Trails for everyone, forever

Home News Blog Hiker Deaths Prompt Caution

Hiker Deaths Prompt Caution

Posted by Susan Elderkin at Jul 02, 2010 12:04 PM |
Filed under:

Two hiker deaths in as many weeks provide a sobering reminder to exercise caution while hiking trails.

Two hiker deaths in as many weeks provide a sobering reminder to exercise caution while hiking trails.

On June 21, an 18-year old hiker fell near the Angel’s Rest view point in the Columbia River Gorge. And on Monday, 38-year old Peter Choi fell to his death while hiking alone on the Mason Lake trail off of Snoqualmie Pass.

Although fatalities and severe injuries are rare, falls do occur while hiking. Most seasoned hikers can recall a time when they have slipped on the trail. Usually the only consequences are muddy clothes, a skinned knee and wounded pride.

But since it has rained (and snowed) so much this spring, it bears remembering that rocks, roots and mud on trail can create hazardous slippery conditions. Keep an eye on your footing out there, and stay on the trail!

In addition, be very careful when crossing streams. Whether wading across or traversing a wet log or bridge, this is the time of year when the hazards are the highest. Snow is melting rapidly in the mountains, creating the swiftest and highest flows of the season, and the water is cold! (This will become even more of an issue next week when it gets hot.) Use a hiking staff, unbuckle your backpack and be willing to turn back when crossing streams.

Snow is also an issue. Depending upon where you are, the snowline is anywhere from 4400 to 6000 feet. If you're not comfortable with snow travel, choose a snow-free hike. You can find one by searching our Hike Finder or by following some ideas in our Fourth of July Hikes feature. If you want to push it, watch out for post-holing, steep slopes and ice. Know your limits and please be willing to stop short of your destination.

And finally a word about hiking alone: it's riskier. The Mason Lake hiker was by himself when he fell. The trail he was on is considered fairly safe and is well-traveled, but accidents do happen. A hiking buddy helps reduce those risks. If you do hike alone, please let someone know where you will be and when you plan to return. We have a printable Hiking Itinerary here.

Be safe out there and have a fabulous Fourth of July weekend.


Be smart, it's still early in the hills...


And while it may seem redundant to most in this audience, please also remember that it's still early in the year in the mountains and that even on a fine early summer day the weather can blow in and it can get bitter cold etc (even if just locally) in a matter of hours.

A friend and I were once passed by a gentleman and his teenage son on our way to Camp Muir. They had on nothing more than running shoes, shorts, and shirts with fanny packs and a single small water bottle each.

The weather degenerated as we ascended, and by the time we hit Muir it was in 40's, blowing hard and raining horizontally, and we were close to whited out.

The two were starting down as we arrived, looking cold and wet and rather out of sorts. They ignored offers of assistance/clothing/what-have-you, waving it all off as they strode away.

We started down ourselves not long after that and soon caught up with them.

They were now clearly in the early stages of hypothermia and were all but stumbling down the mountain, half snow blind and (as I said) hypothermic and with no sense of where they ought go but for the well trodden path in the snow (which would have disappeared in minutes had it started snowing.)

Nonetheless they continued to refuse assistance from ourselves and others, and after an emphatic exchange of words, we reluctantly shouldered our packs and made our way back down.

Once at Paradise we we reported the situation to the Rangers, who in turn told us that a rescue was by then underway for the two. The Rangers chided us for not assisting the two, but what were we to do?

Posted by:

CreakyKnees on Jul 12, 2010 04:45 PM

Be smart, it's still early in the hills...

Sounds like you did all you could. Pride goes before a fall and it sounds like they didn't want to let their pride get bruised. I saw a similar thing a few weeks back when my son and I hiked up to Copper lake. A group of about 8 teenagers, many with tennis shoes and day bags were doing an overnight into Little Heart. We had snow at Copper and I can only imagine what they had farther up at Little Heart. I really don't get the tennis shoes hikers. Maybe my ankles are whimpy. I wouldn't consider hiking without boots.

Posted by:

mikeca on Jul 13, 2010 09:32 PM