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This could be a Rescue.....
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Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
This could be a Rescue..... on 05/16/2010 07:21:06 MDT Print View

Need some good stories. During your hikes have you run across any Darwin award candidates that you think "I will read about him in the paper." Two of my favorites.
1) Ran into an AT "thruhiker" at the start of AT approach trail. He was looking for the trail and a place to buy food. His only map was a 50 state atlas and his only food to get him the first 50 miles - two can of Chef boyrdee(sp), a bag of rice and a couple of granolas bars. He was moving from Florida to DC and instead of hitchhiking his mom suggested he hike the AT up. He had never backpacked and didn't have a clue so off to Sports Authority he went to get outfitted. I did my good deed and took him into town to a grocery, taught him about what foods could work best and then drove him off to Springer. (I earned some serious trail karma for my PCT trip next year.)
2) My favorite. A few years ago I did a November trip up the JMT about 20 miles from Yosemite Valley. On my return I met a determined hiker at the top of Nevada Falls. His intent was to do the JMT, mind you this was November. You may be thinking this was some untralight speed hiker. No, he had the most massive pack on his pack and a huge ROLLING SUITCASE that he intended on dragging 212 mile to the top of Whitney. He decide that he needed to lighten his load a bit so he offered me one of his two cans of coffee, the 1 lb. cans. I remember thinking that I will read about him in the paper.

Anybody else?

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
This could be a Rescue - Axe Man on 05/16/2010 15:24:41 MDT Print View

Last year on Stewart Island I met a guy doing the North West Circuit (unfortunately I was doing the three day tourist track only). He was carrying an 80 L pack on his back, and a large daysack on his font and two large fabric shopping bags, one for each hand. His food seemed to be mainly tins and he told me he was out for three weeks (the track usually takes around 10 days) . He was also carrying a large hatchet. However he was making one UL attempt by wearing trail shoes. He had especially selected ones with very little tread for walking what is possible the world's muddiest track. I walked a section of the NW circuit one afternoon and soon overtook him as he stopped to eat one of his tins. I later turned round and passed him on my way back. He had progressed about 15 minutes down the track and was again eating one of his tins. He appeared to trying to work out how to descend the very middy hill ahead of him whilst carrying two rucksacks and two shopping bags, and wearing gripless shoes and an axe in his belt.

I never found out his name, but to me he will always simply be known as the Axe Man

I doubt that he needed rescuing, but he was definitely hiking his own hike. It is amazing what you can do with enough determination. For much of my early backpacking days I was poorly equipped in every sense of the word.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/16/2010 17:01:17 MDT Print View

Darwin awardees, for sure.

It is March, and a group of eight of us are cross country skiing in Yosemite National Park. We had skied from Yosemite Valley up to Tuolumne Meadows, took a layover day, and then we were skiing back toward the Valley. We were mostly following the unplowed highway for navigation, but we took some detours and sidetrips. As we approached Tenaya Lake from the east, we noticed postholes (foot tracks knee deep in the snow). Hmmm. Looks painful.

The tracks were going our way, so we just followed them for some miles. They headed toward a restroom building by Tenaya Lake. We followed and saw the tracks descending the 8-foot snow bank into the restroom. So, we took off our skis to investigate. The locked restroom door had been forced open, and there were two 18-year-old "boys" laying on the floor, semi-conscious. We tried to help them a bit with drinking water, and once they were fully conscious, we asked them what they were doing there.

They were obviously walking across the Sierra Nevada Range in winter, sans snowshoes or skis. They left the town of Lee Vining on the east side headed for Yosemite Valley, and their total food supply was two boxes per boy of some grape-flavored breakfast cereal. No stove. One awful tent. Two awful sleeping bags, wet. Geez!

We cooked them some soup, and once that was in them, the life started to pour back into their cheeks. They shouldered their awful backpacks and trudged out into the snow again. We passed them shortly and they waved to us. They were going to have to spend about one more night out in the snow before they made it to Yosemite Valley.

We were positive about their courage, but negative about their stupidity.


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/16/2010 17:15:34 MDT Print View

Wow, awesome story. Sounds like you saved their lives.

I met a guy this weekend who hiked the AT without a shelter and without a sleeping bag. He told me that going light is going cold and hungry. Whatever.

