Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Share your tips for safe hiking, surviving in the wild and managing hiking injuries!
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AAdamsPDX
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by AAdamsPDX » October 5th, 2015, 8:31 am

Charley wrote:1. Go to a rock gym and get a belay card.

2. Strengthen your ankles: practice balance on uneven or wobbly surfaces at home.

3. I recommend the Bond book, though it's relatively light on scrambles ...

4. Here are some trips that are nearby that might interest you ...
Wow, thanks for all the detailed info!

I've been feeling a little bereft since returning from the Sierras, in need of a "big goal" to push towards. Now with all of the input I've gotten from you all, I'll have books, hikes, and classes to keep me busy for a long time as I work towards another tick on the bucket list. :)
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adamschneider
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by adamschneider » October 5th, 2015, 8:36 am

Charley wrote:Oregon Cascades
Tomlike Mountain (Easy scramble, long hike from Columbia)
Munra Point
Pinnacle Ridge Pinnacle and Barrett Spur (just did this one yesterday and it's fun, though not very long)
Mt Yoran
Mt Bailey
Diamond Peak
Cowhorn via west ridge
Middle Sister via southeast ridge
Don't forget Mt. Thielsen!

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Bosterson
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by Bosterson » October 5th, 2015, 11:19 am

Charley wrote: 1. Go to a rock gym and get a belay card. The skills are fun to learn and belayed climbing is typically easier on your joints than bouldering... Being able to balance comfortable on your toes while maneuvering on slabs is the numero uno climbing skill that transfers to scrambling.

2. Strengthen your ankles: practice balance on uneven or wobbly surfaces at home. (Try standing on one foot with your arms up in the air and your eyes closed, and you will engage the muscles that stabilize your ankle, thus building strength and balance).
Everyone else has already given great advice, and scrambling is really something you only "learn" by doing, so you can definitely start training on the easy scramble "trails" in the Gorge (Munra, ROA, the NW ridge of Table Mtn) and then see if you can tag along on more adventurous off trail trips with others.

In terms of physical skills (rather than navigation), I'd like to echo these two points Charley makes. As Jess noted, scrambling is easier if you already know how to rock climb, so getting some experience with actual climbing will teach you balance and leverage skills that will translate easily into 3rd class scrambling (ie, that requires your hands).

For rougher walking, strengthening your ankles is definitely important, but you'll also need to work on your balance for being able to cross loose talus, descending steep slopes, etc. Learning how to stay balanced in precarious or unstable terrain is crucial. Practice descending blocky talus (I recommend the talus field south of the summit of Mt. Defiance) and moving quickly downward (without poles!) by stepping from rock to rock without stopping. Also find some steep sandy slopes you can descend where boot skiing helps save your knees but requires you to maintain your balance as you basically run downhill.

The key to walking through loose and scrambly terrain is to learn how to keep yourself on the edge of losing your balance, and use that to maintain momentum (sort of like a controlled fall; think again of skiing). Combined with learning how to pull with your arms and maintain balance over your feet while climbing, you will have a good physical foundation for beginning to attempt more challenging routes.

Go do Whittier ASAP! It's super fun, and fall is the perfect season for it. For more of a drive, the Alpine Lakes is generally pretty rugged and some of the "trails" require a little more scrambly action than normal. If you ever find yourself walking through a trail-less field of granite, play the "lava game" by hopping from rock to rock - this reduces impact on the grasses and also builds strength and balance. :)
Will hike off trail for fun.

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retired jerry
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by retired jerry » October 7th, 2015, 10:43 am

I took Mazama climbing school a long time ago. You could probably just read and practice with an experienced person.

Practice some class 3 or 4 rock climbing with a rope for protection. Then, when you do cross country easier than class 3 it will feel more comfortable

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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by forester » October 7th, 2015, 8:42 pm

I do a lot of off-trail hiking, mostly by myself. As one person said, you have to relearn how to walk and how to think about walking. I focus on limiting body movements to just what is necessary. If I know I'm going on a tough hike, I will walk around a log before I'll step over it just to save energy and prevent leg pain later on. The more tired you are, the higher your chances for injury are. I was on a tough hike this last weekend. It was a hike that I first went on a few years ago that was very painful back then. This time, I wasn't sore at all from it and I think a lot of that has to do with a change in walking/hiking technique. Brakes make a race car go faster, not slower. I also focus on injury prevention, which is crucial. The harder, more technical, riskier the scramble, the more likely you are to get hurt. Limiting the opportunity for high-percentage injury is key to not just getting back home on the current trip, but being willing to go on the next trip. And in 10 years, having a body able to continue to do that kind of trip.

