So hopefully most of you know that I place a lot of value in learning survival techniques related to hiking, as well as teaching hiking related survival techniques.
From complex topics such as thermoregulation (which most hikers seem to struggle with), too simple topics such as ‘never hit the trail without a compass’ (which almost every hiker I encounter on the trail and ask, does not have, and which I require for every person on my guided trips) to some of the more complex survival techniques such as compass navigation, when to allow yourself to get wet in the rain and when not too (which might sound simple but is a complex issue that is a key aspect of thermoregulation and highly variant upon other weather conditions) — all of these are topics I have written about and taught on over the last five years (and learned a great deal of myself by being out there and forcing myself to learn more and more about these issues).
Every so often, however, a hiking related survival issue comes up that makes me, if not downright forces me, to grab my extra small moleskin notebook (http://amzn.to/1ompW2P) and scribble some notes on things I have never thought about or encountered before while out hiking.
Earlier this morning I was reading an article that made me go “umm” and reach over and pull out my moleskin and jot down some notes. The article was this one: http://space.io9.com/violent-eruption-traps-hikers-at-mount-ontake-japan-1639813357 and it is all about a volcano eruption in Japan.
There was one specific video that make me cringe, knowing that if such a situation happened to me, I would have to proceed based on nothing more than some adaptation of SERE, rather than being able to evade and survive such a situation because I had already trained and prepared myself mentally and educationally on such a situation.
Watch the following video and from the very start think “what are the first five actions I should be taking at this very moment“.
Perhaps the scariest moment of this video is at the 45 second mark when the camera looks back up the trail and you see a line of people behind you and the ash cloud coming down and covering every single person. That moment is what caused me to just pause the video and go “OMG, what in the world would I be doing?”
Do you stop and hope for the best?
Do you link up arms with somebody else?
Do you take 60-90 seconds and use some cordage (perhaps shoe laces, bungee cord from your backpack, or some 550 cord if you’re one of those type of hikers) and tie-up with another hiker?
Do you immediately grab your bandana, buff, or shemagh and cover your mouth and nose? There is no way you can prevent breathing in gases but at least you can keep the ash from filling up your mouth, throat and lungs.
Do you make sure you have very easy access to your water bottles for if you need to quickly wash out your eyes or stave off dry-throat issues?
What evacuation risk assessment are you going to quickly run through your mind (and share with fellow hikers if you are hiking with a pack) to determine if the best course of action is to get the hell out of dodge and risk injury by running, or hunkering down where you are and hoping you can wait it out, or what about quickly setting up your shelter and hoping it can withstand the gale force abuse when the ash cloud hits.
These are just five of the questions that came to me when I was watching that short 90 second video. Since I first saw it and grabbed my moleskin I have since come up with 17 questions that I felt I should invest some time into answering. There is a very slim chance I would ever need to put these type of questions into actual use, but a HUGE part of survival, even hiking related survival, is knowing how you would handle a situation if it ever did become something you were faced with.
I would love to hear some well thought-out questions, and even possible answers to your questions, to this issue. Watch the video, jot down some questions on what you find yourself thinking about when watching it. Then watch the video again three or four more times and start thinking up answers to your questions. Find a bit of healthy fear in watching the video – force yourself to go “oh ****” (that healthy fear of the situation) and freeze-frame yourself in that moment and think to yourself “ok, what am I going to do in the next 60 seconds, the next three minutes, and the next 6 minutes” – anything beyond that is probably going to be too late to do anything anyway.
I look forward to (a) what initial questions you find yourself asking regarding ‘(the: what do I do…‘) as well as (b) what steps of actions you feel would be best to address each of the questions you come up with.
Hopefully you can come up with at least five steps that you feel you should take – I would love to hear them.