Careful Out There: Fallen Trees, Wolves, and a Crevasse

Your survival and accident report for the week of August 12th to 19th

Photo: Chet Williams

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Treefall Kills Colorado Backpacker 

A backpacker was killed last Monday when a tree fell on the tent where she was sleeping along the Colorado Trail. Beth Skelley, 56, of Lafayette, CO, was camping under Grizzly Peak with two companions, both of whom were uninjured in the incident. Lesson learned: While falling trees and limbs are often unpredictable, avoid pitching your tent in the fall zone of dead trees or precarious-looking branches. Take extra caution when camping in windy conditions and in areas affected by beetle kill.

Wolf Attack in Banff National Park

An ill lone wolf attacked a family of four inside their tent in a campground in Banff. The animal tore its way into the tent where Matt and Elisa Rispoli were sleeping with their two young boys earlier this month. A man in a neighboring campsite heard their screams and rushed to assist in scaring the wolf away. Matt Rispoli suffered cuts to his hands and arms, but the family is safe and well. The wolf was shot soon after. Lesson learned: The Rispoli family did not have any food in their tent or do anything that provoked the animal—this wolf was desperate and its behavior was not normal. Wolf attacks are extremely rare. If you find yourself facing an aggressive wolf, fight back. 

Hikers Fall into Crevasse on Mt. Shasta

Two hikers survived a treacherous fall on Mt. Shasta on Thursday. Abilene Bushong and her hiking partner were descending Shasta at the end of a 448-mile trek when they decided to glissade down what appeared to be a snowfield. The two backpackers were launched into the air, sending Bushong 20 feet into a crevasse, where she landed on a small ice ledge. She managed to call 911 from inside the crevasse, initiating a helicopter rescue. Neither hiker was seriously injured. Lesson learned: Only glissade on slopes you can scope from the top, and always maintain a safe speed. If visibility isn’t perfect, don’t slide—there could be drop-offs hidden below. Follow these tips for safe glissading. 

Hiker Found Alive in Montana after Five Days Missing

Kaden Laga, 25, returned safely to his family on Friday after spending five days alone in Montana’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Laga was on a horeback riding trip with his family last week when one horse was injured and he offered to hike ahead of the group. Laga became lost and spent five days alone. Early Friday morning, Laga happened upon a Search and Rescue camp and was evacuated without major injuries. Lesson learned: Hikers often become lost after abandoning a group. Stay together whenever possible. If lost, stay put to increase your chances of being found.

Body of Missing California Hiker Found in Trinity Alps

The body of Daniel Komins was discovered on Sunday after a three-day search involving 12 rescue teams. Komins, 34, set out on a solo backpacking trip on August 10th, and was reported missing by his family when he didn’t return home five days later. The hiker is believed to have fallen to his death on steep, rocky terrain. Lesson learned: Falls are one of the chief causes of backcountry fatalities. Whether backpacking alone or with others, take extreme caution on unstable, steep terrain. 

 The wilderness is full of dangers. Raging rivers, unpredictable bears, huge avalanches—no matter how prepared you are, a walk in the woods can go from safe to disastrous in the blink of an eye. Out Alive is BACKPACKER’s podcast about real people who survived the unsurvivable. Learn what went wrong, what went right, and how you can increase your odds if the unimaginable happens to you. Listen now, and stay safe.