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#280787 - 05/26/16 03:03 PM Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost.
Mark_R Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 05/29/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Southern California
http://www.pressherald.com/2016/05/25/re...in-maine-woods/

She stepped off the trail for a bathroom break and got royally turned around. It's a good example of how important water and environmental protection is to survival. It's also an argument for a decent signalling system.
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#280804 - 05/26/16 11:27 PM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 5865
Loc: southern Cal
I suspect this is somewhat allied to the recent GPS thread. If you are following either a GPS or a trail blindly, and not paying attention to your surroundings, you can easily become confused. This unfortunate lady apparently was not well oriented to the terrain through which she was hiking.
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#280807 - 05/27/16 01:19 AM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
Montanero Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1082
Loc: North Carolina
She did almost everything wrong. So many simple things could have made it end differently.

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#280808 - 05/27/16 01:32 AM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
Mark_R Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 05/29/10
Posts: 832
Loc: Southern California
She stayed put, which was the right choice. But, not allowing for poor navigation skills really did her in. Ironically, a whistle and a GPS, even something as simple as a Bushnell Backtrack, could have saved her.
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Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane

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#280812 - 05/27/16 03:04 AM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Montanero]
Roarmeister Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 09/12/01
Posts: 848
Loc: Saskatchewan, Canada
Originally Posted By: Montanero
She did almost everything wrong. So many simple things could have made it end differently.


No, not everything. She had her cell phone and sent out messages rather than calling. She sought out higher ground for cell reception. She managed the power on her phone and managed to keep it going for nearly 2 weeks. She stayed put and didn't wander off getting herself into bigger trouble. She set up her tent and waited. She set up a mylar blanket as a signal even though the woods were pretty dense. She appeared to have crafted a flag out of a branch and shirt and attempted to start a large fire, according to the newly released file, presumably to reveal her location. Largay built a latrine area away from her tent and kept wrappers from her dwindling food supply — Cliff bars, tuna fish packs, and Gatorade powder — tucked in a large Ziploc bag. Her final camp was near water so she was able to survive the extra 26 days. She had her husband as backup who was able to see her every couple of days along the trail. The site, located near a stream, was thoughtful and orderly. Largay built a platform of logs and pine boughs on which to pitch her tent. While at the site, she also used a small black composition book as a daily journal.

Her story is a sad one. But I see no reason to take her to task after her passing. Could she have done things different to stay alive - you bet.
Given her penchant for losing the trail and having her friend re-find her several times, she should have left the trail when her friend did. Later, (her friend) Ms. Lee would tell an investigator “that Geraldine had a poor sense of direction,” the Warden Service’s investigative report said. “Ms. Lee said that Geraldine had taken a wrong turn on the trail, more than once,” and Ms. Largay “became flustered and combative when she made these kinds of mistakes.” But after he reported his wife missing, Mr. Largay told an investigator that “Gerry was probably in over her head.” Her doctor would tell investigators that once she ran out of the medication she took for anxiety, she could suffer panic attacks.

But she trudged on, even after her friend tried to convince her otherwise because she was out there for the adventure. When most women her age would be content to be caring for grandkids or gardening she was out there experiencing.

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#280813 - 05/27/16 04:43 AM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
Phaedrus Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 1955
Loc: Great Plains
Very sad but I am glad her mortal remains were found. It will be a great comfort for her family; even though the news is sad at least now they will know.
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#280815 - 05/27/16 07:13 AM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
LED Offline
Veteran

Registered: 09/01/05
Posts: 1474
Originally Posted By: Mark_R
She stayed put, which was the right choice.


From what I understand from the article she estimates she hiked 3-4 miles away from her original location. Also, it states there was thick canopy coverage where she camped and no sign of a successful signal fire? This is not an attempt to criticize but to understand what could have been done differently. IMO this is a tragic yet valuable learning opportunity and reminder to always be prepared in the backcountry. I'd be interested to know for example what fire making implements she carried. Bic lighter? Ferro? Matches?

Quote:

Several hours later, Largay stopped somewhere along the trail to go to the bathroom.

Then she got lost.

When she couldn’t find her way back to the trail, marked with blue and white blazes, Gerry tried to send a text message to her husband.

“In somm trouble. Got off trail to go to br. Now lost,” she typed into her blue Samsung sliding phone at 11:01 a.m. “Can u call [the Appalachian Mountain Club] to c if a trail maintainer can help me. Somewhere north of woods road. XOX.”