I met a guy last weekend hiking a poorly maintained trail with a huge pack, a 5 gallon bucket in one hand and a full-sized shovel in the other. My first thought was is he panning for gold or something? I doubt he'll need a rescue, but it was an odd sight. This is a 45 mile trail with 200 thigh-deep creek crossings. Don't know how he's going to do that with the bucket and shovel.

Larry De La Briandais
(Hitech) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Ice Chest on 05/19/2010 11:34:30 MDT Print View

Once while hiking up a steep trail in the Sierras (it’s only at most 2 miles, but it is a steep climb the entire way) I came across a young lady with a large backpack and an ice chest! She would take several steps, set the ice chest down, rest, then pick it up and repeat. When I caught up to her I asked her where her companion was (I saw them the previous day at the river at the bottom of the trail). She said her boy friend had left her behind as she was too slow. I carried the ice chest for her and we caught up to her boy “friend” near the top. When he saw me with the ice chest he had a sudden attitude adjustment. ;^)

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
This could be a rescue... on 05/20/2010 11:19:53 MDT Print View

I'll add one. Last summer my brother and I were doing a conditioning hike near our house. We hiked 10.5 miles up from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to Switzers Campground in the Angeles Forest (now closed due to the fires). Anyway, as we were heading back down we ran across a kid that may have been 19 or so. We asked him where he was going and he said he didn't know and asked us where we had gone. We told him were were on our way back at probably about mile 16 of our hike. He said that he was going to do the same. He probably figured if these two gray hairs could do it he could also do it.

We asked him if he had any water or any snacks and he said no, BUT, "i have my shirt off so I don't need any water". We couldn't quite figure out what that meant. I guess, he thought since his shirt was off he would not perspire as much, so, he didn't need any water. We suggested he may need water for the rest of the trip and he kind of thought about it and then turned around and headed down the hill. I wonder how far he would have gone if he hadn't run into us? There was water in the stream down lower so in an emergency he would have been able to drink.

I learned that day if you remove your shirt you do not have to worry about dehydration.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/20/2010 11:41:26 MDT Print View

I was hiking up the Mauna Loa Volcano in Hawaii, and I had everything to be self-sufficient for four days. As I was getting ready to shoulder my heavy backpack at the 11,000' trailhead on the way to the nearly 14,000' summit, there were these two guys. Instead of wearing durable boots (for the volcanic rock), they were wearing flip-flops. Instead of wearing windshirts, they were wearing Aloha shirts. They were carrying nothing at all to start up the volcano.

I asked how much water they were taking (knowing full well that they had zero). They kind of looked at each other and said, "I guess we didn't bring any water." So, I gave them each one liter of water, and suggested that they might want to pull bandanas on over their heads, just to keep some sun and wind off. They ambled off at the volcano, and that was the last that I saw of them, perhaps victims of Madam Pelee, the volcano goddess.


Elliott Wolin
(ewolin) - MLife

Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia
RE: This could be a Rescue on 05/20/2010 15:05:59 MDT Print View

Not quite a Darwin award, but some bad luck and not-so-good planning.

In the Blue Ridge Mountains early Spring one year after dark we built a fire by a lean-to. After a while we heard a voice calling us from up the slope, and saw a distant headlamp. Turns out a reasonably well prepared older woman (late 50's), hiking alone, had slipped and fell, twisted her ankle and lost her glasses.

Unfortunately she could barely see without the glasses. We guided her back to the lean-to after it became clear she could barely walk out, even if we got her back to the main trail.

She had a pad and sleeping bag, but no tent or food. We fed her and she stayed with us that evening. Next morning we guided her back to the main trail. She could see well enough in daylight without her glasses, and her ankle was ok.

I always wonder what would have become of her had we not been camping out that night.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/20/2010 18:16:05 MDT Print View

"I learned that day if you remove your shirt you do not have to worry about dehydration."

A Win Win situation. You save the weight of the shirt and the water. Why hasn't anyone on BPL figured this out yet.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/23/2010 11:03:20 MDT Print View

Dennis Dennis Dennis...where have you been my friend! Nice to see you posting on here!!!

I have one story.

