Preparing for the Unexpected

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Hillhikerz
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Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by Hillhikerz » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:14 pm

So teaching this class soon and while it's not a survival deal it does have some elements. I was wondering from the group how do you "Prepare for the Unexpected" in a mountain setting, be it a day or 8 plus above 10k.

TIA








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mrphil
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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by mrphil » Mon Jul 16, 2018 12:41 pm

That's pretty broad and runs the gamut from no cell signal to dying. How do you define "unexpected"?

In a general sense, finding the balance between what I have available that I want to carry and I know I absolutely need on a basic level vs what the minimum of what I'll need if any particular element of what I expected fails, ie: alternate water filtering, PLB, extra day's food, heavier jacket, rain fly, compass.....Planning for every contingency would have me hauling 50 lbs whenever I walk out the door, so I try to be selective, but still smart and realistic about how Murphy's Law works.

I suppose the real bottom line boils down to having a Plan "B" and/or a viable escape route that doesn't leave me worse off than when I started. That one is a given, every time. Pretty much automatic and second nature. And I guess the other part would be the ability to stay calm and process the situation.

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AlmostThere
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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by AlmostThere » Mon Jul 16, 2018 10:07 pm

There are statistics about what actually happens vs. what people expect to happen. Generally, people fail to prepare for things like hypothermia/hyperthermia, accidental injury, or avoiding getting lost - some just think they know how to navigate/where they are and are not actually as skilled as they think they are. Meanwhile, they carry weapons, things they don't know how to use, electronics that don't work out the way they intend, or just don't pack the right things, and often panic easily leading to bad decision making.

When faced with a situation - stop, hydrate, assess, and if in any doubt of where you are, sit still. Before getting in the car to head for the trailhead, leave an itinerary with someone trustworthy, with instructions of what to do if there's no contact by a certain time. Pack adequately taking into account the expected lows, unexpected showers, and have potential bailout routes just in case. Make sure the people you hike with are all on the same page as to what happens if someone is injured.

The mayhem that can happen in the event someone is separated from their group - one of the most common scenarios - can be prevented with clear communication before and during the outing. Another common thing, the lost or misdirected hiker - lost folks with fully functional electronics they failed to understand fully, disappeared folks whose electronics failed them for one reason or another (accidental loss of the item, failed battery, malfunction) or lost folks without maps or gps or any way of orienting themselves who trusted trails that turned out to be inadequately maintained - can be avoided with proper research and acquisition of updated maps.

Even on the most researched and prepped for trip, the unexpected can still happen. One person leaving the trail and returning at a different angle seemingly vanished on one of my trips - she ended up on a different trail without knowing that she was, and did not realize until another hiker told her which trail she was on. She caught up to us before we got on the shuttle bus. No one could predict that she would choose to take a leak in an area near a trail junction where the trails were so close together yet the sign at the junction not visible just a hundred feet away.... She didn't leave her pack on the trail as per usual due to a ranger insisting that no packs be left unattended, due to pesky bears, and so we all marched by not knowing she had left the trail and was not ahead of us. Good thing we all talked about where we were going each day, and how we were getting there.

A basic understanding of first aid is of great help. A simple open wound can heal on its own, for example, but if redness spreads, pus starts to ooze, the area isn't healing and it starts to look infected, the backcountry is the wrong place to be. Something so simple can in just a day or two become serious without antibiotics. Without an understanding of elevation illness symptoms, the headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, etc can be ignored and then suddenly it's an urgent matter that quickly becomes fatal if it turns into HACE or HAPE. Etc, etc.

In short:
1. leave an itinerary and expected time/day of contact - see reconn.org for example
2. understand how to mitigate actual risks, vs. overpacking for all risks real and imagined
3. have a skill base (navigation, first aid) commensurate to the kind of trip you intend to take, and scale back if you lack sufficient expertise in some key component - don't plan your climbing trip if you don't know the ropes
4. good communication with everyone involved about expectations, what will happen if someone is hurt, if conditions change, if group members are unable to continue... and don't allow any person to be left behind alone.
5. Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance.

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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by oldhikerQ » Tue Jul 17, 2018 7:10 am

Like your analysis, Almost There.
Have lived by #5 for many years. So far, so good.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by rightstar76 » Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:13 am

The only way I can think to prepare for freak unexpected events like these are

1.never go alone
2.someone in the group has to be trained in wilderness first aid
3.carry both a plb and satellite phone

Also, there should be at least three people in the group so someone can stay behind with the injured person.
Last edited by rightstar76 on Sat Aug 24, 2019 10:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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AlmostThere
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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Jul 17, 2018 8:34 am

rightstar76 wrote: The only way I can think to prepare for freak unexpected events like these are

1.never go alone
2.someone in the group has to be trained in wilderness first aid
3.carry both a plb and satellite phone

Also, there should be at least three people in the group so someone can stay behind with the injured person.
Four people is better - two go for help, so no one is alone.

And if you use the PLB/phone in the late afternoon, understand that you may not see rescue until the following day. Helicopters do not travel at night in the mountains, and it is a rare search team that will send volunteers, which is what most SAR persons are, out at night. It can take a while to get there.

Wilderness protocols for CPR are different than front country - essentially, no one is expected to keep it going for hours and hours, so if the helicopter does not show up within an hour...

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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by SSSdave » Tue Jul 17, 2018 10:13 pm

The mountain environment and situations are complex. The smarter, more knowledgeable, more skilled, more experienced a person is, the better they will be at the game. It is NOT a place for, nor for those with attitudes and behaviors of the Homer Simpsons.

-----------------------------
Study and develop skills for operating successfully in the mountain backcountry.

