Every year thousands of people become lost while hiking. Yes, thousands!
The Wilderness Medical Society released a report called: “Dead Men Walking: Search and Rescue in U.S. National Parks,” that said:
“From 1992 to 2007 there were 78, 488 individuals involved in 65 ,439 Search and Rescue (SAR) incidents. These incidents ended with 2,659 fatalities, 24,288 ill or injured individuals, and 13, 212 saves. On average there were 11.2 SAR incidents each day.”
“The amount of people that come up missing from getting lost while hiking is staggering, and accounts for the most prevalent reason people are reported missing,” reports Missing Persons of America.
There are many circumstances why people get lost while hiking. Some are intentional. They want to end their life without any witnesses or anyone to stop them. Some will slip and fall resulting in an injury or even worse death if they slip and fall off a cliff. Others will become disoriented and not be able to find their way back.
“The amount of people that come up missing while hiking is staggering, and accounts for the most prevalent reason people are reported missing,” reports Missing Persons of America.
Some people when hiking will actually walk in circles and become lost, reports the New York Times. Scientists in Germany said that this often-described sense of lost-hiker déjà vu is real. “People really do walk in circles,” said Jan L. Souman of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen.
This is especially common if it becomes cloudy or dark as our brain appears to lack the visual cues we need to help keep us going straight. Add to the problem of hikers forgetting to bring flashlights, many lost hikers are found on their hands and knees trying to feel their way in the dark.
Carol M. Ware, a licensed guide said there was a sure way to avoid such an outcome, by heeding the one critical piece of advice for hikers who are hopelessly disoriented.
“Your job as the lost person is to sit down,” said Ware. “By moving you make everybody’s job more difficult.”
You can also help searchers get to you quicker, by doing a few things before your hike. Make sure you check in with the ranger and let them know your name and when you plan to be leaving; leave a note on your windshield of your car with the location where you are going and when you anticipate to be back; and carry a personal GPS locator or beacon with you. You can also rent a satellite phone that guarantees two-way communication and will work while in the mountains where regular cell phones may not.
“Over the past five to 10 years, the number keeps growing each year,” Brian Duffy, president of the Southern Arizona Rescue Association, a volunteer organization that performs 85 to 100 search-and-rescue missions every year, told US Today.
“People seem to underestimate how physically demanding or challenging the wilderness is,” Duffy says. “I think they also overestimate their own ability.”
With the rise of lost hikers and the cost to find them continues to grow, parks may decide GPS locators may need to become mandatory for all hikers.