By Noah Haber, High Peaks Information Center Staff
When preparing for your wilderness adventure, one of the most challenging tasks can be determining a feasible route for your hiking group. Taking the time to effectively plan out your route ahead of time in a way that is approachable for all members of your party will vastly enhance your wilderness experience and allow your group to safely and successfully complete the trip you set out to do.
Some important considerations to make when deciding on a route include the amount of mileage your group will cover in a day, the amount of elevation gain you would prefer to hike, and if you would like to complete day hikes or camp in the back country overnight. If you choose to camp overnight in the backcountry, you should anticipate a shorter day and slower pace since you will be carrying a significantly heavier pack with overnight gear. A great way to complete overnight trips in the High Peaks region is to establish a base camp at a designated camping site or lean-to, and taking day-packs up some of the actual summits (just make sure any food you leave behind is stored responsibly in a bear canister). This will help to cut some of your weight in the more difficult and steep sections of trail. Another important thing to consider when planning your trip is to develop a contingency plan. That way, if adverse weather conditions or unforeseen circumstances concerning the people in your group arise, you will have an alternative trip already in the works that will allow for a fun and fulfilling trip if something were to happen that would prevent the completion of your original trip such as dangerous weather, illness, or injury with members in your group.
Planning your trip within this context of objective trail information will give you and your group members a better idea of the terrain you all will be negotiating with in terms of difficulty. This is in opposition to other means of describing trails, such as through subjective statements of time.
Most frequently, when people gauge trail difficulty by time instead of distance and elevation gain, they are often met with the unfortunate realization that the time estimate given for a trail doesn’t accurately describe the time for their own group. This can lead to situations where, in a worst case scenario, groups lack the proper amount of food, water, or navigational tools, such as a map, compass, and headlamp, for a day-hike and end up spending a night in the wilderness that they did not anticipate. At the very least, the mischaracterization of trails due to planning through subjective information could lead to everyone in the group feeling much more frustrated and overall will decrease the amount everyone will enjoy the adventure, because the trip will feel longer and more strenuous than time estimates provided by others indicated.
If you would like help planning your next adventure in the Adirondacks, stop by the High Peaks Information Center or give us a call at 518-523-3441. We will give your group objective trail information so you can formulate an itinerary appropriate for the skill and fitness level of your group.