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Survival / Lost, what would you do?

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Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby maverick » Fri May 20, 2016 3:33 pm

Here are the time limits one can survive without the basic's:

- 3 minutes without air (think drowning, choking, or allergic reaction)

- 3 hours without shelter (lots of variables, but the higher you are the more this can decrease, and the weather plays a major role)

- 3 days without water (if sheltered from the weather)

- 3 weeks without food (if sheltered from the weather, and you have water)

How have you personally addressed these basic's of survival?

If you have allergies, how would you address a reaction? Do you inform your fellow backpackers on what and how to help you in case of a reaction? Have you trained yourself to deal with an emergency if you are solo?

Do you carry an emergency shelter or mylar emergency blanket for your day hikes? Can you build an emergency shelter if you should get injured and spend days in the backcountry alone? Do you know how to build a fire? Do you carry a fire starter?

Do you know of ways to purify your water if your filter doesn't work or do not have one? Do you carry back-up water purification?

Can you identify plants and insects for food sources in the Sierra?

When lost, what should you do to avoid panicking? Are you familiar with the acronym: STOP (Stop, Think, Orientate, Plan), how would you apply it to your situation?

Do you know how to orient yourself without a compass?


Case #1:
You're out on a 4 day backpacking trip, at least 2 days from the trailhead, on the crosscountry section of your trip (9000-10000ft), become lost, and suddenly lose your balance on a boulder, fall, injuring your knee. You did not leave an itinerary with anyone, no cell phone service, no SPOT or PLB, you have 2 days of food left, and a 1L nalgene bottle of water. Weather reports called for clear, sunny, and warm weather for the next 10 days at the start of you trip, you decided to skip a tent, and cowboy camp. Suddenly on the horizon you can see clouds building and you can hear thunderclap in the far distance to the south.


Case #2:
While out on a long day hike (18 miles), which consists of some on and a lot of off-trail sections, you get disoriented, but continue to walk towards a fast moving creek, you've gotten half way across, when your foot slips on some of the mossy rocks, you fall into the creek and become partially submerged, as you get to the shore of the creek, you realize you've twisted you ankle slightly. You also suddenly become aware that it is about 2 hr to sunset, you have no cell service, no emergency signalling device, 1 full naglene btl of water, and some of the basic 10 essentials (map, no compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, some extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first-aid supplies, fire starter, matches, knife, some extra food), and there has been some thunderclap on the other side of the ridge, a few mile away.


What would you do in each situation, in what order and why, to survive?



Please be honest in your answers, don't look them up, you won't have a computer with you in the woods, if you do not know the answer to a particular question or situation, please ask. Let's make this a learning experience, where folks who may have not yet acquired the experiences to deal with such situations, can come away knowing what to do in such emergency situation.

Please share any of your own personal experiences when it comes to being lost, including how you dealt with it physically and emotionally, it could be extremely helpful to someone else down the line.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org



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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Jimr » Fri May 20, 2016 5:31 pm

O.K, I'll play
Case #1
A real dude, your screwed situation. So, first things first.

"If I sit here for the next few minutes, am I in danger?" Assess the immediate threat, if any. if so, do whatever it takes to deal with that situation first. If the answer is no, then, a quick check for bleeding that I'm not aware of. Good? Check myself for possibility of shock. Evaluate the knee. How badly the knee is injured says a lot about what I can do and may narrow what I could or should do. If I'm injured, but stable, then and only then can I look more forward into time. Reassess.

Food is the last concern.
Water is not an immediate concern, but it will be tomorrow.
The thunder may indicate I'm in for some weather, but not sure. What resources do I have in case I have to deal with that? Don't know, but I'll assume that I at least, brought a ground cloth. At worst, maybe I can burrito myself in it if the fhit hits the shan. I don't know the extent of knee damage, but worse case scenario is I am completely immobile. If I can hobble, then I can assess where I may be able to hobble to that would increase my shelter-ability. Stabilize for the night.

Anything and everything from there depends on the extent of my mobility. All I know for sure is not to expect anyone to come looking for me. One way or another, I will need to figure out water. Again, everything depends on my mobility, so I'll stop there at initially stabilized for possible weather. Too many ifs. Bottom line, assess, prioritize, take an action, rinse and repeat.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Barn Animal » Fri May 20, 2016 7:56 pm

I'm not as knowledgeable when it comes to survival as I should be probably, but here is what I would do.

