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Preparation Is Vital for Hikers

The death of an experienced hiker in the Angeles National Forest highlights the risks inherent in the rugged mountains that cover northern Los Angeles County. The body of Palmdale resident Karen Tellez was found Dec. 7 near an oak tree in the Angeles National Forest--just five miles from a command center set up to search for her. Tellez became lost when she left fellow hikers to make a phone call.

The tragedy should remind mountain hikers of the dangers that lurk in the region’s wild parks and forests--and of the precautions that can mean the difference between life and death. Several people die every year because they come unprepared or underestimate the terrain of mountains that, although just minutes away from the city lights, are among the most rugged in the country.

Weather conditions can change drastically and quickly at higher elevations--just as they did when Tellez’s drizzly hike turned into a snowstorm that hampered search efforts. In volatile conditions, it’s best to stay inside. Winter hikers should always carry extra clothing, especially hats and gloves, to help retain body heat.

Even in calm weather, it’s wise to pack essentials such as a flashlight, whistle, signal mirror, large poncho and some extra snacks. Although hard-core hikers may flinch at the suggestion, a cellular phone can be a lifesaver in a difficult situation.

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Always hike in groups and understand basic navigation skills. If hikers get lost, they should stay put and try to erect a sign that can be seen by rescue teams.

The mountains that ring Southern California provide an escape for millions of urban dwellers each year, offering a chance to reconnect to the natural world. But that world can turn hostile in an instant with a loose rock, a wrong turn or a slippery trail. Respecting the power of the mountains helps ensure their safe enjoyment.


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