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Backpacking Safety

Information and tips to improve your back country and backpacking safety practices.

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Who’s Responsible for Your Mountain Safety? sticky icon


The Folks Who Pull Us Out:
California Mountain Rescue Association

MRA met in Mammoth Lakes California to test in "Snow and Ice" for their yearly Re-Accreditation test, hosted in 2016 by Inyo County Search and Rescue. Credit Adorabutton.
I'm Seeing Red! MRA met in Mammoth Lakes California in 2016 to test in "Snow and Ice" for their yearly Re-Accreditation test, hosted by Inyo County SAR. Map. Photo Credit, Adorabutton, Wiki.


Who’s Responsible for Your Mountain Safety?

Should we stop rescuing people in wilderness?
Adirondack Explorer, February 12, 2019.


Alex Wierbinski's picture

High Sierra Mountain Safety. Hazards & Alerts: Winter of 2018 sticky icon



Hazards & Alerts: High Sierra Winter of 2018

 Also See
Observation & Analysis

THE WINTER of 2018

Previous Report
Fall 2017 Hazards & Alerts


Alex Wierbinski's picture

The High Sierra Backpacking and Hiking Mountain Safety News & Topics Page sticky icon

The video embeded here broke
Site Security, So,
Tropical storm brings heavy hail, lightening to Sierra Crest July 8 2015


High Sierra Mountain Safety




High Sierra Mountain Safety 

High Sierra Mountain Safety TOPICS


High Sierra Mountain Safety NEWS



The Other Page 
All Wilderness-Outdoor-Mountain Rescues & Events Log 



Current Backpacker Alert(s)

Sierra Status, June 7, 2018


Labor Day 2017 Heat, Fire, & Smoke HAZARDS 

Labor Day 2017, TRAIL NEWS


Video Two: 
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Alex Wierbinski's picture

Jerry Brown, Bribed Corporate Tool, UPDATED: Limits PG&E’s liability for Fire Damages

Oct 2019 REVIEW of July 2018
The Past Fortells and Explains the Present and shows us the Future....

Jerry Brown Legacy
Burning forests, a Ruined Climate, a Broken Middle Class, Poverty, and Dying Ecosystems 

Our Corrupted Present & Future...
Pretty-Pretty Gavin Newsom: How Our Financial-Political-Social Aristocracy Works

How We Got Here, to
The Great PGE California Power-Down:


Oct 2019 REVIEW
A brief look at our past and present political and press breakdowns into corruption (the page below...) quickly reveals the clear path of greed driving political corruption driving irresponsible growth that's brought California, and the whole world, to our current status of widespread Environmental and Ecosystem Breakdowns, Planet-Wide Chemical Poisoning, highlighted by the rapidly rising forces of yet more Heat, Darkness and Fire.

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Cautionary Levels of Blue-Green Algae in Lake Isabella



Warming Climate & Human Runoff Turning Waters Green

'Potentially harmful' blue-green algae found in Lake Isabella, lake users should exercise caution,
Bakersfield Californian, July 10, 2019.


The Kern County Public Health Services Department, "...received water samples from eight different locations in Lake Isabella, and two water samples indicated the presence of blue-green algae, or cyanobacteria, at a cautionary level. This type of algae can be considered potentially harmful."

Main Page

Watch Out for the Green Water: Blue-Green Algae News and Safety Information

Recent Blue-Green Algae News, Research, & Information

Nitrogen Runoff & Algal Blooms Increasing Due to Global Warming

Summer of 2018: Watch Out for the Green Water, Salem Oregon Water Supply Compromised

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Half Dome Permit Policy Safety Analysis



Half Dome
From the Trail Guide
Liberty Cap in Shadows with Half Dome towering over Mount Broderick.
Liberty Cap in Shadows with Half Dome towering over Mount Broderick, Looking from just West of Nevada Falls, Guide, Map.


Half Dome Safety Analysis

Restricted permit-only access to Yosemite National Park's Half Dome summit, anticipated to improve hiker safety, did not,
Elsevier, June 26, 2019.


2010 Half Dome Permit Restrictions
"Implementation in 2010 of permit-only access to Half Dome cable handrails along the final ascent of this iconic landmark reduced the number of people on the summit at one time, but this did not result in a significant reduction in the overall toll of associated human suffering and mortality, or search and rescue (SAR) activity and costs."

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Watch Out for the Green Water: Blue-Green Algae News and Safety Information

Watch Out for the Green Water

Toxic Algal Bloom
Blue green algae in Klamath River, credit to OSU.
Toxic Microcystis algae grow in a large bloom in the Copco Reservoir on the Klamath River, posing health risks to people, pets and wildlife. Go Beaves, credit to OSU!


It's that time of year again, as Spring turns into Summer and our extraordinarily warming waters present increasing blue-green algae threats.

The Basics
Do not drink, or allow your animals or children to drink from or play in water containing cynobacteria, otherwise known as toxic blue-green algae. Review the Blue-Green News just below and the safety information at the bottom of this page:

Blue-Green Algae Safety and Identification Information


September 16 Late Summer Report...
Winter snow standing deep into Spring, & Temprate Summer Temps, brought minimal Green Water to the High Sierra (and California) this year.


