The Biggest Loser: Hikers That Get Lost

Search-and-Rescue guru Robert Koester creates a quick profile of the average victim and his behavior.
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Search-and-Rescue guru Robert Koester creates a quick profile of the average victim and his behavior.

WHO

Male, age 38, dayhiking solo.

TYPE OF TERRAIN

Mountains (88%)

Dry, non-forested terrain (like deserts and above treeline) (62 %)

Forests (38%)

***%’s add up to more than 100 since types of terrain often overlap

WHEN

July and August account for the most incidents (each 19%), followed by June and September (12%).

WHY

The typical victim is poorly equipped—often lacking map and compass—and compounds a wrong or missed turn by forging ahead rather than retracing his steps to his last known location.

WHERE THEY ARE EVENTUALLY FOUND

In the mountains, it’s usually 11-to 12 miles from the point the hiker was last spotted/known to be. Research suggests that “most people get lost near the middle of a route to a destination or halfway in between when coming back.” Koester has also seen a rise in recent years in the number of people found uphill from where they were last seen or known to be. While some hikers have always headed to higher ground in an attempt to reorient themselves, Koester says that many more are now saying that they moved uphill searching for cell-phone coverage.