The Vermont State Police, in cooperation with the Green Mountain Club and their agency partners, is reminding those heading out onto Vermont’s hiking trails of the ever changing conditions a hiker may encounter this time of year, especially at higher elevations. As hikers follow trails into the mountains, they can find themselves hiking in snow again despite green grass at the trailhead. Spring showers at lower elevations can turn into an all-too-familiar wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain in the hills. The long-lasting snowpack at higher elevation keeps the air temperatures cool, soaks boots, and can make the trails very difficult to follow.
If hiking at higher elevations, it’s important that spring hikers continue to be prepared for winter conditions. Waterproof boots (not sneakers), extra layers of warm clothes, a headlamp, map and compass may become necessary for a safe and successful hike. Hikers should consider turning around when they hit snowpack if they are not properly equipped or if travel and route finding becomes more difficult.
Neil Van Dyke, Search and Rescue Coordinator for the Vermont Department of Public Safety reports that there were several search and rescue incidents last spring involving hikers who were not properly prepared for the conditions they found at higher elevations. These situations could have been avoided by simply turning around when snowy, icy conditions were encountered.
A recent rescue on the Long Trail in Peru, Vermont, highlighted these concerns when hikers called 911 reporting that they had become stuck in waist-deep snow, and were unable to keep hiking.
Fortunately, the hikers were able to provide first responders with GPS coordinates, and seven rescuers were able to reach the hikers, provide them with snowshoes, and guide them down the mountain without incident.
Officials from the Vermont State Police, Green Mountain Club, Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation and the Green Mountain National Forest encourage hikers to stay safe while enjoying the beginning of hiking season, by being careful as they climb higher into the mountains where spring may not have arrived yet. Vermont Forests, Parks and Recreation reminds hikers that trails on State land above 2,500 feet in elevation remain closed until Memorial Day.