Last summer I did South Lake into Dusy Basin, over Muir Pass and through Darwin Bench and over Lamarck Col and back to North Lake. As we were climbing Muir Pass we had stopped to take a break at the lake (Wanda?) on the south side of the pass just before the last climb up the pass. As we were snacking and taking in the sights we noticed a hiker navigating the snow trail down to the inlet crossing and making his way towards us. The fella had jeans on, and a cotton t-shirt and a fairly larg pack. He was doing the JMT southbound and had missed his partner somewhere on the trail and subsequently missed his re-supply. He had been hiking a few days without food apparently. He was stumbling when he got to us and asked us if we had any spare food that we could give him. Of course we broke out out bear cans and donated whatever we could spare him. We told him there was a ranger station in LeConte Canyon and that Bishop pass was due east and his out would be Bishop. We had another group that was sitting near the area that we were at and we asked them if they had any food to spare for the guy...they gave him a little bit VERY RELUCTANLY. Very nice of them I might add (scarcasm). For the rest of the day we had folks monitoring him on the trail but we never found out what had happened to him. At Muir Pass he left a note for his buddy telling him where he was at. How do you miss your re-supply and lose your hiking partner. Hmmmmm

Edited by kennyhel77 on 05/23/2010 11:04:33 MDT.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Re: Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/23/2010 20:12:50 MDT Print View

Hey Ken,
Been "off the trail" for a while. Good to be back.

The fellow you describe scares the **** out of me. One should keep to the pool depth which best suits your ability.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/24/2010 15:17:04 MDT Print View

> they gave him a little bit VERY RELUCTANLY. Very nice of them I might add (scarcasm).

I think you may be very unfair here. Perhaps the other group was short on food themselves?


Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: Re: Re: This could be a rescue... on 05/24/2010 16:14:25 MDT Print View

Didn't think of that Roger...Good point. They were doing the same loop as us though, but you are right. You never knkow.

Jack H.
(Found) - F

Locale: Sacramento, CA
Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/24/2010 16:30:17 MDT Print View

Met a guy on the PCT. Like many of the stories here, he had a screw loose. He'd gone well over 200 miles by the time I met him. As a first introduction he blabbered in my face as to what he was up to, showed a picture of himself before he started the trail and then lifted his shirt up to show is (still large and hairy belly). All within thirty seconds. Claimed to have lost 80 pounds in the first two weeks. Every day he ate only two packages of poptarts and three cups of coffee ("for the energy"). He seemed like he had aspergers syndrome.

I cautioned him that he might be heading towards a heart attack with a diet/exercise regimen like that. Later, with other thruhikers, we wondered if we should call the sheriff. I don't think anyone did.


I've actually got many, many stories like this!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/24/2010 18:05:05 MDT Print View

Had an interesting one this weekend. A friend and I were going to summit Mt. San Jacinto. A freak storm blew in Sunday with highs at the Tram of 32F and 27F low predicted. Winds forcasted at 20-30 mph. Chance of snow was 30%. The trail above 8,600 feet was 2 feet of hard packed snow and ice. We expected even more towards the peak. We were well prepared to include ice axe and crampons.

At around 9,200 feet we ran into a couple wearing leather boots, blue jeans and cotton sweat shirts. The guy had a small pack. They asked if we were going to the peak, and we said yes. So they started to follow us. Then the snow got bad, blowing parallel to the ground. Very gusty winds and little visibility. Quickly all footprints in the snow/ice were covered new snow, and it got very cold. We stopped to adjust our clothing. By this time, most people had retreated off the trail and mountain. So it was just us and the couple, who had stopped behind us and did nothing. I noticed that they were not adding any clothes. So we asked what equipment they had. Nothing. They had some grilled cheese sandwhiches and water, and offered to share. We noticed that their clothes were getting wet. So I told them they needed to head back right away. They said they get lost easy, so they would just stay and walk in cirlces to keep warm, and would wait for us to return; because the snow had covered all the footprints, and they had no idea what direction to go.

My friend had is heart set on the summit, as we had planned this trip for several weeks. We really had no choice but to turn around and lead the couple back to the Long Valley Ranger Station. They refused our offer of some clothes to wear on the way back. But we got them to safety.

