On Friday, March 12, 2010, two hikers set out in the Catskills for a weekend backpacking trip. They hiked to a lean-to Friday night were they stayed that night. On Saturday morning they went for what was expected to be a day hike along the Big Hollow Trail in the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness Area.
They became lost called 911 for assistance Saturday night but could not give sufficient information for an SAR team to immediately locate them. They spent Saturday night in a snow cave. Unfortunately, they did not have adequate equipment for the wet heavy snowy storm. One of them was found alive Sunday. they other had succumbed to hypothermia.
They were described as “experienced hikers”, a description that does not align with the choices they made. The wet heavy snow storm had been forecasted at least a week prior to their trip. They left their equipment at the lean-to and ventured on a trail but failed to take snowshoes, navigation aids, dry clothing, fire starters, candles, head lamps, or other survival items.
We can all sympathize with the pain now being experienced by the friends and family members of the deceased hiker.
But we can also learn from this tragedy.
There is no such thing as a “day hike.” There are hikes that one plans to complete in one day, but one should never ventured into the woods unprepared to survive a night in the woods.
Even if they had not brought navigational aids with them, or were unable to use the navigational aids to extract themselves from the situation, they should have had emergency bivy, dry base layers, fire starter, and at least a candle to warm a snow cave. Those items alone might have been sufficient to help them survive a night or two.
I have come across way too many macho men in the woods who think their masculinity would be inhibited if they carried survival equipment on a “day hike.” I’ve also met inexperience hikers who are ignorant of the danger, but their unpreparedness is due to lack of knowledge rather than foolish ego.