Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Our Newest Navigators

Our Newest Navigators

On Friday night, 40 students and staff from a Pennsylvania university needed to be rescued in Kentucky after they got lost while hiking along a popular trail.  Clearly, no one in the group had bothered to learn the basic map and compass skills that would have let them safely find their way, or, more importantly, would have likely prevented their predicament in the first place.  Regrettably, this is the way many people approach the outdoors.  Except, that is, Ian and Skot, who just completed “Basic Wilderness Navigation” yesterday. On what was probably the loveliest day of the year so far — clear skies with a bright sun, little wind, and temperatures in the low 50s — we met at Hartwood Acres County Park to learn the fundamentals of map and compass. We started the first evolution of the course learning the basics of a standard USGS topographic map, and then […]

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Communing with the Dead

Communing with the Dead

On Saturday, my postwoman handed me the latest version of Accidents in North American Mountaineering (ANAM) that I had ordered earlier in the week.  When I get home tonight from a meeting with my friend, J.C., I fully intend to crack open a beer, plop down on my couch with my fresh copy, and, soon after I start to read, begin heavily marking the pages with my highlighter and pencil.  Since it is the sixth year in a row that I’ve been reading this journal, I know that it will probably take me about a week to finish — And I will appreciate every minute of it. Whoa, wait a minute, Erik, isn’t it a little weird to “appreciate” page after page of death, injury, and mortality statistics?  I wrote “appreciate,” not “enjoy.”  Besides, I read it … and often recommend it to my students … for very good reasons.  After […]

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Who Should Pay for the Rescue?

Who Should Pay for the Rescue?

Last week, search and rescue (SAR) teams were dispatched on multiple occasions to find or assist hikers who had gotten lost in the Superstition Mountains of Arizona.  The fact that the hikers needed help wasn’t unusual (since it happens fairly often), but that so many did, in so short a period of time, raised eyebrows in the local outdoors community.  After all, for one female hiker rescued on Wednesday, this wasn’t her first time requiring the service of SAR — It was her second time in three months. The recent events there, then, has helped to fuel a continuing debate that has grown across the country over the last ten years:  Who should pay the cost of a wilderness rescue?  The use of a helicopter, for example, for even a few hours can cost a local government thousands of dollars.  Still, it doesn’t seem that the general public generally minds […]

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Preparation is Key

Preparation is Key

Whether it is preparing for an unexpected survival or medical emergency,  a common misconception exists.  That is, that one can effectively deal with the emergency with only the barest minimum of equipment.  For example, some people believe that they should be able to survive if they were suddenly blindfolded and dropped into the wilderness, in winter, dressed only in their underwear and equipped simply with a knife (Don’t laugh, I have actually heard this).  Perhaps this might work on a television reality show, but I doubt that it would work in actual reality.  This misconception can potentially be deadly. Consider the heroic rescue reported by The Salem News this weekend in Peabody, Massachusetts: A snowplow driver, who was parked in the break-down lane of Interstate 95 on Friday, watched a Jeep Wrangler slam, at roughly 60 miles per hour, into the back of a front-end loader being operated by a co-worker. […]

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The Shackleton Survival Voyage Retraced

The Shackleton Survival Voyage Retraced

Today, an expedition composed of six Brits and Australians, led by Tim Jarvis and Barry Grey, completed a re-enactment of one of the greatest survival adventures of all time. The team followed the path of Ernest Shackleton, the acclaimed polar explorer, who in 1914 set out to sea from Great Britain on the Endurance with a crew of 56 men, just as hostilities broke out with Germany, to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent from sea to sea via the South Pole.  However, soon after leaving port, the expedition faced one difficulty after another.  Ultimately, though, even after overcoming all of those obstacles, the Endurance became hopelessly trapped in sea ice.  Knowing that their only chance for survival lay in their own hands, Shackleton led his men over high walls of pack ice, hidden crevasses, raging seas, blinding blizzards, even a mountain, to a remote whaling station on […]

