What would you do -2?

12:16 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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This is a true story. Its one o'them scroll down thingys.

My long time camping buddy and I were ski camping (he snowshoed) in March in the Sierras at around 7,500 feet, still in the trees, but high enough that we were camped on top of a rocky point and about an hours march in and near the old Immigrant trail. We always had our own tents cause it gave us the room to spread out and frankly he always had terrible indigestion - phew...

Anyway we tended to set the tents around 100 feet apart, far enough that we couldn't hear the other guy snore. Now I generally carry earplugs in my first aid kit so I can sleep in storms, but it happens this was a quiet night.

My buddy had to get out of his tent in the night to "see a man about a dog" and being rather shy he walked a ways from camp and dug a hole in the snow. He started back to camp and walked a ways, then realised that he didn't know where camp was, and that he had already walked too far.

He was wearing only long underwear and sorel boots and had only a roll of toilet paper and no flashlight since there was sort of bright starlight and he hadn't planned on going far. There was a foot of snow on everything and he knew he was lost. He was also a very bright guy and thought he had more common sense than I and he always carried a 50 pound pack (or more) in the winter to prove that he was better prepared (secretly he thought I was insane but he had never driven a car and needed me to take him camping even though I scared him pretty badly at times.). He had dragged the pack in on a sled on this occasion. He thought his common sense and 2 dozen winter trips made him experienced enough to get along on his own.

So standing in an area with large trees in cotton long underwear and sorel boots, 25 dgrees and windless, starlight, some stumps covered with snow, no flashlight and lost. By the way starlight plays tricks on you, there is no depth perception at all. WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

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He did absolutely the smartest thing he could. He stopped and calmly took stock of his situation and his gear and surroundings BEFORE TAKING ANOTHER STEP. His own reading had taught him to sit down and wait for the sun to rise so he could find his way back (and I would never know he had got lost thus saving his pride since I was the crazy one), but wait, the stumps were covered with snow and he was in long underwear. So pushing aside his pride, he started screaming "JIM" JIM, JIM, JIM.

I guess I awoke on the second scream and I hear "a lost person" out in the wilderness calling for their dog. I'm thinking that must be a pretty valuable dog for someone to out at 2 am in the cold looking for him. Oh well we have a lost camper to rescue so I better get up and put my boots on. I was up in a second and reached for my boots and I yelled "Hey dude get up we got a lost skier to rescue". About then I hear "JIM" again and I'm thinking funny name for a dog, but anyway I'm up with my coat on with my flashlight and I hollered at him again and I hear "Jim I see your flashlight, I'm down here, keep your light pointing down so I can follow it back". He was at the bottom of the rock outcropping and soon he was back in camp, kiinda sheepish but very happy to be reunited with me and his tent.

I bought him a small flashing beacon light like they put on life jackets for night rescue for Christmas. He was quite offended and wondered what he was supposed to do with it. I told him to attach it to the front of his tent and turn it on before wandering around in the snow at night, but he was not amused.

People have left a snow cave to "visit a bush" and not been able to find it again and died out there. You can't hear anything from inside a snow cave and a snow cave is very hard to find, especially in a storm. A line fastened inside the cave and tied to your belt can save your bacon in cases like this cause you can follow it back. Its like scuba diving in uderwater caves - if the cord come free, you die.

Jim S

12:34 a.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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I would yell......JIM

It does happen, has happened to me, and while preventable, will happen to others. I have been known to haul a light or strobe up a line into a tree while wandering away from camp, everyone makes mistakes.

12:22 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Dark night, spelunking, white out, equpment loss and batteries dead, snow blindness, injury, altitude stupid, all provide ample opportunities to be in situations that can be at best foolishly uncomfortable and embarrassing or brittle with terror.

Most of us don't plan ahead for an accident to happen, nor, for the most part, do we cause them intentionally. More than once it has occurred to me that I or somebody with me just did something very very stupid and instantly was at grave risk. Experience as well as wisdom, at times, is foolishly acquired.

