The weather can be unpredictable, and you’ll likely be exposed to all of the elements including rainstorms, snow, and lots of sunshine. Below are some environmental conditions you can expect and ways you can prepare.
Being outdoors all day, every day means lots of sunshine! While this can be wonderful and healthy in smaller doses, high elevations, snow, and water can all increase the intensity of the sun potentially leading to painful sunburns and dehydration. The Earth’s atmosphere is thinner at higher elevations which makes it easier to get burned, and snow and water are highly reflective, which also causes sunburns more quickly than usual. The good news is sunburns are preventable! Here’s what you can do to arrive prepared for lots of sunshine:
Choose your sunscreen wisely! If you burn easily, bring extra sunscreen. Always use broad spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. Water-resistant sunscreen is a must on river courses. Sunscreen wears off so reapply every two hours.
Bring a wide-brimmed hat. This will cover vulnerable areas like your neck and ears.
Bring UV protected sunglasses. Not all sunglasses will protect you from these harmful rays! Look for the UV sticker on the lenses or tag.
Pack lightweight full-coverage clothing. Long pants and long sleeves are always better protection than sunscreen.
Check your medications before you leave for your course. Some can cause higher sun sensitivity, especially acne and antibiotic medications.
Our course areas can be extremely hot, especially in Utah. To keep students and instructors safe we maintain strict policies around when and how we travel in hot weather including traveling during the coolest times of the day and staying under shade shelters during times of highest temperatures. Here are some tips to prepare for living in the heat:
Get used to drinking plenty of fluids. Aim for at least 3-4 liters per day.
Pack lightweight synthetic clothing. If these layers are loose fitting, they will keep you cooler. Avoid dark colored clothing if possible because they absorb more heat.
Physically prepare. Work out for at least 30 minutes per day during the months leading up to your course.
Acute Mountain Sickness, commonly referred to as AMS or altitude illness, is physical symptoms experienced from difficulty adjusting to reduced air pressure and lower oxygen levels at high altitudes. Not everyone experiences AMS, but anyone can experience symptoms upon arriving at higher altitudes usually on the second or third day at altitude. Symptoms can vary widely and include headaches, nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness, and trouble sleeping. While it is possible to experience these symptoms at lower elevations, AMS typically occurs at 8,000 feet above sea level or higher. Our river and canyon-based courses typically operate at 4,000-6,000 feet, and all other courses usually occur between 8,000 -10,000 feet and higher. While on course, we mitigate the risk of AMS sleeping at lower elevations, ensuring students drink 2-4 liters of water per day, and easing into higher-intensity activities. Here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of getting altitude sickness:
Arrive early if possible. This will give your body time to adjust to the altitude before course.
Increase your level of physical activity. While activity level doesn’t directly prevent AMS, you will likely be better able to work through the fatigue associated with altitude if you are more physically prepared.
Get more rest than usual. Prioritize sleeping as preparation for your course! Give yourself plenty of rest time and 8 hours of quality sleep nightly.
Show up hydrated. Avoid alcohol for at least 3 days before your course and remember to drink 2 or more liters of water per day. It’s easy to forget to drink on travel days so keep your water bottle handy!
If you are taking prescription medications, consult your doctor about how altitude may affect them. Sometimes our body’s responses to certain medications can change at altitude.
Safety on Course
Physical and emotional safety are our top priorities. We work hard to create a positive group culture and learning environment on every course. Our instructors have Wilderness First Responder medical training and are highly experienced in backcountry environments. Each instructor is expected to maintain a Wilderness First Responder medical certification. Additionally, instructors who teach technical activities like rafting, mountaineering, canyoneering, and rock climbing are required to maintain additional trainings and certifications.
By the end of course, each student has a foundational understanding of how to stay safe in the backcountry. Moreover, they return home with an increased ability to care for themselves and for others. Our vision is more resilient and compassionate individuals for a more resilient and compassionate world.
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