New effort to head off the need for search-and-rescue efforts

Published: Feb. 18, 2019 at 4:10 PM EST
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If you took a hike this weekend in the Adirondacks, you might have noticed a yellow tent on Cascade Mountain. It's to inform hikers about Preventative Search and Rescue.

"Very often in our dispatch center here in Ray Brook and across the state we're getting calls that people are missing," said Capt. John Streiff, a forest ranger.

Hikers or skiers going missing in the Adirondack Mountains and rescue crews working diligently to save their lives.

"On an average, we're seeing 50-60 and in the past five years that's really gone up into the 90s," Streiff said.

That's what sparked the idea for a new initiative working to bring those numbers down and inform hikers before they hit the trails.

"We've been very successful in educating people and putting them somewhere else for an easier hike possibly," Streiff said.

Rangers, the Adirondack Mountain Club and Keene/Keene Valley backcountry rescue set up shop at the Cascade trailhead over Presidents Day Weekend. They chatted up hundreds of hikers to make sure they were suited up and prepared.

"We weren't going to bring the snowshoes but they suggested otherwise and we're glad we did," said Daniel Bergevin, a hiker from Ontario.

Bergevin is working on joining the Adirondack 46er's club. Monday was his 16th hike but the first in winter conditions.

"You have to plan for hikes like that," Bergevin said. "Even though they are day hikes, you still have to plan because the terrain and the conditions they can change a lot up there. We do it in the summer and we still have to plan a lot so this is a great initiative."

"We found an upward of 40 percent of people were not adequately prepared," Streiff said.

So how do you know if you are adequately prepared?

"Winter hiking is much different than summer hiking," Streiff warned.

The ranger says it's important to pack for an overnight stay on the mountain even if you do not plan to spend the night. Bring extra food, keep hydrated, make sure you have proper gear like spikes for your shoes or snowshoes and use the buddy system. And leave an itinerary with someone who's not hiking, so they know your plans. Remember that cotton kills and the most important tip is to pick a hike that works for you.

"Start small and build. Go on only a couple-mile hike with low elevation gain, see how that goes for you. Then you can slowly build up more mileage and more elevation gain as you feel more comfortable," advised Seth Jones, the education director for the Adirondack Mountain Club.

While the rangers work every day to inform hikers about safety and hiking, this is a program that you'll see again.

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