Seven W's of Hiking Safety: Watch Your Step

Number 2 of the Seven W's of Hiking Safety is to Watch Your Step.

Unstable terrain has claimed the lives of even experienced hikers. Be careful of your footing especially near cliff edges and in icy conditions.

Be Prepared

Be sure to research the trail you are planning to take. Does the trail have risky terrain?

Wear hiking boots with thick tread to help keep traction and not slip. Also, purchase and bring trekking poles (or a walking stick) to help with balance and relieve the pressure on your knees when hiking downhill.

Tell others where you are going and for how long so they can alert search and rescue if you do not return as planned. If at all possible, do not hike alone and stay together on the trail. Also, remember to pack a flashlight (or two) just in case darkness falls before you reach the end of the trail.

If you are planning on hiking in the snow, learn to use and pack an ice axe and crampons, and remember that sometimes north-facing gullies can still have ice long after the rest of the mountain is free of snow. And, last but not least, never enter an old mine shaft.

Don't Panic

While hiking, keep a lookout for posted signs that warn of unusually difficult terrain. Also, stay on the trail, and watch your step.

If you fall and are unable to move, signal for help. If you are hiking with a friend, send the friend for help or to find clear cell phone reception (many trails near towns have cell phone reception). The closer to town or the higher and more open the area, the better chance you have of finding reception.

If night comes, use a flashlight to find your way, or, alternatively, use a cell phone or backlit GPS as a form of light. Do not attempt to hike in pitch darkness.

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Riverside Hiking Examiner Cathy Flores is a freelance author currently writing a hiking guide for the San Bernardino Mountains.

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