The Best Hiking & Climbing Gear!
Every year an alarming number of outdoor enthusiasts die from hiking/climbing accidents when confronted with unexpected weather conditions and/or treacherous terrain. One quick storm can blow in and quickly cover the otherwise sure-footed mountaintops and hills with a deadly layer of ice and snow that can send one careening off the side of steep cliff with little warning. This is something I know (and will never forget!) from experience. A few years ago I plummeted to what should have been certain death while in the mountains of Kodiak Alaska. You can read all about it here. To make a long, nerve-wracking story short, one lone rock kept me from going right off the side of a sheer cliff…several hundred feet straight down! It’s an absolute miracle I’m alive.
While I had most of the proper equipment to keep me safe while hiking in a nasty, unexpected storm, not having one particular piece of gear (an ice axe in my case) was an almost fatal mistake! What follows is a quick overview of the essential, life-saving climbing/hiking gear that one should ALWAYS have along on a mountain adventure of any kind…no matter the weather conditions…as those conditions can go south, fast!
A quality trekking pole greatly assists in gaining extra footing and stability across areas of challenging or downright dangerous terrain by aiding in the balancing and distributing of body weight, easing the burden on one’s knees, and reducing the loaded-down, mobility reducing weight of a backpack…sometimes a VERY HEAVY backpack…such as when packing out a large game animal on hunting trips. A trekking pole also assists in poking around at rocks along the trail or underwater objects to check how well they are anchored before applying one’s foot. Not to mention, they are good for flipping snakes or other unwelcome critters out of the way! A good trekking pole should be fairly lightweight, but also strong! A pole is of no use if it’s going to bend like a wet noodle or snap like a twig the first time you really lean on it or need it to break a fall, etc.
While heavy-duty crampons might not be necessary for hiking the mountains in warm/hot climates, at least having a set of cleats/spikes for your boots is essential for a serious hiking adventure in my opinion. While one may not experience deadly ice and snow in many locations, an otherwise harmless rain shower, underwater spring, or another source of unexpected moisture can turn a nice dry trail into a treacherous mudslide that can quickly send one down a mountainside and into big trouble in a hurry! While quality hiking boots can greatly assist with footing in wet, muddy, slippery conditions, sometimes a thick rubber tread makes things even worse…especially on wet or moss covered rocks. A good set of cleats or spikes that one can quickly and securely fasten over their boots is like kicking your feet into four-wheel drive! Spikes/cleats will enable you to safely and confidently keep going when the going gets tough.
Crampons are essentially hiking cleats/spikes on steroids! They are made of heavy duty materials and are meant for heavy-duty, ice covered terrain. They are absolutely essential for exploring areas in colder climates where ice can form quickly when one least expects it. I can’t stress enough how important crampons are. Don’t even think about heading to the mountains in areas where there is even the slightest chance of ice being present or forming without them! This is a fatal mistake many less experienced hikers have unfortunately made.
Like crampons, if you are going to be hiking in a location where there is even the slightest chance of ice being present or forming…even in the middle of summer…take along an ice axe! As I mentioned earlier, not having one almost cost me my life! An ice axe can assist one greatly in both ascending and descending tricky landscape features, but most importantly if one goes careening down the side of a mountain…totally out of control…an ice axe can be used to self-arrest and stop the slide by plunging the hook-end into the ice or dirt.
You won’t get too far on a serious winter hike in mountainous terrain without a good pair of snowshoes. Snow can get deep…real deep…fast! And, without a set of snowshoes, you’ll be up to your knees, hips, or even your waist in a hurry, which can be a very dangerous situation, as deep snow can truly paralyze one or anchor one so tightly that they get helplessly stuck…left to die of hypothermia. Snowshoes have come a long way over the years. They are available now in very strong, yet very lightweight designs with some great features for maximizing traction and maneuvering through areas that the much larger snowshoes of the days of yesteryear would have failed miserably.
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