Death on the CDT

screenshot.pngvia–>>> Snowbound | Outside Online

Outside Online posted this excellent report, which includes three short Youtube videos taken shortly before the hiker, Stephen Olshansky, perished in 2015 at the end of his southbound thru- hike attempt  in the Southern San Juans in New Mexico.  “Otter” was an experienced long-distance hiker who died on the trail  waiting rescue, despite having adequate food, and using a heated tent.   I can relate to the dangers of that section of the CDT.  In 2013, I was forced to bail out on the “official” CDT and take alternate forest roads in the San Juans in early June due to weather and excessive snow depths.

Otter’s death was similar in one aspect of the death of a hiker named Geraldine Largay, AKA  Inchworm, who died on the Appalachian Trail in the summer of  2013, 26 days after she set up camp.  Both hikers died less than 8 miles away from a highway,  both patiently awaiting rescues that never came.  Both hikers were without their own personal locator beacons.

For more stories of backpackers and day hikers who have fallen into the abyss where they experience multiple unfortunate mistakes in the wrong places and at the wrong times check out these two excellent books: Not Without Peril: 150 Years Of Misadventure On The Presidential Range Of New Hampshire Paperback by Nicholas Howe  and  Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast, by Peter Kick.

Since Largay’s death, I’ve been using a satellite based communication device, and  subscribe to the $12 a month charge.

Garmin InReach Explorer+

It allows me to text messages via sattelite, so now the numerous areas I explore without cell coverage are not a problem.  I’ve started packing  it in my day pack.  Who knows what might happen out there, where age is not our friend ?

As  famous teacher once advised me, “Avert the suffering before it comes” .

Please considering commenting if yu do take the time to read and view the Outside Online material.

3 thoughts on “Death on the CDT

  1. Gerry B.

    I too carry an Inreach Explorer. with its terrific battery life…out of respect for myself and others. The weight and monthly fees are a small price to pay for the security it offers as both a emergency locator beacon and as a communication device in both emergency and non-emergency situations. I am especially prudent when hiking alone but you never know when an accident may occur. It enables me to keep in touch with my wife on a daily basis so she worries less when I hike solo. I have used it to communicate with fellow hikers when we for one reason or another have gotten split up and also to notify support folks when I have had to change my itinerary in the middle of a hike, i.e., at which trailhead to meet me and when,


    1. I believe Olshansky was found more than 20 miles away from the nearest Road not eight.,and stranded in nearly impassible deep powder.
      When stranded or needing to signal for rescue, preparing three separate signal fire lays on tripod platforms or simply on a slightly raised platform of sticks off the ground with green foliage at the top ready to light can save your bacon if you hear or see aircraft or on any clear day.

      If simply turned around after a short walk leaving a trail, like Largay, then establishing a base location then searching for a fixed number of foot paces…say 100, then 200… along 4 cardinal directions will absolutely you back to the trail. If that doesnt work move to an 8 direction search and 400 or 600 paces or whatever is appropriate to the situation ( usually you dont leave a trail more than 100 or 150 paces) Mark trees with clothing strips and use backsighting to keep you on line and aid your return to the base location. Largay was found about 1/4 mile off trail. That’s about 320 of my paces on level ground. If she knew this procedure and used it right away she probably never would have gotten even that far off trail before returning to it.

      These two basic methods should be studied by anyone who goes in the woods.

      Of course buy a SPOT too. But these two methods are essential to know.

      Liked by 1 person

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