The weather in the Columbia Mountains, both good and bad, can last for many days, and sometimes weeks. Regardless of the forecast, always be prepared for heavy rain, strong winds, falling temperatures, sleet or hail. Carry rain gear – I always also carry an umbrella. If camping, have a waterproof tent with a waterproof fly, and a small sponge to dry the tent floor. June tends to be the wettest
Likewise, prepare for hot summer days. The West Kootenay lie in a temperate rainforest, but summers tend to be hot and dry. Fall can be an ideal time to hike as bugs are absent, and larch trees turn golden.
Wet Rock. All experienced mountaineers are familiar with problems of wet or loose rock, but little attention has been paid to the causes of slipperiness of rock, save for the presence of an ice coating or snow. Lichen-covered rocks can be almost as dangerous as ice-covered ones. Climbers should beware of slippery lichen (when wet, as with melting snow) on rocks. The black lichen on sandstone and quartzite is especially treacherous. Dipping beds of shale and slate, and siltstone, also can be coated with this black lichen. Limestone is generally free of lichen, but is often interbedded with shale and slate. The latter weathers to mud, which is also slippery.
Exposure to lightning is more common on high ridges, open meadows and peaks. A direct lightning strike can kill you by causing brain damage, heart attacks or third-degree burns. Ground current from a nearby strike, can severely injure you, causing deep burns and tissue damage.
To avoid a direct strike, get off exposed ridges and peaks. Even a few metres off a ridge is better than right on top. Avoid isolated, tall trees. A clump of small trees or an opening in the trees is safer.
To avoid ground current, stay off crevices, lichen patches, or wet, solid rock surfaces, and away from gullies with streams in them. Loose rock, like talus, is safer.
Crouch near a highpoint at least 10 metres higher than you. Sit in the low-risk area near the base of the highpoint, at least 1.5 metres from cliffs or walls. If your hair is standing on end, there’s electricity in the air and get out of there. That’s usually down the mountain. Once you choose a place to wait it out,, squat with your feet close together. Keep your hands and arms away from rocks to stop the charge from flowing through your body. Stay at least 10 metres from companions, so if one is hit, another can give cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
The big vertical distances traveled on most hikes in the West Kootenay require good physical conditioning. The best way to get fit is to hike and increase elevation gain and weight carried. Going downhill can be more difficult for some with bad knees or quads not strong enough to handle the downhill. Walking around town for exercise may not prepare one for hiking. For someone who doesn’t hike regularly, an 11km round trip day hike or a hike with more than 1400 foot elevation gain will be very challenging.
LEAVE YOUR ITINERARY
Even if hiking in a group and especially if you’re going solo, leave your itinerary in writing with someone reliable. Agree on when they should alert the authorities if you have not returned or called. Be sure to follow through and notify your contact person on completion of the trip. Rescue teams often rescue their lives to find you.
Excessive loss of body heat can occur with surprising speed, even in relatively mild weather. Cool temperatures, wetness (perspiration or rain), wind, or fatigue, and usually a combination, sap the body’s warmth. Chills, shivering, poor coordination, slurred spedh, sluggish thinking and memory loss are next.
Wearing synthetic clothing that wicks moisture, bring proper clothing equipment and emergency food on hikes. If you can’t stay warm and dry, escape the wind and rain, turn back, keep moving, eat snacks, seek shelter. Remove wet clothing, insulate from the ground, lie naked next to each other, build a fire, feed sweets with carbohydrate and warm liquids.