The WildeBeat

The audio journal about getting into the wilderness.


The WildeBeat edition 79: Counting Up Essentials, part 2

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The ten essentials. Are there ten, and why are they essential? This week on The WildeBeat; Counting Up Essentials, part two.

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News from the Wildebeat, the audio journal about getting into the wilderness.

This is program number seventy nine.

I'm Steve Sergeant.

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STEVE: Last time, we heard from Amy Racina and Doug Ritter. Doug Ritter is a survival skills expert and executive director of the Equipped To Survive Foundation. Amy is the author of the book, Angels In The Wilderness. She was twelve days-in on a solo backpacking trip in a remote area of Kings Canyon National Park.

AMY RACINA: I was twenty five miles from the nearest trailhead. I was so badly injured that I could not walk, crawl, or even stand up. There would be no searchers for another five days because I was not yet due back. I was in a place in the wilderness that only sees a handful of travelers each season.

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AMY RACINA: For the next three days and nights, I dragged myself down the ravine into which I'd fallen, because I knew from my map that there was a larger trail down below my ravine. At the end of the third day I had come to a place where I couldn't go any farther. I was starting to weaken, and there was a barricade of rocks and sticks in front of me. That was about as close as I came to despair, and I had been calling out occasionally all through the days that I spent in the ravine, and I called out one more time, I shouted out "help, help, I'm ready to be rescued" not really thinking that anyone would hear, but desperate for any chance.

DOUG RITTER: Next items, I would have to say is some means of signaling your distress. Certainly a signal mirror is probably the most basic signaling device. They're lightweight, they're inexpensive, they're very effective... So a signal mirror, a whistle. There have been a lot of people saved because of their ability to capture attention with a whistle. Our voice does not carry very far, particularly in wooded areas and those sorts of situations. Yelling gets old very quickly, your voice goes away, and then you're left with nothing. Blowing on a whistle, anyone can do. And a good whistle will carry significantly farther than your voice will ever carry.

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AMY RACINA: The only thing that I wished I'd had was a whistle... I shouted out "help, help, I'm ready to be rescued"... And it was at that moment that I heard a sound. Two tiny toots of a whistle. And when I heard the sound I went absolutely crazy. I knew that it meant that there was some human being out there, and that this was my chance for rescue, maybe my only chance. I went absolutely wild banging on my pot, shrieking at the top of my lungs, desperate to attract attention.

[SFX pot banging.]

AMY RACINA: About two hours later, a man who had climbed down this very steep slope and he was standing in front of me, and he said "hi, my name is Jake." and I said "hi, my name is Amy." And he said we're not going to leave you. And so Jake, his wife Leslie, and his friend Walter had been hiking-by and they just randomly heard my call... Twenty four hours later, because we were still a long way from a trailhead, Walter had run for help and with the aid of a group of vacationing firefighters who had horses, and one of whom had a short wave radio, they were able to call nine-one-one and summon the helicopters. So for twenty four hours after I heard those two little toots, a helicopter was airlifting me out of the ravine.

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DOUG RITTER: And then the final thing is, and admittedly not inexpensive, but it solves an awful lot of these problems through technology, and that's a personal locator beacon... We've had recent rescues where people have turned on their P-L-Bs and were rescued within a few hours.

STEVE: One other item that I sometimes see on lists, although I'm loathe to call it an item, it's listed as an important element for survival, is a partner.

DOUG RITTER: I think there's a lot of validity to that. I mean, certainly it is less risky to go out with a partner than it is to go out solo. And if you're going out solo, carrying something like a P-L-B becomes of even more paramount importance... Yeah, in some respects the P-L-B substitutes for a partner I guess. But there is no real substitute for having someone along who can assist if you find yourself in trouble.

AMY RACINA: ...In the case of my fall, we'll never know for sure, but it's possible that if I'd had companions, they would have fallen too. If I had been with other people, I would have probably been rescued sooner. It would have taken about two days, still, maybe three days for the helicopters to reach me.

STEVE: Amy was out of the wilderness, but not out of the proverbial woods. She was only hours away from death by septic shock.

AMY RACINA: The first shock was to learn how very badly injured I was. There was some question about whether or not I'd be able to walk again and whether or not I'd keep my legs. So the first milestone was when eight surgeries were completed, and I knew I would keep my legs. The next milestone was when I was actually able to stand up without clutching a walker or a crutches or hiking poles. Being a hiker, I know that if you just keep putting one foot in front of the next, you'll eventually get to where you want to go. So I kept working up from a block to eventually a mile, to two miles, and at about nine months after the near-fatal fall, I took my first backpacking trip. I took a friend with me, and we were only able to do about three miles a day, but it was a huge milestone for me. Now I can do about sixteen miles in a day if I need to. I prefer more like twelve miles a day. I carry my own backpack. I am soloing again, and extremely grateful to be alive, well, walking, and hiking.

STEVE: Amy's story is an example of how the ten essentials made a difference. But there was an element of luck in her story. She was lucky that her gear and her supplies were all available to her, and then she was even more lucky that someone found her who could help. So the ten essentials, no matter what version of the list you use, are devised to improve your odds of survival when things don't go according to plan.

DOUG RITTER: So for Doug's ten essentials, I think we start out with navigation. Preferably a mapping G-P-S, with a spare set of batteries, or a map and compass, and the knowledge on how to use those two together... Number two, your knife. Something that is well made, robust, one-hand opening, a locking blade, a knife you're willing to bet your life on. Number three, fire starter and tinder... Number four is water, and some water purification so that if you're in a situation where you can top-up you can keep that canteen or water bottle or Camelbak topped up. Number five would be a whistle... Number six would be a signal mirror, which allows you to reach out significant distance and attract attention. Number seven would be duct tape, the ultimate, multi-purpose component. Number eight would be shelter. This can be as simple as a couple of large garbage bags, or something like Adventure Medical Kits Heat Sheets blanket. Number nine would be a flashlight or headlamp. L-E-D, lithium battery, with a constant-on switch. Ten, sunscreen or insect repellent as appropriate to the environment you're going to be in. And finally an eleventh, but I think very important, a personal locator beacon, so somebody knows you need help and knows where to come get you.

AMY RACINA: My personal essentials list are specifically those items that helped me to survive a near death situation... So I think Doug's list is wonderful. I do carry all those things. I didn't carry a personal locator beacon at the time of my fall because they were not yet licensed in the United States, but I do carry one now.

STEVE: What are your ten essentials, do you have a different list? You can call our toll free comment line at 866-590-7373. You can find links to Doug Ritter's Equipped To Survive Foundation, Amy Racina's book, "Angels in the Wilderness", other information about the ten essentials, bonus audio content, and an extended high fidelity stereo version of this show, on our web site.

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Next time -- Animal Terror.

Our official website is WWW dot WILDEBEAT (that's W-I-L-D-E-B-E-A-T) dot NET. Please click on the support link to make possible future editions of this free service. The WildeBeat is produced by Steve Sergeant, with help from Jean Higham, as a public service of Effable Communications.

This has been The WildeBeat, program number seventy nine.

Thank you for listening.

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