Loma Alta, plus hints on fall prevention
We checked off another summit on the #NiftyNinety Peak Challenge list this week; this makes 57 for us. We made reaching the summit part of a 7-mile hike — once again in Marin County. Our destination, Loma Alta, was more of a rise than a peak, but we enjoyed discovering a new trail and having views from a different perspective.
Marin County Parks’ website says “Rising to a height of 1,592, this ‘tall hill’ is actually one of the highest points in Marin.” There are four major watersheds divided by the ridgelines–the Corte Madera Creek, Miller Creek, Lagunitas Creek, and Nicasio Creek.
The route we took was mostly on wide fire roads and the climb was moderate. The descent was also moderate, but as I do most of the time when going downhill, I did a little self-talk to calm my fear of falling, Falling at my age, 77, carries some risk.
However, I use several strategies to prevent falls — and with the exception of my short fall on Mt. Diablo’s very steep Burma Trail a couple of weeks back, they have worked for me and for many other hikers.
Preventing Falls when Hiking
1. Keep your knees soft. Locking your knees or stiffening your body prevents the very agility that you want to maintain in case you slip on loose ground.
2. Keep your center of gravity low. Related to #1, bend your knees and flow downhill.
3. Take shorter steps. Don’t pound down the slope out of control!
4. Watch where you step. This is no time to trip yourself with a root that is jutting out of the ground.
5. Walk alongside the worn trail. Sometimes it is less slippery alongside a trail on short grass instead on a trail where loose rock has created a ball-bearing like surface.
6. Zigzag across the trail. This will lessen the downhill force and help you stay in control of your speed.
7. Use hiking poles. We have all observed that most four-footed animals can make it safely down most inclines.
8. Adjust your shoelaces. Tighten your shoelaces if necessary so that your toes are not being painfully pushed into the front of your shoes.
9. Tighten your pack’s hipbelt. Any weight that you are carrying may change your center of balance. You don’t want your pack’s weight flopping around.
10. Likewise, eliminate distractions before you start downhill. Tend to such things as a loose shoelace, or a hat ready to fly off with a gust of wind, that might startle you.
Hiking at any ages has risk, but according to Public Health England, “At an individual level, falls are the number one precipitating factor for a person losing independence and going into long term care.”
From the parking area alongside Sir Francis Drake Blvd. (Brown Bridge, Fairfax), we walked a short distance uphill alongside the west side of the highway to where we could cross under the graffiti-ed overpass/bridge to the east side on the White Hill Trail. Then, onto Old Railroad Grade, to Sunrise Fire Road, until the intersection where we turned right onto the 680 Trail (where the rescue box was), worked counter-clockwise onto the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which looped around and turned back on the Loma Alta Fire Road again where we headed downhill to retrace our steps back to our vehicle.
The #NiftyNinety Peak Challenge was developed by the Sierra Club San Francisco Bay Chapter. Click here for the PDF. Another good resource is Peakbagger.com where you can record your own climbs and get more information on the peaks.