WATERBURY — As the weather improves this spring, the Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety would like to remind people who are heading out onto Vermont’s hiking trails of the ever-changing conditions hikers may encounter this time of year, especially at higher elevations.
As you follow trails into the mountains, you can find yourself hiking in snow and ice again despite warm weather and green grass at the trailhead. Spring showers at lower elevations can turn into a wintry mix of snow, sleet and rain in the hills. Rain and melting snow can cause rapidly rising streams and challenging stream crossings. The long-lasting snowpack at higher elevations keeps the air temperature cool, soaks your boots and can make trails difficult to follow.
If you are hiking at higher elevations in the springtime, it’s important for people continue to be prepared for winter conditions. Waterproof boots (not sneakers) with traction devices, extra layers of warm clothes, a headlamp, map and compass might become necessary for a safe and successful hike. Consider turning around when you hit icy or snow-covered trails if you are not properly equipped, or if travel and route-finding becomes difficult.
Neil Van Dyke, search and rescue coordinator for the Vermont Department of Public Safety, reports that two hikers became stranded Wednesday, May 9 on Camels Hump. The two 18-year-old women were wearing only sneakers, shorts and short-sleeve shirts due to warm valley temperatures. Coming down from the summit, they took a wrong turn and ended up on a trail with thigh-deep snow and were unable to continue. The rescue took five hours to complete and could have been avoided with proper preparation by having a map, proper footwear, extra layers of clothing or simply turning around when snowy and icy conditions were encountered.
Officials from the Vermont State Police and Department of Public Safety encourage you to stay safe while enjoying the beginning of hiking season, by being careful as you climb higher into the mountains where spring might not yet have arrived. Hikers also are reminded that trails on state land above 2,500 feet in elevation remain closed until Memorial Day.