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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Water Crossing Hiking Hazards

Everyone wants to get out to hike in the spring; temperatures are finally warming up and there is plenty of sun. So what could go wrong? Then you see stuff like this rescue in the Adirondaks

Well despite the fact that the snow is coming off slow and easy this year the last 3 hikes that I have done have been over moving water. The first on May 1st on Shanty Brook (shown below) I was able to rock hop. Funny I never thought my boyhood rock hopping down and up Shady Rill Brook would amount to anything.. The second Indian Brook I had to wade thigh high ice cold water and the last yesterday on was across the knee high waters of the Opalescent River going to Allen.

The first thing to do is to check conditions using flow rates provided by the USGS. I'm currently hiking in New York but info is available everywhere. Then check levels with your eyes and use common sense for your abilities.

Bring water shoes for these crossings. They have gummy surfaces so grip better than your bare feet. Next is to carry poles. They give great stability. If you don't have poles a pair of sturdy branches or sticks will help.

Wear shorts or convertible pants or roll up your trousers. There is nothing more miserable than wandering around in wet clothing all day.

Try to time your crossings so that you get them done earlier in the day. Flow rates increase later in the day as snow melts.

When you get to the river try to game the situation. Is it rock hoppable? Are there good lines of entry and exit? Is your line straight, the river wide and shallow? Watch out for debris, channels or places where the water gets channeled. Test the current. I find if my poles are being swept aside by the current it is best to move to a different place. If the water is above your knees think carefully about what you can manage. Face upstream and move at an angle into the current. Keep as many points of contact with the stream bed as  possible. Loosen your bag. If you go down or in you will want to get it off you in a hurry.

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