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Survival / Lost, what would you do?

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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 9:29 am

I would not say that navigating with a GPS is any faster than a map. It depends on your skill level. I have contests with my husband- he is a GPS user, I am a map user. We see who can get back to camp faster; I always win. There is a lot more than the tool, be it map or GPS; experience and the ability to micro-navigate play a large role. The GPS can tell you which direction to your camp, but not the best path to get there. I feel a map is a bit better. But the real advantage is knowing the lay of the land and having learned that going through brush X is a lot harder than going through brush Y, etc.

Back to the survival question. Lost and hurt are two very different scenarios. Each, in its own, is less devastating than being both hurt and lost. I have never been both hurt and lost. Lost does not bother me that much. It is really important to keep a cool head, so you do not become hurt, if you are just lost.

But injury is very scary. The severity of the injury is key. I am always amazed seeing under-prepared hikers/trail runners who depend on the ability to keep moving to stay warm, without a thought that they could ever be hurt enough to not move. Also have to consider simple illness. I have been totally incapacitated with severe digestive distress, high fever and severe headaches. You need to take medicines that you need in these cases. Severe vomiting and diareah in the middle of the night, when it is raining is very serious and can lead to hypothermia. Here is where that second person, a buddy, really helps. And a group is even better.

SPOT is not going to save you. If you have not stabilized by the time help can get there, you are dying anyway. You absolutely need to be able to stabilize yourself or have others in your group do it, regardless of all the gadgets you have with you. The first aid kit and knowledge are far more important than a GPS or PLB device.

Another big factor is weather. Minor lost or hurt in good weather can be a big deal if weather deteriorates. I think late Fall hiking is real risky- when winter sets in for good, there are not good days to recover from problems. Your equipment needs between summer and winter backpacking are significant. Here is a case where a PLB that also can give you a weather report is very helpful.

Hypothermia is a big killer. I really feel it is very important to perfect the skills needed to stay warm, and have proper clothing. I tend to be a "hunker down" type of backpacker. When things start to get bad, I just stop and set up camp and hang out. One of my backpack partners is a "get out of here" type. We were caught in a really tough spot two years ago, with a big storm coming in, and a very difficult retreat. We had enough food to last 3-4 days. I wanted to wait it out; he wanted to bail. We sort of compromised. Dropped to timber in a half day travel and then camped. Continued down to the trail the next day. It turned out to be a one-week storm (in mid-August!). Had I been up there by myself, I would have waited it out because of the risk of getting injured when alone. But there usually is not one best answer, and you can only truly evaluate the consequences after the fact. There is not always a clear answer. On the other hand, usually lots of things do work out. Whatever you decide to do, do it with conviction, confidence (we never once did not think we would not make it out), and remain calm and cautious.



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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby fishwrong » Fri May 27, 2016 3:44 pm

I appreciate this thread. I think there is tremendous value just contemplating these types of scenarios, little lone learning from other's experiences and advice. I think these types of conversations help provide information and confidence for people to keep minor accident minor, and major ones from being fatal.

I'm not sure I have a lot of technical insight beyond what others have posted, but I've been on a bit of a rant recently and hope people don't mind me using this topic for a little relief.

One thing I'd like to expand on is the mental aspect of dealing with emergencies. I think avoiding panic, and making sound decisions is the most important thing a person can do when in trouble. In both scenarios 1 & 2, I think sitting down, calming yourself, and resetting your mental status is the first order of business. I go about that by sitting down, focusing on my breathing returning to normal, then my pulse returning to normal, and then counting slowly backwards from 50 to 0. Others have different ways (prayer, meditation, finding your happy place, contemplating the taste, texture and smell of your favorite cheese, and hundreds of others). The goal is to relieve the immediate physical stress, let the adrenaline level drop, and reboot my mental state from panic and overwhelmed, to calm.

Once calm, identifying the things that might get me, how I can deal with those, and putting together a game plan are all things I should do, before getting up and actually doing anything. The process may only be only a minute or two, but identifying things like "I need water, and can get it from that ravine, but I might not be able to get back out", aren't difficult, but they are important.

