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Vermont search and rescue teams beg people to not hike on eclipse day

A mountain ridge on a clear day with a dusting of snow on top.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
The town of Underhill will close two roads leading to Mount Mansfield on April 8, when emergency resources will be strained. Still, search and rescue teams anticipate tens of thousands of people will head into the backcountry to see the eclipse.

Tom Rogers has a plan for Monday. He’ll be wearing his rescue clothes as he watches the eclipse, and will have his car packed with all the gear he needs if he gets a call from Stowe Mountain Rescue, where he’s volunteered for over a decade.

“The odds are pretty good, just based on the numbers, that someone’s going to need some assistance,” he said.

A combination of factors has Rogers nervous ahead of Monday. The snowstorm this week means mountaintops will be covered in deep snow, even if the valleys are sunny and warm. The timing of the eclipse, in the late afternoon, means temperatures will plummet soon after. And the clear forecast for Monday promises big crowds.

“The influx of people that they're anticipating is pretty daunting,” Rogers said. “With that many people, all it takes is a few accidents and rescue services can really get backed up.”

In a Facebook post, the Waterbury Backcountry Rescue Team also urged people not hike on remote trails in the area. “If you do anyway, plan to be completely on your own for a great many hours and possibly days,” they wrote.

More from Vermont Public: Eclipse weather forecast: Vermont among 'most likely' places for clear skies along path of totality

Several towns have closed roads around popular trailheads, like Mount Mansfield in Underhill and Camel’s Hump in Huntington. Ski resorts like Stowe and Jay anticipate people will try to access mountain summits from their trails.

“They'll have patrol up there, coordinating with people, trying to keep them safe,” Rogers said. “It's kind of an all hands on deck effort from every corner of the state.”

Close up of evergreen tree tops covered in thick snow in shadow with a sunny valley visible in the background.
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Rescue teams are worried that eclipse viewers will be unprepared for conditions at high elevations after the snowstorm this week.

If you’re still figuring out where to watch the eclipse on Monday, Rogers said a low elevation trail system, where you might walk your dog for 15 minutes without a pack, should be fine.

“If it's the type of place where you would typically put on your hiking boots and really head out there, that's not the place that we recommend people go right now,” he said.

More from Vermont Public: Be aware of planned road closures for the total solar eclipse

If people do decide to go hiking in the backcountry Monday, Rogers said prepare to be self-sufficient in cold temperatures and snow. That means bring lots of layers and proper footwear, along with microspikes or crampons.

“Think warmth, food, water, headlamps, extra batteries,” reads a Facebook post from Stowe Mountain Rescue. “Even if you don’t need this stuff, you may encounter someone who does.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.


More eclipse resources

See all of Vermont Public's 2024 eclipse coverage.

Lexi covers science and health stories for Vermont Public.