Discussion in 'Fly Fishing Forum' started by chadk, Jan 8, 2007.
Sounds like a good plan to me.
Right on. And that is what this post is all about. Force us to think NOW about "what if?", instead of when the time of need comes. A little planning up front may make a situation just a mere inconveniance (sp) where the lack of planning quickly becomes life and death.
Part 2: Survival Mode
Fred and George triage the situation and shout out their plan to each other.
Fred is tasked with getting a fire going and working on a shelter. He can hobble around OK.
George realizes he will quickly start feeling the first stages of hypothermia soon and knows he has to act quickly. He is shivering and scared. But right now he is in 'survival mode' and acts quickly. He plans to head downstream looking for the gear. He allows himself 15 minutes to cover as much ground as possible. After that he has to focus on getting across no matter what. Knowing Fred will have a blazing fire by the time he gets there keeps him extra motivated and much less afraid.
George starts working his way through the thick brush. The salmon berry bushes are pretty thick and the rocks and logs help keep his pace slow. Looking up the bank all George sees is the rugged walls of the canyon.
Fred begins by selecting a sheltered area that offers protection from the wind and is covered somewhat naturally from the rain by large overhanging branches from a mix of cedars and firs. He heads to an old log jam near the river and begins collecting the aged branches and smaller logs. They are damp, but should be able to be dried out pretty quickly. After he has a good sized pile, he then begins looking for tinder and kindling. He looks in sheltered areas for dry grass, twigs, fir boughs, etc. It takes some work finding the bone dry stuff, but he manages. He knows he has to have enough of the small stuff or it will burn out too fast - before the bigger stuff has a chance to dry a little and begin to burn. Start small and feed and feed - taking your time.
George has made his way down and with the slower pace he covered about a 1/4 mile is just over 20 minutes or so he estimates. He realizes his window of time to cross has come and he starts scanning the water for the best path. As he takes a few steps into the frigid water, he spots something about 100yrds downstream. It looks like one of the boats. He's excited and backs back out of the water. Then his heart sinks. The bank disappears into a rock ledge about 1/2 way down. No way over and the water is deep and fast below. He figures he may have a chance to scale it.
Fred finally has what he thinks is enough kindling, sticks, and logs. He is ready and eager to build a fire knowing his body temperature is quickly dropping. Once the fire is going, he'll start working on the shelter. As he opens his match container, he notices the light rain coming down is turning into sleet and coming down harder by the minute.
George is doing his best to scale the wet and slippery wall. There are plenty of hand and foot holds, but he's losing the feeling in his hands and feet. Adrenaline is keeping him going and he's only got 30 feet to go before he reaches 'flat' ground again.
Fred strikes the first match and it sputters and smokes but quickly dies. The next does the same. The next offers a nice flame, but as he puts it near the tinder is sputters out as well. He realizes his matches are probably 20 years old and have not been used in over 5 years. He has about 5 matches left.
George is almost there. Another 50 yards and he'll be at the boat or whatever it is. His pace quickens. With the end in sight, he gets careless and grabs a hanging root instead of a more secure rock hold. He leans back to get around an outcropped rock and as he reaches for the next hand hold, the root snaps. He's already leaning back and his reflexes and balance are off from the early hypothermia setting in. He's once again headlong in the river...
Fred's on his last match. He stares at it as he feels the fear and desperation building in the back of his throat. His heart is pounding fast. He's really hoping George shows up any second. He hesitates, then strikes it...
The sleet is now full blown snow. It is really coming down and the wind is really kicking in. Twilight yields to darkness. And as only can be experienced in the deep wilderness, darkness is swallowed by blackness.
Fred's last match flickers in his icy numb finger tips and fades with only a tiny puff of smoke. His heart sinks and now he is in full blown survival mode. He begins to focus on the shelter, scrambling to build lean-to structure that will keep the snow off. He builds up the bottom with dry leaves, boughs, and any other softer dry material he can find. His kindling and tinder at least find some use as bedding... He covers his soaking wet body with the little mylar blanket and curls up in the make-shift shelter - shaking, shivering, scared, and worrying more and more about George finding him.
