Backcountry Awareness: Pre Trip Planning. By Doug Chatten
May 07, 2020
Thinking your tour through in its entirety as best you can helps to formulate a realistic & achievable experience. Due consideration will identify weaknesses which can be averted allowing you to maximise your day & increase your safety margin. Contingency plans are a must allowing you to have a Plan B if required & cater for unexpected accidents, illness or mechanical failure.
Many considerations are interconnected & will adversely affect one another so a mishap in one area could become a compounding problem.
Too arduous a route plan could exhaust lesser experienced group members who are on gear setups that are too heavy for that tour; ROUTE PLAN, GEAR, GROUP
A poorly fitting skin could see a group member with less technical experience fall on an icy climb & take a long slip. Without comms they would be unable to raise the alarm….they wished they’d brought that emergency shelter along; GEAR SELECTION, EXPERIENCE, COMMS, EMERGENCY GEAR
The following points are not a gear list but some of the considerations when planning for a backcountry mission
Realistic route plan to suit the group; how much time is available, is the group up to it
Contingency plans; no alternate plan could see you wanting in an uncomfortable situation, set your intentions & preferably only divert to your contingency plans
Forecasted weather conditions
Skill level, experience & endurance capabilities of your group considering your least experienced members
Equipment selection suited to proposed route; heavy-weight rig wouldn’t be suited to a long haul approach, if steep or icy you be needing your crampons
Equipment condition; a poorly fitting skin or old glue could see you wasting energy struggling on an icy ascent, do you have a repair kit.
Approach conditions & Access; what elevation is the snowline at, does your pack have good ski carry
Don’t over-engineer or gear your aspirations too highly. Consider what you want to achieve & be ready to reduce your intentions…..contingency plans! It's ok to turn back!!!
Trip Intentions; leave detailed info with a responsible person
Comms; phone, PLB, spare battery bank, GPS
Emergency Gear; you should have enough gear to endure for 24hrs. An insulation jacket, down or synthetic & a lightweight emergency shelter like the Vango Bothy bag & a shovel will serve you well if necessary
It is very important that aspiring backcountry enthusiasts undertake tours that suit their skill level, journeying not far from the trailhead & making a point of debriefing their experience & processing the results. As skills, knowledge & experience develop their safety margin is increased allowing them to undertake more complex tours.
Hurry slowly alpinists... How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
Heading up Hotham we couldn’t believe two things. 1. We were allowed out to camp after having the Mont Dragonfly Tent during a month of corona lockdown restrictions and unable to try it. 2. That we made it up and over Hotham given how much snow there was... and low!