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Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby longri » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:49 pm

Nice shot of North Peak, by the way.



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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby SirBC » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:55 pm

A hiker on the AT became disoriented after going off-trail for a daytime bathroom break a couple of years ago. She ended up hiking in the wrong direction in some very dense woods and ultimately became so lost that she was not able to find her way back to the trail. She tragically did not survive after having spent nearly a month lost in the woods.

I started using a Suunto Traverse watch with GPS this year. I will setup a POI for my campsite in the watch when I setup camp and the watch has a "find back" feature that will guide you back to the POI if needed. I can't say I've used it for that yet but I do use it for marking POI's when I'm scouting photography locations and it has come in very handy when I thought I knew exactly where that one particular rock in the stream was, but really didn't :)

The watch also has a "flashlight" mode and I now wear it when I sleep so if I ever do get turned around during a nighttime bathroom break I can find my way back to my tent. However, after reading some of the above comments I'm embarrassed to admit just how close to my tent I will take care of business on a cold night...
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby fishwrong » Tue Oct 11, 2016 6:23 pm

Thanks for the post. Very good insight on how stuff can happen to anyone, even the experienced and prepared.

Fortunately, I haven't been lost in the woods, but I've experienced a similar feeling. One training excersize in fire academy is an obstacle course for exiting a collapsed building. The premise is simple, put on gear including mask and tank, and bellly crawl out of a building. When you go in, pick a direction (right or left) and follow walls through the building. To get out you reverse and go the other way. Very simple concept. The trick is there is a screen on your mask, and some form of loud noise is going.

The sensation of loosing sight and hearing was totally unexpected, and panic is a very real feeling. Consciously you know the plan, know you're in a safe place, but the sensation of not being able to see or hear, knowing you have a limited air-supply and imagining what it would be like to be trapped is profound, and was completely shocking to me.

I can only imagine this person's experience was similar. I read a lot of topics about how folks were dumb for getting lost, and how simple it should have been to get back, but untill you experience it you have no idea. Excellent topic and case study in how to swallow pride and handle panic.

Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby Jimr » Tue Oct 11, 2016 6:24 pm

Having your light source at camp instead of with you is the direction I was thinking. Similar to what Russ said, but that can be a pain with tent mates. Putting your light on a rock pointing in your intended direction of travel would be helpful. I have one of those Luci blow up lanterns I bring with me. That would be ideal to hang outside the tent or on a rock or limb at camp as a beacon home.

It was very courageous of Anne to have this story posted. I, for one, know how therapeutic it can be to "not be a secret" and this village is a good place for just such therapy.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby Cloudy » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:01 pm

Thank you for that story. Being lost is a salutary and humbling lesson that i think everyone should experience once. I ALWAYS carry a flashlight at night for just that reason but I also do not wander too far to relieve myself. The idea about the tent light by rlown is excellent (unless your partner is sleeping). I have been completely lost in broad daylight once before without any survival gear and the feeling is truly scary and not something that I would care to repeat. I can become disoriented occasionally now and then but I am never without my pack or at least something to help me in case the "L" word (Lost...) rears its ugly head again. I am happy that things turned out well for Anne and that she could relate her story. There is no shame in that - only happy endings :-)
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby rlown » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:04 pm

tent partner never sleeps. Moved to Boston. He was outside in his cold weather gear. Altitude got him. The light is a good thing.. do what you have to do to be safe.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby WarrenFork » Tue Oct 11, 2016 7:56 pm

AlmostThere wrote: The Coast Guard doesn't come inland to participate in hiker searches.


This would come as news to the two hikers and five rescue workers looking for them who were located and extracted from the 5000-foot level of Mt Adams in central Washington by a Coast Guard SAR crew based at the mouth of the Columbia River. The incident was one of several inland hiker SAR operations depicted in the Weather Channel's Coast Guard: Cape Disappointment series, and those were from just one CG station in the space of a few months.

Actually the Coast Guard often lends a hand to sheriff's departments and other agencies involved in non-marine SAR. A Google search for coast + guard + hiker + rescue yields half a million results.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby kpeter » Wed Oct 12, 2016 11:14 pm

I have gotten disoriented at night, but I always carry a flashlight and have never had a problem getting back to the tent. It is even easier now with my Big Agnes that has reflector thread woven into all the cording--it practically glows when hit with the flashlight beam.

I've had another serious episode of disorientation though, and it has affected how I behave when putting down my pack. My habit has been to put my pack down after arriving in the approximate area where I want to camp and then exploring unburdened, coming back to the pack once I really know where I am going to set up. I developed that habit when packing with groups, but continued it when packing solo. It feels wonderful to take the pack off, and psychologically it is demoralizing to haul it all over on a wild goose chase.