Something that's important to me, is understanding what I need, vs. what I want. For exposure, I want to be warm and comfortable, but what I need is to be able to keep my core temp stable. Options like standing beside a large tree with a sleeping bag pulled up around me and a stuff sack and pack overhead in a thunderstorm aren't going to be comfortable, but probably enough to get me though a night without hypothermia, and a lot more certain than building a waterproof shelter and get a fire by whacking two rocks together. Most people can go three weeks without food, (me probably 5 or 6). Being hungry, tired and out of energy sucks, but getting sick from eating something you shouldn't feels a lot worse, and can be one of the things that gets you. Filtering water beats getting giardia, but getting giardia is not a high probability, and it will likely take a week or so to set in, so if I need water and can't filter/boil it, I'm going to drink from the cleanest source I can find, rather than risk more dangers from dehydration.

Along the same lines, positive mental attitude is important. I coach my daughter's T-Ball team and tell them to stay positive by saying "Catch the ball", not by saying "Don't drop it". Mental notes like "I've been hurt before and lived. I've been cold before and lived. I've been thirsty, hungry, lost, angry, scared, embarrassed and a hundred other emotions before, and they've all turned out OK" are helpful I think. Having knowledge and confidence is also critical. If you make clear decisions, and have the confidence to follow through, you're way ahead of second guessing yourself. Even when you find out a decision was wrong (I'll go left at the creek, turns into a dead-end cliff), realize you made a decision with the information you had, now use the new information to make the next decision to back-track and go right. Rather than feeling like what you did was all wrong and a failure, look at it as additional information leading to the next move.

Something else I think is important is making decisions, based on your own judgment and situation. Thinking, "I saw Bear Grylls eat dead animal brains, I should do that", is an extreme example of stupid, and not likely, but a more subtle one I think does occur is "I'm lost. I don't want to worry anybody, or be "that irresponsible guy" so I'll keep going, but I'm not sure which way." One discussion I recall was Jimr's trip to Tehipite Valley, and I commend him for setting an example. He got praise from the vast majority and minor flack from a few, but he did what he thought was the right thing for he and his son. Beyond that, he had the stones to put it out there for others to learn from, feeling knowledge of the experience to others was more important than getting a little grief.

Peoples negative comments or opinions, probably don't actually play into people's decision making all that much. One thing certainly do from time to time is irritate me. I'd like to think I'm evolved enough to realize most people are good natured and helpful, some are misunderstood, and some are just jerks. Every so often when I read a comment that comes off as a statement the subject was "A stupid, lazy, selfish coward!!" veiled in the form of a question along the lines of "I wonder why they didn't have proper gear, mapping and a compass? And how did they get lost in such simple terrain, so close to civilization? I wonder how much that rescue cost?" I realize sometimes these are simple well intended questions, sometimes slightly uncomfortable but valuable discussions, and sometimes it's just an opportunity to tell folks "Look how smart I am, and how dumb you are". For full disclosure, I've been all three just this week, probably in this post.

My parting thought on the matter, to help me feel better more than anything, is that if folks find themselves in a dangerous situation, please follow your own training and instincts. What the world has to say only matters if you're there to hear it. If you're lost 1/2 mile from the parking lot, due to circumstances only you are experiencing at that moment, worrying about the comments of others is no reason to become lost 2 miles from the parking lot. Honor those who have helped you by doing what you feel is right, and passing that knowledge along to the next person.

Thank you to Maverick and everyone else who is here to help others safely enjoy what we all love.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby sambieni » Fri Jun 03, 2016 8:10 am

Chalk this up to unsure what thread to throw this in, but figured it was safety related...

Bear canisters - I am not used to traveling w/ them. I have backpacked in Montana and back East using bear hangs, but the canister is all new to me. This may sound like a completely naive question, but what is best method for storing near camp while in bed? I get how the can works and I get its necessity. I have no fear of it being broken into and I do intend to store it 100-200 yards away and (ideally) downwind from my tent.

But I have an overarching fear of waking up to find my can having been knocked around by a bear and thus rolling down into a nearby lake or off a cliffside, etc while I am sleeping. I stare at photos of Ediza Lake or similar and can just envision my can rolling right into the lake if a nice and aggressive bear tries to go for a midnight buffet.

