Listen to your inner Boy Scout — Be Prepared

More people on day hikes find themselves in trouble.

More people on day hikes find themselves in trouble.

As youngsters I think most of us can remember our parents hounding us, asking where we were going when we went out.

This hasn’t changed much as parents today still inquire with their children about their plans.

Yet as adults we’re notorious for not letting others know where we’re going, especially when it applies to travelling in the wilderness.

Backcountry users, regardless of experience, who wander off for only a few hours should let someone know of their plans and time of return.

You can break a bone, get lost or have some other mishap as easily on a four-hour trip as a seven-day outing.

My personal experience has shown that about 80 per cent of wilderness emergencies arise from day outings, while approximately 20 per cent involve overnighters.

Many factors are involved, such as improper foot gear (sprained and broken ankles), no map or compass (lost), lack of proper clothing (hypothermia, heat prostration), lack of physical conditioning, inadequate fluid replenishment and basically a lack of preparation by day trippers vs. overnight trippers.

One such scenario unfolded on Oct. 7, 1993, a dazzling autumn day when the temperature hovering around 20 degrees Celsius lured a Mr. Paul S. in his fifties to Lumsden Lake in Killarney Provincial Park.

Mr. S left about 9 a.m. wearing long pants, long sleeve shirt, runners, sketch pad in hand, and a lunch.

He advised his better half of his plans for a 3.5- to five-kilometer hike with a return time of 3 p.m.

By 4 p.m. Mr. S hadn’t returned, the temperature had dropped to 1˚ C accompanied by bone-chilling rain.

Mrs. S. contacted park superintendent John McGrath to advise him of the situation.

There were only two hours of daylight left with a falling temperature, and Mr. S’s lack of gear was of major concern.

Park staff were quickly assembled and by 4:30 p.m, Cam, Gary, Peter, John, and myself were well underway, each of us having a different quadrant to search.

On a hunch, Cam took the motorized skiff along the northern ridge of George Lake, an lake adjacent to Lumsden.

Cam’s reasoning was several members of the Group of Seven had sketched from Killarney Ridge and Mr. S had decided to sketch in the vicinity.

At approximately 5:45 p.m. Cam was on the airway advising that he had found a lost and disoriented Mr. S who was suffering from hypothermia.

Mr. S was extremely lucky that Cam had a hunch because if we hadn’t located him by dark, either hypothermia or the rugged terrain might have taken his life.

This is only one story of many and North Island weather — as most of us know — will sometimes drastically change its face several times during the course of a day.

We can learn from such events as the Mr. S story.

Advise someone of your plans, as Mr. S did, but stick to your plans, wear appropriate gear and carry spare clothing, rain gear, matches, thermal blanket, nourishment, fluids, and a first aid kit.

Be prepared for all conditions, so if we do have a mishap in the wilderness it will make it easier for police or search and rescue to locate us and assist.

 

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