Lunchbox's Disaster Round-Up, 12-04

The beloved star of our in-book feature "The Predicament," Lunchbox the Cadaver Sniffing Dog, brings you a round-up of this week's outdoor predicaments, disasters, and near-misses
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The beloved star of our in-book feature "The Predicament," Lunchbox the Cadaver Sniffing Dog, brings you a round-up of this week's outdoor predicaments, disasters, and near-misses

The holidays are upon us! That means lots of family, friends, and presents (I'm asking for a new rawhide, m'self). But all that warm togetherness means some people will get the urge to share their love of wilderness with loved ones—just as it's getting colder and darker.

Let's take a look at this week's outdoor predicaments and see if we can encourage some preparedness and foresight before the holiday season gets in full swing:

Woman falls 1,000 feet from Angel's Landing in Zion. A 50-year-old woman hiking alone along the precipitous Angel's Landing Trail in Zion National Park tripped and fell over 1,000 feet to her death, according to park officials. While there are chain rails along some sections of the trail, it is believed she fell in a section without them, a third of the way from Scout Lookout to the top.

Lunchbox's lesson: Angel's Landing is a scary trail—so much so that it made BACKPACKER's 10 Most Dangerous Hikes list. Hikers should not attempt this without being absolutely certain they can be comfortable in very exposed terrain. Subtle shifts in weather can dramatically worsen conditions in precarious situations like these (though officials say weather wasn't a factor this time). And again, hiking an extremely dangerous trail solo is a risky proposition. If another person were there, she might've been able to wait for help. Even then, exposed trails like this are simply very risky, and this woman might've just had a very unlucky accident.

Man stuck upside down dies in Utah cave. An extended family home for the holidays in Utah decided to explore Nutty Putty Cave; most members stuck to wide, well-traveled areas, but a smaller group ventured into tighter areas. A 26-year-old man soon became wedged upside down in an 18-inch wide, 10-inch high opening known as Bob's Push. Rescuers spent over 24 hours trying to free him, and succeeded, but then a cord holding the man failed, and he fell back into the crevice. After his second fall, his condition began to deteriorate, and he died early on Thanksgiving. Citing the danger of retrieving the body, officials decided to seal off the cave and leave his remains.

Lunchbox's lesson: This is a sad event. Spelunking is always risky, and the environmental factors present in caves—cold, wet, and dark as it gets—usually only compound the danger. It seems like this victim just got excited and went ahead, stranding himself in a situation he couldn't get out of. Sticking with the larger group in safe areas of the cave might've kept accidents from happening. Also, investigating the opening feet-first rather than head-first might've made for better survival/rescue chances.

British Columbia hiker survives 3 days alone in the wild with broken pelvis. A 26-year-old man on a solo hiking/photography trip in BC's Hornby Island took a wicked 20-foot fall, shattering his pelvis. Not planning for much more than a two-hour hike, he survived by drinking water off of blades of grass. Eventually, he fashioned a harness from leather straps on his army surplus pants and crawled across the ground for days until he reached a remote beach. There, hikers who mistook his screams for help as those of a baby eagle found him and arranged for rescue. He's expected to recover in 6 months.

Lunchbox's Lesson: Never doubt the power of a fierce will to live. Despite facing increasingly dire circumstances, this Canadian continued fighting and improvised clever solutions. "I didn't stop for a lot of philosophizing out there," he said. "It was do it or don't. The alternative was death."

Hike safe out there, people—I don't want to leave my rawhide to find you.

—Lunchbox