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October 2006

Lost: True Tales of Wilderness Treks Gone Desperately Wrong

From snowblindness to wrong turns, everyday wilderness adventures can turn ugly if you're not prepared for everything.


1. Leave bread crumbs
Mark your descent route while you’re on the way up, says navigation instructor Bob Speik, who runs “Build a small cairn (or tie ribbons) that you remove on the way down.”

2. Trust the map
“Bob began ‘forcing the map’- that is, deceiving himself into believing that the visible terrain somehow matched the map features,” says Kenneth A. Hill, Ph.D., author of Lost Person Behavior.

3. Listen to skeptics
“When someone in the group thinks things don’t look right, pay attention,” says Don Davis, who manages Colorado’s Larimer County Search and Rescue. At the first sign of doubt, verify your location and route to everyone’s satisfaction.

4. Retreat
“Bob’s reluctance to turn around is typical lost-person behavior,” says Hill. “More often than not, backtracking to a known location is the smartest option available.”

5. Stay level
“Contour!” exclaims Greg Crouch, author of Route Finding: Navigating with Map and Compass. With a closer examination of the map and their altimeter, Bob and Blynn “could have stuck to the same elevation and just contoured around the nose of the ridge separating them from Gourd Lake.”

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