When A Tramping Party Separates ....
This is an important lesson for people of all experience levels involved in club trips.
In the event this situation was resolved, but it could have easily gone the other way and resulted in a major incident.
Be Warned !
Recently on a club trip, the group became separated because the group members were travelling at their own pace up and back on a side track to the main route. The track was marked by orange triangles, but was not well maintained, with some overgrown areas. All but one of the group managed to stay on the track, reaching the intended destination and returning by the allocated time.
One person, however, followed an alternate route marked by coloured tape, realising only sometime later that this was not the right track. Things did not improve from there, and it took many hours for that person to make contact with the rest of the group again. In that time there had been much searching by the rest of the group, and then conversations with the Police and Land Search And Rescue, who were about to mount a full SAR operation.
Here are some important lessons that we all need to think about and ensure all trip members are aware of :
1. If you are leaving your pack while you head off on a side trip that is more than a 10-15 minutes long, ensure you take navigation aids, emergency equipment and first aid gear.
2. On a similar length side trip, there are risks, dependent on the state of the track and the other track options along the way, with people travelling on their own or in smaller groups. Better to stay together - everyone needs to look out for and avoid confusing side tracks - and tell others too.
3. Everyone must be conscious all the time of what markers they are following - orange triangles are standard, anything else whether it be pink triangles or coloured tapes is a huge indication that you are off track.
4. Orange triangles - yes - BUT are they the right ones to follow ? Are you heading in the right direction ? It is easy enough to miss some track junction signs and end up following the wrong track.
5. If in doubt, stop and retrace your steps to the last known secure point, sooner rather than later. Heading off into unmarked territory has a high chance of making things a lot worse.
6. Look out for navigational hazards and distractions, and ensure that other party members are aware of these too.
7. If you are seriously lost or can't work out the correct way to go, make yourself as visible and comfortable as possible and wait for assistance.
It can't happen to me ....... Wrong !
Everyone in a group is responsible for themselves and for all other group members.
A successful group is one where everyone works together to achieve yet another fun day in our beautiful .... but unforgiving ... backcountry.