Getting disoriented can happen so quickly and so surprisingly that it can cause people to do more stupid things.

Other than a good strong yelling voice and experience, there is not a lot more you might think to take on an innocently routine and short diversion.

I've forgotten the TP more than once.

Funny story Jim...too close to home.

1:26 p.m. on December 11, 2009 (EST)
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Speacock
“Wisdom and good judgment were probably earned through a lot of bad judgment” I will say that Wisdom is only when you follow your own good judgment. A failure that happened 1 second before I broke my leg. Simply knowing is not enough.

Like first aid kits, we are always prepared for the last problem we had, not the next. I would never venture out at night without a flashlight and my goretex shells, ever.

Also as you point out - terror can influence ones decisions. I do enjoy camping in storms and for nearly a decade I drove up the Sierrs just ahead of mountain storm warnings to be there for the storm. I was prepared and simply dug in deeper when they hit.

I can tell you that abandoning camp with a tent already pitched to "run for it" is not something that I consider to be good judgment. You will be scared, maybe lost in a white out, probably soaking wet from sweat and external forces, you might stumble because you will be too cold to go slowly and carefully. If you keep going for miles and never stop the steam coming out of your clothes will form such a cloud around you as to make wearing glasses impossible, but if you do stop you will quickly become hypothermic and if you have the energy left, then repitching the tent and warming up in your maybe wet sleeping bag will be all the more difficult. Leaving a storm camp with style requires discussing a plan of action with your partners, when will the tent come down and when will you strip down to your traveling clothes.

The big idea is STAY AHEAD OF THE CURVE. EAT BEFORE YOU'RE HUNGRY, STAY WARMER RATHER THAN COOLING OFF TOO SOON, CAMP BEFORE YOUR EXHAUSTED. Too many rescues are caused by people feeling they need to get home because they have a job to get to, a wife who will call SAR, a volley ball match to attend or some other stupid civilisation related goal.

Also the physical condition of the "abandoners" will determine whether they make it out in style or make it out in a body bag. Once I had a buddy get really sick and we had to leave at his decision and his rather frail physical condition (please forgive that) combined with being weak from sickness made a very dangerous situation for him, but I was fine and I dragged out all of our gear in my sled.

On another trip I was with one of my Everest climber buddies and when the S*** hit the fan we simply skied out in style with a raging unexpected acrtic snow storm coming from behind us. It was kinda fun actually, and as I said, I like to be in really bad storms.

Jim S

8:25 a.m. on December 13, 2009 (EST)
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My first choice was what he did, stop and yell for help, and hope you could hear him.

My second option, if the first didn't work and he couldn't safely wait any longer, was to see if he could safely follow his tracks back if there was enough starlight. This could be tricky though if he wandered in circles already. Not wanting to make the situation worse, he should only do it if he could safely follow his tracks and needed to get moving. No guessing.

12:08 p.m. on December 13, 2009 (EST)
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In order to follow his tracks back, he would need to squat down very low in order to get a better view of possible indentations in the snow. If it was powder, this would be even more critical and he would be better off not attempting it just to save embarrassment - unless he was camping alone and there was no one to hear his shouts.

As Jim noted, detail is poor at night. The cones of the eye provide the detail and color we see. At night the rods take over and, while they are far more sensitive to photons, they are not going to give detail. Of course, if said friend had just had the lens removed from one or both eyes, he could use his ultraviolet vision (see my new book - The New Scientific Angling - Trout and Ultraviolet Vision ).

[Sometimes it is difficult to insert a shameless plug for one's book. This was one of those times. But I persevered. ]

Since he was wearing cotton long johns, he could break a thread free from the knitted cuff of one leg, tie it to a bush and walk with the underwear unraveling freely until he either found his tent or was observed by a team of Girl Scouts wearing only one leg of his long johns : ) If neither of the above occurred, he could follow the thread back and try again. (That was said in jest, however Murphy's Second Law of Maximum Embarrassment works even in the wilderness... it just isn't as dependable as his better known law.)

