Escape Routes

5:29 p.m. on October 29, 2012 (EDT)
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C'mon. Admit it. You give way more thought to the route you plan to take when everything's going well, than to planning your escape routes in case of trouble. 

Alternative and escape routesOnce you have planned your route, plan and check out alternative routes that you may need to take in case of bad weather or if the going gets too much for some party members. In mountainous areas, it is essential to have two or three detailed escape routes should any situation or emergency arise.”

Complete article here:

8:40 p.m. on October 29, 2012 (EDT)
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Peter said:

C'mon. Admit it. You give way more thought to the route you plan to take when everything's going well, than to planning your escape routes in case of trouble.

To be honest lots of times I do.

Thanks for posting the link to a good article, and a good reminder for all of us to have contingency plans appropriate for our area and group activities.

"Be Prepared."from the Scout Handbook.

Mike G.

9:15 p.m. on October 29, 2012 (EDT)
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In the "Trip Management" section that I run during our Boy Scout High Adventure Training for adult leaders, I include a major section on having "Plans A, B, C, D, and more", which includes pre-planning escape routes should you have to bail or evacuate someone who is injured (inevitably one of the overweight fathers who has never done a 50miler before). For many routes in the Rockies, Whites (New England and California Whites both), Sierra, Cascades, Grand Canyon, and many other areas, the only choice is retracing your route in (in the parlance of airplane pilots, "doing a 180"). Retracing a straight downhill first half (bailing out of the Grand Canyon, for example), or a rolling hill outbound (heading over Kearsarge Pass into the Sierra, for example), are harder than a downhill retreat from Mt Whitney, while bailing from a Utah slot canyon requires thinking through whether it is shorter and easier to climb back or descend the rest of the way, if you have planned one way with a pick-up at the other end. The Echo to Kirkwood ski tour route, which is normally done point to point, is an example of a climb at the start end and descent at the last section, but with rolling terrain in between. The same route done in late spring through early fall by following the PCT (which differs slightly from the ski tour route) offers 3 options of a sideways bail route, which become unavailable for practical purposes in winter.

So familiarity with the route and/or consulting with people who are familiar with the route under the conditions expected is vital.

All part of PLANNING, which is part of the Boy Scout motto, BE PREPARED!

2:58 p.m. on October 31, 2012 (EDT)
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i don't know.  the weather in the White Mountains (New Hampshire) is sufficiently unpredictable and fierce that planning the exit strategy is at least as important as the ascent.  some of the routes i ascend in the White Mountains are not the best escape routes because they are too steep or slabbed or otherwise difficult to descend in bad weather.  for at least the last 10 years, i have pre-planned alternate escape routes that are easier to descend when wet, less exposed to prevailing wind, less likely to avalanche, etc.  

in the Adirondacks, for the most part, it's more like what Bill describes - turning around and descending the way you came up.  

4:25 p.m. on October 31, 2012 (EDT)
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Oh well, maybe it's just me. I always TRY to plan my escape routes, but I know I get more enthusiastic about the great places I'm going to go and the things I'm going to see than about the possibility of a failure.


leadbelly2550 said:

in the Adirondacks, for the most part, it's more like what Bill describes - turning around and descending the way you came up.  

Same here. The problem is that sometimes it's a LONG way back down again.

The condition of the terrain changes here, too, often quite suddenly and dramatically. On the Skyline Trail for example, there is really only one good escape route about a third of the way along. Because of unusually heavy rains this summer, it was closed because a bridge washed out. In case of a problem, that meant a walk of up to three days to get out.

5:02 p.m. on October 31, 2012 (EDT)
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I admit it, many times my plan B is a little extra food, some paracord, a first aid kit and tolerance to suffering.  

Truly though preparing for everything tends to get heavy.  There is risk in what we do.  Managing and tolerating risk is a very individual process, not understanding the risks though is foolish.   

Climbing-wise I keep a few pieces of gear specifically for retreat.  I call one such piece my "bail biner" and if I need to leave it behind because I can't finish a route it won't bother me.  Of course if its life or death all my gear is expendable. 




11:45 a.m. on November 1, 2012 (EDT)
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For me, bail out routes are an integral part of any trip planning. That doesn't mean, however, that I pre-arrange a specific contingency plan of action and egress for every point along my trip. That's just not practical for most trips. The amount of time I spend thinking or planning alternate routes for any given trip is directly proportional to level of challenge or risk involved and how well I know the area. If it is unfamiliar area on challenging terrain, I will spend much more time actually thinking about "Escape" plans. If it will be a weekend trip to familiar wilderness areas, I will review my intended route and peruse all the connected trails and terrain, but make no specific bail-out plans. 

