Survival and Rescue: A Growing Problem

Several days ago, an injured hiker was rescued after spending three nights on Mt. Hood in Oregon. At the same time on the East Coast, it took rescuers nine hours to bring an injured hiker to safety after he fell on a Maine mountain. More and more, we hear these stories. Why?

Some believe that the ubiquitous cell phone lends a false sense of security to hikers. The cell phone is the first line of defense for the backpacker who thinks he can rely on that more than maps, extra clothing, water, nourishment. Hikers forget that most cell phones don’t work in the mountains.

Also, with hiking and backpacking a growing interest, there are more hikers out there. And many of them haven’t taken the time to learn the basics, what to pack, how to handle bad weather, how to read field maps, how to always prepare a backup plan, etc.

We aren’t given every detail in the first incident referred to above, but according to the article the young woman is an avid hiker who “ate berries and bugs and covered herself with moss to stay warm.” She deserves a lot of credit for surviving, but here’s the thing: She was found wearing only a T-shirt and shorts! True, she became separated from her boyfriend after dropping her gear to look for a better campsite, but when they got out of shouting range, it may have been a good time for her to go back and get her pack.

In the second incident referred to, an experienced hiker fell off a mountain on the Appalachian Trail in Maine. He was injured and couldn’t move but, luckily, was able to call for help with his cell. Unfortunately, he was three miles from the nearest road. We aren’t given all the details here, either, but it appears that he was hiking with just one other person, his niece.

I’ve hiked alone, but not anymore. And you always put an outing at risk when you hike with just one other person who is dependent on you, especially if you can’t get your cell phone to work. What could his niece have done then? She would have had to leave him and tramp on alone to try to get help. Another risk.

Not only is it safer, it’s more fun to hike with a group. You learn things, and you’re ready to help others.

So, study your maps; prepare, pack smartly, and stay alert; hike with friends.

Hiking in Virginia mountains with Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Virginia, near the Appalachian Trail

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

7 thoughts on “Survival and Rescue: A Growing Problem

  1. You couldn’t have stated it better, prepare before you go on a hike no matter how simple or how difficult you think it will be, things happen. The very first time that I went on a hike with some friends it almost turned into a diaster because we were so unprepared for what happened. Since then I have learned to prepare for the hike and I am making changes and learning everytime that I go out.

    Whenever I hear about how some hiker was rescued because they had their cell phone, the very first thing that enters my mind is that ” Their Plan was a cell phone and nothing else “. Always be prepared and open to learning.

      1. ‘Hey’ Ray,

        I really enjoy you blog, and have learned a lot.

        It would be interesting (to me) to learn about your and your fellow hikers’ thoughts about rescue locator gizmos that send a signal from the hiker in need of life-saving assistance to a satellite for relay transmission to rescue centers. Somewhere I read that these devices take the search out of ‘search & rescue’ both for the hiker (boater, etc) and for rescue teams.


      2. Thanks, Axel. Your interest in these devices makes huge sense and is worthy of a follow up post. A couple of years ago, I looked into it, but the “gizmo” was expensive and I didn’t think worth the extra weight. I’m sure price and weight have gone down, and I need to study this again. In any event, the downside is that hikers will even be more careless knowing they can rely on it in any emergency.

  2. There is a reason that even though I am an experienced hiker and camper, I spent an entire year researching and learning as much as I could including taking several classes at REI before trying my hand at backpacking. I take the #1 rule of Ultralight Backpacking very seriously, Take more knowledge and less gear. It’s not about how much stuff you have with you or how fancy your phone it, it’s about knowing how to deal with the situation. It’s something I wish more hikers took seriously.

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