What to do if you separate from your group of hikers

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You spot a rare bird and stop to take photos, informing your group that you will soon catch up. A few minutes later, you put your camera away and take a brisk walk, only to realize after a mile that you don’t see any sign of your group in front of you or that the trail you are following isn’t even. not a trail at all. Do not worry; there are many ways to get back into your party.

Slow things down

You might think that moving quickly will help you join your group faster, but when you’re already disoriented, it just means you get lost even faster. John Race, owner and guide of Northwest Mountain School in Washington, says that “lost hikers can make things worse by moving in a hurry.” Panicking isn’t helpful – you need a clear mind and navigation skills, not necessarily a strong instinct to fly.

Call for help

Instead of yelling, whistle. The universal distress code consists of three short sounds, each lasting approximately 3 seconds. Breathe between each whistle to catch your breath and allow the sound to travel through the air. Repeat this 3 stroke sequence for as long as you can.

At this point, your group of hikers will likely be looking for you (and listening to you). This whistle pattern will signal that you’re not just spending a lot of time sightseeing; You are lost. If you think your group can’t hear you, mark your current location with sticks and try to return to the original trail. If you can’t find it, or if you’re more disoriented, return to your original lost location, find a visible place to wait, and whistle again for help.

(Photo: doug4537 via Getty Images)

Get off the trails (only with expertise)

Only return to the trailhead if you can see your destination, don’t encounter impassable terrain, and have good navigation skills and a compass or GPS. But only do this if you are able to get back to where you started. If you are not comfortable going off the trails, stay put. According to a study by SmokyMountains.com, 41% of lost hikers found themselves in their situation because they strayed from the trails.

Emergencies are emergencies, but if possible, be sure to manage in a way that always follows Leave No Trace guidelines:

  • Stay away from animal habitats, such as beaver ponds.
  • Do not step on moss, ferns, lichen and alpine plants. They recover steps more slowly than more woody plants.
  • Don’t dig in trees to mark your progress in the area.
  • If there is a trail that leads to where you are bushwhacking, take it. Avoid having a larger impact on the trail than necessary.
  • Do not break or cut branches to create a new trail path.
  • If you are walking with several people on fragile plants, do not walk in single file. Spreading spreads out the impact of footsteps, so plants you’ve stepped on have a better chance of recovering.

Once you’ve found the trail, try to follow your group. If you are unsure of which direction to take at trail crossings, stop and signal with your whistle.

Prepare before you hit the track

All members of the hiking group should be familiar with the trail, have a map handy, and master the compasses. If there is someone in your party who does not meet these requirements, use the buddy system. There is always security and intelligence in numbers, so parting with the group might be safer in pairs or groups of three.

Remember to pack the 10 essential pieces of gear, just in case you find yourself on the trail overnight, get injured or encounter unexpected weather conditions. If you’re still lost after sundown, you’ll thank yourself for bringing a headlamp, extra food, and emergency shelter.

Before getting on, download the route on your Gaia GPS application (available with an Outside + subscription), in order to be able to change the route and resume the route quickly. And don’t change your voicemail whatever happens.


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