What To Do If Lost

What To Do If You Become Lost

What To Do If You Become Lost

Even though you have prepared yourself for your outing, you and your party could find yourselves in an emergency,
This could be due to:

  1. Becoming lost. Common causes include white-out conditions, generally foul weather, darkness, unfamiliarity with the area, skiing alone or getting separated from your party.
  2. Injury. Accidents can happen, even to the best of us.
  3. Fatigue. This can be due to not being acclimated to a higher altitude, poor physical condition, illness, poor nutrition (lack of water / food) or improper clothing.
  4. Equipment failure. A broken ski pole in deep back country snow can make travel impossible.

In the event of an emergency, the most important rule to remember is S.T.O.P.
S … STOP – Stay put (if in a safe place). The farther you go, the longer it will take for searchers to find you.
T … THINK – Evaluate your options. What about the others in your party — is everyone prepared? What can you do to remedy the situation? Should you backtrack or stay put to allow searchers to find you?
O … OBSERVE – Look around you and use what you see to help the situation. Check your surroundings and your equipment.
P … PLAN – Formulate a plan of action and implement it.

What To Do If You Become LostStopping and implementing a plan will help you to control fear and to avoid panic. Remain calm even if things aren’t going quite to plan. Control your thoughts, THINK POSITIVE. Your situation is only temporary. If you do get anxious, breathe deeply, hold onto something, hug-a-tree, talk to yourself and keep yourself busy.

Stop, Stay Where You Are. Bivouac early.

Make A Shelter. It should protect you from wind, rain, snow and avalanche. Build them small, as large shelters require more time and effort. Use materials at hand (e.g. tarps, ropes, garbage bags, bark, branches, skis, snowshoes, ice crust, packs, ect. – IMPROVISE).

Emergency shelters are easy to build, but take time and effort. Do whatever is necessary to keep warm and dry. In our Sierra environment, a tree well is the best type of shelter since it is already half built. Select a tree well that is out of the wind and has limbs dropping to the snow. Add more limbs, bark, tarp, garbage bags or slabs of snow for the roof and build up snow for the sides. Insulate the floor with boughs, packs, ect. Keep off the snow. Face the shelter’s entrance east for morning sun and don’t hide from search parties. Trenches, fallen trees, rocky outcrops and caves also offer protection.

Make signals to help others find you. Cross your skis, poles and stomp out a trail in four directions from your shelter. Also stamp SOS in the snow. Any signal in three’s (such as shouting or whistling) means EMERGENCY. Fires (creating smoke in the daytime and a light source at night) can help, but it’s more important to take care of your shelter first. Don’t waste energy or get wet. Try to make yourself big and obvious to searchers.