High Sierra Water Quality Articles

Alex Wierbinski's picture

June 2019 Mount Whitney Missing Hiker Search Finds Fatality




The Whitney Zone

Mount Whitney Fatality,
Mono SAR, June 20, 2019.

Mount Whitney
East Flank: John Muir Wilderness in Inyo NF
West Flank: John Muir Wilderness in SEKI


Mount Whitney Trail Map
Tyndall Creek to Whitney Portal Map



Missing Hiker Search
Mutual Aid
"...contacted for a mutual aid request in support of the search for a 47-year-old Virginia hiker in the Mt. Whitney area missing since June 12. 4 Team members responded, and were assigned a search area to the north of Mirror Lake."

Area Search
"The field team concluded the search of their area without any evidence of the missing hiker. They returned to base via the Mt. Whitney trail."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Inyo Sheriff June 2019 Temple Crag Rescue



Temple Crag Rescue,
Inyo Sheriff, June 17, 2019.

Temple Craig
The Palisades
John Muir Wilderness in Inyo National Forest
East of Bishop Pass, West of Big Pine, Permits


Rockfall Accident
"On June 15 at around 5:45pm, a male and female party of two were "simul-climbing" (a climbing technique where all climbers climb at the same time while tied into the same rope) the technical rock route “Sun Ribbon Arete” on Temple Crag in the Palisades region of the Sierra Nevada. At about 12,600’ (about 200' from the summit) a rock broke causing the second climber to fall about 20-30’ before being caught by their rope. The team sent a distress signal via their Personal Locator Beacon, and ultimately Inyo County Sheriff’s Office was notified."

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Mono SAR June 2019 Mt Morrison Rescue



CHP H40 Rescue Copter Framed by Mount Morrison
H40 landed at the Mammoth-Yosemite airport, Mount Morrison in background. Mono SAR Photo.
"H40 landed at the Mammoth-Yosemite airport," Mount Morrison in background. Mono SAR Photo.


Eastern Sierra Accident

Mt Morrison Rescue,
Mono SAR, June 11, 2019.


Mount Morrison
In the John Muir Wilderness of the Inyo National Forest. I don't currently have a map depicting Mt Morison, but it is located a short distance off the East edge of this map from Lake Genevieve. This map depicts the route of the JMT-PCT over the Silver Divide, which locates Mount Morrison on a line between the Silver Divide and the Mammoth Airport, on the Eastern Flank of the Sierra overlooking the Airport, as we can see in the image above.

"...respond to a report of a 68 year old male from Chalfant, CA, injured in a fall on the south side of Mt. Morrison, at an approximate elevation of 11,200’."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

May 2019 Mono SAR Rescue: Back Country Skier Falls, Breaks Leg Badly




Nasty Accident above Twin Lakes

Back Country Skier Falls, Breaks Leg Badly,
Mono Search and Rescue, May 20, 2019.

Rescue of May 18-19, 2019.

Little Slide Canyon, off Robinson Creek, above Twin Lakes

Backpacking Trail Map


"...up Little Slide Canyon. About 30 minutes after crossing the creek, they hit the snowline, and put on their skis and skins and continued up the canyon."

Little Slide Canyon

Knarly Back Country Accident
"On the descent, one of the skiers fell from about 3/4 height, and tumbled and slid down the couloir, and when the fall ended, he found he had multiple left leg fractures, but most notably an open tib-fib with considerable bone exposed."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

2019 Murder on the Appalacian Trail



Crazy on the AT in Virginia, One AT hiker Killed, One Injured,

Knife attack prompts precautions on Appalachian Trail,
WHSV TV, May 14, 2019.

Judge orders psych evaluation for Appalachian Trail suspect,
WHSV TV, May 13, 2019.

Updated Below


Weird Dude
"...the past couple of weeks, hikers along the Appalachian Trial had been warning each other about a hiker who was threatening other hikers with a large knife."

"The man, who had the trail nickname of "Sovereign," was arrested in North Carolina last month after some hikers reported him to authorities."

"James Jordan, 30, of West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, is charged with murder and assault with intent to commit murder. During his initial appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, a judge ordered him to be held in custody and to undergo a psychiatric evaluation."

Alex Wierbinski's picture

May 2019 Owens Valley-Mount Whitney Mosquito Warning



In California, Now…
Aedes aegypti feeding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Wiki. Image by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.
Aedes aegypti feeding in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. "...Originally found in tropical and subtropical zones, but now found on all continents except Antarctica, " Wiki. Image by Muhammad Mahdi Karim.


East Flank Preps for Skeeter Onslaught: Are You Ready?

Officials bracing for the mosquito invasion,
Sierra Wave, May 9, 2019.


2019 a Potentially Heavy Mosquito Season
"...a joint communication from the Mono County Health Department and the Owens Valley Mosquito Abatement Program (OVMAP): Big snow years can mean big mosquito seasons and we are expecting some bugs!"

