injured when hiking solo

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JBenz
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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by JBenz » Sun Nov 17, 2019 10:56 pm

Yes it happens. Your story is frightening. Yet each year I find myself in the situation where I ask myself 'What am I doing here? "If I miss this jump no one will ever find me". The answer is always "If I wasn't here I wouldn't get to be here". The ability to touch nature at his deeper level is worth it. Still, in my older years, I find myself seeking the comfort of a hiking partner.
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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:56 am

1) There are serious injuries, which need immediate response that regardless of solo or with others, you are going to die before help arrives. You may survive a serious auto accident injury by being flown to the hospital within hours. This just does not happen in the wilderness. Push the help button on a PLB, and it will take time to initiate a rescue. In this case, morbid as this sounds, the advantage of being in a group, is that you do not die alone.

2) There are serious injuries that are nearly impossible to stabilize yourself, but once stabilized, you can then survive for quite some time, as long as you have shelter and water. Here is where being in a group really helps. You have people who can immediately stabilize you and then wait for the rescue. And here is where a PLB is useful if you are still conscious and can activate it.

3) Then there are injuries that you can stabilize yourself, and be mobile enough to set up shelter and obtain water. You either limp out, push the help button, or wait until those at home call you in as missing.

When you have an accident, you do not immediately know which of the above will be the outcome. Without first-aid knowledge or adequate first aid gear to stabilize yourself, the solo hiker's accident can go from #2 to #1.

Underlying all these scenarios, is your level of experience and assessment of risk. There have been studies that safety devices, actually can result in people taking more risk. Carrying a PLB does not change the risk of an accident, but increases the chance of rescue. This is enough to make a lot of people accept more risk in a given situation.

I know that when I am solo, especially in very remote off-trail areas, I am extremely cautious (I do not carry a PLB). Nevertheless, my last fall that resulted in a black eye and bruises and broken glasses, was not something I assessed for risk - it just happened out of the blue- slipped on a wet rock. However, on that same trip I stupidly left my camera on a rock in the middle of an extremely difficult jumble of deadfall. I spent a lot of time assessing if it was worth the risk of injury to go back to get it. I decided it was not. I was contemplating buying a new camera anyway. Not sure I would have done differently if I had a PLB. I also had to decide if it was worth it to chance a fall into a lake as I traversed a short cliff that blocked my route. I decided to do it. These are the kinds of daily decisions you make when backpacking, especially off-trail.

I do not think beginners should go solo. Everyone should get some first aid training. I have made a personal decision not to carry a PLB with full knowledge of the added risks. But simply carrying a PLB is not a substituted for experience, skills and first aid training. I suspect there will come at time as I get older that I will add a PLB and perhaps not even go solo any more.

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by dave54 » Mon Nov 18, 2019 5:59 pm

Yes.
Even with a PLB you are looking at multiple hours at the minimum, the next day more likely, for the cavalry to arrive.
A friend that solos off-trail in Canada (Wood Buffalo, Nahanni, and Kluane) said the rule of thumb there is three days, and that is with a sat phone, not a PLB.
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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by JBenz » Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:50 pm

Well written. And many good points

I also don't carry a PLB, cell phone, etc. In part because they don't work in the deep canyons and are just extra weight, but also because we get to choose the degree to which we want to experience 'wilderness'. I define wilderness as being outside the safety net of society. When I solo in wilderness, there is an exhilaration just due to the fear; with it comes an extreme caution and the heightened awareness. When I lead others into the wild, that becomes anxiety, worrying about them.

I agree completely that beginners should never hike solo even if I did as 10 year old in the Sandia's. I've become wiser (and more cautious) in my old age. I have taken and fully recommend wilderness first aid as well as CPR, backpacking basics and navigation. At some point you do have to take the risk to experience 'wilderness'. Take small steps. The work and end goal are worth it.

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by JBenz » Mon Nov 18, 2019 9:01 pm

Dave54,

Yes. the last 15 day trek my wife and I took was cut short on day 12 with a helicopter evac for my wife due to heart issues. We were with a large family and friends group and the leader had a SAT phone. The final call for evac was made by the Park Service.

A few points: 1) In our group we had the expertise to diagnose the issue and come up with a plan. 2) We were able to set up an evac via stock which was initially ok'd by the Park Service but later cancelled in favor of a helicopter evac. 3) Several people in our group have been there and dealt with emergency and even death. There was no panic. 4) Without the contact we would have rested her for the extra days and potentially sent out a runner.
There is risk in every thing we do. I believe I have learned to accept that risk for my own life.

Once upon a time it was the Sierra Club and Outward Bound that took us into the wilderness through classes, maps, and pamphlets. It's been replaced by REI and a diluted commercial level. Take the effort to become comfortable in the wilderness. It was home to or ancestors. It can feel like home to us.

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by balzaccom » Mon Nov 18, 2019 10:21 pm

Sierra Club, OLS and others still offer classes and the like. So do many community colleges. And REI was around back then, too. You just don't use them anymore, so you don't know about them.
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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by TurboHike » Tue Nov 19, 2019 5:39 am

JBenz wrote:
Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:50 pm
I also don't carry a PLB, cell phone, etc. In part because they don't work in the deep canyons and are just extra weight,
I just wanted to address this sentence. Sorry for taking it out of context...

A PLB will work in the High Sierra, no doubt. The canyons are wide enough for sure. Here's an interesting article that looks at the extreme case of slot canyons:

https://www.backcountrychronicles.com/p ... nyon-test/

The High Sierra does not have anything that rivals these types of slot canyons. Note that a PLB, such as an ACR product, has satellite signaling, a GPS reciever, and a homing beacon. Even if GPS fails, the other two can get SAR to your location.

Also, I agree that there is no cell service or wifi for most of the High Sierra, but the GPS receiver on my iPhone works in the High Sierra, even if the phone is in airplane mode. GPS does not require a cell signal or wifi. This won't get you rescued, it might prevent someone from getting lost.

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by Harlen » Tue Nov 19, 2019 9:50 am

jbenz writes:
I also don't carry a PLB, cell phone, etc. In part because... we get to choose the degree to which we want to experience 'wilderness'. I define wilderness [*in part] as being outside the safety net of society... solo in wilderness, there is an exhilaration just due to the fear; with it comes an extreme caution and the heightened awareness.
I agree. Though I do leave a detailed itinerary with my wife, to be checking in with people daily would take away from my Max-like desire just to be Where the Wild Things Are.

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:13 pm

Solo in the winter! Now that is really "into the wild".

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Re: injured when hiking solo

Post by freestone » Tue Nov 19, 2019 12:40 pm

I am certainly not going to change anybody's mind on the reason its a good idea to carry a location device but if you are one of those that are on the fence about carrying one or not, I urge you to carry one, especially going solo. I have never experienced my wilderness experience being compromised (and I have been in some pretty lonely places!) and the piece of mind my family has knowing that I have a device more than compensates for the small weight penalty and eccentricities that these things have. For me its a badge of wisdom not a sign of weakness in my wilderness skills. I would much rather leave the camera at the trailhead than my Spot. Just sayin....
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