Mountain Survival: Les Stroud Shows How to Get Out Alive

This time around Survivorman, Les Stroud, shows us some tactics for surviving 7 days in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia — home to high winds, snow, and bitter cold temperatures. In addition, the weather can change without notice in the mountains as storms are hidden until they are upon you. And the combination of the cold and altitude can sap your energy, lulling you into a fatal sleep. Stop thinking, and you'll stop trying. Stop trying, and you'll die.

After being dropped off on the summit, the crew does one flyby before leaving Les on his own. His first objective is to get off of the windswept peak. He heads towards trees he sees, but they are way off in the distance and a long way down. Les reminds us that it's important to not sweat in cold weather and he takes breaks along the way to allow his body to keep from sweating excessively. Fortunately, clean water is readily available in pools on the ground so dehydration is not a concern.

The first obstacle he must cross is a glacier made even more dangerous by newly fallen snow that hides dangerous crevices. Moving slowly and testing the snow ahead of him before putting all of his weight on it, Les begins to cross the mile wide expanse. Rain makes the going even tougher. In the end, he makes it across without incident, but many miles still lie between him and the tree line. Unfortunately, the distance is too great for the remaining daylight and so Les settles in for the night beneath a large rock — no fire, no tent, and no sleeping bag.

On day 2 Les begins by telling us that he felt he was close to hypothermia during the night. To keep blood flowing he would repeatedly squeeze all the muscles in his body and then relax them. Needless to say he didn't get much sleep. As he continues his trek to the tree line, he at least comes across some blueberries which provide some sustenance.Well in to day 2, Les reaches more hospitable terrain. His plan is to build a shelter and stay dry before night falls.

As he passes through meadows, Les notes the many animal trails that run through them. In this area, moose, caribou, cougars, and grizzlies roam. Still, the terrain affords him some materials for building an emergency shelter. In this case, his shelter consists of moss for bedding and a knoll with boughs across it for cover. He does discover an emergency blanket amongst his supplies which has the potential to keep him a little warmer.

Day 3 starts of cloudy, misty, and cold. The night was, not surprisingly, miserable. A patch of huckleberries makes for a morning snack. Despite the rain, Les presses on down the mountain towards the valley. Now having descended 2,500 feet (started at 6,900 feet) Les finds himself among trees and rivers. The terrain is difficult and the risk of a broken ankle is great. Drops of twenty feet further increase the dangers of injury. But following a mountain stream, Les is confident he'll eventually come to a river.

Les chooses to rest for the night by a large spruce tree. Despite the constant rain, the ground here is dry. Certainly not the epitome of comfort, but at least it's dry. The night passes without incident.

On day 4, Les arrives at a large river. He notes that it must be at least 10 degrees warmer here than it was at the top of the mountain. His priorities at this point are to build a shelter and find some food. At last he has an opportunity to dig through his supplies — an ice axe, walking stick, crampons, carabiners, a camera, a tripod, a video cassette, and a multi-tool.

The tripod makes for a good skeleton for an A-frame shelter. And the emergency blanket is good for blocking the wind. The video cassette tape works well for tying the emergency blanket together using small stones as buttons. During the next rainfall, the shelter proves quite effective and keeps Les dry.

When Les wakes up on day 5 the first thing he notices is that the river has risen and his shelter is only 6 feet from the water's edge. There isn't much he can do except wait and see if the water endangers his shelter. While waiting, he scavenges for food and finds highbush cranberries — small, bright red berries that are usually sweet tasting. He also finds mushrooms, but warns us that if you can't identify the mushroom, you shouldn't eat it as some can kill.

Next on Les' list of activities is building a fire. Moss and tree bark make for good starting points. Most of the wood around him is soaking wet, but getting into the inside of cedar logs yields dry wood. And since he has no matches, Les breaks apart his camera to get at the camera lens which he plans to use as a magnifying glass. Kindling comes in the form of dry paper that makes up part of the camera's innards. Using the lens he focuses the sun's rays on the paper which is in the middle of the moss and cedar shavings tinder bundle. It takes a while, but ultimately Les successfully starts a fire. A great accomplishment for day 5.

Day 6 starts with a little less rain than the other days. On this day, Les decides he is going to hunt. Using an elastic string from his pack and a Y-shaped piece of wood he fashions a sling-shot. With weapon in hand, he begins the hunt. His targets include grouse and ptarmigan. Alas, he has no luck finding his prey.

On day 7, Les is determined to be ready when the rescue helicopter arrives. As usual, there is rain to hinder his efforts, but even so a signal fire is key for attracting the attention of rescuers. The fire from the night before is still burning, but he needs to build it up for later use. When the time is right, Les throws wet spruce boughs on the fire to create smoke. Spotting the smoke, the helicopter lands and picks him up.

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