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I’ve lost the trail…now what?

From the Colorado Search and Rescue Association

Stewardship Monday, July 3, 2023

Being lost in the wilderness is a frightening experience. Whether you are 100 feet or a half mile off the trail, you don’t see how anyone could possibly find you. Yet, there are some inexpensive ways to improve your situation and help relocate your intended route, besides calling for search and rescue (SAR).

In 2021, Summit County Rescue Group (SCRG) fielded a record number of calls for assistance. Of the 215 SAR calls placed to Summit County’s 911 call center, a large number were from people who had simply lost the trail. There are several common situations we encounter, some of which can be mitigated by good planning, carrying the right gear, paying better attention during your hike, and avoiding a few common mistakes.

Losing the trail at night is often the result of a hike taking longer than anticipated. Altitude alone can increase a hiker’s fatigue. The four-hour hike may take six or eight hours. Your intended departure time wasn’t really at 9:00 a.m. as planned, but rather at 1:00 p.m. Did you adjust your destination to account for the later start? Was the hike longer to see more scenery?


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