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#275187 - 05/24/15 02:55 PM Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again
Doug_Ritter Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/28/01
Posts: 1961
Stuart Bell was just going to spend an hour snowshoeing in Colorado, but things didn't go as planned. It was a very cold night...Stuart tells his tale and then analyzes what went wrong and what he might have done different. I then also takes a look at the survival experience and offers up some of his own advice.

http://www.equipped.org/032015survive.htm

Thanks to Stuart for sharing his experience that others may benefit from the lessons learned.
_________________________
Doug Ritter
Editor
Equipped To Survive®
Chairman & Executive Director
Equipped To Survive Foundation
www.KnifeRights.org
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#275188 - 05/24/15 04:01 PM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
Leigh_Ratcliffe Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/31/06
Posts: 1355
Loc: United Kingdom.
PLB's etc are all very well but you still have to survive the night, so:
1) Carry a proper sleeping bag and a mat. They don't weigh a lot and will go a long way towards keeping you warm.
2) Carry proper firelighter's. That means Esbit or simular. Minimum of 4 - 6. I have used sterno and firepastes. Not impressed with them. They don't burn hot enough or long enough.
3) Calories and lots of them. Hot chocolate, Soups, Bars of chocolate, Coffee or tea according to your tastes. Sugar. I also carry instant noodles. Not the worlds greatest food but quick easy and a great moral lifter.
4) Matches. NATO lifeboat prefered. Drop one of them on a firelighter and you will have fire.
5) A shelter. Heatsheets are good for this. Getting out of the weather is priority number one.
_________________________
I don't do dumb & helpless.

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#275191 - 05/24/15 06:45 PM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
Montanero Offline
Veteran

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1447
Loc: North Carolina
As Doug's analysis states, carrying a backup map and compass is good. I have found that it is better to periodically check your location on that map and verify direction with the compass. If you don't know your location on the map, the map may not be very useful when you realize you are lost. If he had used a map from the beginning and sighted the azimuths to prominent landmarks, the GPS problem would have been evident right away.

It would be very easy to carry enough backup clothing without going over a couple of pounds. I always (summer or winter) carry a set of Smartwool long underwear. Even relative temperature changes can cause hypothermia, it does not need to be below freezing. The most miserable night I ever spent was in a tropical environment in the mountains. The low areas were near sea level, but the mountains were over 4,000 feet. It was wet and around 45 degrees F.

In winter I carry a set of Montbel outer garments. They weigh ounces, top and bottom combined, and pack small. I have tested them in sub 20 degree F weather with nothing under them but shorts and t-shirt underneath and they were very warm.

I also carry a waterproof/windproof layer that is very light and packs very small. If I had all three of those layers on, I would sweat to death if it was not below freezing. All of these clothing layers weigh about 2.5 pounds combined, and would fit in a medium lumbar pack.

A Sea to Summit sil-nylon tarp poncho is also in my bag. Light, small and easy to build a shelter with.

I am also a fan of the Blast Match. It can start a fire on paper, leaves and dry grass without tinder. But as Doug said, redundancy in fire starting is not just good, it is necessary. My favorite is the UCO or REI stormproof matches.

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#275193 - 05/24/15 11:29 PM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
Russ Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 06/02/06
Posts: 4987
Loc: SOCAL
Thanks for posting the article on this incident. It's always nice to have a living subject to debrief who knows he screwed up and wants to do things better next time. He seems to have the right mindset. Everything that needs to be said is in the report -- errors in judgment, gear problems, et al. There will be differences of opinion on specific knives to carry and fire-making kits; whether what you carry is good or bad depends on whether or not it works for you.

The big error I saw was the last minute change of plans without letting anyone know the plans changed. He knew enough to call his wife and let her know he was hiking Buchanan Pass, but then didn't tell her he'd changed to Brainard Lake, which was apparently a new place for him. Lack of a cell signal is a reason, not an excuse. At the time it probably seemed like no big deal, but he knew better.

Getting lost -- How often does a survival situation commence with someone getting lost? (That's a rhetorical Q.) GPS/Map/Compass always in unfamiliar locales. The line in the article that troubled me most was:
Quote:
...The GPS did the same thing to me once before, although I wasn't using it to navigate in that case. ...
Wow. The GPS had a known (by him) critical bug and he used it anyway. A GPS that will take you in the wrong direction is not a device to rely on when you need it. I have a couple of the older gen Garmin receivers and they've never done that. I still use a Garmin Geko 301 occasionally, good GPS within its limits, simple and all the GPS you need if you also have a map. You've got to know the limits of your gear.

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#275194 - 05/25/15 12:50 AM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
BruceZed Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 01/06/08
Posts: 298
Loc: Canada
Nice Article Doug, thanks for posting.

1) I think the biggest real error was using the GPS for Navigation, instead of Position finding on a Topographical Map which is does very well. If he had used and carried a Topo Map & been able to use his compass thing would have gone much better for him as he would have noticed at his first Nav Check that he was being led astray by the GPS Navigation Feature.

