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Desperate Steps

Book Review- Desperate Steps from AMC Books

When you spend the majority of your time thinking about hiking and how long it will be until you are back in the mountains, there is no better way to pass the time than by reading about mountains.  When I read an excerpt from the AMC’s Desperate Steps: Life, Death, and Choices Made in the Mountains of the Northeast by Peter W. Kick, I ordered the book immediately and knew it would be a great choice for LMA’s first review.

Reading about risk management in the mountains can help to maintain a logical perspective on the risks we all take by adventuring outdoors.  While no risk can ever be fully mitigated, we all can take steps to keep ourselves as safe as possible.  I personally believe that by reading about misfortune in the mountains, I can be sure to make smart decisions when I am adventuring.

Desperate Steps outlines 20 accounts of incidents in the mountains of the Northeast from Baxter State Park to the  White Mountains over to the High Peaks of Adirondacks.  The accounts in Desperate Steps range from successful rescues to recoveries and highlight the search and rescue efforts that go into locating missing hikers.  Peter Kick provides a full analysis of each incident including the aftermath and lessons learned.

These are a few of my favorite tips for risk management in the mountains:

  • Know your ability level– Be sure not to bite off more than you can chew.  Know the trails you are taking, the mileage and elevation gain and match those with your ability and endurance.
  • Be prepared– Carry adequate water and food supply, be sure to have layers for cold, wet and changing conditions and carry gear that you can use in an emergency.  If you don’t use what you bring, no big deal.  You never know when you might need it and it’s better to take it for a ride in your pack than not have it when you truly need it.
  • Use technology, but don’t count on it- Having a cell phone or a GPS locator can be helpful.  That said, don’t count on technology to save you.  Even if you are able to get a message out, help can be hours in arriving so be prepared to self-rescue.
  • Watch the weather- If you love the mountains like I do, you know that mother nature is fickle.  A forecast that looks amazing the day before, can change dramatically the next.  Check the hourly forecast often and be willing to turn back if conditions change unexpectedly.  Never underestimate the mountains.
  • Be willing to turn back and know your bail out points- This is so important.  If you find that you are tired, hurt yourself or weather changes, be willing to abandon your plans and change course.  Know the trails and best bail out points.  Remember that the mountains will always be there.


Safe trails!



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