Again, clear newbie to Sierras and bear cans. Thanks for humoring (and helping).
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Jimr » Sun Jun 05, 2016 10:22 am

sambieni,
I'm sure you would get plenty of responses if you started a new thread with your question.
In our thirst for freedom, we must be careful not to drink from the cup of bitterness and hatred

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Sun Jun 05, 2016 10:47 am

sambieni wrote:Chalk this up to unsure what thread to throw this in, but figured it was safety related...

Bear canisters - I am not used to traveling w/ them. I have backpacked in Montana and back East using bear hangs, but the canister is all new to me. This may sound like a completely naive question, but what is best method for storing near camp while in bed? I get how the can works and I get its necessity. I have no fear of it being broken into and I do intend to store it 100-200 yards away and (ideally) downwind from my tent.

But I have an overarching fear of waking up to find my can having been knocked around by a bear and thus rolling down into a nearby lake or off a cliffside, etc while I am sleeping. I stare at photos of Ediza Lake or similar and can just envision my can rolling right into the lake if a nice and aggressive bear tries to go for a midnight buffet.

Again, clear newbie to Sierras and bear cans. Thanks for humoring (and helping).


Do a search on "Bear Canister" in the search box at the top. You'll see all the discussions on bear cans, eg: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=13866&hilit=bear+canister

100-200yds is excessive. I like mine within 20' of my tent, with my trusty pile of rocks and a headlamp. and don't worry so much. :)
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby markskor » Sun Jun 05, 2016 4:22 pm

FWIW, For the past 10 years or so, been keeping my bearikade just outside my tent...makes a good stool for putting on my boots.
No problems so far.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jun 05, 2016 6:04 pm

shuteye wrote:
I know how to use all three, but the fact is that a gps, if its batteries are charged, is a much faster tool at navigation—especially if you are lost. And as the saying goes: Speed in the mountains is safety.


I haven't been back to this thread in a while, and hadn't intended to comment again, but have to say this.

I get what you are saying.

BUUUUUUT... NO.

When you are lost, you STOP. Sit. Think. Take stock of what you have with you. STOP hurrying, guessing, rushing. STOP. Have tea. Get out the map after you are calm.

When things are that stressful, you must stop stress, panic, anxiety. STOP. If you are in a safe place, uninjured, and no one is in crisis, for the love of mike, get yourself CALM.

SLOW is FAST. Double check yourself. I would not rely on a GPS when lost - that would be all the SAR training at work, when even in the middle of a search, in that first ten hours out when you feel your own adrenalin pushing you, you SLOW DOWN and check your GPS results against the map every single darn time, no exceptions. It keeps you from making stressful situations worse. Lost is not a bad place to be -- lost and panicked is bad, lost and making yourself more lost is worse.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:18 pm

Have to agree with AT on this. We didn't have fully functional GPS until '95 and that was 20 years after I started with the good ol' map (and sometimes compass.) The stop, sit, thing works and lets you orient yourself and your map to what you see in a more calm manner.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby sambieni » Tue May 23, 2017 8:19 am

Just completed 2-day 16 hour NOLS Wilderness First Aid 2 year certification course. (Recognize number of you likely have this training already, but just in case) It is mostly geared to group leaders/camp counselors and the like, but I lead myself/friend(s)/family and figured worthwhile skill. I highly recommend.

Made me a bit more anxious thinking all the problems I could encounter en route. But provides a great framework for addressing and thinking through potential hazards and medical needs of your group. They do lots of scenario-based lessons to size up a group member who is ill, etc; they do a lot to cut the chafe and avoid individual/personal experience and what ifs and force you to think comfortable w/in your own zone. What they do not do, is review lots of scenarios as you may find in this thread of how to survive and the what if. It really is just scenario assessment as far as an individual's illness/injury.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Tue May 23, 2017 5:31 pm

Congrats on taking a class. Better to feel more informed than anxious. Hope most of what you learned never has to be employed.. I may have said this before, but If I lead a trip, I demand to know the medical needs of everyone in the group and make sure everyone knows, even my needs. I've almost cancelled trips the night before because one member didn't tell me an issue.
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