Case #1: The first thing I do is check the extent of my leg injury. Obviously this whole situation depends on the extent of the injury. But I'm going to assume that the injury is pretty severe, but no major bleeding. In this case I would use any bandage I have to support the knee to keep it from moving. Now with the storm coming my first priority is to find a way to safely ride out the storm. Without a tent, I would put on any rain gear I have and try to find a little bit of shelter maybe under an overhang of a boulder or under some thick tree cover if there is any. I would also set out anything that could store water to collect the rainfall since I will be short on water soon. Once the storm stops I would then get into my sleeping bag and rest through the night. The next day I study the map and my surroundings as best I can and try to get back to the trail. Since no one is coming to get me I would have to make a decision and go with it. With my knee supported as best as it can I would slowly make my way in one direction using either trekking poles or some large sticks to support my weight. When/if I get to a trail I would have to wait for a hiker to run into me and get help.


Case #2: The first thing I do is support my ankle with anything in the first aid kit. The next priority would be to warm up after being in the creek and with night falling. However, the storm complicates this. As with case one I think I would just have to ride out the storm in rain gear. I would also immediately collect some firewood and put it in my jacket to keep it dry. As with case one I would try to harvest any rainwater. And then hope it ends quickly. On a hike of this length I would have a few matches so I could at least start a small fire to keep warm and dry off through the night. Once the sun rises the next day, assuming nobody knows about me and I don't have SPOT or something like that I would have a look at the map and decide which way to go. With only a twisted ankle I should be able to slowly hike with the support of trekking poles and would hope to reach a trail to get help.

Note: Obviously these plans both rely on a little luck going my way. However, in any survival situation you will need just a little luck. And since I forgot to put this in there, I would be rationing my food out (that should be obvious though)

Where I run into serious trouble is if I can't find the trail or am completely immobile and am forced to hunker down for a prolonged survival situation. I lack the skills to build a quality shelter on my own. While I would have backup water treatment (tablets of some sort) and a fire starter (matches) I would be unable to identify whats edible or not. But if I was desperate I would eat about anything I could find. In other words, I would struggle to sustain myself If I didn't have a shelter or food.

What in my answers would you all have done differently? What did I do wrong or leave out?
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby AlmostThere » Fri May 20, 2016 9:02 pm

maverick wrote:Case #1:
You're out on a 4 day backpacking trip, at least 2 days from the trailhead, on the crosscountry section of your trip (9000-10000ft), become lost, and suddenly lose your balance on a boulder, fall, injuring your knee. You did not leave an itinerary with anyone, no cell phone service, no SPOT or PLB, you have 2 days of food left, and a 1L nalgene bottle of water. Weather reports called for clear, sunny, and warm weather for the next 10 days at the start of you trip, you decided to skip a tent, and cowboy camp. Suddenly on the horizon you can see clouds building and you can hear thunderclap in the far distance to the south.


I get out some of the extra clothes and an ace bandage or vet wrap, and make a walking splint to stabilize the knee.
I get out the poncho just in case. It covers me and the pack.
I start to walk slowly back to the trailhead, stopping to eat, drink or sleep bundled up in the sleeping gear inside the poncho as necessary.

Of course, I don't trust weather forecasts for trips more than 4 days, and I would have had a tent...
I also have Wilderness First Responder training, and know how to build splints with whatever is on hand.

Case #2:
While out on a long day hike (18 miles), which consists of some on and a lot of off-trail sections, you get disoriented, but continue to walk towards a fast moving creek, you've gotten half way across, when your foot slips on some of the mossy rocks, you fall into the creek and become partially submerged, as you get to the shore of the creek, you realize you've twisted you ankle slightly. You also suddenly become aware that it is about 2 hr to sunset, you have no cell service, no emergency signalling device, 1 full naglene btl of water, and some of the basic 10 essentials (map, no compass, sunglasses and sunscreen, some extra clothing, headlamp/flashlight, first-aid supplies, fire starter, matches, knife, some extra food), and there has been some thunderclap on the other side of the ridge, a few mile away.