Understand what is possible and know how to and have gear to deal with whatever. Thus you will minimize what may be unexpected.

If the unexpected does occur take time to calmly understand and analyze what to do before acting.

Be conservative in your decisions when dangerous situations are possible.
-----------------------

A few example per the above:

Understanding in depth the map landscapes of areas a person will visit.
Understanding in depth, the nature of mountain weather.
Understanding how to and being practiced in dealing with stove failures.

Knowing before a trip what to do if one falls into a cold stream with all your gear becoming wet. If one has to figure such out after such happens, one will be in a far less competent mental and physical state to do so wisely and quickly.

If one finds they are not where they thought they are, don't get emotional panicked and quickly act taking off in some direction somewhere. Instead calmly sit down, get a map out, thoroughly take time to study the map and attempt to use all tools and resources to figure out where one may be before compounding a situation by getting deeper into the unknown.

It is not enough to refrain from dangerous actions that one has a fair chance at being successful at but rather consider what are the chances of doing such over many years, not just the immediate situation. For example be highly optimistic that one has the skill to be able to climb successfully through a class 3 section consistently or otherwise do not and back off.

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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by limpingcrab » Tue Jul 17, 2018 11:13 pm

Try it out (aka practice your backup plan).

Example: I carry a few things, like a space blanket, on day hikes in case I get stuck over night. Out of curiosity I went on a multi day trip with just those “emergency” items to see how it would be and learn what I did or didn’t need.

Example: hiked around with a map and compass to navigate, and then used a GPS to see if I was doing it right.

Example: Swam whitewater in a controlled situation to see how I would respond if I ever got swept off of a water crossing.

Example: trying to self arrest with an ice axe on a slope with a nice safe runout.

Sorry, too many examples. Basically, just educating yourself and planning like most people do, but then TRYING OUT THE PLAN. The last part is what many people skip.

*this is not as useful for preventing the unexpected. Crystal balls and fortune cookies are good for that.

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Hillhikerz
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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by Hillhikerz » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:34 pm

Thanks all some good info. So in full dis-closer I work for REI and do many of the tue. nite talks for my store; this talk is new for us but an excellent topic. I am a 66+ year old backpacker and take most of this information for granted or it is in my subconscious at this point. So to verbalize it in a 1.5hr talk on how I plan & what I would do if confronted with the unexpected; set me back in my chair a bit. The power point that came with the talk was cobbled from urban and zombie apocalypse talks and not to my liking. Yes the forum post topic is vague; I just wanted to see where it would go and was looking for talking points I could plagiarize.

"ability to stay calm and process the situation " - how does one learn this on there own

"1. leave an itinerary and expected time/day of contact - see reconn.org for example
2. understand how to mitigate actual risks, vs. overpacking for all risks real and imagined
3. have a skill base (navigation, first aid) commensurate to the kind of trip you intend to take, and scale back if you lack sufficient expertise in some key component - don't plan your climbing trip if you don't know the ropes
4. good communication with everyone involved about expectations, what will happen if someone is hurt, if conditions change, if group members are unable to continue... and don't allow any person to be left behind alone.
5. Proper planning and preparation prevents piss poor performance." - may have to check with HR on #5; but like all of them short and to the point. Plan on handing out a printout and link to reconn.org for example; so everyone has one to take home.

Most of my trips are solo and because I am on a fairly short leash with my family I bring along an inreach; I find it mostly helps with getting picked up in a timely matter. That said it seems to have been very helpful to those I meet on the trail needing a shout out for what ever reason. I do plan on presenting a slide on electronics friend or foe.

SSSDave & limpimgcrab your on to something here "TRYING OUT THE PLAN". I am thinking heading down to your local SP and spending the night when you know it is going to rain and be very windy. Test out ones tarp tent skills, lighting a fire with as many methods as one dares. I also come from a long history with the BSA and Repetitio mater studiorum est; is what we did. Generally I have an interesting mix of attendees. older & just retiring and getting back into it; young couples doing multi days and single men & women new to the area and wanting to get out there (what about the bears ?) it is sometimes funny what people are worried about in the Sierras.

"this is not as useful for preventing the unexpected. Crystal balls and fortune cookies are good for that"
I like to read SAR reports, I learn a lot from others & trip reports;
sleep with your shoes;
be conscious of every member of the group;
never leave your pack, well mostly never;
Keep your self in a place for a PMA...
Went to a SAR talk; my take away was 85% of all action by them was from water; to much, to cold, not enough, to hard - et cetera.

Thanks for your time. Keep em coming.

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AlmostThere
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Re: Preparing for the Unexpected

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Jul 19, 2018 8:48 pm

Not sure why your takeaway was that SAR action is 85% water, when my actual experience volunteering was very different. Lost people and hurt people and people separated from their people, vast majority of our efforts were nothing to do with water - the water team went out specifically to find people who went in the water from boats. People panic and get themselves lost. Like the snowshoer we followed down a drainage - he literally could have done a 180 in his own tracks, but obviously he was not capable of thinking about it.

You can be calm by remembering to breath. Literally, the fight/flight response is to be anxious, shut down higher brain function and skew your ability to think. Breathing deeply and sitting down to have a snack and take stock of your situation helps a lot. The calmer you are, the better your ability to NOT make dumb mistakes, because those really smart higher functioning parts of the brain will be online. Panic and they are shut OFF. My day job, I work with people who have severe trauma, PTSD, and the neuroscience says trauma is when the higher functions shut off because of panic, fear, and then the memory of that incident does not process - my job I help people finally process and then they stop experiencing PTSD symptoms.

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