I'm not good at disappointment. Case in point: early season hikes. You know those lovely spring days when the sky is clear, the sun is warm and you start remembering epic summer hikes? I'm guilty of getting a little too excited and attempting a little too much. In BC, what feels like summer can still be winter once you gain some elevation.
This weekend, on one of those beautifully warm spring days, we decided to take on a peak near Buntzen Lake. Lindsay Lake is a 15 km, 1100 m elevation gain trail that sees you from the lakeshore to a series of mountain-top lakes. Apparently.
We'd spent a few hours going up switchbacks before we started seeing the signs: people ahead of us turning around, increasingly deep sections of snow, and a dog that was doing more sitting and less exploring. At 6.5 km in, and having made it through almost all of the climb up, snow made us turn around. After sulking for a minute, we stopped for lunch and then took the descent down.
While I'd hoped to write about our first massive hike and have some photos of views to share, I realized talking about the importance of turning around might be more important.
Lots of people push through when the conditions aren't right. Lots of people also die when hiking every year. It's important to respect the wilderness, and sometimes that means turning around.
Here are the situations when you need to consider hiking safety.
When you're not prepared for the conditions. Is the day hot and you're running low on water? Are you short on food? Is it colder/wetter/windier than your clothes are suited for? Is it getting dark, and you forgot your flashlight? Is there more snow than you can cross without risking a rolled ankle?
When you need serious skills (that anyone in your group is lacking). There's way to push yourself safely, but there are limits. With Lindsay Lake, by the time we turned around our puppy had had enough. That meant lots of rest breaks on the way back. Hike to the pace of your slowest person.
- When the weather changes. While rain can be bearable, it can quickly turn to hail or snow which makes trails slippery. The most dangerous are thunderstorms, when ridges can be exposed to lightning. If in doubt, turn around.
- When you're not able to continue safely. Is the trail getting treacherous - has it partly washed away, is the adjacent river running higher than normal? Are you feeling sick, or getting vertigo from the heights? Listen to your gut.
Be aware, and be pragmatic. Being able to hike another day is way more important than making it to the top. Even if it means turning around before the view.