I’m lucky to know some really fantastic people in Majorca, after my daughter’s recent accident on a Sunday walk, my friend Steevi Ware wrote this article for us, and any other person out walking on the island. Steevi Ware has been a full on “Prepper” since 2012 but has always had a fondness for the outdoors lifestyle. His main passion lies in power production, water filtration and satellite communications. Here’s his article written with everyone in mind. And, Steevi is offering a FREE survival course to anyone who is interested so please get in touch with him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW TO SURVIVE IN THE MOUNTAINS
How would you survive in the mountains if something happened to you or a companion? Worst still what if you were alone and there was no mobile phone coverage where you were? Well there are some simple steps you can take to make your life a lot easier should the worst happen.
The main things you need to do happen before you even leave your house for your trip. The first thing you should always do is tell someone your intended route and what time you should be back home. Failing to do this may mean no one even knows you’re missing or in trouble. A quick text message to a neighbour or an email to your family members means that if you don’t return when you say you will at least the emergency services will know where to start looking.
Secondly is to leave prepared. It might sound obvious but having studied numerous cases of survival, there isn’t one single thing that puts people in danger, it is normally a combination of small, what might seem at the time insignificant, details such as not having the correct clothing, your mobile phone battery being low and not having and navigation tools to hand.
Here is what I recommend you carry:
- A Jacket. Needs to be lightweight and waterproof with a hood.
- A jumper and a spare set of socks. No matter how warm it is during the day it can get cold at night, especially when it’s raining.
- Good quality gloves and hat.
- A hi-visibility jacket. Like we have to carry in our cars for breakdowns. It makes it easier to be spotted just in case you’re unconscious.
- Water bladder 2 litres filled with just water. Needs to be water so it can be used to clean wounds.
- Plastic bottle of water 500ml. As a back-up supply of water and vessel to collect more water on the way.
- Fire kit in a waterproof zip lock bag. This could consist of a lighter, fire starter and cotton wool.
- A whistle.
- Mobile phone.
- Alternative power source for phone.
- Energy bars and nuts (high protein food). Not essential but important for morale.
- Compass and map of local area.
- Emergency foil blanket. 1 per family member.
- Drinking straw. This can be used to drink water directly from rocks.
- Small compact first aid kit.
- 6 short bursts signify distress.
- A mirror. For using the sun to attract attention.
- Strong enough to pull a person if case they fall or to tie you together in fog.
- Gorilla Tape. Thin small duct tape that has 1000 survival uses such as making a temporary splint for a leg or sprained ankle.
- Good quality Knife. For general use and fire preparation.
- Note pad and pen. To take note of your GPS co-ordinates as well as what treatment was administered and when.
- Wind up torch. This gives you the possibility for continuous light without the need of batteries.
- Let’s face it you can never have too many tissues. Not only for general use but also for fire lighting.
I have all of this and more in my eldest son’s hiking bag and other than the water it weighs no more than a kilo.
If one of your party sustains a deep cut or twisted ankle then knowledge of basic first aid is paramount. But for those of us too busy to take a first aid course, don’t panic technology is here to help. The St john Ambulance have a free app that will take you step by step through most minor incidents up to and including preforming CPR. The step by step guide has been designed for laymen to follow and offers clear instructions with diagrams.
Assuming you have done as much as you can but evacuation is needed, what should you do then? Well this is simple call 112. However what if you pull your phone out and there is no signal? Well don’t despair 112 might still work. But before you call the emergency services, there is something I recommend you do. If you are lucky enough to have a smart phone, go to location settings, you will be able to see your GPS co-ordinates, jot these down in exactly the same format as they appear on the phone. Then try and make the emergency call. If it won’t connect, turn 90º and try again and so on until you have completed a full square. The reason for this is that there may be a cell tower behind or to the side of you that when turning the phone’s antenna can just pick up.