12:41 p.m. on December 13, 2009 (EST)
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off topic I know, Overmywaders does your study include the non-anadromous species? You can E-mail me at:

mike@mikescampinshed.com

On topic: I can attest to the anxiety felt when lost and the need one feels to make a decision to take action, somehow, even if it's wrong. This is why you must learn to remain calm, I don't think it comes naturally to most individuals.

Would you guys say that is correct?

4:42 p.m. on December 13, 2009 (EST)
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Trout,

#1 - check your email

#2 - You asked whether remaining calm in a crisis is a learned response.

My answer, or opinion:

We have a fight or flight condition that we share with other animals. When danger threatens we get a surge of adrenaline and choose one option or the other. That energy boost makes us capable of feats of strength and stupidity otherwise quite beyond us.

However, we can and should avoid this panic mode. There will always be plenty of time to panic once you are safe. The propensity for a calm demeanor when confronting personal "danger" may be a genetic predisposition, but it can be an acquired skill as well, IMO,... and a skill that could save lives.

9:53 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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In order to follow his tracks back, he would need to squat down very low in order to get a better view of possible indentations in the snow. If it was powder, this would be even more critical and he would be better off not attempting it just to save embarrassment - unless he was camping alone and there was no one to hear his shouts.

Yeah, there are a lot of if's in this case. I'd definitely exhaust the other possibilities first, regardless of how embarassing. Better to be embarrassed than wandering off in the snow in the dark.

But, if the yelling wasn't working and I couldn't safely stay out all night, I'd be looking for a solution, that would not make the situation worse.

10:09 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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ANYtime I wander from camp I take the detachable lid from my backpack with me, I keep the essentials (emergency kit) in it.

This system has served me well, during several um...mistakes I've made.

11:14 p.m. on December 14, 2009 (EST)
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Camping in the mountains above Yosemite on winter I went outside to relieve myself and walked but 10 feet in a blowing blizzard of snow. When I turned around to go back to my tent I could not see it, tho I could follow my footprints in the deep snow to know where it was.

Only time I can honestly say I was lost in the woods was as a tenderfoot Boy Scout taken into the deep woods about three miles from camp on a Snipe Hunt. I had no flashlight and after the sun had sat (waiting for the other guys to chase the Snipes towards me) it had gotten dark and everything looked the same. So after realising I had been had by the older scouts who led me out there on this game, I sat down and thought I would be out there all night. But after about maybe an hour my eyes adjusted to the dark and I could see paths around and thru the trees. I started back in the direction I thought was the way we had come and soon saw at a fair distance some lights flickering in the darkness. I slowly stumblingly made my way towards the lights and they turned out to be our scout camp.

I have been lost from others while on long distant hikes when separated trying to find our way thru dense forest in the winter when no trail was evident. Once I had the rainfly and my buddy had the tent and poles. We each ahd the rest of our own gear. So after we got separated I at least had something to use for cover as did my friend. In the morning after a few ways of backtarcking I found where we had separated and found him sitting in the tent about 2 miles away, worried sick that I was lost and maybe I had perished or something.

While I had not become worried or panicked when we got separated and could not hear each other voices and just camped and would seek him out the next day, he had become so frantic that he only barely managed to set up camp, but had not eaten since the day before and was sitting in his sleeping bag doomed with worry that I would be dead or something. He was very relieved to see me when I unzipped his tent and poked my head in. He told me that if I had not come back to find him he would not have been able to cope with having to hike out alone and think that I might be alive out there somewhere. I told him I just retraced our steps and followed his when i came to them. He said that would have never came to mind to do.

12:38 a.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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I hate to have to say this and it was hidden very deeply in the place where we put bad memories, but once I was ski camping with some guys (my first such trip in fact) and got deathly sick on the way in. We decided I could make it if people took some of my gear and I was with world class climbers and skiers (Dicl Long amogst others). Well we got separated and spent quite a lot of energy that I didn't have finding each other in the snow at night. Finally someone was carrying my skis and I was walking when I stepped into a miner crevice in the ice and freaked. Did I mention that one of the things my friends helpfully relieved me of was my sleeping bag? I was skiing in my kletter boots and these great new Silvretta cable bindings on old fashioned tele skis. I lost the flesh around the achilles tendon of one foot and was picking wool sock material out of my flesh for days afterwards? The ability of adrenaline to push us on and to do utterly stupid things cannot be over estimated.