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Lost Hikers – Two Outcomes, Both with Important Lessons

Lost Hikers - Two Outcomes, Both with Important Lessons

In the national news this month, two separate incidents occurred that involved two different sets of hikers who had set out for an enjoyable day on the trail.  However, in both cases, their fun quickly became an ordeal when the weather suddenly turned against them and they were not properly prepared for conditions. In the one case, the story had a happy ending.  Two sisters were rescued after spending a night on a mountain in California.  They suffered the effects of hypothermia, but will likely fully recover. The other outcome, however, was terribly sad.  A man and his two young sons succumbed to hypothermia overnight after getting lost on a remote trail in Missouri. When I initially read about this latter incident a few weeks ago, I had planned on writing a detailed post about it.  However, the more details that I discovered, the more that I couldn’t bring myself […]

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Improvisation: Important in the Outdoors … And in Life

Improvisation: Important in the Outdoors ... And in Life

Whether it is a survival situation, or a medical issue, a recurring theme in dealing with an acute emergency in any remote location is the importance of improvisation.  That’s because rarely, if ever, will we have with us an unlimited amount of resources.  In particular, tools, supplies, and, perhaps most importantly, time, will likely be in short supply.  Most often, we will be forced to make due with what little we may have and in a terribly short of amount of time (thus, making an already stressful situation, even more so).  However, this need not necessarily be too bad — In fact, it could actually be an asset.  We just need to train ourselves to do two things.  First, we need to be able to mentally accept that which we can’t change … Or, as a wise old man once elegantly stated, “Embrace the suck!”  And, secondly, we must learn to […]

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Orienteering: Putting Your Navigation Skills to the Test

Orienteering: Putting Your Navigation Skills to the Test

For anyone who spends time in the woods, whether it is in a remote national forest or a local county park, one of the most fundmental skills of which one should have a strong command is the ability to navigate.  Surprisingly, I have found this skill to be uncommon in the outdoors community for one of two reasons.  First, there are lots of people who spend much time outdoors who definitely may be considered advanced, even expert, in their chosen activity — like rock climbing, backpacking, hunters, or adventure racers — but they really don’t know how to use a compass or even properly read a map.  To them, they are satisfied that they have a GPS or that they can read a trail map.  I’m betting, though, that all of you can see the flaws in this thinking.  Or, second, they once learned how to navigate, but they haven’t […]

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Search-And-Rescue: What Do They Carry?

Search-And-Rescue: What Do They Carry?

I spent a week last Spring in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  These mountains are some of the most beautiful, and welcoming, that I have ever seen.  But as one gazes upon its rolling peaks, it is wise to remember the adage, Looks can be deceiving.  After all, this is the home of Mount Washington, famous for its dangerously erratic weather, which for 76 years, until 2010, held the record for the fastest wind gust ever recorded on the Earth’s surface.  During all seasons of the year, outdoors people, from novice to experienced, are routinely needing to be rescued from its various peaks and slopes.  Just for the short period that I was there, there were at least three major search and rescues, and a few minor ones.  Sometimes the endings are happy, many times they are not. In this part of the country, search and rescues are conducted […]

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The End of the World? Not!

The End of the World? Not!

Unless you tend, like me, to be oblivious of popular culture, then you all know that the end of the world will be tomorrow, Friday, December 21, 2012.  That is just a few, short hours from now. If, though, you are also like me, you are already making plans for this weekend.  In particular, I will be spending Sunday afternoon hiking with my friends, Edie and Celeste, who have invited me out as a guest with their Meet Up group.  Afterwards, the three of us, then, will quite likely head over to Mad Mex in Shadyside for a margarita or two … or three. This so-called Mayan Doomsday Prophecy has been a staple of discussion for about ten years now, probably since just after the humdrum conclusion of Y2K (which I find almost hard to recall now).  Since then it has become a fixture of fear-mongering websites and blogs, books, even […]

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