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How to Prepare for a Washington Helicopter Elopement

February 25, 2022

How to Prepare for a Washington Helicopter Elopement in the Mountains

by Pilot George Coiner

Wondering how to prepare for a helicopter elopement? Look no further! This handy guide will lay out everything you need to know!

With Helicopter elopements becoming more and more popular, destinations like alpine lakes and mountain vistas are increasingly sought after. Lucky for us, many of these venues are available right in our own Cascade backyard! Along with the rugged topography of the Pacific Northwest, or locally known as Pacific “Northwet”, is our ever-changing mountain weather.  

Though we do not fly when there is rough or cloudy weather, we believe it is always best to proactively prepare yourself for unexpected inclement weather.

Many in western Washington argue that we only have two seasons, rain and sun. The saying “if you don’t like whatever is currently happening, wait another 15 minutes” rings very true for Washington weather.  As quickly as the sun can appear, the clouds, wet mist, winds and rain can move overhead. These conditions can quickly drop temperatures 30-40+ degrees Fahrenheit, even during the sunny season.  

To maximize your comfort and happiness, be prepared for the mountain weather with the preparation items listed below.  All items, while easily stored on board our aircraft, are also lightweight and simple to pack! 

 

 

Layers

Bring a simple 3-layer combination which allows for very comfortable flexibility: 

1) Silk, polypropylene or smart wool base layer against skin.

2) A middle “air trap” layer like fleece, pile or mid-layer smart wool.

3) A light outer shell that is rain/moisture/wind proof. Having this outer layer, believe it or not, even though very thin, cuts the wind and provides the rest of your cozy system to be well insulated.  

We cannot stress enough that the higher quality outer layer you bring, the better your entire system will be keeping you warm against anything that mountain can throw at you! For example, on a climbing expedition to the former Soviet Union, I utilized a layer system similar to the 3 layer system above (with only one more “medium weight goose down” layer). It kept me feeling super warm at the top of Peak Lenin at 23,500 feet during a snowstorm!

Suggestions  Layers 1 & 2:  Icebreaker: Merlino Wool Smart Products

Layer 3:  Mountain Hardware, Arc’teryx, Patagonia or REI Gore-tex2 shells

 

 

Footwear

In late April through mid-October, La Nina (increased rainfall) or El Nino (drier northern US weather) patterns dictate whether you need to wear “light hikers” or not. 

From mid-October thru mid April, you should be prepared to plan for cold feet. Insulated boots or waterproof boots with warm socks are recommended. Gaiters are very useful if you’re anticipating walking on snowy trails. 

A good rule of thumb for footwear and flying in the mountains, is to plan for the worst. Ask yourself, “if I had to walk five miles in possible deep snow with uneven surfaces what shoes would I want on?”.

If your elopement plan includes longer hiking or rock climbing elements, more specific foot wear with ankle protection and friction/traction soles are recommended.   

Though it’s not likely you will be exposed to this situation (unless purposefully if your elopement includes cross-country skiing or back-country touring), it is always best to prepare for the worst when dealing with PNW winter!

 

Body Protection

Skin – Broad spectrum sunscreen SPF 30+ for your face and exposed skin is adequate for most outdoor environmental conditions. Use SPF 50 or higher for elopements in snowy terrain.

Suggestions:  Neutrogena, Banana Boat, CeraVe

For extended trips planning over a few hours in the snow, you may want to bring a small tube of Zinc Oxide for the nose/forehead and Blistex, Chapstick, Carmex or Jack Black balm for the lips. 

Eyes – Bring Sunglasses. On bright days, when moving over snow, the amount of light reflecting is high! A good pair of UV protection sunglasses will eliminate any potential eye damage issues.  Not to mention they add the “coolness factor” for photographs.  

 

Proactive planning for mountain weather will ensure that your elopement experience is safe and stress free! If you have any other questions about how to prepare for your helicopter elopement, make sure to reach out and ask! Looking for more information on eloping by helicopter? Click here to learn more.

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