Day 2 begins tomorrow.
God this is fun.
I think Fred needs to make it through the night and get to the truck in the morning. I will assume our friend George is dead. Get to the truck Fred. Get the car started, even if you have to hot wire it. And get the heater going, call for help, or go to the approximate mile post where you think George is, if you think he is still alive and hike in and get him. But call for back up, let people know, there is trouble.
OK. Darkness and snow are falling, Fred has no fire and George is in river again.
George is in deep shit. He's got a dilemmna, but being hypothermic he's probably in no shape to think about it. He was headed for the maybe raft because he thought it was on his side of the river. He'll be trying to get out of the river on his side, and if he manages to do that, he can go see if he can find the maybe raft. Remember that any gear in the raft has fallen out and gone downriver - the best the raft might do is get George across the river. If the raft isn't, then George needs to wring out clothes, empty out waders and build bed. But he's in a lot worse shape than he was an hour ago.
The other side of George's dilemna is the other side of the river. As long as he's in the water again, he's got a choice to just get to the other side of the river any way he can and build bed. If Fred comes looking for George, he'll find him on Fred's side of the river.
Both choices are very dicey.
As for Fred, all he can do is settle down for the night with what he has, and try to stay as warm as he can.
Fred plans to head downriver tomorrow as far as he is physically able, to try to find a trace of George. He considers his choice of trying to cut through the woods to the road (no way can he make the car), and decides to stay on the riverbank. That is where people will be looking for him, because that's where he said he would be. And the searchers will be focused on any sign on the river. Percentagewise, even though the odds are shitty, that's his best bet.
None of these events are surprising me. Dumb-@ssed George should have started out by going upstream. Stoke heat by first working the upstream they already drifted. Then George commits himself to drifting downstream toward Fred. What's downstream below Fred is obviously unknown: They clearly had no idea what they were doing when they started going downstream, besides. Why risk too much of the same-old, downward-spiraling unknown? Calculated risk is all they really have, right?
I'm losing interest...
"This is an annual trip for them. They are very familiar with the area and the details of the float."
From Chad's opener.......... energy use, upstream or downstream, given the difficulty of the terrain, will be about the same. Your point about upstream is good, except the gear is downstream. So we're back to George's "the lady or the tiger" choice, again.
Ceviche, I understand you frustration or lack of 'buying it'. Reminds me of the last few 'lost in the woods' events we've had in the news recently. When you hear the details, you just shake your head and say "what were they thinking!". If they (Fred and George) made all the 'perfect' choices, we would have even less of an interesting discussion I think. And again, the point of this is to get us thinking about what we would do in such a situation and what we can do proactively before we ever get in such a pinch.
This is what the S&R folks do on every search. Note that I do not say rescue. They "game it", which is to say try to figure out which way your head was going, and then your body.
I think Chad's point is that you should "game" your options before you set foot in the river. It might keep you alive.
Personally, I that this is a great wakeup exercise, especially having seen the conditions of the OP rivers over the last weekend.
Fred should have lit his candle first, and used it to light his tinder, instead of messing around with trying to find (and unsuccessfully light) scavenged tinder.
All of this could have been avoided if they wouldn't have let their guard down at the last rapids. When in doubt, scout.
And the idea of one of them trying to cross the river to help the other isn't too smart, if it puts the one crossing the river into an even more dangerous situation. First rule of Search & Rescue: Don't make a bad situation worse, or become another person who needs to be rescued. (even though they're both in deep, and neither can rightly be thought of as a 'rescuer'...) They both should have built a shelter, hunkered down, and tried to stay warm and get through the night, but at this point it looks pretty grim.
Good point on using the tools as they were intended. That's what the candle and tinder are for. Not sure the match had enough fire to light the candle though. Wicks are generally covered in some wax that needs to be melted off before the 'string' can catch fire.
I was thinking that he might have used some tippet material or a bandaid to tie\tape the remaining matches together. Perhaps all of the smaller sparks and flames added together could have worked... You'd think if it was struck within an inch of the tinder and the tinder was quickly put over the flame, it should ignite.
