Those hardy souls that made the trek around February 19 through 22, 2019 braved some serious weather. Two lane roads, as well as Interstate highways, shut down due to record breaking snow fall. Not one person recommended taking skis…..LOL!
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This post focuses on Cold Weather Backpacking. This website may be geared more for a specific location. Sure, the Havasupai area is a specialized backpacking trip. But the general thoughts on this subject spans just about any backpacking trip where you might encounter temperatures below 30°F.
Feb 2019 saw weather that broke snowfall records around the area. Night time low temperatures dipped into the low teens (Fahrenheit). IR#18 [road between Old RT 66 and the Hilltop Trail Head parking area] was closed for several periods of time due to snow.
Even Interstate 40 between Kingman, AZ and Flagstaff, AZ was shut down due to snow. Some people reported Kingman getting 12 inches of snow. All stuff unheard of for the area. At least for periods of many years in between.
The past few days, and it appears for the coming week or so. The Havasu
Falls area may experience night time temperatures dropping into the
low teens (Fahrenheit). This is unusually cold. Day time highs will
struggle to make it higher than the upper thirties. (Fahrenheit).
People in Las Vegas and closer area’s are reporting lower than normal temperatures. Las Vegas is looking at temperatures in the mid twenties (Fahrenheit) at night.
While these temperatures are “business as usual” for many winter backpackers. Such conditions for someone ill prepared or inexperienced, can really present some danger.
Such conditions require quality gear, high calorie foods & snacks, and the ability to stay dry and keep warm. This includes keeping your feet, hands, face, and head warm. Day and night!
It is advised you don’t start this trek taking a light-hearted approach. Not in these conditions. If you think your gear may be inadequate. It probably will be. Make sure you know what you are getting into. Make sure you know what you are doing. What might be a minor discomfort during normal weather, may have serious consequences if you are not prepared.
Know the signs of hypothermia. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself or to those in your group you have a problem. If someone in your group is having symptoms. You need to help them. Get them warmed up. Even drinking warmed water will help. Check on people that complain they are cold.
If for some reason you fall in the water with your clothes on, during really cold temperatures. You need to get the wet clothes off. Get dry, and warm up as soon as possible.
In a group atmosphere encourage others to be open about voicing concerns they may be getting into trouble. Then act in such a fashion everyone is OK. Remember your gear might be better than the gear your co-backpackers have. That includes clothing and footwear. Don’t judge someone else on how comfortable you may feel.
If you feel you are in a situation that could go from bad to worse. Start hiking to your vehicle. Walk at a good pace to warm up and keep warm. Walk steady and don’t stop until you have made it safely to your vehicle. You can always return and do this trip another time.
Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia
Stage 1 Mild Awake and Shivering Possible increased urine production and mental confusion
Stage 2 Moderate Drowsy and not Shivering Mental confusion, Slurred speech, loss of fine motor skills Paradoxical undressing
Stage 3 Severe Not shivering Mental confusion, decreased or increased heart rate, decrease in breathing rate Paradoxical undressing Unconscious
Stage 4 Profound No Vital Signs
NOTE: Paradoxical undressing: As a person becomes disoriented, confused, and combative. They may begin discarding their clothing. Further increasing body heat loss.