The mountain landscape is an incredible place. The towering rock faces, snow covered hilltops and breathtaking panoramas that define the mountain landscape have both an intimidating and magnetic quality to them. It’s this magnetism that has drawn throngs of adventure seeks and nature lovers, even a few spiritualists, to these regions for centuries.
Some see scaling this terrain as a test of manhood/womanhood while others simply seek the one of a kind experience and views that only the mountains can provide. Whatever the allure of these topographical marvels there are no shortages of individuals seeking to explore this terrain and every year people lose their lives to this unforgiving landscape. Though inherently beautiful, the mountain landscape is also deadly and poses a unique set of challenges to survival in its terrain. Though just as sure as there are no shortages of dangers in the mountain region, the mountains also provide plenty in the way of resources to ensure your survival if you know where to look and what you’re looking for. When it comes to surviving the mountain landscape its part knowledge and part preparation that will get you through a mountain survival style scenario.
In this guide we’ll explore the dangers, resources and knowledge you’ll need to be aware of in order to survive in the mountain terrain.
The Dangers of Mountains
The biggest threat to mountain survival is the treacherous terrain and unforgiving climate itself.
From sheer cliff faces to deep crevices there are any number of ways to be injured while navigating and exploring the mountain terrain. Even the most seasoned climber is one misplaced hand or foot hold from falling and sustaining real, life threatening injury. When it comes to avoiding injury in the mountains it’s important to know your limitations. That same bravado that caused you to venture boldly into the mountain terrain can be your undoing in a mountain survival scenario.
If you find yourself injured you must be sure not to aggravate your injury in the process of survival. It may be tempting to push through as panic overrides natural thought processes, but don’t. Listen to your body and work with your limitations not against them. In addition to the potential for injury posed by the terrain there are also dangers posed by the weather.
Depending on season, region and elevation, avalanche is a very real hazard to be aware of. As warmer temperatures loosen the snow packs from higher elevations avalanches and rock slides increase.
Also, if you find yourself in the higher elevations during the winter months frostbite, hypothermia, altitude and lightning strikes become very real threats to your survival. There is also the issue of low visibility posed by snow, fog and rain that hinders navigation ability. Weather, terrain and illness are not the only challenges that an individual is likely to face in a mountain survival scenario.
The wildlife that call this region home pose their own set of challenges to the would-be survivor. Mountainous landscapes are home to any number of predators, including mountain lions, bears and wolves. Despite what form of protection you may have acquired its ill advised to engage any predator unless absolutely necessary. The best strategy for dealing with predators is evasion. Avoid game trails, look for tracks and avoid lingering at watering holes.
When it comes to mountain shelters simplicity and effectiveness are the ultimate goals. When choosing your camp site you want to keep few things in mind.
- Never build too close to water sources as animals frequent these areas, especially near rivers and streams.
- Avoid avalanche prone areas, especially in the winter months and just as spring is coming.
- You also want to be wary of game trails and avoid setting up near them as this will increase you chances of coming in contact with predators that stalk these trails looking for food.
- If you decide that you want to use a natural formation such as a cave, crevices or tree with low hanging branches (good place for a tree pit shelter) then you want to be wary of what creatures you are sharing the space with. Just as sure as these natural formations are attractive to you, you can bet that many other creatures are attracted to these locations as well.
If you can’t find a natural formation and need to build your shelter there are a few simple options that you may want to consider.
If you can find a tree with low hanging branches that is away from the aforementioned danger zones then a tree pit shelter may be one of your better choices in the higher elevations. Simply dig down in the snow around the tree at least six feet across and six feet down. Pack the walls tight and the entrance as well. Cover the bottom with your poncho or some evergreen shrubbery and do the same for the entrance. Another simple shelter is a simple lean-to that can easily be constructed from the surrounding branches and shrubbery.
Whatever you choose you want to ensure that you only construct a shelter big enough for you as this will allow your shelter to stay heated.
Like all survival scenarios water is a priority to mountain survival. The available source will depend on your elevation in the higher elevations you can harvest ice or snow allowing it to melt in your water source or warming it by a fire.
Never eat ice or snow as the body will need an inedible amount of energy to melt this water and you’ll still be dehydrated.
In the lower elevations you will likely encounter streams, creeks and springs. When dealing with these sources you want to be wary. Keep in mind that as sure as you are drinking from this source so are a number of animals and these creatures often pollute the very source from which they are drinking. In this case you want to purify your water.
The easiest way to purify your water is to boil it. Unpurified water can have parasites and other pathogens. These can lead to water borne illnesses that hold symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and fever which will severely reduce your chances of survival so don’t skip this step when securing your water source.
The mountain landscape is teeming with all manner of life. From deer to rabbit, it’s tempting to think of hunting when considering how to survive in the mountains. However, in an emergency survival scenario you are unlikely to have the tools or energy necessary to carry out a successful hunt. Instead, you should focus you efforts on lower impact means of obtaining sustenance such as fishing, trapping and gathering wild edibles.
What wild edibles you are likely to find vary from region to region so it’s important to include a crash course on plant life in your preparations. Some common wild edibles you’re likely to encounter in the mountain areas are pine nuts, golden currant, gooseberry, black berries, cattail and wood sorrels’. When it comes to trapping a simple deadfall or snare are your best choices and the most effective. If all else fails bugs make a great source of protein, especially grubs.
When it comes down to preparation your emergency pack is one of the most vital pieces of gear that you will have with you. What will be most effective in your survival pack often depends on your region so you’re encouraged to look into the specifics of your region such as wildlife, plant life and climate prior to traveling, but there are a few essentials that are crucial to survival. These are the bare bones essentials, but you can add to them as you see fit.
When packing your pack make sure not to pack more than you can carry easily.
- Sturdy knife – Always at the top of any survival pack this tool is good for cooking, cleaning kills, starting fires and a number of other things. Durability is key to choosing a knife
- Flint – This is used in tandem with your knife to start fires. The usual flint also comes with a piece of metal you can strike against the flint, but when packing you pack every bit of space counts.
- Poncho – There are dozens of uses for this including shelter construction and wet weather protection.
- Water source – This can be anything from a water bladder to a canteen as long as it’s durable and sealable.
- Cold weather gear – This can be a large waterproof coat, thermals or any number of cold resistant articles of clothing. Just make sure it’s warm and durable.
- Ice pick – This can double as a shovel for shelter construction
- Hatchet – This can be used for shelter construction, the construction of tools and protection
- Flares – These are good for signaling passing planes and starting fires in an emergency.
- Water Purification kit – As you are likely to be drinking from bodies of water these kits are essential.
- The mountains are a dynamic and unique place that has drawn people for centuries to its majestic heights. These regions are as deadly as they are beautiful and the unprepared are unlikely to survive the rigors of mountain survival. It’s for this reason that preparation and foreknowledge are the keys to surviving in a mountain survival scenario.