Take A Hike, But Take Care, Too

A wrong turn in the wilderness can change the rest of your life. In the past few weeks, several hikers have gone missing, some of whom have been rescued.

If you are planning a hiking trip this weekend, it's important to know what you are stepping into, so Jonathan Dorn, editor in chief of Backpacker magazine joined The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith to talk about preparation.

The top five causes of hiking fatalities are:

  • Falling

  • People tend to climb up things they cannot get down or they get too close to an overlook and step on loose pebbles. Falls happen when people leave their pack to look at a cliff. Do not leave your pack. Only attempt upward climbing moves you know you can reverse. Test each hold as you are going up to make sure it is solid; if you hear a hollow sound, the rock is loose. When climbing a vertical cliff avoid wet spots, moss, loose rocks or pebbles.

  • Drowning

  • There are two things that can go wrong. Though not really a summertime hazard, frozen lakes can pose danger, since you can fall through frozen ice. During the summer, white water rivers pose a danger since you can get pulled in and cannot swim to safety.

    White water river situations happen when you are backpacking and need to cross a river that does not have a bridge. Before you go in, unbuckle everything so if you do fall in a river you can get out of your pack. If you do fall in white water, people's first instinct is to stand up. It's easy to get your foot trapped in rocks under the surface — if the foot is trapped, you will get pushed underwater. You should get in the recliner position, lay down on your back, get your feet in the air and keep them in front of you so you can push off on rocks. When you hit calmer water, swim as aggressively as you can to shore.

  • Heart attack

  • This happens mainly to older people who are trying to reclaim their former glory. Specific to members of the baby boomer generation, go to your doctor if you are planning to get back into hiking and get a full cardio work up. Before you do a big trip, do some training, start working out three months or more ahead of time with weight on you so it is not a shock to your system. Don't go too fast.

  • Hypothermia

  • People get lost or get stuck overnight in cold weather situations. And it's not only a winter risk: hypothermia can occur in temperatures as high as 55 degrees. The combination of a lack of preparation, cold rain or snow, and wetness takes away body heat quickly.

    Fatigue and dehydration can accelerate hypothermia. If you do start to get cold, drink some water — it will help your body stay warmer, as well as digesting calories. If you have warm clothes, put them on and take a rest so your body can recharge. During the winter or summer put on waterproof clothes and have something to eat: it will help you keep warmer. Descend from higher altitudes to get out of storms and find shelter.

  • Heat stress

  • Hiking in the Southwest and desert environments goes hand-in-hand with dehydration. Death from heat stoke is a real risk, when your body temperature rapidly rises, along with dehydration. Make sure you keep hydrated — but not too much: drinking too much water creates a serious electrolyte deficiency. By flooding the body with water and not replacing salt you create a salt imbalance that causes kidney failure called hyponatremia.

    A common mistake people make is vigorous exercise during the hottest part of the day. Go earlier in the day. Train for the heat, get your body to adapt to it. There are a variety of methods you can do for this, like riding an exercise bike in the summer. Pack a lot of water. Supplement it with salt intake to prevent hyponatremia. Fatigue, incoherence and absence of sweating are signs of heat stroke, so drink water, pour it on your body to cool it off and provide shade. Cool the person right away.

    Never go trekking into the wilderness without leaving word with a friend and registering with a park ranger.