I tape the ankle, get out the headlamp, and walk. Or, I tape the ankle, gather lots and lots of sticks and branches, find an overhanging boulder with enough space underneath for me, dig a trench along just under the overhang, and build myself enough of a fire with the extra fuel with me under cover to keep it dry all night. The reflected heat keeps me warm all night, even if it's below freezing.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Jimr » Fri May 20, 2016 9:25 pm

AT, that was my first thought. I never go into the mountains without a tent or rain gear, but then, I would never go without anyone knowing my exact itinerary or drop dead contact time either. Good mental gymnastics though. I used to do this fairly often to mentally walk through CPR techniques to keep them fresh.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby BSquared » Sat May 21, 2016 6:38 am

Nice thread, Mav! I'm a recreational sailor, and I remember spending fascinating evenings on the boat at anchor with my wife and I reading each other passages from a great book titled, "What now, skipper?" It had nautical dilemmas proposed like you're describing for the wilderness scenarios, with two separate authors each independently proposing solutions to the problems. Generally, of course, they were in agreement about the basics, but it was interesting to see how the two solutions differed (almost always in their assumptions, which as the previous posters pointed out, make all the difference: how severely injured is our hapless hiker and so on). But yours also highlight what I suspect is one of the main things you had in mind: LEAVE AN ITINERARY WITH SOMEBODY!!! ;)

Thanks again!
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby maverick » Sat May 21, 2016 12:52 pm

B2 wrote:
But yours also highlight what I suspect is one of the main things you had in mind: LEAVE AN ITINERARY WITH SOMEBODY!!!


Matthew Green's nor the Michael Meyer's family were aware that either had gone missing, it was not until 10 days in the Green case and 5 days in the Meyer case that LE was contacted. In neither case unfortunately, was their an indicated exit date from the wilderness or a contact time to call a designated person discussed.



Jim wrote:
AT, that was my first thought. I never go into the mountains without a tent or rain gear, but then, I would never go without anyone knowing my exact itinerary or drop dead contact time either.


Yes, understood that many here would carry a tent, tarp, or bivy, have very good navigational skills, and some will even have wilderness first aid training, but some will not possess these skills or have the expereince to deal with what mother nature throws at them, which is why exercises like this will get us thinking about how we individually would deal with a similar situation, even if you personally would not make a similar call. Place yourselves in this above scenario, your a newbie or have limited expereince, maybe you forgot your tent poles, have heard of people doing this, and many other wild things.

Many times we have new members asking about cross country travel and how to gain experience, but some will not ask, some may even get into trouble, so my hope is that some will read threads like this, stop, and possibly reaccess their decisions.

With all the experience and wealth in knowledge our forum contains, surely our members can come up with different ideals in dealing with the above above situations, and thereby giving less expereinced members a fighting chance if they ever find themselves in a similar one.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby AlmostThere » Sat May 21, 2016 4:13 pm

I suspect people hesitate because they fear criticism. There really is no right answer.

Some people say, to everything, "I'd just hike out." That's obviously the wrong answer, especially if you can't walk for some reason. But there is no single answer for every situation. Unless you want to use the blanket statement, do the best you can.

Go ahead, give it a try. Imagine you in one of your favorite spots somehow in the above situation and with the things you usually carry, and give it a whirl.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Sat May 21, 2016 4:36 pm

Hmm. So I cant just shine my "bear grylls head torch" in flashing mode up in the sky and he'll show up, tape up the ankle, knee or whatever and carry me out? bummer. :\

The problem with the use cases above is that they aren't realistic to how I or many others plan a trip, and the equipment we choose to carry. I would rather see it switched a bit to say, "based on what you usually carry for a trip in either scenario, what would you do?"

I've sprained my left ankle twice on different trips; one at lower mattie and the other at Island lk. All with groups. Actually I found out I broke it at Mattie after the fact. Well a week ago. :o

Lower Mattie '87 had snow, so I continually filled my sock with snow. I didn't take the boot off that night so as not to struggle to get it back into the boot. We redistributed some of the weight in my pack to the fellow hikers and hiked out to the stables the next day.

Island Lk 2013 had no snow and I soaked the ankle in the lake. Slept in the boot again. Lots of Advil to get down and out. I showed the ankle to oldranger and he asked, "Do you want me to push the spot?" :) Replied, "no.. I know the drill"

On another note, I have been lost in the fog on a peak near Shasta overnight with no injuries. I had a knife and a lighter and day snacks. I probably had water. There isn't any on the peak. I found a downed log, gathered some dry twigs and pine needles from the base of the trees, some wood, and made a bed of pine boughs against the log and a nice fire out in front of that. Slept like a baby. Hiked out the next morning after I dropped down on side of the peak to look under the fog and get my bearings. (no map, no compass) I got back to camp, and my Dad just said, "Hi. Did you have a nice night?"