But there was no cellphone service in the remote stretch of forest and the message would not send.

Instead of continuing to search for the trail, she wandered west in an attempt to find higher ground and cell tower coverage, according to the Warden Service report.

She eventually found higher ground, but not phone reception. It’s unclear where she spent her first night in the wild, but by her second day off the trail, she had reached the copse of hemlocks atop the ridge where she would die.


At 4:18 p.m. that day, around the time when she was supposed to meet her husband on Route 27, she tried to send another text.

“Lost since yesterday,” she typed. “Off trail 3 or 4 miles. Call police for what to do pls. XOX.”

Again, the message never sent.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morn...alachian-trail/

Quote:

Ms. Largay sought high ground, possibly hoping for a cell signal. She tried over and over to send messages, but none went through.

On July 23, she set up camp, laying her tent atop sticks and pine needles, under a canopy of hemlocks that probably obscured her from airborne rescuers. She tied a shiny silver blanket between two trees, possibly to attract attention, and nearby trees had burn marks.

It looks like some sort of fire was attempted on those trees by Gerry,” wrote Lt. Kevin Adam, of the Warden Service, in a report.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/27/us/mising-hiker-geraldine-largay-appalachian-trail-maine.html?_r=0

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#280820 - 05/27/16 12:13 PM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
Montanero Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/14/08
Posts: 1082
Loc: North Carolina
It is not taking anyone to task for anything. She did not stay put. She did not stay oriented and lost the trail. She was not visible to rescuers. She went beyond her capabilities.

Simple skills and supplies or equipment would have saved her life. It is sad that people go into such situations with little or no preparation. We feel for her and the family, but we must learn from such events by being realistic about their mistakes.

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#280821 - 05/27/16 02:45 PM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Montanero]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief
Geezer

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 5865
Loc: southern Cal
Looking for a missing hiker when there is only an indefinite, vague area in which they were last seen is extremely challenging, since you automatically must cover many more miles. Interestingly, none of the reports mention any use of aerial resources, although it is hard to believe that none would have been used.

Hiker on a high point, a deployed mylar blanket, possibly even a fire would have made her rescue rather routine by a plane or helo.

Weather is described as rainy, which makes disorientation easy. She had a compass, but was not a competent user. She had left her Spot device in her last motel room. There is no mention of a map in her possession - that alone should have been enough for her to find the trail.

Sad, sad story. Do not rely too much on your cellphone....
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#280823 - 05/27/16 05:38 PM Re: Backpacker survives 27 days after getting lost. [Re: Mark_R]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2573
Loc: Alberta, Canada
I suspect that that going off-trail to answer the call of nature is a classic way to get turned around. It's so disarmingly simple and routine that you'd never expect to get into trouble. A lot of backpackers even leave their main packs beside the trail because, you know, they'll be right back.

Sadly, for this lady, it seems to me that a cascade of small and very human errors led to an untimely end. This is not intended to show any disrespect. Someone who walked a thousand miles of trails is surely a kindred spirit. If nothing else, she at least faced her situation, in the end, with more grace than many.

As a solo backpacker, I was always mindful of the need to be able to hunker down or self-rescue. Since I'm a middling navigator at best, I made a concerted effort to have a mental map of hard boundaries (trail, road, river) and their general direction; and to try to check the compass as a rough indication of my general direction of travel. I have been turned around many times, which is especially easy in the "endless detour" that is dense bush mixed with wetlands, but if I had a rough compass bearing I knew that I was never hopelessly lost.

This is important: people who feel totally lost can tend to panic, clouding their thinking and increasing the danger of their situation. I suspect the attempt to find cell phone reception is an indication that she was overwhelmed. This seems to have led her farther from safety. It's doubly unfortunate, then, that her SPOT device was accidentally left behind.

The SAR people were undoubtedly giving it their all, but in very dense brush you can lose a VW Beetle and not find it unless you practically trip over it. As others have noted, better signalling capabilities may have tipped the balance in her favour. There seem to be indications that she attempted fire (fire scars on trees, and candles and a lighter were found with her) but was not successful. This may have been a lack of skills, or she may have lacked adequate tools (saw or strong blade) to utilize the materials around her. A smoky fire would have helped SAR find her -- even the smell, if not visible smoke, provides a starting point.

I know that aborting a trip is the hardest thing to do, but (with every respect) that's what should have happened here. I feel badly for her family, who must have felt so helpless. This at least provides closure.

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