Alex Wierbinski's picture

INDEX: ALL Mosquito and Tick News and Information for High Sierra Backpackers

Tick and Mosquito
News, Information
Aedes Aegypti Feeding, James Gathany - CDC.
Mosquitoes are a major issue in the High Sierra,

ticks less so the higher you go.

Aedes Aegypti Feeding, by James Gathany of the CDC.


July 25, 2019




Also See
Mosquitoes and Seasonal Temperature Shifts:
Backpacking the High Sierra


Alex Wierbinski's picture

Inyo SAR-CHP Mt. Russell Rescue



Mount Russell from CHP Inyo SAR's Perspective
Mt. Russell Rescue, Inyo SAR CHP helicopter view.
Thanks to Inyo SAR-CHP for the rescue, and the view.


The Southern Sierra

Mt. Russell Rescue,
Inyo SAR, April 8, 2019.


"...April 7, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office received an emergency satellite transmission requesting a rescue near Mt. Whitney."

"...four climbers attempting to summit Mt. Russell (14,088’) had gotten off route while descending and were stuck on the side of a cliff above a steep couloir (around 13,000’ in elevation). The party had no way of getting either up or down."

"...5:30 PM, CHP located the four subjects on Mt. Russell and lowered an Inyo SAR team member via a 100’ cable hoist to their position."

"...took the first subject to the Lone Pine airport and refueled. When the helicopter returned, the rescue team hoisted the remaining three climbers and dropped them to their camp near Lower Boyscout Lake one at a time."


Trail Guide

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Search Continues for Missing Marine


Badass Behind Schedule

Update: Multi-agency search for missing Marine,
Sierra Wave, March 10, 2019.


Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24

See Calendar, End of Feb
Heavy snow fall from 25th to 27th, followed by short break with lite to moderate snow through the 7th.

Arrival Date:
Twin Lakes on the 5th

“This is the sixth day of an intense multiagency search for missing Marine Corps 1st Lieutenant Matthew Kraft...”

"1st Lt. Kraft’s planned itinerary is the 195-mile Sierra High Route; he is believed to have hiked out of Kearsarge Pass on Feb 24 with a plan of concluding his hike near the Twin Lakes area by Bridgeport, CA on March 4 or 5."

"Both aerial and ground search operations have been utilized; however, weather conditions in the Sierra have been a significant challenge."

"In addition, two Marines from Kraft’s unit are assisting authorities with search efforts at the Search and Rescue Coordination Center."



Cayenne's picture

Safety First! First Aid Kit for High Sierra Backpackers

First Aid Kit for High Sierra Day Hikers & Backpackers

 Red Cross, international symbol of First Aid, wiki by Jon Harald Søby

Be Ready
High Sierra Day Hikers & Backpackers

Spring has come to the eastern Sierras and time to spring clean the first aid kit. Alex has provided excellent information about his first aid kit in the gear list.

Day Use
I am an avid day hiker, so the contents of my bag are a bit different. I also have extensive medical training and access to prescription drugs, so I try to keep stuff to help out others on the trail. This is the time of year I pull the first aid kit from the depths of my day pack and inspect and refill the contents. My bag is not huge and contains all the things I need to survive the sun, rain, cold, bugs and injury/illness for a few days.

Injuries Encountered
The injuries that I have encountered on the trail are blisters, splinters, cuts and scrapes and the occasional laceration that needs stitches. The illness that I have encountered are mild cases of upset stomach, sunburn, bug bites, sore/strained muscles, heat exhaustion and high altitude sickness.


First Aid Gear:

Alex Wierbinski's picture



March 6




PCT-JMT-TYT-TWT Hikers Summer Condsiderations

A "Tropical" Winter
With this last storm, the third Tropical Transport Mechanisms since the beginning of Feburary 2019, (4th since the middle of January), the High Sierra Snowpack is right on the verge of equalling the massive snowpack of 2017. (averages)

High Siera Calendar

Alex Wierbinski's picture

High Sierra Cow Anxiety in Upper Clarks Fork Canyon

Close Encounter of the Cow Kind

As I was hiking down the Clarks Fork of the Stanislaus on the unmaintained Tahoe to Yosemite Trail I picked up the enchanting sound of softly clanging cow bells bouncing off the rocky canyon walls until absorbed by the forest.

I figured I'd meet some cows. The narrow canyon certainly makes "our" shared route along the visible bits of route along the unmaintained trail the best solution for both grazing stock and passing backpackers to reach our respective goals. It's cozy. No problem. I like cows.

My goal is always to get past cows with as little trouble as possible. I've dealt with cows many times before, and always gotten myself through quickly, sometimes employing sweet talk, and other times threatening a re-branding if cow-cooperation is found lacking.

I will go freeking cowboy on their huge cow asses.

Alex Wierbinski's picture

Death on the Mist Trail: Visitor Fatality in Yosemite National Park


Death on the Mist Trail

Happy Isles Trailhead
Happy Isles Trailhead for the John Muir Trail, Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Valley, the start point of the JMT, from the trail guide.

Visitor Fatality in Yosemite National Park,
February 25, 2019.

Yosemite Valley Backpacking Map


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