Also in Case #2, If you just crawled out of a creek you do not have a water issue. Giardiasis would take at least 10 days to kick in, so to speak. I would trust most water Sierra in that situation, unless its a cow swamp. I carry a filter even if out fishing for the day. I don't carry a backup or tablets.

Even in a group, I always leave an itinerary with someone trusted, and one in the truck. If you're off trail most of the time, you might have to change plans, but it gives SAR a starting point.

First rule of thumb.. Don't panic. as Jimr correctly said above.. assess, prioritize, take an action, rinse and repeat.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby maverick » Sat May 21, 2016 6:27 pm

Russ wrote:
The problem with the use cases above is that they aren't realistic to how I or many others plan a trip, and the equipment we choose to carry. I would rather see it switched a bit to say, "based on what you usually carry for a trip in either scenario, what would you do?"


You can put yourself in the above scenario Russ, we all started out with much less experience. After decades of trips and different difficult situations we have had to deal with, we have now become konwledgeable, and should pass it on.
You can mention why you carry your current gear and how you progressed to the decisions in carrying them.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Sat May 21, 2016 6:37 pm

pretty sure we've done that before on gear topics, Mav. I can't put myself into your cases because they don't fit the way I plan.

Your turn to put together your epic, time consuming document. What I can tell from "trends" is to go lighter but prepared.

I had a friend that was scared (he planned the backpacking trip we took in '76) and had 10lbs of first-aid gear. don't do that.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby shuteye » Sat May 21, 2016 6:43 pm

In both cases I think the immediate danger is exposure, hypothermia, exacerbated by the elevation, and a likely storm—and in the one case, by immersion in a creek just prior to sundown. Getting through the night and the likely storm without too much loss of strength is the first goal, complicated by injury in both cases. Whatever is in my pack, and in the immediate vicinity to enable me to get and stay as dry and as warm as I can through the night (clothes, raingear, fire, natural shelter or all of the above). To achieve this, I crawl or drag myself if necessary. At 9000-10000 feet finding a stick to use for a crutch may or may not be possible—assume it’s not. Unless one is immediately available, it becomes a morning project, or a project to be combined with the main goal of beginning the work of getting back to the trail where I’m more likely to be found, assuming that signaling, whistling or shouting for help isn’t going to do any good.

In both the cases I'm off trail, which is a strong argument against the idea of staying put. The main goal, though, is complicated by my injury, the challenges of the terrain, distance, and the fact that I’m lost. If the storm has passed in the morning, I try to orient the map I have to the sunrise (or my compass) and what terrain I can see. I try to find on the map my last known location, particularly where I left the trail. I try identify the location of the creek I fell into. I try to estimate how far to the trail, the possibilities for water, shade, and viewpoints along the way. An estimate of the number of hours or days to get back to the trail will tell me whether I should first be heading for a water source, or straight for the trail. In both cases it seems the trail is probably not more than a few miles, which is a long or short distance depending on whether I am on two feet, one foot, my knees or my belly.

The presentation (and condition) of the trail I am heading for will also affect my direction. I want to shade my direction toward finding the trail, if possible. Deadheading for the tip of a hairpin is the hardest. Maybe I want to find a stream or some kind of feature that will lead me to the trail. Most likely I will go back the way I came, if I know—but the condition of my mobility, dragging, crawling, hobbling, and my memory of the off-trail terrain will tell me if there is a no-go section (maybe I am plain lucky I managed to cross the fast-moving creek or maybe not).

Of course getting to the trail is only an interim goal. But having an interim goal, and interim goals within interim goals is a way of giving myself encouragement. Before I start off, I triage my pack with a mind to leaving behind anything that will not become necessary—harder said than done. If I make it to the trail, I somehow build a conspicuous cairn in the middle of the trail with my direction of travel somehow indicated and something from my pack unlikely to be deliberately left behind—or, if I have paper and pencil, of course, I leave a note too. Then I continue to move toward the trailhead, keeping in mind constants of exposure, hydration, navigation, rationing what nourishment I have.

A storm that lasts for days will reduce my chances. Getting down from 10000' may receive more or less priority.
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