Mountain climbing is an adventurous sport, and one that must be exercised with utmost caution. Find out how you can survive in the mountains, especially if you are alone.
If you are planning to spend a few days in the mountain with no company, it’s essential to know the basic survival tips. It’s not just the cold, harsh environment you have to deal with, but the fact that climate in the mountain can change rapidly, to being sunny one moment to foggy and then rainy the very next. Pack wisely, remembering to bring all the bare essentials in your survival kit you will need in the rough weather. All your mountaineering essentials should be durable, easily portable, and you should be able to easily and quickly attach them to your body. Watching TV programs that demonstrate survival tips and techniques and actually experiencing the situation firsthand are two vastly different things. Whether you are a professional mountaineer or a first-timer, follow the strategies below for surviving in the mountains when you are alone.
How to Survive Alone in the Mountains
The most important part of your backpack is probably the survival kit. Make sure to include the following items in it.
- Compass and Map: Know how to read them.
- Knife: Don’t just carry along a pocket knife. Bring along a knife that serves several purposes, from being used in chopping and cutting food to some heavy-duty stuff like trimming branches.
- Medical Supplies: Carry pain relievers, antacids, antidiarrheal tablets, antiseptic and antibiotic lotions, bandages, gauze pads, sun screen lotions, scissors, ear and eye drops, hydrogen peroxide, needle and thread, etc.
- ChapStick and Moisturizer: Weather conditions in higher altitudes can get dry, make sure you keep your skin hydrated.
- Hand and Foot Warmers: Do not go to sleep with wet socks on. Get rid of them and put on foot warmers. Do not slide on the foot warmer on top of your wet socks.
- Cords and Ropes: They are useful for a variety of purposes, from pitching tents, to harnessing, climbing, and rappelling.
- Waterproof Canvas: It can be used to build a shelter.
- Flashlight/Candles: These can be used at night, or in very dark conditions, like inside a tent or snow cave.
- Fire Starting Equipment: Include matches and lighter.
- The other important contents of the backpack include your clothes. Carry enough waterproof clothes for the rains, and warm clothing, including a hat, for the cold conditions. Carry a pair of sunglasses to shield your eyes from the glare of the sun. Carry a whistle for your safety, which can be used to signal in case you lose track. Keep a set of spare batteries.
How to Make Fire
This is something you should be skilled at when surviving alone on a mountain. Learn how to build a campfire. Not only does it protect you from the cold, but you also can use it for cooking, as well as warding off wild animals.
Water Storage and Purification
Carry iodine tablets which will aid you in the process of water purification. A stainless steel canteen is an excellent tool, and doubles up as a food and water storage container, cooking device, and can purify drinking water if used in conjunction with a water purification straw.
Learn the technique of tying various knots which will be useful to you while rappelling. Also learn how to rappel which will be useful in climbing down the mountain. Do not allow the ropes to get wet. Never splice ropes used in mountaineering.
Building a Shelter
Learn how to pitch a temporary tent quickly. For a quick shelter, practice building a lean-to using two adjacent trees, good, strong cord, stakes, and a tarp. Ensure that the lean-to does not face the wind. For added comfort, spread a layer of leaves over the ground inside the lean-to so you do not come in direct contact with the cold ground. If you know you will encounter snowy weather, learn how to build a snow cave. Always make a small hole in the cave before you sleep in it, to minimize the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.
Exercise caution when on the move. Check for the weather before you begin your climb. The higher you go, the more prone you are to solar radiation because of the thinning atmosphere. Be wary of sudden climate change, and do not hesitate to turn back and return for safety reasons. Closely monitor avalanche forecast and take appropriate precautions. Do not set up your camp around potential avalanche, crevasses, or rock slide areas. Maintain a good speed at all times. At night, be diligent when you travel. Bear in mind that rocks can be deceptively wet and slippery. Tread with caution.
Halt when Exhausted
Know your physical limits, signs that your body is signaling you to stop. Recognize signs of exhaustion. Remember you are by yourself, with no one to turn to for help. Give your body enough rest. Be alert to the signs and symptoms of altitude sickness. Gather enough knowledge on conditions like hypothermia and frostbite, so if you fall prey to any one of them, you know how to deal with it. Do not climb past your designated time. Conserve energy, you will need enough of it to make your way back down as well.
Watch Out for Wild Animals
Be informed on how to deal with wild animals, namely coyotes, grizzlies, and mountain lions. Animals generally do not hunt humans, but they may stalk, so be vigilant. Leftover trash and food is the main reason animals approach humans. If you come across an animal in the wild, do not do anything to provoke it further. Leave a good space between the animal and you, keep your calm, till the animal wanders off. Keep a can of bear spray with you, to be on the safer side.
Stay Calm When You’re Lost
If you realize you are lost, do not panic. You may be in a situation where you have separated from your group, and now have to fend for yourself. In such a case, use your whistle. Whistle thrice; it is perceived as a distress call, and in certain conditions, can be heard 4-5 miles away. Do not whistle twice. That means everything is OK!
Being mentally prepared is as important as being physically prepared when you opt for an adventure of this sort. Keeping your cool, being level-headed, and not rushing to decisions will keep you out of harm’s reach. Be aware of your own limitations and fears. In life-threatening situations, weigh the pros and cons and act accordingly. The knack of anticipating problems will help you in fighting obstacles. Practice all the skills that are vital to your survival, especially when there is no help and you are alone in adverse conditions. Most importantly, you must have the will to survive.
Whether you have ventured out alone, or in a group of friends and are lost, surviving alone in a mountain is certainly an uphill task! Keep your friends and family informed about your whereabouts as much as possible. If possible, try hiking and mountaineering and similar activities in a group. This ensures your safety, and your loved ones need not constantly worry about you.