“Because the hut is off the trail by .8 miles.”
This answer felt like a punch in the gut. At this moment, the snowfall picked up, we were exhausted after nine miles of hiking in the snow, the cloud cover caused the sky to get dark earlier, and our group couldn’t locate our shelter. Being exposed in the wilderness with no easy access to civilization (or any other building to provide shelter) made our group vulnerable to the mountain.
Luckily, this experience isn’t a front page headline about a story of survival. After forty-five minutes of following ambiguous tracks in all directions, trying to pinpoint our location on the map, reading the vague directions provided by the park service, and calling the town’s resources for help with no results, someone finally received a strong signal on their cell phone that allowed us to GPS our way to the exact location of the hut.
I’m grateful because this experience did enlighten me to some important life lessons. The next time that you are in a crisis – be it personal, business, family, or in an emergency situation (which you will experience all of these at some point) – try to remember these general tips.
The most helpful phrase that helped me see things in perspective was uttered by my friend while calm and collected, “It wouldn’t be a hut trip without some adrenaline.” Luckily, everyone remained cool and no tempers arose.
- Finger pointing and yelling are no way to move towards results.
Use Your Resources
We had directions from the park service that described how to get to the hut. We combed through these misleading words over and over. We then used it as a guide rather than trusting the paperwork 100%. We turned to the topographic map with our compasses to try to locate familiar landmarks that could help us point towards the hut. Without knowing where exactly we were, we used it more as a reference. We then powered up our cell phones to bring up digital maps that could help us locate the hut. Through deductive reasoning, we tried to identify trails on the map that would lead us to the hut. This didn’t help us unfortunately but these efforts kept us occupied. When the third cell phone from our group was powered on, a strong enough signal created an arrow pointing us towards the hut. Thank you GPS!
- Leverage the resources available as tools to help you manage the situation.
As much as I enjoy the outdoors, my skills will never be showcased on the Discovery Channel shows. My survival skills most likely would be on Comedy Central. My instincts to be a leader yielded to the knowledge, skills, and expertise of the other group members.
- You are limited to your skills. Understand others have different skills that can benefit the situation.
Work Towards Solutions
“Split up. Stay in shouting distance. Follow tracks because they might lead to the hut.”
Since I yielded the map reading to the other members of our group, I knew my role would be a worker-bee. I put in the grunt work by following random tracks to prospect possible ways towards the hut. At no point did any members of our group complain about how we became lost in the first place. This helped the overall group dynamic so we could work together towards finding the shelter.
- During a crisis, finding a solution is important. Fretting about the causes can cloud your thought process.
Be Open to Confidants
Unfortunately, I’ve experienced a few crisis situations in my life. Approaching these situations with a practical approach helps solve problems in the moments of terror. People are looking at the behaviors of others and if they see people acting calm and collected, the overall experience remains manageable.
I was scared though. I knew by broadcasting this to everyone would be a mistake since we were all in problem-solving mode. I did turn to my girlfriend when we were away from the group and opened up about my concerns. This alleviated the pressure of thinking that I was alone with these feelings and allowed us to acknowledge the fear, reflect, and then continue our efforts to find the hut.
- Reflect on your thoughts and find an outlet to alleviate self-appointed pressure.
Develop Alternatives but Remain Focused
Nine miles of hiking proved tough, and the thought of hiking back in the dark really was disheartening. We understood that it was one of our options. We phoned the park ranger and the police department of the closest town for possible guidance but unfortunately they couldn’t help. We tried to remember survival tips like building snow caves as well as thinking about how to keep Bogie (my dog) alive through the night. Even with all of these alternatives looming, we still focused on Plan A – finding the hut.
- It’s important to ponder Plan Bs, Cs, and Ds, but try to reach the ideal solution first.
Once a solution is reached and the adrenaline rush subsides, give credit to the people that benefited the situation. Crisis situations are never fun and should be avoided, but people do shine in these situations. The skill to effectively handle crisis conditions should never be overlooked or taken for granted. Give these people a hug, a firm handshake, a thank you note, or just simply acknowledge their ability to help in these situations. All of our group members benefited the situation by either using their map reading skills, leveraging technology, prospecting possible routes to the hut, or by simply keeping calm.
The Point of Life is to Create Memories, and Mission Accomplished!
We handled this mini-crisis well together and created some valuable memories between us friends. Some of us never met before that weekend but we all shared a memorable experience together which will bond us together for the rest of our lives. The picture below is our group after we completed our descent back to our cars where we shook hands and then went back to our routines. As you can see by this group picture, the smiles and camaraderie are genuine and we will fondly remember our experience together. Thank you Team Awesome-Sauce for the memories.