I think really learning about the destination area, and completely familiarizing oneself with the trails and topography,  is the most effective contingency preparation for most outdoor pursuits. Mountaineering and larger scale expeditions would require much more in depth planning, of course.  

7:39 p.m. on November 1, 2012 (EDT)
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When I was still a rookie tramper, I planned a couple of bail out routes at key decision points which worked the few times I did have to use them but yeah, slowly I stopped bothering too.

These days, I just study the topography of wherever I'm heading, make a note of all the carparks, campsites and huts I spot and what I know about them, then just wing it from there. There are just too many variables to try make any more of a plan than that, and things going wrong have almost become a part of the adventure, but maybe thats just my experience and intensive training kicking in.

Of course, underground is a whole different ball game and I still definitely have back up plans, and for bigger trips, back up plans of those plans.

5:15 a.m. on November 4, 2012 (EST)
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The OP postulated that most of the hikers do not plan for escape route, but I think that most hikers do. At least here in Norway. But maybe we are more security conscious due to a lot of hikers and also goverment reminders in tv about this.

This winter we (my wife and I) had planned a tour skiing over Saltfjellet to end up with some friends. Just three-four days and about 70 km total. The first two days was ok, but then bad weather stuck. We started from Bjellåvasstua hut and had planned to have lunch at a hut half way, but after 6 hours really hard work instead of three easy hours we settled for the night there. The gps-track over a lake looked like a big S :) we did not see anything. And we even met two boys who had managed to go in a full circle, finding their own tracks.

So instead we just took to the nearest railway-station a days walk away, instead of pressing forward in terrible conditions. In winter you may progress easily 6 km per hour if conditions are good, but if they are really bad you may settle for one km per hour or even less. In summer the variation is much less due to weather conditions.


2:53 p.m. on November 5, 2012 (EST)
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In reality contingency planning has it limits.  Three times we resorted to an alternative exit plan for winter trips that didn’t go as anticipated.  One was due to wind damaged equipment, one was due to high water making unsafe stream crossing conditions, and the third caused by an injury.  If you consider these examples, it becomes apparent escape routes are only part of a more comprehensive contingency plan.  The thing is planning an escape route involves assumptions – about route conditions, the health of individuals in the group and condition of equipment.  A problem with one or more of these things is they are also the primary reasons a trip must be aborted.  Planning alternative exit routes is only one aspect of contingency planning, and in my experience is less involved than addressing issues such as evacuating the team as a whole or just a “get help” team; bringing additional equipment anticipating certain contingencies, etc.  The best laid plans include escape route, but more importantly, include room for improvising when the need arises.


5:15 p.m. on November 24, 2012 (EST)
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I walked up and over part of MT Washington in New Hampshire during the start of Hurricane Bob and ever since then I've given a lot more thought to escape routes. What was really annoying was that I stopped at the Lakes of the Clouds hut to see how much it would cost to stay there and nobody mentioned the fact that a hurricane was coming.  I thought it was just an especially windy, rainy, crappy day and had already been in the woods for about the last week.  I didn't find out about it until I ran into somebody at Tuckerman Ravine and he was a little shocked to hear that I had just come down the mountain.

My bailout plan consisted of me sleeping in the ladies room at Tuckerman Ravine, warm and dry and listening to the storm rage.

5:25 p.m. on November 26, 2012 (EST)
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half the winter days i have spent in the Presidentials were not a whole lot better than a hurricane.  though i like tents, i'm more lately prone to seeking shelters with walls when the wind starts blowing hard up there.  getting old. 

you should be able to do better than a bathroom, though.  while none of these would necessarily be my choice during a hurricane, the 3-walled shelters at hermit lake are pretty sturdy.  so is the harvard mountaineering club cabin at the base of Huntington's Ravine and the Randolph Mountaineering Club cabins on the trails heading up the shoulder of Mt. Adams - log cabin, perch lean-to, grey knob, crag camp. 

8:52 a.m. on November 27, 2012 (EST)
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My excape plan includes extra food, fuel, tarp, and a bivy. I use the tarp all the time as a camp rain shelter. Extra wieght, yes.

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