Lost Hiker Does it Right

Ross Mason

Ross Mason

Here is a link to the story of Ross Mason, a hiker that got “lost” in the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico earlier this month.  Ross was a little unprepared for the trip, had a little bad luck, and took one wrong turn on the trail.  Like most hikers unfamiliar with the desert, he underestimated how much water he was going to need.  Even in cool weather, the dry, windy desert can suck the moisture right out of you.  That aside, he kept his wits about him, did everything he could to help would be rescuers, retraced his path to a Ranger cabin, and waited it out.  The two part story is a good read and has some valuable lessons for those of us that venture into the back country.

Here are five lessons you can learn from Ross’ story:

1.  Always leave an emergency contact and let them know when you should be considered late.

2.  Be careful about hiking new environments alone.  Water requirements, weather, and hazards vary considerably across different terrains.

3.  Pay attention.  Check your map and GPS often.  It doesn’t matter where you “think” you are if you are in the wrong place.

4.  Once you realize you are in trouble (lost, way off course, not thinking straight, hurt, etc), then STOP, DRINK, and THINK.

5.  Help your rescuers with good signals.  If you must move then mark your route of travel and try to move to and along lines of communications (roads, rivers, railroads, powerlines, etc).

OK, here are the links:



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Filed Under: Field CraftHikingSurvival


About the Author: Tucson, AZ Realtor & Investor. My true passions however are hiking and whisky (although generally not at the same time). If you have a question about any of these just drop me a line!

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  1. Kapena Nemo says:

    Interesting story.

    I am looking for a case which happened some 15 to 20 years ago. It made National headlines.

    There were two young men hiking in a desert environment.

    They left their car unprepared, but one carried a pistol with him. No water.

    They became disoriented, and had to spend the night.
    The next day the sun up, they began to fail. One broke down. Begged his buddy to use the pistol to put him out of his misery.
    The buddy obliged.
    He was found the following day about 1/2 a mile from the car, still lost.
    I believe they tried him for manslaughter.

    My question, does anyone know any more about where I could find the details of the case?


  2. Deb Lauman says:

    I first read this article when it was posted on a Search and Rescue email list I’m on. While even well-prepared backpackers/hikers make mistakes (obviously) and get lost or stranded, this guy definitely did a number of things right once he got into a pickle. We’ve had lots of searches that were much more difficult because the missing/lost party didn’t leave an itinerary with anyone or continued to be moving targets while we were searching, without really leaving us any obvious clues as to their direction of travel.

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