Splitting up, getting lost—lessons for the outdoors

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On today’s “Off the Beaten Track” segment on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme, I am talking about the problems of becoming separated from hiking companions during a tramp in the forest or mountains, with a few tips about how to avoid being lost, and what to do if you find that you are. Listen to the podcast here. Notes for the talk follow . . .

There have been a couple of instances in the last few weeks of people becoming lost or separated in the outdoors. One, involving a trail runner in the Rimutaka Ranges near Wellington, had a happy ending. She was found 24 hours after becoming disoriented and spending a night in the forest. The other, involving a young American woman in a party of three crossing an alpine pass in Mt Aspiring National Park, did not. Her body was recovered from the Young River several days after her companions raised the alarm after tramping out.

I will not discuss or speculate on the details of either case, but want to talk in general about becoming separated and/or lost in the outdoors. How to avoid it, and what to do in the event that it happens.

Intentional separation
Groups split up. There are innumerable reasons why, from “I’ll sprint ahead and put the kettle on at the hut” to “You go ahead, I want to take photographs.” Sometimes it happens that one member of a group is just a slower walker than others. Or maybe has a new pair of tramping boots and has blisters. Or has suffered a mild sprain. Or maybe is feeling under the weather.

Should groups split up?

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