Last week I spent a few days on a Search and Rescue Mission. Let me chronicle to illustrate.
22 y/o son comes to visit his father in Montana. They go walking in the woods looking for elk antler. Father thinks son is with father's friend... Father's friend thinks son is with father.
It is discovered that they are both wrong and nobody is with son...
Sheriff is called. They track son to road where son's tracks disappear. They search for the rest of the night. Night time temperatures get to about 20F.
The squadron commander calls me, interrupting my video shoot of Nick vs the Victoria's Secret Brazilian Mafia. (this may have been just a dream... it is so hard to tell some times.) Normally it is no good if the commander calls me but he tells me he has a SAR... and I am on the list to go.
We arrive in the search area to find the sheriff and deputies drinking coffee and planning their day. We find out that the man that is lost has mild scitsophrinaia but still has the mental capacity of a 10-13 year old. Also the only thing he is Warring is a t-shirt...
We are running out of fuel, day light, and crew duty day and decide to bug out. We depart the search area with the guy's father in tears knowing that his son's chances of surviving a second night in the mountains with no shelter in just a t-shirt decrease exponentially.
Trackers and dogs continue searching till almost midnight. They track the guy over one mountain pass and up towards a second 7000' mountain pass. At midnight the quite because the terrain is getting to dangerous for the searchers at night.
We arrive at the search area again... After two nights up in the mountains... We kind of figure we are looking for a body and not a guy anymore.
Weather == Shitty
We creep our way up a few valleys toward the last place that he had been tracked. The snow is coming down; slowing ground searchers movement, making us a little nervous as to the location of huge chunks of granite, and beginning to obscure the tracks above the treeline over the pass.
We cross the 7000' pass and find the tracks continue on the other side.
Weather starts to force us down the vally away from the search area.
We land in a clearing several miles away from the search area to wait for the weather to lift a little so we can get back up into the top of the valley.
Weather continues to get shittier... it is heavy sleet now... We opt to get out of the valley completely and head back to somewhere that we arn't going to become the objective of a second SAR.
45 seconds after takeoff out of the clearing the flight surgeon looks out the window and says, "look at that guy waving... who would be crazy enough to be out in this blizzard in just a t-shirt?"
I blow a motorcycle over into a brand new truck in the parking lot outside of the hospital. (don't park a motorcycle next to a helipad!)
It all turned out alright... but is shouldn't have. This guy was out for two and a half days... it wet, sub freezing weather with nothing but a t-shirt, no food, water, or shelter of any kind, whith huge physical exertion. (Not only did he go over two mountain passes, he also traveled about 14 miles strait line distance) When asked by the flight surgeon where he slep the last two nights, he said, "I just layed down on the snow."
The best we can guess is the fact that he was a bit crazy and had no idea that people are supposed to die in those conditions is what saved him. His core body temp was only 95... Actually not to bad, and his feet where pretty tore up from hiking wet in the snow so long in tennis shoes. His mental state made him immune to the elements. After all that he was still walking and talking.
So lessons to take from this:
1. Mild craziness makes you immune/impervious to the elements and possiblely death.
2. It is much easier to hid in the mountains than I had ever hoped! Thanks for proving that dude!