Hiking groups to share survival tips after hiker got lost on the weekend

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By Kenicia Francis

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Leaders of a number of hiking groups in Antigua and Barbuda will be attending a free wilderness search and rescue session on Sunday at Christian Valley.

The session was organised to highlight and share survival tips after a man who was hiking by himself got lost along a marked trail above Christian Valley. 

The lone hiker reportedly became disoriented and exhausted while moving through a field of fever grass and wandered too far from the trail and couldn’t find his way back.

The man’s cell phone reportedly died while he was trying to contact the head of the Rohrman Sports Association, Rory Butler, who now lives in Barbados, but is someone with whom the man had hiked with in the past. 

“About 2.30, I had a call asking for some assistance. [The man] had run into some trouble finding their way back on the trail. The person’s phone battery died, and I was unable to continue the conversation. At that stage, I did not know if the person was just momentarily lost and would have found the trail and go back down with no problem. So, I reached out to Alistair Savoury, as well as Jason Joseph from the Wadadli Trail Blazers to see if I could get somebody to go and find out if the person’s car was still at the beginning of the trail,” Butler told Observer yesterday.

“It was actually not until around seven o’clock, Alastair was able to get to Christian Valley. At that point, he discovered that the person’s car was still at the start, indicating that he had not reached back. We were still unable to contact the person by our phone, but we knew they did not get back and were not able to charge their phone. We also reached out to family members to see if [the man] had got back home, [but he] had not.”

He explained that from the information he received about where this individual was before their phone died, it only should have taken them about an hour to get down. 

Since Butler had received the call around 2:30pm and Savoury wasn’t able to get there until around 7 pm, he became increasingly concerned and contacted many other people and the police to organise a search party. 

Savoury, who’s also a member of the Rohrman Sports Association, an avid hiker and mountain biker, told Observer that “[the lost hiker was using his] phone to track the trail and didn’t have adequate water, backup battery supply and, worst still to me, did not have a partner. I know a lot of people who think that because Antigua is small, nothing can happen to them. The reality is this situation reared its head just in time, so to speak, because here was an individual that is a regular hiker. For whatever reason, they chose to go on their own to explore the trails and got themself in problems.”

He explained that after he got the call from Butler, he was initially delayed due to work obligations. 

In a post he made about the situation on Facebook, he stated that there were a series of calls with Butler, the Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR), Peter Wall, Kimanie Simon and Kamar Thomas to coordinate a search party.

He also stated that around 7:35pm the man staggered out of the bush, exhausted, and dehydrated which allowed them to locate him without executing the search.

He also told Observer that the man didn’t need immediate medical attention, and was able to drive away after being given some water to drink. 

“I gave him the bottles of water that I had and that allowed him to recover somewhat and allowed him to follow me out on the road. 

As a result of this ordeal and the potential for it to have much worse, Butler explained that many of the leaders of the local hiking groups here in Antigua and Barbuda will be attending the free wilderness search and rescue class this Sunday at Christian Valley.

“This would help leaders of the hiking groups who know the trails best in Antigua and Barbados, get some knowledge and skills in terms of how you would conduct a search and rescue, if and when anybody does go missing on the trails and there’s a need to start a search party,” he said.

He also shared a few hiking safety tips as follows: 

Stay hydrated and well-nourished, carry more water than you think you need, because the heat in Antigua and Barbuda can be intense. It’s crucial to stay hydrated, so bring more water than you think you’ll need. Dehydration can happen quickly, so drink regularly.

Pack nutritious high-energy snacks like nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars which will help keep your energy levels up during the hike.

Time your hike wisely, as in hike early in the day to avoid the worst of the heat. 

Start your hike in the early hours of the day, this is especially important on open trails where there is little shade.

Be Aware of Environmental Hazards like fever grass fires. Fever grass fires are a real danger in this region. Be vigilant and avoid hiking in areas prone to such fires.

Carry Antihistamines to protect against allergic reactions from insect stings, such as those from the “jack Spaniard” wasp.

Always let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. This is crucial for safety in case of emergencies.

If you are unfamiliar with the trails, always use a guide or join a group. Guides can provide local knowledge and enhance your safety.

Stick to designated trails and never venture off-trail.

Going off-trail increases the risk of getting lost and can lead to dangerous encounters, such as conflicts with illegal cannabis farmers. Always stay on marked paths.

Never hike alone, hike with a companion.

Hiking alone can be dangerous, always hike with at least one other person to ensure safety in case of accidents or emergencies.

Download tracking apps like Wikiloc to track your movements.

He suggests that by following these tips, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable hiking experience in Antigua and Barbuda. 

In closing he advised hikers to always prioritise their safety and be prepared for the unique challenges of the environment.

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