Backcountry Safety Tips

Be Proactive. Be Prepared. Be Safe. 
A guide to high-altitude and backcountry safety. Basalt has many opportunities for fun, and it is important to have a “Safety First” mentality. Here are a number of safety tips that you may find helpful.

Weather and Seasonal Hazards

Summer days in the Colorado mountains are notorious for beautiful, cloudless mornings and intensely thunderous afternoons. Storms move in rapidly and temperatures drop suddenly. It’s not unusual for it to be 70 to 80 degrees in the morning and 50 to 60 degrees in the afternoon, depending on the altitude. Along with the cold temperatures and stormy skies comes the threat of lightning. When hiking or mountain biking, it’s best to plan for an earlymorning start, especially if your route takes you above treeline.

High Altitude Tips

Basalt is at 6,611 feet above sea level. When you first arrive, acclimate yourself for a period of time with light activity. At high elevations, the atmosphere is thinner; there is less oxygen and less humidity available to you than at sea level. Throbbing headaches, feeling weak, lazy, dizzy and/or nauseous are all symptoms warning you to decrease your activity level and increase your water intake.

Altitude Sickness

Acute mountain sickness occurs within a few hours to a few days after arrival at altitudes above 8,000 feet. The symptoms are characterized by headache, insomnia, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and breathlessness. It can also be accelerated by drinking alcohol upon arrival to high altitudes without proper acclimation. To help prevent altitude sickness, avoid alcohol, drink plenty of liquids and don’t over-exert yourself.

Stay Warm

At this elevation, the weather can change quickly. Take frequent breaks from the cold or heat. Even if the forecast calls for warm weather, it is important to have warm clothing in case there is a sudden change in temperature while you are out enjoying the day or when the sun sets. It is wise to layer your clothes, no matter the season. A T-shirt, wool sweater, nylon windbreaker with a hood and a bottle of water are basic equipment for just about any summer activity. Winter-sports enthusiasts should wear warm, waterproof gloves, hat, and socks, plenty of warm, water-resistant clothing and goggles or sunglasses with adequate UV protection.

Avoid Sunburns

Sunburns at high altitude can be more severe for a number of reasons, namely there is less atmosphere to absorb the ultraviolet rays. Year-round be sure to protect yourself with protective clothing, such as a hat with a brim, sunglasses (remember, if your skin burns more easily at high altitudes, your eyes will, too), use ample sunscreen on any exposed skin – face, neck, top of ears, hands – and wear SPF lip balm. This even applies on cloudy days – the Colorado sun is stronger than you think!