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Medical & Safety Alerts
Mountain Safety

Rock Slides

Rock slides are a mountain danger that should not be overlooked. Make sure you test every step before putting full weight down in any spot that has loose rock, especially on the steeper slopes. Use of common sense should prevail here.


Similar to rock slides, avalanche danger should not be ignored, especially for skiers and snowmobilers, but hikers are not exempt. If you are hiking in areas where there is avalanche danger take the necessary precautions. Check with a park ranger or other authority that is familiar with the area you are thinking about hiking in for details and advice.

Snow FieldsMountain safety - snow fields.

Later in the season, avalanches may not be such a threat, but the temptation to slide down or otherwise play in snow fields can be quite dangerous. At times snow fields can become almost pure ice, sometimes under a deceptively thin layer of what appears to be just loose snow. Footing can be deceptive, and one slip can take you downhill much farther than you may want to go. If you must cross a snowfield on your hiking trail, access the situation carefully before you start across. What is the angle of the slope? Where does the snowfield end? Does it end at the edge of a cliff, a jagged rock field, a cold mountain lake, or other hazard? If so, be extremely careful or look for another route. Test each step carefully if you must cross. Make sure each foot is firmly planted with each step.

If you find a small snowfield that does not present the dangers mentioned above, maybe one that gently comes to an end in a clearly visible gentle slope, feel free to take a slide or make your snow angels, but even at that make sure you know exactly where you're going to stop before committing yourself to the forces of physics and gravity. Also, don't forget that getting wet can be quite uncomfortable, if not dangerous, should the weather suddenly turn cooler. Are you dressed to stay dry?



In the mountains, a clear sunny day can quickly become stormy, bringing lightning, hail, and snow at higher elevations. Since storms often develop by early afternoon, plan hikes so you reach the highest point before noon and descend soon after. Always take rain gear!

When thunderstorms approach, avoid mountaintops, ridges, open areas, tall or lone trees, rocky overhangs, streams, ponds, or puddles. If you are caught in the open when lightning is imminent, squat with your hands on your knees, keep your head low, and wait for the storm to pass. Hikers should plan to be below tree-line by early afternoon to avoid lightning.Mountain safety - lightning!

If you feel a tingling sensation or your hair standing on end, or you hear crackling electricity, a lightning strike is imminent. Should this happen, immediately crouch with your hands on your knees.

Afternoon thunder and lightning storms frequently occur in the Rockies. You can recognize approaching storms by observing changes in wind direction and velocity, darkening clouds and sounds of thunder.

If you are unable to descend to tree-line before a storm breaks, stay off ridges and higher rocks, avoid streams, puddles and overhangs, caves, or large isolated trees.


Wildlife here should be respected and viewed from a safe distance of at least 25 yards. Take wildlife photos with zoom lenses. Respect even the smaller animals by not feeding them. Remember that even small, seemingly harmless animals can still inflict nasty bites, especially to smaller children and can carry diseases. Fines can be issued for feeding the animals or for otherwise disturbing wildlife from any distance.

Special precaution should be taken for bears.Mountain safety - wildlife alerts. Never approach them for any reason. If you are lucky enough to spot one, enjoy it from a distance and use zoom lenses to photograph. Do not store food in tents. Store food in airtight containers in the trunk of your car and do not leave unattended. If backpacking away from your car, check with park rangers for recommendations on storing your food so that it never becomes a problem.


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