One of the lessons here is: keep your 'emergency\survival kit' updated. Throw out \ replace questionable parts. Test the stuff each trip or just before the trip if its been a while. This will keep you current on what your inventory status is and help you be confident in the quality\reliability of what you have.
When I was a kid, we'd go camping in some horrible weather conditions (not generally planned that way), but my dad would put me in charge of making the fire. He'd give me some basic guidance, then just let me learn the hard way - watching the fire die out quickly try after try until finally I did the work ahead of time to ensure I would have enough small stuff to fuel it into a full blown fire. I remember how proud I was at about the age of 8 when I was able to get a fire going despite the nasty down pour. My older brother had given up, but I was determined. Anyway, I'm looking forward to playing these types of 'survival games' with my boys.
This is a great tread for everyone-
One problem with the emergency blanket- if it is as old as the matches, it is worthless. It will unfold into a bunch of tiny little rectangles because the seams would have broken down over time (this happen to a hiking acquaintance of mine when he needed to use it). He said it was a very cold night with the 80 little blanket squares laid over him.
The blankets just don’t last very long. Don’t try to unfold one to check if they're any good- you won’t get it back small enough to use. I tried this after hearing the above and wanted to see if the ones I had were ok, it was marginal, but I couldn’t fold it back up anywhere near the same size, so I threw them out. I went out and bought some new ones (there inexpensive!).
I’d like to know what Fred was wearing. This will make a difference for him also.
I’ve had the same problem with the matches while hiking- no stove or fire; we ate peanut butter sandwiches made from flat bread for 2 meals- lucky for us it was just an overnighter. So we hiked out and went to the local café for lunch.
I’m going to use this scenario with my scout troop for the next couple of weeks to see how they compare with you guys.
I feel the story also points out a need to practice once in a while building a fire from just a small spark. Was the match held upwind from what was trying to be burned? This is a common mistake when building fire from a small spark. Was there duct tape around? Duct tape can be a great fire starter. Why did he not use the candle wax? Seems like his fire making skills were quite rusty. Also it shows why to carry a lighter instead of matches because even with out fuel in the lighter you can still get a fire going with the steel and flint in the lighter.
Also why would the two lost people get out of site of one another, seems like a very bad move to me and against every thing I learned back in survival training class in high school. Either they should have both walked down river a little ways to see what else they could recover and to get the blood moving a little bit or they should have stayed put and built shelters the best they could. Either way they should start building shelter before they start to lose light and should not head to far Down River that night. Priority one is always shelter.
I agree. Practice is critical. On normal camping trip, where you have great resources and tools to get a fire qoing quickly, force yourself to rely on the bare minimum. Can you start it with just one match? What if it's raining out? Snow on the ground? Heavy winds? What if you don't have a match? What other options are there? In back country travel, I try to have a minimum of 3 different types of fire starters (such as matches, lighter, artifical flint striker, etc). The candle helps you save matches ("one match, one fire!") and should have been the first thing Fred tried to light. But in this case, those matches were just hosed. Possibly they got wet at one time and he never realized it.
Fred was in no condition to scramble down river. This is not easy terrain to walk through. George had a tough choice. Personally I think he was dead meat no matter how fast he could have made a shelter. If you can't get dry in freezing weather, you die. He had no way to get dry. As cold as the river probably was and with the temps rapidly approaching freezing - early hypothermia systems had to showing already. The thought of a fire available on the other side of the river would probably drive most of us to find a way back accross. Fred had to stay put, not only for the injuries, but also to get the fire and shelter going. Not only did he need it, but if George makes it accross, he's going to be in bad shape and will need that fire to survive.
I NEVER wear cotton on the river, no matter how hot it is during the day. Wet cotton is a killer.
Another of their (multiple) mistakes was to bunch their pontoons on the river, thereby ensuring that they both hit the submerged log. When me and my buddy do remote rivers in our pontoons (a couple times per year), we keep about 1/8 mile between us. We used to use visual cues, or blasts on a whistle, to communicate potential problems, but now we carry small FRS radios on our vests. If the lead dumps the boat and takes a swim, the second can avoid the problem, and be in a position to help.