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Backpacker Magazine – January 2012

Escape Plan: Get High and Avoid Quicksand

Strategies for staying alive in flash floods and quicksand.

by: Kristy Holland

Find High Ground
You did everything right—checked the fore- cast, hiked during the dry season—but a freak storm caught you anyway, and the canyon is quickly filling with water. How high do you need to go? “It depends on the geology of the canyon,” says Zion National Park ranger Ray O’Neil. “Slickrock slots will have higher, faster flows than wide, vegetated valleys.” His advice: Look for the debris line of sticks and logs left behind by previous floods and climb above it. Can’t find high enough ground? As a last-ditch effort, get behind a boulder or rock fin that will reduce the force of the water.


Stay Afloat in Quicksand
 >> Don’t struggle. Moving water (and pan- icked, jerking movement) reduces friction between individual grains of sand, which low- ers surface stability and will cause you to sink.
>> Distribute your weight. Remove your pack and gently release your arms and legs from the sand as you crawl onto its surface. Then, flip onto your back into a spread- eagle position.
>> Swim. Backstroke toward safety—higher ground, riverbanks, or sandy surfaces with rocks or plants on them, which indicate a more stable surface.

See more Escape Plans in Survival: True Reader Tales

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