          > like hypothermia because, if you survive it, it doesn't usually last long
          > compared to all those hours and days enjoying hiking with a lighter pack? Who
          > can say how much time you're going to have to suffer rain, snow, dehydration, or
          > starvation on your next trip--statistics? Plan for the worst and hope for the
          > best and have a great time out there.
          >
          > Why not just be a little wiser, maturely
          > acknowledging that "the s___ can hit the fan" at any given moment, and plan on
          > dealing with it and preparing for it by carrying what it takes to
          > safely experience these aspects of mountain life in a warm and dry
          > setting with lots of food and water? Yes, you'll have to carry more stuff, but
          > it doesn't have to be the heaviest versions--just make sure they'll take the
          > expected punishment while keeping you warm and safe.
          >
          > Hey, you can even look at this choice for a lack of
          > realistic preparation for these obvious changes in weather conditions from the
          > Search and Rescue point of view. When you deliberately put yourself in jeopardy,
          > by not preparing for the worst, and suddenly find yourself there and need
          > outside help, you are putting other people's lives in the same jeopardy in order
          > to save you.
          >
          > Oh, well.... Hike Your Own Hike, right?
          >
          >
          > Yes, some of this is self-discovery, finding out
          > who you are, what you like, what you can get by without, how strong you are, and
          > so forth, but aren't we supposed to learn from those who have gone before us
          > (History and Common Sense)?
          >
          > I just don't get why we strive for the lightest
          > pack (by not bringing all that stuff that will help me get through what may
          > never happen anyway) at the expense of our safety under the
          > statistical-odds-assurance that "it doesn't usually happen" or "it didn't happen
          > when I was there last."
          >
          > Strive for the lightest pack that you can have, but
          > be prepared (for the worst so that you don't have a bad experience, suffer for
          > it, or cause others to suffer from your decisions).
          >
          > Make sure, before you leave, that the lighter
          > fabric rain gear you have is durable enough to last, the tent you're carrying
          > can take horizontal rain and you'll still stay warm and dry or has the strength
          > to withstand a foot of wet snow piled up on top, the shoes you wear will keep
          > you warm, dry, and protected, and the bag you've chosen is more than warm enough
          > should the temps plummet (you can always sleep underneath it). If you have
          > considered all that may happen and have found a proven way to you to be
          > adequately prepared where you know that your health and safety will not be
          > jeopardized (or be jeopardized to a level that you can endure through),
          > then you have planned responsibly.
          >
          > However, some will always opt for the odds, figure
          > "they can make it through," and choose to hike unprepared for the "less likely."
          > Sometimes we hear of their "misfortune-fortune," as if it was just chance that
          > they had to survive what they did, but not usually. I guess because we live
          > in the mountains and serve on two Sheriff's Department's Search and Rescue Units
          > that we see more of these sad situations than most.
          >
          > Oh, well. What happened to "Common Sense,"
          > anyway?
          >
          > We all know that mountains create their own
          > weather....
          >
          >
          >
          > Ned Tibbits, Director
          > Mountain
          > Education
          > 1106A Ski Run Blvd
          > South Lake Tahoe, Ca.
          > 96150
          > P: 888-996-8333
          > F:
          > 530-541-1456
          > C: 530-721-1551
          > http://www.mountaineducation.org
          >
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