Plan ahead by studying the latest trail conditions, mileage, and elevation gain. Photograph by Elizabeth Miller.
SINCE 2006, MARC LEVESQUE has been pulling people out of tough situations in the wilder stretches of New Mexico. The search-and-rescue team leader has compiled many of those stories—and advice on how to avoid being the person making that call—in a new book, Gila Lost and Found: Search and Rescue in New Mexico (Red Planet Press). Here he shares a few backcountry safety tips.
“People don’t do enough homework.” Ward off a crisis by studying trail mileage and elevation gain; checking the latest trail conditions; packing enough food, water, and safety gear; and monitoring the weather forecast, especially for the volatile conditions in the high peaks. Learn to navigate with a map and compass and leave an itinerary with someone.
“Dehydration is very subtle. It’s insidious and very quickly impacts good thinking. People don’t understand that.”
Cell signals drop off in the woods, so calling for help usually isn’t an option. Carrying a satellite communication device can add range to how far you can signal for help. Regardless, expect that it can take hours, or days, to arrive.