90% OF ALL YOSAR RESCUES ARE FOR HIKERS...
How to Prevent Becoming Lost or Injured
Before you leave:
Know your route and the forecast (mountain weather is often unpredictable)
Leave your plans with a friend
On The Trail
While you are on a designated trail physical injury or mishap may become a result of these factors:
Lack of physical fitness
Pulling a muscle
A simple slip on a sandy or wet rock (causing bruises, sprains, or fractures)
A sudden rain or snow storm (causing hypothermia, poor footing, or poor visibility)
High water at stream crossings (common in spring and may render the trail impassable)
Losing the Trail
Losing the trail can easily occur, even for an experienced hiker. Contributing factors include:
A rocky or sandy area making the trail hard to see when it takes a sharp turn and you forge ahead
Following a false trail made by other lost souls
Mistaking a drainage ditch as a switchback for the real trail
Snow on the trail
Detouring around windfalls (downed trees) or around a bad stream crossing
An inadequate map
Out after dark with or without a light
Going off trail to find a photo opportunity
Deliberately trying to shortcut a switchback only to have the trail go the other way
Taking off cross-country without really knowing the terrain ahead
Going down or up terrain you can’t reverse, without knowing if your path will succeed. If you can’t reverse, you are stuck. Being stuck, if no one knows you’re there means you are dead. You will die of starvation, dehydration, exposure, or boredom. Even if you aren’t stuck, you may be too tired to get out safely.
Trusting smooth, wet, sandy, mossy, or loose rock for a foothold. Slipping on this stuff in your backyard or on the trail is one thing. Losing your footing next to a cliff or swift water is something else entirely.
Getting careless next to, or in streams by simply filling your water bottle, swimming above dangerous water boulder hopping, or wading across.
Click here for more info on water safety.
Thinking your skills in one environment (e.g. a strong swimmer in surf) will transfer into a new one (e.g. swift water).
Becoming complacent because nothing went wrong last time you tried this stunt.
Remaining ignorant of the dangers or solutions because you’re too busy having fun to bother learning the serious stuff.
Bad weather while off trail, if you are not equipped to deal with it and unable to get out quickly
If you become lost, how to get found:
Leave the following with a friend: your plans, route, vehicle description and license #, recent photo, sole pattern and size, scent articles, gear description, and who/when to call, and their cell phone numbers.
If separated, yell, whistle, stop and listen
Kids: hug a tree
Adults: STOP. Learn your surroundings, explore carefully, and be able to return to the last known point (pick something nearby that you can recognize at a distance, e.g. a tall dead tree)
Sometimes it’s better to stay put, sometimes to move, but know when to turn around or stop, and be willing to do so (remember the off-trail hazards, above). Downhill or down stream is not always the way out (there are often cliffs and waterfalls)
Check your own pulse, recognize haste. Be willing to sit all night if you have no light. Even with one, off-trail travel at night can be risky. If you have to find or make a shelter, or gather firewood, do it before dark or before the storm comes in, not during.
If You Cannot Get Out On Your Own
Stay near an open area for visibility
Make a signal: a brightly-colored pack, artificial patterns such as tracks in the snow, a signal mirror (not any old mirror), a flashlight, aerial flare, or fire at night and smoke by day (but watch that fire!)
If a Member of Your Party Is Missing
Search for him or her, but preserve tracks, scent articles (clothing, pack, etc), belongings, witnesses, point-last-seen, camp, car, etc
Send for help, with a clear, complete, accurate report. Your report should include an exact location, what happened, if there is an injury the missing person’s medical background, if they are conscious, able to walk, etc.
Keeping PerspectiveThe vast majority of hikers never get into trouble and we’re not advocating that you carry a 50-lb pack every time you go out in your backyard. Agencies like ours may have a warped perspective because we only meet the unfortunate minority. But in their cases, just a few pieces of gear and/or lessons learned might have made a big difference.