Then say “Auyda / Help GPS …………” and give your GPS co-ordinates before anything else. The reason behind this is that all 112 calls are recorded. There might be just enough mobile phone signal to tell them where you are before the signal is lost. At least that way they will know where you are to send someone out to find you. Then of course if the call holds, tell them the nature of the incident how many are in your party and any other information you can. Most importantly of all, stay calm and speak clearly. It doesn’t matter if you don’t speak Spanish talk calmly in your native tongue.
Here in Spain you can also try to send a txt message to 112. The advantage of this is it will send when coverage is reached. Don’t rely on this method as you don’t know who’s at the other end.
If you’re on your own and you cannot get a signal I’m afraid you face the real possibility of spending a night on the mountains. This is where our 2 main points from the start of the article come into play. 1) whoever you told will notice you’re not back and alert the emergency services and 2) the kit you are carrying in your rucksack will be able to keep you safe until help comes.
When something stressful happens our body reacts in a very specific way, Adrenaline (Epinephrine) kicks in, our heart rate increases as well as our breathing. This can be bad news if you have sustained a cut and are losing blood. The faster you heart pumps the quicker you lose blood so at the same time you are attending to you wounds, try to calm down. A very good technique is called square breathing this involves taking a breath in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, breathing out for 4 seconds and waiting for 4 seconds. Adopting this method will help you easily to calm down.
Then take stock of your situation, you will need your wits about you to get through the next 24 hours. In survival we like to refer to the rule of 3 which reminds us how long we can survive without certain things, it goes:
- 3 minutes without air
- 3 hours without shelter
- 3 days without water
- 3 weeks without food
And whilst 3 hours without shelter is probably a bit extreme for out mild climate here in Mallorca the rule of 3 gets us to prioritise what’s urgent in the order that it’s needed.
So first things first: find shelter. If the injury you has sustained is serious you may well be going into shock which is a serious medical condition, you may have very little time until the Adrenaline wears off so every minute counts. Never try to complicate things, there are very few Bear Grylls or Ray Mears qualified people out there. So if you can find a natural shelter use it. There is no architectural price for shelter building your main and only focus is to get out of the elements. Another side effect of shock is risk of hypothermia so you will want to get a fire started as soon as you can. Carrying a disposable lighter in your rucksack or the type of lighter that is wind resistant is of paramount importance. Again there are no prizes for how you get a fire started so long as you do. The easiest way to build a fire is in the pyramid format. You start with very fine tinder on the bottom (or our cotton wool and fire starter from out kit) followed by slightly larger twigs called kindling then gradually getting bigger until you have logs around the size of your upper arms. You don’t need anything bigger at this stage. Keep it fuelled and gather as much firewood as you can as you will be surprised at how quickly it burns.
Another advantage of fire is it can be seen from a great distance. The general rule of survival is 3 x lit fires next to each other signifies distress. But failing that, putting lots of greens on your current fire will produce a plume of smoke that likewise can be seen for many kilometres.
The next important step is hydration. It’s very important to stay hydrated during a stressful situation. So check how much water you have and make sure to drink regularly. I would say at least 50ml every hour providing you have enough to last a day or two. Remember you don’t know how long you will be stuck in your current position. There are many different ways to purify water should you have access to it, such as boiling it for 5 mins. Despite what you might think water can be boiled in a plastic bottle or even a paper bag so long as the flame doesn’t directly touch the vessel and there is enough water on the heated side. The fact of the matter is that even impure water might take around 5 -7 days to make you sick so if you need to drink just drink. Remember the drinking straw in our kit; use it to suck water from an overhead rock. Water naturally filters when passed through rocks so it would be a better way to drink water than for example a puddle.
To summarize, keep calm, take action and stay focused you will soon find out that having a routine will help not just physically but also mentally as well.
Follow the above steps and you will have the maximum chance of survival in the mountains.