2) Make a Plan and Follow it or Tell someone you are changing your plan.

3) Always have an Escape Route i.e. a Bearing you can follow on your compass to get out. That means you need to plan and look at your route before you head into the wilderness and understand what bear you need to follow if you get lost.

4) Practice with every bit of gear you carry into the wilderness!
_________________________
Bruce Zawalsky
Chief Instructor
Boreal Wilderness Institute
boreal.net

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#275195 - 05/25/15 06:24 AM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: BruceZed]
Herman30 Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 08/08/06
Posts: 248
Loc: Finland
Originally Posted By: BruceZed
biggest real error was using the [b]GPS for Navigation, instead of Position finding on a Topographical Map

This sound like a real good advice. Use GPS to find yourself on the map and then use compass for navigation.

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#275196 - 05/25/15 08:50 AM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Herman30]
Leigh_Ratcliffe Offline
Veteran

Registered: 03/31/06
Posts: 1355
Loc: United Kingdom.
Originally Posted By: Herman30
Originally Posted By: BruceZed
biggest real error was using the [b]GPS for Navigation of Position finding on a Topographical Map

This sound like a real good advice. Use GPS to find yourself on the map and then use compass for navigation.


If I might add to that?
Modern smart phones have a GPS built in and there are plenty of good free apps available. Very useful for obtaining a position and for cross checking your Garmin. Make sure it's in a format that you can easily relate to your map.

Also: ALLWAYS carry a waterproof notebook and two pencils. Everytime you check your position NOTE THE DETAILS. Position, time, bearing.
Two compasses. Its remarkable how many people panic and get lost because they think their compass is wrong. Gaving a spare allows you to compare one to the other.
_________________________
I don't do dumb & helpless.

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#275198 - 05/25/15 06:31 PM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
hikermor Online   content
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 6693
Loc: southern Cal
I am a stark, raving traditionalist, I suppose, but I still prefer to employ a paper map,typically a topo of 1:24000 scale or so, supplemented by a GPS. Navigating by terrain features, i will very rarely pull out my compass, usually in conditions of reduced visibility. The nice thing about maps is that they do not require batteries.

I don't expect my cellphone to work; if it does, that is a questionable bonus. I go to wild places as a change from the urban rat race, not to tweet about the neat experiences I am having.

This tale is very reminiscent of a trip I took many decades ago, also on snowshoes in deep snow, involving an unplanned winter bivouac. The key to my survival was a small gas stove, tucked into my pocket at the last minute, which allowed me to melt snow and brew tea intermittently during a long,cold night. I was surprised at how much energy I had in the morning, although I dozed only fitfully.

Although I routinely carry a stove, multiple means of building a wood fire are always with me, as well as a bivvy sack and at the very least, a shell parka. I will always carry a knife, but I have always been able to gather enough firewood with my bare hands to keep a fire going as long as necessary. If I build anything, it should include a reflector of some sort; otherwise one part of your body is roasting while the other is freezing.

The emphasis on batoning and "processing" timber products always puzzles me. If conditions or the forecast is stormy, a stove and fuel is placed in the pack, absolutely. Once I have started a fire, I have always been able to dry wood and keep it going - at least in western coniferous forests.

The great thing about this account is the after action analysis; this guy will survive, doing much better the next time.
_________________________
Geezer in Chief

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#275199 - 05/25/15 08:20 PM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
TeacherRO Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 03/11/05
Posts: 2376
Noted: You are going out alone on a Winter afternoon in the mountains. (10,000ft)

Given this set of circumstances, you should plan to spend the night - Carrying appropriate gear and food.

Imagine how the narrative changes if he had said - Well I was lost so I put on my big parka, sat down on a piece of foam and made dinner on my stove...and waited it out.

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#275210 - 05/26/15 10:03 AM Re: Lessons Learned: Never Want To Be This Cold Again [Re: Doug_Ritter]
Tom_L Offline
Addict

Registered: 03/19/07
Posts: 690
With due respect, I am not sure the real problem was carrying insufficient gear. The hiker went out for a short (one hour!) snowshoeing trip, which does not generally require a lot of equipment. But he made a major error in trusting his GPS while neglecting the basic land navigation skills and gut feeling (again, happens to the best of us).

Bruce already made a good analysis of the situation and also proposed a viable solution IMHO. Regardless of your equipment (GPS, compass etc.) it's always a good idea to pay close attention to the terrain features and double check your direction wherever you go.

Had the hiker realized his error in time he should've been able to backtrack to his car. Given that there was heavy snow cover (apparently deep enough to require snowshoes) it should've been possible to follow the tracks all the way back. After all, the distances involved were very short, just a couple of miles.

Granted, extra gear, warm clothing and a small stove would've been nice as additional insurance, but with sound land navigation skills the situation would've been avoided altogether.

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