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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

Backcountry Survival: How to Survive in the Backcountry

There's a backcountry killer on the loose, and it's not hypothermia, grizzly bears, or rockfall. The thing mostly likely to maim you on your next hiking trip is living inside your head.

by: Mark Jenkins


Kodikian was sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 13 years suspended. He eventually spent 16 months in jail. The tragedy was attributed to the misery and delirium caused by extreme thirst. But Kodikian's testimony revealed perplexing facts. When Kodikian and Coughlin first lost their way, they still had water, were practically on the trail, and were less than a mile from their car. Had they simply stopped, took shelter in the shade, and collected their wits, they might well have retraced their steps.

On the third day, Kodikian and Coughlin hiked to the opposite rim and back to camp, indicating that they were not debilitatingly dehydrated. From their vantage point high on the western rim, they should have seen the park's visitor center, and two water towers along the Rattlesnake trailhead road.

The men's final campsite was only 275 feet from a marked trail leading out of the canyon and less than a mile from their car. "People have actually gotten lost there," said Gary McCandless, chief detective for the Eddy County Sheriff's department. "But it didn't take them long to find their way out."

An autopsy found Coughlin to be moderately to severely dehydrated, but nowhere near death. An unopened can of beans was found at their campsite. Kodikian, although clearly thirsty, was not only strong enough to bury his best friend under 70-pound rocks, he spent just two hours in the hospital after his rescue.

But if thirst wasn't the killer, what was?

Panic.



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READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Leigh
Dec 05, 2013

Well written. It's amazing how much of life and the decisions we make simply comes down to how we choose to breathe.

Dinah Beres
Apr 20, 2011

I think every backcountry hiker and backpacker should read this.

Steve B
Apr 15, 2009

To Chris P-Zwit - What exactly does a college education have to do with someones judgement in an outdoor survival situation? It seems kind of odd that you question someone elses judgement with such a bizarre and off the wall judgement yourself...

Chris P-Zwit
Jan 03, 2009

See the movie Gerry by Gus Van Sant. It uses this story. Fear and ignorance turned into panic and despair which spiraled into confusion and over reaction. Having hitched and hiked America, you have to stay oriented and not wander too far out. These guys barely left the car and freaked out. College educated, but no street or outdoor smarts. What a sad note on "higher education."

Anonymous
Dec 16, 2008

good article, very informative, lots of good examples used to illustrate panic and solutions to it

pat
Sep 11, 2008

It would be nice to kn ow how many pages are in the article before starting

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Trailhead Register
Darn, very tragic news:
Posted On: Aug 23, 2014
Submitted By: double cabin
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Your Yosemite Tips
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