A group of hill walkers put not only their lives in danger, but also those of rescuers who had to risk the cold and wet elements in central Scotland. The pair of lost hikers were part of a group of four adults and one child that set off for the summit of Ben Lomond which sits at 3,195 feet. Here are three areas–the reasons people die in the wilderness–that they ignored.
Underestimate or Miscalculate the Risk
Just a day hike. They felt the climb was easy enough they took a child along. By the sound of the words “hill” and “climbing” this sounds like a simple walk in the park. Ben Lomond is a 3000′ climb with multiple trails and at times weather locks in the summit. When it gets dark the simple path without lights can become a major obstacle when walking around and you can easily loose your route.
The majority of survival situations start-off routine and innocent. Nothing spells disaster quicker than an outing with a buddy, a quick hike on your favorite trail, or the yearly planned hunting trip you have taken since you were a kid. Chaos is an incredible factor and it only takes a few subtle events that have a domino effect for things go terribly wrong and you are suddenly facing a life and death scenario.
You have to plan for the unexpected no matter how remote the chance. Play the “what-if game and prepare for those contingencies before you set off on your trip. Once you’re on the trail and exposed to potential dangers it’s too late.
Gap in Knowledge- No Gaps in Ego
“Hill walking” sounds benign. Perhaps if the activity were called “you are goiong to walk in a wild area that has an incredibly steep climb and you are going to encounter terrible weather and the possibility of death” they might have been better prepared. The team here were found wet and cold. They simply went unprepared. The “hill” was ready to suck them up and spit them out in a body bag because they did not take the risk into consideration. During the search, both ground and air crews had to be called in to face windy, wet conditions that included mountain obscuration, a visibility risk to helicopter pilots.
The sad truth today is most people who wind up in a crate and a long black car or in best case, a medivac is because in a wilderness survival situation, have very poor at best knowledge on how to survival and are usually totally unprepared. Equally as bad is the number of people who feel they “got all the skills”, so they think they don’t need training or get updated on the latest thoughts on survival.
Here are the 5 key things to know and practice in Fort Backyard before your next trip:
- Create fire in all conditions (wet, windy, rainy)
- Create shelter with minimal supplies- including water proofing
- Find and purify water
- Know how to signal (smoke, sound, sight)
- Apply first aid or self aid.
For each of these you should master one method using modern techniques and master one using primitive techniques.
All Dressed Up and the Wrong Place To Go
The hikers had wrong shoes, wrong clothes, and wrong equipment to deal with adversity. Having the right clothing allows you to create a micro-climate to shield yourself from the elements. The ability to regulate your core body temperature to 98.6 is the signal most important factor in survival.
In 2009 Abby and I section hiked the Continental Divide. We encountered snow, rain, wind, and of course some simply wonderful days of sunshine, well actually all the above weather was the cycle of each day. We would routinely run across people in shorts and flip-flops on a trail as much as 3 miles from the nearest trail head.
Having the right gear, knowing what the weather and terrain might hold, and looking at what could possibly go wrong will keep you safer and not put rescue teams in peril.
An excellent article about this situation can be found here