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Groups Urge Backcountry Caution During Eclipse

Groups Urge Backcountry Caution During Eclipse

January 22, 2024 – The Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK), and Adirondack Council are urging caution for those considering an Adirondack Park backcountry adventure to view the total solar eclipse this April.

On April 8, much of the Adirondack Park will be in the path of totality for the once-in-a-lifetime, full solar eclipse, and while the mountains and lakes of the Adirondacks may provide a beautiful backdrop, conditions in the Adirondack backcountry that time of year can be perilous.

Given the combined natural beauty of the Adirondacks and the eclipse, people may be considering a hike into the Adirondack wilderness to view it. However, it is likely that full winter conditions will be present on the trails and mountains at that time, with dangers to people and the environment if hikers are not prepared.

Hikers who are unfamiliar with the Adirondacks may expect warm spring conditions, but mountain summits and higher elevations continue to be snow- and ice-covered long into the spring compared to lower elevations. Lakes, ponds and waterways pose additional dangers during the early spring months. Ice may remain on the surface, making it appear solid and safe; however, the longer, warmer days and increases in flowing water during the spring can make ice much thinner and unstable.

“The solar eclipse will likely drive visitation to the Adirondacks during a time of year that is typically much less frequented by visitors,” said Savannah Doviak, paid media coordinator at ROOST. “Since visitors may not be familiar with the area’s ever-changing weather and early spring conditions, our most important role is to share important information about being safe and well-prepared, and about the planned events throughout the region. Love Your ADK, comprising ROOST, Adirondack Council, and Adirondack Mountain Club, is working to share as much information as possible about the early spring conditions, which can lead to disastrous situations, often requiring backcountry rescue.”

The group is encouraging residents and those traveling to the Adirondacks ahead of the eclipse to avoid mountain trails and waters, as there will be bountiful opportunities to view the eclipse from the Adirondacks without venturing into the backcountry. Visitors and residents are encouraged to take part in viewing parties and events, hosted by local organizations, restaurants, hotels, villages and attractions.

ROOST has developed a website that visitors and residents can use to plan their solar eclipse experience. The site offers information about the science of an eclipse, safety measures,best places to watch, viewing celebrations and events throughout the region, along with important viewing tips.

It is impossible to accurately predict conditions months ahead; these groups advise that people who are unfamiliar with winter hiking in the Adirondacks avoid higher elevations and water bodies during the eclipse. Information about viewing the eclipse safely can be found on the 2024-eclipse.com website, in its “what to know” section.

Michael Barrett, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club, stresses that hiking the Adirondack Mountains during the early spring is only recommended for the most experienced hikers with proper equipment such as skis or snowshoes, traction devices, extra food and water, emergency supplies and extra winter clothing to be safe. “Our primary concern is the safety of anyone considering a hike to view the eclipse,” he said. “Lingering winter conditions at higher elevations coupled with the unpredictability of early spring weather demand a high level of preparedness and caution. The allure of witnessing the eclipse should not overshadow the necessity of being well-equipped and knowledgeable about the challenges posed by the Adirondack backcountry in early April. We encourage anyone who is considering such a trip to consult with a local visitor center – like Cascade Welcome Center – before committing to their plan.”

Love Your ADK encourages those who are experienced to follow ‘leave no trace’ guidelines if hiking for the eclipse. This includes being prepared by properly researching the planned trip route, traveling and camping on durable surfaces, properly disposing of waste including packing out what you pack in, leaving
what you find, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of others.

“The Adirondack Park will be one of the best locations in the Northeast to enjoy this rare solar eclipse, but we want people to enjoy it safely and responsibly,” said Raul J. Aguirre, executive director of the Adirondack Council. “The weather in April is known to be unpredictable, especially in the High Peaks region. Between snow and mud, high water and freezing temperatures, trail conditions in the mountains can be dangerous. The ecological health of our highly sensitive summit ecosystems depends on people voluntarily abstaining from hiking when thin soils and alpine plants are exposed. Given the potential ecological damage and personal safety issues involved, we encourage everyone to use the utmost care in planning for this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

According to ROOST Marketing Director Michelle Clement, one of the most interesting aspects of the celestial event is the unique experience that it will offer eclipse enthusiasts and the casual observer. “One really important aspect of a total solar eclipse is the shared experience that it offers,” she said. “It is something that we will all experience together – residents, visitors, astronomers, business owners, students and those simply traveling to the region just to experience it. It’s one of those lifetime events where people will remember where they were and who they were with; we want to ensure that it is a positive, safe and memorable experience for everyone who will be in our region.”

“As we approach April 8, we will have a much better idea about weather, temperatures and anticipated visitation,” Doviak commented. “We simply want everyone to be safe and enjoy the experience.”

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