Risks and Hazards

While on the trail you run the risk of being injured or an unplanned event occurring. The following factors maybe the cause of such an event, so familiarizing yourself may lower the risk.

  • Being out of shape
  • High altitude (For more information on High Altitude Safety)
  • Becoming dehydrated
  • Being/becoming ill
  • Pulling a muscle
  • Slipping on a rock (The rocks by Rainbow Falls are wet from the mist and could cause bruises, sprains, or fractures
  • A sudden rain or snow shower
  • Downed trees and falling trees
  • High water crossing (most common in the spring causing trial impassable)
  • Animal Encounters

Losing the trail-Losing the trail can easily occur, even with the experienced hiker. Contributing factors include:

  • A rocky or sandy area (the trail is hard to see; it takes a sharp turn but you forge straight ahead)
  • Following a false trial made by other’s
  • Being/becoming ill
  • Mistaking a drainage ditch at a switchback for a real trial
  • Snow on the trail
  • Detouring around windfalls (downed trees) or around a bad stream crossing
  • Inadequate information or map
  • Out after dark with/without a light
  • Going off trial to find a photo opportunity
  • Deliberately trying for a shortcut

Any of these factors may put you behind schedule, out after dark, etc. or bring you to a halt altogether so always remember to inform someone of where and when you are hiking.

How do you avoid becoming lost or injured? Remember to expect the best but plan for the worst. Before you leave:

  • Know your route and the forecast (mountain weather is often unpredictable
  • Leave your plans with a friend and stick to them as best you can

What should I take? Here are some basic items for each person (even for a short hike):

  • Flashlight (plus spare batteries and bulbs)
  • Food
  • Plenty of water (A liter or 33oz is the suggested amount of water for someone hiking to Rainbow Falls)
  • Watch
  • Rain/Wind/Cold weather gear (can be lightweight)
  • A map of the area
  • Pen/paper
  • Whistle
  • Basic First-Aid items (Band-aids, elastic bandage, etc.)
  • Any medications you are currently taking
  • Proper, comfortable footwear
  • Compass (make sure you know how to properly use it)

Additional items that you may want to consider:

  • Fire started (matches, lighter, flint, fire ribbon, etc)
  • Knife
  • Emergency shelter
  • Cell phone: service may be available, but it's best not to rely on it.

How do I avoid getting lost?

  • Know the common pitfalls mentioned above.
  • Study the area prior to hiking and the dangers it possesses.
  • Get in the habit of looking around at your surroundings and periodically checking behind yourself to recognize your back trial.
  • Plan ahead of time reduce your risk of being injured.

What do I do if I get lost?

  • Leave the following with a friend: your plans, route, vehicle description and license #, recent photo, sole pattern and size, gear description, and who/when to call (and your cell phone number)
  • If separated, yell, whistle, stop and listen
  • Kids: Hug a tree and stay where you are!
  • Adults: STOP. Learn your surroundings, explore carefully, and be able to return to the last known point (pick something nearby that you can recognize at a distance, e.g. a tall dead tree).
  • Sometimes it's better to stay put, sometimes to move, but know when to turn around or stop, and be willing to do so (remember the off-trail hazards, above).
  • Downhill or downstream is not always the way out (there are often cliffs and waterfalls)
  • Check your own pulse, recognize haste. Be willing to sit all night if you have no light. Even with one, off-trail travel at night can be risky. If you have to find or make a shelter, or gather firewood, do it before dark or before the storm comes in, not during.

What do I do if someone from my party is missing?

  • Search for him or her, but preserve tracks, scent articles (clothing, pack, etc), belongings, witnesses, point-last-seen, camp, car, etc.
  • Send for help, with a clear, complete, accurate report. Your report should include an exact location, what happened, if there is an injury, the missing person's medical background, if they are conscious, able to walk, etc.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546


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