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Survival / Lost, what would you do?

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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue May 24, 2016 9:07 am

I probably should qualify that statement. I never really "backpacked" the first 25 years - I climbed - mountaineering and rock climbing. In most cases, you NEEDED a partner to make this happen. Mountaineering is mostly off-trail, so never did all-trail hiking. And back in the 60's and 70's there were many active organized outdoor groups. Every college had an "outing club". Many towns had their own "mountaineering club". Boy scouts were very common and active.

I have seen a demise of these groups, I think, mostly as a result of liability issues. And with the internet, now information for backpacking (be aware that some information on the internet purposes very unsafe routes and practices) is much more readily available to anyone. And with the GPS, you do not even have to learn orienteering to go out. What you are missing, though, is a mentor who can really help you learn the tricks of the trade. You certainly can be "self-taught", but like all sports, getting some good training gets you to a higher level sooner.

By the way, I do not consider walking on a popular highly maintained trail as true "solo" hiking. You are just one of an unorganized "group" on the same path. There is help available, although not immediate. Agreed, a solo newbie is fairly safe in this case.



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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby sambieni » Tue May 24, 2016 9:17 am

Agree w the mentor bit. Its a wise point. I always find myself asking questions/learning a lot from other folks I see in camp, etc when I go out on the trail. There are still a wide variety of groups, but maybe not as widespread as you indicate was historically so. Given rise of so many gear stores and the industry at large - most folks really would turn to their social network/friends for an outing and less likely need to rely on a group to outfit them and help them.

I think you're view of "unorganized group" on the same path is how I think of it too. If something happens, most likely, will be likely max 12-18 hours w/out seeing another person. Unless its a mauling by bear or falling down a cliff side 30 feet or more, etc, most scenarios would be totally fine for average person to last that long until discovered.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby shuteye » Wed May 25, 2016 8:46 am

GPS COMPASS MAP

I am so far outclassed by the amount of experience here at HST, but I'd like to make a point in logic that seems overlooked.

Backpacking is a game just like climbing. Both sports have very real meaning for their participants, but they are still games. And the rules of the game are always a matter of contention and debate. To bolt or not to bolt. Compass or no compass. Choosing what you bring with you on a backpacking trip is your way of establishing the rules of your game.

That there is a bare minimum of knowledge and experience for different levels of challenge almost goes without saying: A prepared climber knows how to set an anchor and escape the belay. A prepared backpacker can orient a map without a compass. Going into the wilderness without a compass is an expression of a backpacker's style just as not clipping a bolt, when there is good natural pro available, is an expression of a rock climber's style.

Both sports are especially dangerous when a novice participant adopts the style of an expert.

Now here is my point: When I go into the woods I always bring a map, a compass, and a gps. I use the map often, I sometimes use the compass, I rarely use the gps. But I like having it—it's light.

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. A gps works in the dark, in fog, in a whiteout, and if you have programmed waypoints into it, a gps can take you back to your car. A map and compass do none of these things.

I am NOT saying that anyone should carry a gps only. I am saying that deciding not to bring a gps into the wilderness is a matter of style—not safety. If one knows how to use all three tools: map, compass, gps—each tool adds a layer of safety, including the gps.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Brien » Wed May 25, 2016 10:27 am

This is certainly an appropriate thread after the recent S&R at Loch Levin. With summer almost here there will probably be more such stories in the news. Unfortunately, many on here are not the ones who need to be better informed about going out into the wilderness unprepared.

When I look at the two scenarios Mav posted I don't think I would ever fall into either. In scenario 1, I would never hike to that elevation by myself and I have never gone into the woods without leaving an itinerary and ETA with my wife. Such a simple task that is so crucial. In the second scenario I would NEVER cross a fast moving creek by myself let alone do it close to dusk. This would have been one of those situations where I would have sat on the bank and thought about the situation and what the best course of action would be. I wouldn't be thinking I could make it, I would be thinking what's going to happen if I fall in.

In my personal life I'm a prepper, not an extremist like on Doomsday Preppers, but more in moderation. A lot of what I preach about prepping isn't so much what you have but what you will do. I often refer to prepping as a thinking man's game. You have to be able to evaluate your situation and course of action. Planning and knowing your limits is essential in doing this.

This prepping mindset carries over to everything in my life, be it work, home life and going on adventures into the woods. I only do a handful of trips a year so I have time to plan for each trip. I have a core packing list that is modified for each trip. Every trip calls for different supplies and equipment. There are always those emergency items and redundancy for things like fire making supplies. And I would NEVER rely on my cell phone alone for my map or compass.

I guess if I were lost of injured I'd ask myself the following questions...

Am I on my itinerary and if not how do I get to where I was known to go
If I know my location can I navigate to a trailhead or road
What's my food and water supply like, is there water nearby to refill
Is wet weather or windy weather coming in
Am I dry and able to stay warm
If unable to get out is there a clearing nearby to signal for help
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 10:29 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 4:44 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 9:10 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 11:22 am

sambieni,
I'm sure you would get plenty of responses if you started a new thread with your question.
What?!
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby rlown » Sun Jun 05, 2016 11:47 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 5:22 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.
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Re: Survival / Lost, what would you do?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:04 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 8:18 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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