Lunchbox here: I've just finished a roll in a pile of Colorado's week-old snow—part of my preparation to get winterized for the coldest season's rescues.
Let's take a look at this week's outdoor predicaments and see if we can't glean some wisdom fromt hsi week's wilderness triumphs and tragedies:
Man stranded in Gila Wilderness. A solo hiker on the 25-mile Big Bear Loop failed to return by the end of his scheduled itinerary, which he left with a friend. The steep and rugged terrain proved a challenge for the 35 rescue personnel on foot, so they dispatched choppers to help find the man along his projected route. Eventually, choppers spotted a giant "SOS" spelled out in bright clothing. The choppers directed on-foot teams to his location and helped him out. It's unclear whether the man had been injured or simply lost, but he's described as an experienced outdoorsman with plenty of extra food and water.
Lunchbox's lesson: Even though we don't know the whole story, it seems like this 44-year-old Texan man did lots of things right. He hiked solo, which is always risky, but he left a detailed itinerary of his route with both a friend and at the visitor's center. He rightly assumed searchers would try to find him by air, and so he left a large visual clue to lead rescuers to his location. Smart.
Skier dies on Washington's Mt. Baker. A man and his wife went on a backcountry jaunt in the Mt. Baker Wilderness (he skied; she snowshoed) last Sunday. On their return trip to the backcountry gate of the Mt. Baker Ski Area, she fell 20 feet; when she recovered, she saw her husband 20 yards above her, but when she returned to their route she couldn't find him. Heavy wind and snow slowed the search effort, but he was found the next day buried under 18 inches of snow. Authorities think a cornice broke off and buried him upside down.
Lunchbox's lesson: Backcountry dangers apply even in slackcountry areas like this one, just beyond the gate of a major ski area. If the couple had worn avalanche beacons and had known how to use them, the outcome could've been different.
KY hikers found after 2-hour search. A young couple hiking near the terrifyingly-named Dogslaughter Falls in Kentucky realized that they'd lost their flashlight just as the early dark caught them by surprise. Rather than risk getting lost in the dark, they called 911. After a two-hour search, SAR personnel found the couple a quarter-mile from the trailhead.
Lunchbox's lesson: If they truly felt lost, then stopping and waiting for help was the right call. But Lunchbox thinks the lovebirds were spending too much time gazing into each other's eyes instead of watching the trail or the sun setting behind the horizon. A little more attention would've kept rescuers away and the pair could be snuggling under a blanket at home. But I'm betting a dose of backcountry danger sure didn't hurt the romance...