Thats why I just dig in a bit deeper and pretend like I'm a small furry mammal burrowed into a hole for the night.

Jim

1:42 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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Although I have not been lost since I was 5 years old, there have been times when I had to proceed very carefully. The closest I have been to Jim's scenario was at the 17k camp on Denali. The main campsite is on a bit of a rise, while at the time, the latrine was located in a low spot between the main camp and the top of the West Buttress route. This was before the normal procedure for dealing with solid human waste was using a WagBag or other bag which is then deposited in the Clean Mountain Can that all expeditions are now required to carry on the climb.

We had been sitting out a storm, when the call of nature came. Since visibility was reasonably good, I walked down the small slope the 100 meters to the box and made my contribution. In the 10 minutes of walk and deposit, the blowing snow reduced the visibility to a few feet, literally to the point where I could barely see my feet (I did have my down parka and pants, along with my Goretex shells on, along with goggles tinted to improve visibility). As I started back, the path was not visible. I was very aware that veering too far to the right would take me into Rescue Gully and a 3000 foot rapid descent to the 14k camp, so staying on the straight-line path back to the campsite was mandatory. In the low visibility and high wind (probably about 25-30 knots, but felt stronger), judging which direction was uphill was difficult.

The solution was one I have used many times when wandering around in the dark without a flashlight (flashlight would do no good in a daylight whiteout, obviously). Yet I have rarely seen or heard it mentioned in discussions of "lost" people. I could feel the hard-packed ice path between the latrine and main camp. If I wandered to the side, the softer snow was readily apparent. So proceeding carefully and feeling my way with my feet (yes I had my double plastic expedition boots on, along with crampons and ice ax), I soon traversed the hundred meters, and was back in my tent.

In my land navigation courses, I emphasize in the introductory section, the part where I discuss "finding your way without map, compass, or electronic widgets" that your brain is the most important tool, and your senses - sight, hearing, feel, smell - should be scanning all the time as you go - front, back, to the sides, up and down - feeding the information to your brain and organizing it. Too many people just plod along without observing and remembering, kind of in a daze or a dreamworld. These same people may have their map and compass (as listed on the 10 Essentials - a much misunderstood list), or even a GPSr, but located in their pocket or buried in their pack. You can have all the gadgets and gear in the world, but if you do not use it and most important, if you do not use your brain, it does you no good.

The side benefit of that continual activity of the brain and senses is the heightened enjoyment of the wild - scenery, sounds, the animals and plants, streams, glaciers, .....

6:30 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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I don't believe anyone's mentioned the old tried and true method of in-tent home birthing of an active turtlehead during a vicious winter storm. Surely I'm not the only winter backpacker who has used the "squat and wad" procedure? I learned it from old timers in Alaska who wintered over in small cabins with a woodstove, just squat on a newspaper and wad it up and throw it into the stove. I used this technique many times in blizzards at the tipi(Blizzard of '93 comes to mind), and a few times during blizzards in the tent(w/o the woodstove of course, just wad it up and put it in a ziploc and stash in the tent vestibule to freeze).


Other techniques: When it is zero or below, step outside the tent at night and go 2 feet. Squat and deposit. Leave. By morning it will be rock solid and you can either pick it up and pack it out or dig a suitable hole later in the day.


One time I left the tent in a thick night fog and barely got back, the headlamp was worthless in the fog glare.