So we called it a day and went home.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/24/2010 18:12:43 MDT Print View

Nice Nick, people can be quite scary sometime. As they say, the peak will always be there. Jack do tell more. I love this!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/24/2010 18:17:23 MDT Print View

While doing The Rae Lakes Loop 10 years ago, This backpacker set out with 2 friends for a week of hiking. His pack was a 7000 cubic inch pack that was filled up to the top. He had a 3 lbs winter bag, a two person mountaineering tent for himself. A candle lantern that weighed 2 pounds, etc. He was carrying nearly 65 pounds for the trip. During the first day of hiking up to Mist Falls, the hiker (ME!) was passed by two fit females heading to Mt. Whitney....The passed this hiker who was going REAL slow, sweat pouring down, dehydrated, and not doing well at all. One of the female hikers hiked back to him about 20 minutes later to check on him. She asked if he was ok....I was not. THAT was my moment that I started to go light. I completed the trip and had a blast. Though, the amount of weight carried, made it tough

Edited by kennyhel77 on 05/24/2010 18:17:59 MDT.

James Yancey
(jyancey) - F

Locale: Missouri
Re: Darwin rescues on 05/24/2010 19:22:12 MDT Print View

This is not a backpacking story, but is certainly in the same vein.

My son and I were canoeing the Current River in Missouri early one spring when he was about 8 or 9. We had camped for the evening and were enjoying some father/son quality time watching a beaver and sitting around the fire. Just at twilight we heard a canoe "thunk" and I remarked to my son that it was awfully late for someone to still be on the water. Day temps were low 60s, and nights were 40s. A canoe hove into view with a dude in jean cutoffs and a girl in (only!) a sodden cheap sleeping bag. They were at least three sheets to the wind. They had dumped the canoe, losing most of their gear in the river, and what they had left was soaking wet. They stopped at our campsite and asked for matches. No, not to build a fire to warm up and dry off, but to light their cigarettes! They at least had enough sense to pack their cigarettes in ziplocs! (Sarcasm) We convinced them to stop and warm up, as I was very concerned that in their condition they would soon be very hypothermic and probably die. I gave the girl some dry clothing, and she promptly fell asleep by the nice fire. The guy salvaged a steak from their nearly empty cooler, and the last I saw of him that evening was watching him toss the styrofoam tray onto the fire and immediately begin cooking the steak in the black, oily, toxic smoke. We awoke early, and I knocked on their tent pole to get my clothes back. We paddled away and never saw them again. I presume they lived, because I never read about them in the paper.

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: This could be a Rescue..... on 05/24/2010 20:45:52 MDT Print View

Not sure if this qualifies as rescue material, but it was just amazing to me. I was out for a weekend hike last year on the AT in Georgia and I met a kid about 20 y/o at a shelter. Gear and countless stuff sacks were strewn all over the place, but he and his dog were the only ones there. He was really polite and well-spoken, but I could just sense something was wrong. He seemed stressed. I asked if he was thru-hiking, how it was going, etc. He said he was at least going to Virginia because that's where his next resupply was. I was so shocked that I didn't say anything, just let him keep talking. Turns out he was a recent college grad (U of FL, sorry Floridians) who was a long distance runner, and was really low on funds but had relatives willing to help him out in VA. He was carrying a 90 lb load (which he had weighed), almost all of which was bulk food for he and the dog. It was strapped all over a nice new Osprey pack. I think it was a 65 liter but you couldn't even see the pack, even when he was "unpacked". He said he weighed 126 and that seemed about right. He'd only gone about 10 or 12 miles in 2 days. He explained that his favorite gear was the Civil War replica stuff because "you know that's good stuff that's been proven". But then he surprised me with a pretty decent knowledge of gear and showed some signs of having gone through some logistical planning. It all involved no resupply, just caring for his dog, getting her around the Smokies, etc. He even had 2 spare pairs of running shoes (no boots for this UL'er!) I never found out what happened to him. When I left the next morning, he was still taking his time packing up...

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Slightly different on 05/24/2010 22:24:18 MDT Print View

This is in a slightly different vein. Almost 20 years ago I had walked up Ben Nevis in Scotland (via tourist track) and was descending from the summit (wearing every item of clothing I had with me) when this guy suddenly appeared. He had come up one of the climbing routes and his sole equipment was two ice axes, crampons, boots and the clothes on his back. These were a thin pair of trousers and a climbing club cotton sweat shirt. I presume that he really knew what he was doing and was going for a very fast ascent and descent. However, to me in all my hill walking gear he seemed to have suddenly appeared from a whole different world.