The final advice I would offer is joining hiking group there are many out there some who charge and some that are free. Either way you will be safer with more people to help and chances are the route will be properly planned and no doubt you will have more experienced walkers a long side to help should anything go wrong. Remember the best way to survive in the mountains is not to take risks in the first place.
I know it’s a lot to take in but please don’t be put off walking in the mountains, we are blessed here in Mallorca with many beautiful routes which offer breath-taking scenery and are in fact very safe.
For anyone interested I can offer a FREE basic mountain survival course to cover not only all of the above but also what kit you should carry and why. If interested please register by emailing me email@example.com or visit www.beprepared.today which is a not-for-profit website where I hope to share my survival skills.
Nowadays you will find there are many devices and apps on the market that can help you with your hiking here are some that I suggest:
The spot messenger is a satellite one way communicator with S.O.S function. If you find yourself in trouble push the S.O.S button and so long as you have line of sight of the sky, the message will be transmitted and someone will come looking for you. What’s great about this unit is the GPS co-ordinates are transmitted with the message so the emergency services know exactly where you are. There is also a tracking feature where every 10 mins your position is transmitted and people can follow your trip on a Google maps type browser. This particular unit needs to be purchased and has a yearly subscription. The other advantage of this unit is you can take out an additional insurance policy from GEOS which will send out a rescue team should local services not be able to attend immediately.
Delorme Inreash SE:
Like the Spot this is also a satellite messenger however it has 2 main advantages over the Spot. The main one being that it is a two way communicator meaning you can receive messages as well as send them. Not only is this useful for keeping friends updated about your trip but also in a survival situation you can advise the emergency services of what the issues are. Again this has a dedicated S.O.S button as well as a tracking feature. The subscription is monthly but you get a lot for your money and I personally won’t leave home without my one even if I am just going to the shops.
The other advantage is that it works of the Iridium satellite network which currently is the only network to offer 100% pole to pole global coverage. It means that if you are in a boat it will work in any sea in any country.
A GPS (Global Positioning System) handset is a great way not only to tell you where you are but also where the nearest town, village or more importantly where you parked your car in the case you find yourself lost. They normally have the option to plan your route upfront meaning you have less chance to stray and get lost. The carry an initial cost but as there is no communication facility there are subscription free. There are many makes on the market but if you don’t know where to start Garmin are a well-known brand with many levels of handsets.
Phone Battery booster:
There is nothing worse than running out of battery power on your phone as we mentioned above. With today’s “battery hungry” apps even a fully charged mobile can run out by the end of the day. I get around this by always carrying an additional power source. In fact I have 2. The first is a power jacket which is like a case for my phone, it slips on the back of the phone and when I turn it on will charge my phone fully. Other than the weight you can hardly notice it’s attached. Then the second is a solar powered trickle charged battery bank with universal charging cables. I strap this to the top of my rucksack meaning that whilst hiking its continually topped up and can charge my phone fully one and a half times. On a sunny day it would also provide me with enough power to make an emergency call thanks to the solar panel.
Apps are a great way of being prepared most are free. Here are the ones I recommend:
- St Johns Ambulance app:
As mentioned above a great first aid app that’s easy to use.
- Rain Alarm:
A highly accurate rain app that hasn’t let me down yet it will show you the direction of the rain as well as the intensity, which knowing before it rains helps you better plan your route ahead and stops you getting caught in the open in the middle of a thunder storm.
- One touch S.O.S:
For urban as well as rural areas, providing you have mobile coverage and your location services enabled pushing the big S.O.S button will send up to 3 pre-set messages out to your 3 chosen contacts to let you know you’re in trouble as well as where you are.
- Find My Friends:
Again this app needs mobile coverage but it’s a great way to keep tabs on your family members. Even in the mountains it will transmit your location as and when the mobile signal is available. It also has an emergency feature.
- Signal Finder:
This apps runs in the background of your smart phone so can cause battery drain but it will show you the location of the nearest signal tower, which is very useful if you need to make an emergency call.