Group Up And Stay Safe: Bob Speik’s Hiking Safety For Seniors
Bob Speik is one special guy! He “got into” mountains in a big way as an adult (no, the mountain gene didn’t run in the family), and has tried everything from extreme to basic. Well, maybe not base jumping off snowy peaks…Whatever it is, though, he’s all about mitigating emergencies, being properly prepared, and observing hiking safety fundamentals in woods or mountains.
Learn about hiking safety from an expert
The Oregon Cascades have been Bob’s world for 25+ years now, and he’s given plenty to subsequent generations as well as his own. He’s shared his wisdom in the classroom and on the mountain, as well as following search and rescue events and and analyzing Oregon backcountry accidents for the American Alpine Club (AAC). And he’s long-maintained a website called traditionalmountaineering.com, ‘cos that’s what he’s all about.
This is the best kind of person to learn hiking safety from. Not an equipment geek (although this somewhat goes with the territory) who has 5 stoves, 8 backpacks, 2 hammocks, and only a theoretical knowledge of the backcountry, not a young whipper snapper whose goals are likely very different from your own, not a guidebook, or the internet.
Thumbs up for “old-timers”
“Old-timer” mountaineers are about safety, profound respect for what nature might bring, tried and true practices, knowing “where things are”, and being familiar with one’s limits. They take advantage of new equipment (e.g. GPS and cell phones), knowledge, and techniques that will keep them safer in the outdoors. And very often, they’ve learned from the “best of the best”, namely older “old-timers”.
Incidentally, if you’re wondering about the shirt Bob is wearing, it’s designed to keep off the sun, dries quickly, and wicks extremely well. Perfect for hiking, mountaineering, Costa Rica, almost any active pursuit outdoors. The generic term is “safari shirt.” You can read more at 5 Reasons To Own A Safari Shirt.
Bob is using a Garmin GPS.
Bob’s recommendations for seniors (and younger)
Muddy Boots asked Bob for any strongly-worded requirements he might have for a person venturing out on a trail as well as any special recommendations for seniors on easy-to-moderate trips. You should see immediately they are the same for serious mountaineering!
This is what Bob said:
- Seniors generally should be going in a group when hiking (note, a “hike” is not the same as an afternoon walk on the rail trail or a scamper around a small public park, but there are risks in those activities, too). Bob especially recommends a sponsored group, such as those offered by Parks and Rec, mountaineering clubs, and major outdoor stores. You can find more ideas at Group Adventuring For 60+.
- Group members can expect certain items from a group leader during the sign-up process. Bob calls this a “prospectus”.
- The prospectus spells out exactly where the trip will be going, what the goals are, and what timeline to expect. A sample prospectus (for an unroped summer mountain trip) is here.
- Leaders are responsible for vetting group members for experience. Many times beginners are welcome, but at other times the trip might be too strenuous.
- The leader will have a list with the name, address, and emergency contact information for all hikers in the group.
- When hiking with a group, you’ll have liability release forms.
- Backcountry users (e.g. those hiking from a “trailhead”) have responsibilities. Bob spells them out right here.
- Folks in the backcountry (including hikers) are obligated to carry a fully-charged cell phone, a map, and compass and know how to use them.These skills take instruction and practice.
- Backcountry users must set up with a “responsible person” when they are scheduled to return to the car and make sure said person knows to dial 911 without delay if that doesn’t happen.
- Backcountry users must carry the “essentials”.
As you can tell, Bob is guided by the overall principle that
When people set out to climb a mountain [or hike, or other trail activity], danger is always part of the equation. They can minimize it with common sense, training and proper tools, but they can’t completely eliminate it. Link.
Summary: there’s no such thing as taking a 15-minute hike in woods or wilderness and eliminating risk. This applies on the east coast, west coast, mid-states, anywhere in the world.
Read more from Bob Speik
For Bob’s copious notes on backcountry and hiking safety as well as his accident reports—a fascinating way to learn trail safety from others’ mistakes—read exhaustively at his own website, Traditional Mountaineering. You’ll want to check out some of the news articles that detail his contributions as well. He’s a legend.
Dusty Car Muddy Boots, Too
Do Bob’s instructions sound familiar? Muddy Boots learned outdoor skills from the shoulders of giants, “old-timers”. Muddy Boots is now, yes, in the league of “old-timers”, too.
See here for four examples of Dusty Car Muddy Boots hikes where Bob’s hiking safety standards apply:
More on groups:
Bob Speik is a true “old-timer”, in the best possible way, as willing to share as to put boots to the ground himself and head out on a new adventure.
Read up on outdoor safety and try to go out in a group with an experienced leader, so you can see how to minimize risk up close and personal.
Thank you Bob, for all you have given to your world!
Photo credits. Unless otherwise specified, all photos are ©Robert Speik, All rights reserved, and used here with permission. These photos include: Featured image and group hiking panel… Senior Hikers at Suttle Lake OR. Group hiking panel, left…Hikers at Iron Mountain OR. Learning map and compass skills, sponsored by Oregon Fish and Wildlife, 2 photos. Bob Speik with GPS and on snowshoes. Top, Fiery Furnace Guided Hike at Arches National Park: Courtesy NPS. Hikers at Lake Solitude, Grand Teton: CCO Public Domain by NPS.