9:14 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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Tipi,

The Wag Bag, Restop, and some other similar products are the modern version, the addition being that the bag has a powder that is basically a "humanized" Kitty Litter - deodorizes, gels, and to some extent disinfects. The homegrown version uses Kitty Litter and a double ziplock bag (the size being predetermined by the user's skill at aiming - quart for the experienced, gallon size for the less skilled). The newspaper must be for the truly unskilled. Since the regulation in many places here in CA for winter (Yosemite backcountry, for example) is that all waste, including human waste must be packed out, WagBags are standard winter supply. Denali NP has a program called "Clean Mountain Can" which is basically a plastic sewer pipe with endcaps, into which you deposit your group's bags. The pipe is packed out to the plane at Kahiltna Base, flown out with you, and weighed at the ranger station in Talkeetna, where you check out on your return from the hill. Since everything is sealed, put into its bag with the powder, and frozen, it is all sanitary (probably more so than most people's homes).

And yes, during storm, you use the tent's vestibule, another reason for digging the boot hole at the tent entrance (provides more headroom when preparing and finishing).

10:41 p.m. on December 15, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks for the head's up. I've been backpacking in the southeast so long I've had to come up with all this stuff myself though it looks like you guys out west are way ahead of me, turd-wise. It's good to know that there are backpackers out there who think about this stuff.

8:09 a.m. on December 16, 2009 (EST)
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There are lots of ways to determine direction in the fog. There is the plumb bob method:

Hold a small weight suspended from a three-foot four-inch string at arms length in front of you. If the string points towards your feet, you are going uphill, if it points ahead, downhill, if it points straight down, level, if it points straight up, you have had too much - sit down before you fall down.

The potato method for navigation by boat in a PEI fog never fails:

Stand in the bow of the boat with a bushel of potatoes. Every two minutes, as the boat moves slowly on what should be the compass heading for home, you throw a potato as far ahead as you can and listen for the splash. When you don't hear a splash you are home.

If nothing else works and you fear you are irredeemably lost in the wilderness shout in a loud voice: "Tiger Woods said he loves me!" Have the first reporter who instantly appears drive you home.

3:52 p.m. on December 17, 2009 (EST)
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I agree with all of the above the little light on your tent was something I had not thought of and will use it when I take my God sons back packing soon.

However should you always call out "JIM" when you are lost I doubt if he would here me from Australia.

A peacefull christmas to you all

5:55 p.m. on December 17, 2009 (EST)
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Hicliff

hi there, it takes a while fer yer message to get all the way over here, you could freeze waiting. Caliing out "JIM" might work anywhere as when I awoke and heard someone calling "JIM, JIM" I thought gee someone is calling for a dog named Jim, must be a valuable dog to be wandering around in the snow looking for him in the middle of the night...

In Wiscinsin when we found a great fishing hole we put an x on the floor of the boat... Yah Ollie fer sure mate.

Jim S

12:56 a.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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There are lots of ways to determine direction in the fog. There is the plumb bob method:

Hold a small weight suspended from a three-foot four-inch string at arms length in front of you. If the string points towards your feet, you are going uphill, if it points ahead, downhill, if it points straight down, level, if it points straight up, you have had too much - sit down before you fall down.

The potato method for navigation by boat in a PEI fog never fails:

Stand in the bow of the boat with a bushel of potatoes. Every two minutes, as the boat moves slowly on what should be the compass heading for home, you throw a potato as far ahead as you can and listen for the splash. When you don't hear a splash you are home.

If nothing else works and you fear you are irredeemably lost in the wilderness shout in a loud voice: "Tiger Woods said he loves me!" Have the first reporter who instantly appears drive you home.


LOL

As one who was taught sailing from a J. Slocum descendant , I had a good laugh over this one. Thanks overmywaders, Happy new year!

11:24 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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I think there maybe a problem with the "Tiger Woods" method because of the possibility of getting hit with a 9 iron...

11:31 p.m. on December 31, 2009 (EST)
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If I ever venture out in surroundings like this I hang my headlamp(or even a glow stick) from my tent guyout and set it to slow strobe. Better safe than sorry. Then again I probably wouldn't have ventured so far. I hope someone bought him a Bushnell backtrack for xmas. It may not have pinpoint accuracy but mine gets me within the general area close enough that I can see where I need to be.

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