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retired jerry
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by retired jerry » October 8th, 2015, 6:25 am

if you solo cross country and injure yourself so you can't continue walking, it's difficult for SAR to find you

if you're on a trail, likely someone will just walk along and help, or if you told someone which trail(s) you'll be on, SAR can quickly find you.

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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by Koda » October 8th, 2015, 7:10 am

retired jerry wrote:if you solo cross country and injure yourself so you can't continue walking, it's difficult for SAR to find you
thats an understatement. I carry a small gmrs radio and leave the channel I use in a note in the car and also with family to give to SAR. When they get in the area they should be close enough to pick up a signal and you can tell them your waypoint. I know some people insist on traveling Ultra Light but off trail travel requires a slightly different set of 10 essentials and today's radios are small and light enough.
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Limey
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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by Limey » October 8th, 2015, 8:49 am

We also do a lot of off trail hiking. We used to camp and off trail in the Badger every weekend, we called it high stepping because of all the blowdown. One day I suffered a knee injury and couldn't bend my leg more than two or three degrees. I had to negotiate all the blowdown by sitting on the trees and manually lifting my bad leg over. We were a long way from camp and it took us hours to get there. It is extremely tiring. I don't know how SAR manages in that kind of situation. How do they do it when there is nothing but blowdown to negotiate?

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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by Lurch » October 8th, 2015, 10:25 am

Koda wrote:
retired jerry wrote:if you solo cross country and injure yourself so you can't continue walking, it's difficult for SAR to find you
thats an understatement. I carry a small gmrs radio and leave the channel I use in a note in the car and also with family to give to SAR. When they get in the area they should be close enough to pick up a signal and you can tell them your waypoint. I know some people insist on traveling Ultra Light but off trail travel requires a slightly different set of 10 essentials and today's radios are small and light enough.
Some groups will carry FRS/GMRS radios for internal team communications, but the Oregon State SAR and NASAR (Washington's primary freq) are in the commercial VHF bands. Any actual search is going to be running primarily on VHF, with possibly some UHF repeaters up. IF it's known that you have a radio, and what channel you're on, then there's a likelihood that we could get some into the field to monitor, but I think you'd be far better off to have a small handheld HAM (if you're licensed) or MURS radio. Knowing how to get your coordinates, and articulate them in whatever coordinate system and map datum you're using is important though! Typically SAR for around here will be in UTM WGS84
Limey wrote: We also do a lot of off trail hiking. We used to camp and off trail in the Badger every weekend, we called it high stepping because of all the blowdown. One day I suffered a knee injury and couldn't bend my leg more than two or three degrees. I had to negotiate all the blowdown by sitting on the trees and manually lifting my bad leg over. We were a long way from camp and it took us hours to get there. It is extremely tiring. I don't know how SAR manages in that kind of situation. How do they do it when there is nothing but blowdown to negotiate?
Are you asking how we would do the find or deal with the extraction? Depending on the information available we would have to make some general assumptions. Are you on trail/road or off? Are you responsive, are you mobile, is there a medical condition etc. Assuming you're off trail, and responsive but non-ambulatory we'd most likely be doing an open grid or sound sweep, where searchers would be spread out pretty significantly, and systematically covering large swaths of ground. This method is less reliant on a searcher actually seeing the subject, and more on the subject calling out or making themselves known as the team approaches. If the assumption is that you're unresponsive (unconscious or deceased) than that spacing between searchers is going to drop drastically and it's going to be more reliant on a visual search of the area, which is far more time consuming and exhausting.

As for the extractions, we train in roughland evacuations quite often. If you're not mobile we have litters and will package you up like a burrito and physically carry you out if need be. We have techniques for dealing with downed trees and such. It's by no means easy, but it's most definitely doable. Unfortunately a twisted knee doesn't qualify for a helo in most scenarios ;)

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Re: Safe Scrambling and Building Off-Trail Confidence?

Post by Koda » October 8th, 2015, 10:48 am

Lurch wrote:but the Oregon State SAR and NASAR (Washington's primary freq) are in the commercial VHF bands. Any actual search is going to be running primarily on VHF
I looked into HAM radio a while back and it was a PITA to get a license. Some of the units are small enough to carry I think its a better idea but dont have time to study and take the exam. I know... I hear its supposed to be easy but when I googled it I had to learn a bunch of stuff I had no interest in I just want to push the button...

Lurch wrote:As for the extractions, we train in roughland evacuations quite often.
I thought of this question (regarding extractions) this summer when we had to plow thru a rhododendron jungle from hell for quite a ways. We were literally crawling thru it in places and the rest of the time was spent holding branches back to step thru/around/over... it was a full body workout. And I could not help but wonder just how would SAR extract my sorry ass if I broke my leg in there or became immobile (let alone find me)...

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