One trip, after I arrived at Many Island Lake in N. Yosemite, I put my pack down about a hundred feet from the shore, and began looking around for a good campsite. I was very tired and that probably affected my judgment. After finding a good campsite, I returned to move my pack. Except it was not where I thought it should be. There was still a couple of hours of daylight left, but I searched and could not find my pack. I retraced my steps, I searched in a grid, I tried everything for about 45 minutes. As those 45 minutes ticked away I begin to wonder how cold it would be that night and whether I could survive the night without a tent, bag, or additional clothes. Then I began to wonder how long it would take me without a pack to get all the way back to my car. The paranoia and fear were really setting in. The SPOT was in the pack. The flashlight was in the pack. I had a walking stick and virtually nothing else. My Go-Lite pack is grey and black and blends in well with granite, and that northern end of Many Island is mostly granite. I thought I had left it on a small ridge but apparently not.

Well, I found it--stumbled into it actually. Given that there was not an infinite amount of area it could be in, I suppose it was inevitable that I would find it. But during those 45 minutes it did not feel inevitable at all.

Since then, I do not take my pack off and leave it behind unless I can put it on a very obvious landmark--usually right next to a lakeshore or stream crossing. I've never had that problem again. I also now try to be conscious that my decision making is not at its best at the end of a long and tiring day, and more caution is needed when slipping the pack.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby AlmostThere » Thu Oct 13, 2016 8:22 am

WarrenFork wrote:
AlmostThere wrote: The Coast Guard doesn't come inland to participate in hiker searches.


This would come as news to the two hikers and five rescue workers looking for them who were located and extracted from the 5000-foot level of Mt Adams in central Washington by a Coast Guard SAR crew based at the mouth of the Columbia River. The incident was one of several inland hiker SAR operations depicted in the Weather Channel's Coast Guard: Cape Disappointment series, and those were from just one CG station in the space of a few months.

Actually the Coast Guard often lends a hand to sheriff's departments and other agencies involved in non-marine SAR. A Google search for coast + guard + hiker + rescue yields half a million results.


They never helped my team at all. Nor in any of the mutual aids I've been in across the state -- never saw them at the conferences or statewide trainings either. You learn something every day, obviously. Seriously doubt tho that their own website would host stats for all the inland rescues....
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby Jimr » Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:01 am

I don't want to turn this into a SAR resource discussion, but the involvement of CG is possibly a resource availability decision.
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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby SSSdave » Thu Oct 13, 2016 9:24 am

Thanks kpeter, your story well complements the thread night issues and is something I tend to be careful about. I make quite an effort after arriving at destination zones, looking for a camp spot. Like you I always drop my weighty pack and then head off on a search while maybe just grabbing topo and water bottle. My searches often last quite awhile, more than a half hour, as it also serves purpose of exploring the local zone for later photography. And upon dropping the beast, I carefully examine where I am on the landscape that may include looking at the topo so returning will be certain.

The issue becomes more dangerous in forest to the extent if my notion is to possibly wander away some distance I may choose to continue to carry the pack. And as you noted that is grounded by the realization that one of the prime directives out remotely in the backcountry is not to put oneself in a situation that removes our mortal fleshly bodies from the necessary protection of our modern equipment and clothing.

I always carry some aluminum foil that has multiple purposes. While the sun is out, placing spread out foil atop one's pack can assist being able to notice a pack from a distance. I am more apt to do that when I want another group member to see my gear while I am not around that is catching up after say lingering behind.

My decades honed map skills and ability to size up positions on landscapes is exceptional thus can greatly depend on that to do so with confidence. Another way this comes into play is day hiking after base camping in remote locations. If during daylight hours one never wanders off away from camp spots far after making backcountry camps, it won't matter wherever one camps. Also if one camps along trails or lake edges, finding one's camp after exploring day hiking well away is likely trivial. However I more often site camps well away from trails and lake edges while base camping in which my day hiking may involve considerable ramblings far away for hours. Thus again need to be able to return with certainty to my camp spots that may include wisely noting where my path routes versus the map that I have a strong habit of continually looking at. The issue of being able to find one's camp becomes more dangerous again in dense forest so that also needs to be considered when siting camps.

The problem for solo novices that are not familiar with these scenarios is upon putting themselves in these situations the first time they may like kpeter not bother to carefully note where they left gear and later find themselves confused looking for their camp.



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Re: Backpacking trip mishap from this summer

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Oct 13, 2016 11:04 am

Mountaineers usually prefer brightly colored clothing, packs and tents so base camp can easily be found at the end of a long day's climb and sometimes in a white-out. Given the choice of bright colors or "environmentally" proper subdued colors, the older I get, the more I go for bright colors. In fact, when solo backpacking I always have at least one very bright colored item to use as a "flag" if I need to be seen in a rescue situation. However, since i usually buy gear on sales, my latest pack is black and my gray Tarptent is particularly difficult to see. I wish Tarptent would offer a bright colored option. My new Big Agnes Copper Spur is brightly colored. I actually bought a pruple spoon so I would not lose it! Not that being spoonless is critical, but I hate losing gear of any kind.

My husband always uses a GPS and takes a reading on the tent location. He makes no bones about it- he hopelessly unable to read a map and has absolutely no sense of direction. For him, the GPS is an essential piece of gear. I think beginners need to do this too until they get more experience.
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