I have never been a big "I told you so !" kind of guy. However, when it comes to survival and self rescue preparation, others unfortunate mistakes provide us the ability to drive home our points as survival instructors.
A few days ago I posted about the dangers of snowmobiling in the great Canadian wilderness. Snowmobiling has become a huge multi-million dollar annual industry. Droves of outdoor enthusiasts venture out with limited or no survival training or true bush skills.
At the end of that post I stated that I truly believed, from historical experience, that we here in Ontario would lose snowmobilers this year to cold water submersion and hypothermia.
Sadly, we did. Here is an excerpt from the Peterborough Examiner Newspaper:
Peterborough Examiner - Rescuers found the body of a snowmobiler after two snowmobiles plunged through Buckhorn Lake off Emerald Isle in Ennismore. A 46-year-old man who unsuccessfully tried to save his fellow snowmobiler walked to shore safely. After being treated at the scene by paramedics, he was taken to Peterborough Regional Health Centre for treatment of leg numbness. Smith-Ennismore-Lakefield Township firefighters, Peterborough County OPP officers and Peterborough County-City Emergency Medical Services paramedics were called to the scene near the Emerald Isle Marina. Initially it took some frantic minutes to pinpoint where the snowmobiles went through the ice.
I wish that I never had to provide examples of this needless and completely preventable loss of life. It does however provide a very close to home incident that should make every snowmobile enthusiast stop and realize that they could be next if they chose not to prepare.
You must prepare for the worst so that you can enjoy the best. A winter survival course takes on average from 3-5 days and can arm you with the knowledge, skills and mindset to remain calm during a winter survival emergency. The calm person is better able to provide life saving first aid for the seriously injured. The calm one is also better able to build shelter, make fire, deal with friends and family suffering from hypothermia. In the end the one who is prepared will also be able to signal for help or self rescue.
What happens when your snowmobile breaks through the ice? Do you have ice self rescue picks on you or on your machine? How quickly can you get to them. If you do self rescue from cold water submersion - do you have fire making equipment on your body? Or is it in the saddle bag on the back of your sinking snowmobile? If you have that life saving fire starting material on you - is it protected in a water tight container or bag or is it a lighter in one of your pockets? If it's in your pocket will it work?
If you pull yourself from the icy cold water how long do you believe you have before hypothermia and the inability to use your fingers sets in? Two minutes if you're lucky. Go ahead - take your watch and press start. See how incredibly long two minutes feels when you're on the couch. However, that same two minutes after a cold water submersion will feel like 10 seconds.
If you do not have the mindset necessary to remain calm and complete the task - you will die.
Don't challenge mother nature or the gods. Be prepared. Be knowledgeable. Be smart.