Walking Distance #17 | How Not to Die in the Wild ft. Rebecca Olson & Steve McClure

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Rebecca Olson, a team leader volunteer with King County Search and Rescue in Washington State, and Steve McClure, a board member of The Mountaineers, an alpine club and nonprofit in Seattle. The Mountaineers, founded in 1906, has trademarked the 10 Essentials and offers a book that’s called the ‘bible’ of mountaineering.

Blissful Hiker covers how to use search and rescue services if needed, the 10 essentials and how to plan a hike, plus in depth gear recommendations that cover the 10 essentials.

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Interview with Rebecca Olson

0:59 – Introduction to Rebecca Olson

2:44 – What happened in your own ski accident that led to you becoming a search and rescue team leader?

4:20 – I imagine that most of our listeners know what search and rescue (SAR) is, but can you describe what you do?

5:10 – This is important to understand for hikers, to imagine that the person coming to rescue you is walking to you, so it takes some time.

6:18 – What are the majority of problems that you receive?

7:20 – Do you have any search and rescues that stand out to you?

8:40 – That should teach us to make sure we have the 10 essentials anytime we go out, and to ask ourselves “could I spend the night?” because most of us don’t do that.

10:40 – These two people sound very lucky, and made the good decision to hunker down when the found a good spot. But you also do recovery, if you need to transport someone who has died in the backcountry. What is that like?

12:23 – Is doing recovery hard on you?

13:08 – You mentioned two situations where people pushed themselves too far or didn’t have the right gear, but accidents do happen. What should you do if you find yourself in a dangerous situation outdoors or have an accident?

14:55 – What are some of the key things that people have done that led to their survival, in your experience?

17:04 – During COVID, there has been an increase of use in the backcountry, especially people that aren’t as experienced. You said there has been an increase in calls during these past two years. Do you think there’s a responsibility of hikers to not call if they really don’t have to?

18:45 – Rebecca Olson’s top tips for avoiding rescue or surviving in the backcountry.

Interview with Steve McClure

20:00 – Steve McClure reads The Mountaineers 10 Essentials Limerick

21:35 – Background on the 10 Essentials

22:55 – Paradoxically, taking everything you need to be safe and comfortable in case of emergency can lead to injury. The trick is to balance the load to be able to travel quickly, but still have the essentials.

23:50 – You refer to the 10 essentials as the sacred scrolls for mountaineers. You did a pop quiz at a committee meeting, and no one could name all the 10 essentials. How did that lead to the revisions you made?
26:20 – We should go through the list and talk about what the items actually mean. For instance, is navigation covered if you’re using your phone, or do you always need a map?

27:30 – You mentioned an altimeter. How important is that for a hiker?

28:15 – Do altimeters come on phones or GPS, or is it a whole separate item?

28:45 – We’ve been talking about how important the 10 essentials are. But what’s in your pack on a trip?

30:50 – I hiked the entire PCT and never turned on my headlamp. So it’s really just there in case of emergency. What about sun protection and first aid?

32:05 – Do you ever pack anything in case of a bee string in your first aid kit?

32:27 – What about a knife and repair kit?

32:45 – For the fire category?

34:05 – What about your bivy sack and extras?

35:30 – What other tips do you have outside the 10 essentials?

Mentioned in this episode:

The Mountaineers

The Mountaineers 10 Essentials and 10 Essentials Limerick

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills book

King County Search and Rescue

Get all of the Walking Distance Podcast episodes.

About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast Blissful Hiker, she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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