Lost in the woods for 3.5 days because of bad directions. That’s how The Glenwood Springs Post Independent explained the plight of a physicist turned lost hiker over the first weekend in August. But the story reveals that there was a lot more going on than just bad directions. Let’s stop and take a better look at what the 50 year old Physicist did wrong and what he did right.

What He Did Wrong:

  • He bit off way more than he could chew. It looks like the was attempting a self-made, 25+ mile loop in just 14hrs! I don’t care if you have good directions. When you make a plan like that, you obviously are not taking into account many things, especially weather.
  • He planned on hiking out in the night.No one should rely on their GPS that much. You can still walk yourself right off a cliff in the dark. Even with a great GPS. At night, the margin for error is huge.
  • The one mistake he admits was that he shouldn’t have relied on the GPS info he downloaded from the web. It sounds like his directions were bad. However, even if the GPS points were correct, terrain can really throw you off. Our brains love to make what we see on our map or GPS unit look like our surroundings. Technology can get you found, but it can also get you lost or killed.
  • He relied too much on experience. He had visited Aspen before and done some hiking, but the hike he wanted to take required a deeper knowledge of the area. Usually, when you hear a lost hiker story, the first thing that is mentioned is that they had some experience. Experience can help, but it can also blind us.
  • And his biggest mistake. He didn’t leave an itinerary.

What He Did Right:

    I don’t want to bash this guy, because I could see myself in his same position just a few years back. He did some things right that kept him safe and alive.

  • He may not have left an itinerary, but he called to let his wife know that he was going out on a hike and that he planned on being back at his hotel later that evening. He also told her that he would call her when he got in. Had he been hurt, search and rescue would at least have been able to begin a search (which they did) and gather clues to where he might have gone. However, they would probably waste a lot of valuable time trying to locate him.
  • It sounds like he packed a good pack. Though he only planned to be out for an absurdly long day hike, he packed a small backpack with a bit of food, rain gear, and a few other things that came in handy. When you are out, always remember to bring the 10 essentials.
  • Finally, he didn’t panic. It sounds like, once Nazarov realized that he was lost in the Colorado wilderness, that he took his time and used his senses. This is probably what got him out of the woods.
  • This ordeal could have taken a bad turn, but it turns out that it has a happy ending. Nazarov was able to get his bearings and work his way back towards Aspen. He ran into a search and rescue team when he was almost out of the woods. They took him back to town to make sure he was OK and to get his story.

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