Many accidents occurred in mountains, many trekkers died in those incidents, many returned ill, some programs failed too. If we try to find out the reasons of accidents in mountains during the last 20-25 years, the interesting fact, that will come out is, that among these incidents only 10%-15% were caused by adverse nature and the rest are due to human error. The main reason of an accident in mountains is: the team members do not focus on those points which need most attention during a trekking program.
A large number of accidents are caused by over-confidence; limitless courage and silly mistakes on the part of the team members. While trying to find out the reasons, differences are found between the actual incident and the description of that incident, differences are found between speeches of two team members also. It is quite embarrassing that we don’t even know about the actual description and reason of many accidents, because the team members have denied releasing the facts and tried to stay safe by blaming upon natural disaster. If they had described the actual fact, may be other teams could have taken proper precautions to overcome those calamities.
It is very much necessary for the participators/team members of a trekking group to know why accident happens during a trekking program.
A. One of the main reasons behind accidents in trekking routs is the bad selection of season and timing. The time selected for a particular trekking route was not good. They have focused much more on the demands of plains; like office leaves, available train tickets etc. and then went to hill. So an easy or a moderate route became very dangerous during improper time.
B. Many trekkers, hikers, and climbers face bad weather many times on the route. Sudden bad weather is a very common feature in mountains. But the problem is, often the members did not respect the bad weather and continued ascending to higher altitude. They felt ashamed in coming back, without wining! Mountains cannot be won! They couldn’t understand the consequences of continuing in heavy rain, snow blizzard or storm, and when they realized, it’s already too late!
C. Knowledge is wisdom! While preparing for a trekking program, especially for mountains or jungles, team members should gather knowledge on the route and learn, do’s and don’ts, basic survival ideas etc. Many accidents happened as the team members actually didn’t know what to do during a sudden and very bad weather. Coming down to a lower camp, taking rock shelters, roping up etc. could have saved their life, but they didn’t do that due to lack of that knowledge.
D. While crossing a remote high altitude pass, it is absolutely necessary to start very early in the morning when ice is hard and weather is steady. Crossing a high altitude pass within 10 AM is very good; very often an extra camp is also needed near the pass. But many times the members started towards the pass from a distant camp and reached the pass during noon time when weather got bad and they faced odd situations.
E. Team members had no idea about the remoteness of the route – conventional, less conventional or unconventional. So the proper preparation had not been taken. Many times accident occurred near a village or in low altitude, but help couldn’t reach soon being the route was unconventional.
F. Members took some kind of drug or alcohol or improper medicine during or before starting the trek which became, and always is, fatal at high altitude and the member fallen very ill.
G. There was no proper acclimatization day or reserve day in the program. Without being acclimatized with the temperature members fell into acute altitude mountain sickness. The team members delayed to take the affected member to low altitude.
H. Member was not fully fit before starting the trek or fallen ill during trekking but neglected it primarily and didn’t tell about it to other members. So proper and timely medication couldn’t be possible.
I. The team was not carrying proper medicines with them; they didn’t have the idea of using the medicines either. Often a doctor or a paramedic is needed with the team during an expedition type trekking but that was not arranged.
J. During crossing a dangerous zone (landslide, rock fall, scree, powerful stream) proper attention was not paid. It is often necessary to fix rope or group by rope while crossing these types of area. While crossing big streams, it is necessary to cross it early morning (when water flow is less), watch where water level is low and boulders beneath the water is less, descending in the water altogether being roped up, often making of a temporary bridge is needed, watching rock fall zone and cross it as quickly as possible with fullest attention when wind flow is less, but these are not done. Less experienced members didn’t get enthusiasm and cheers from experienced members.
K. By organizing groups whose team members are not familiar with each other, proper relationship was not built up within the members. So in case of any problem other team members did not come to help from heart. In case of hard situation proper team decision was not taken and members followed individual decisions which tend to calamity.
L. Proper gears were not used. Often found that being not using proper shoe (sole, material, ankle support, weather proofing and size), members caught frostbite in deep snow. Proper gaiter not used, proper eye goggles not used, so eyes got damaged, proper mitten or gloves not used, so fingers got damaged, proper cold gear or tent or sleeping bag not used, so members could not sleep well at night and lost balance during walk in day. Often an extra pair of shocks or shoes was needed but was not carried.
M. Members did not paid proper attention while collecting drinking water. By drinking unclear and over mineral filled water members became ill. Before using water, a medicine like Zeoline (chlorine water purifier) was not used.
N. Members were not selected as per the grade of the route – very easy, easy, moderate, hard or very hard. Members were not physically fit, tough and experienced for that particular trek. The overall limitation of the group was not evaluated properly.
O. Every team members had no proper idea about the route, grade of the route, terrain details, map of the area, and weather statistics of that area. So in case of any problem, proper team decision could not be taken.
P. There were mistakes in selecting proper campsite. By staying at improper campsite, members got affected with strong wind flow, pitching and un-pitching tent took more time, so ending or starting a day’s walk got delayed.
Q. During any type of adventure program in mountains or jungle area, each member should carry at least minimum essential survival kit. Like a sling rope, a small knife, some medicines, tiny dry food pack, a small torch light, whistle, instrument to make fire – e.g. small flint fire starter etc. But it was seen many times that Members were not carrying any survival clothing or survival food kit at all. Everything were given to the porters and in case of detachment from the team in bad weather, member fallen very ill and sometimes died too without the survival kits. Here I would like to recommend one of my favorite TV shows, Man vs. Wild presented by Bear Grylls in Discovery channel. This will surely help you in adverse situations like these.
R. Sometimes a team ran out of food before completing the trek. The team members were completely dependent upon temporary cook cum porter for cooking the foods. Misuse and over use of ration tend to run out of food.
S. In spite of above said reasons we can’t overcome adverse nature – sudden rock fall, strong snow blizzard, avalanche, crevasse etc. But this type of calamity is only 10%-15%.
When things goes wrong, it just goes wrong in-spite of our every thinking. Which can be extracted from this is our inexperience and mistakes result in an accident which may end up with a death. So by proper organizing, planning, precautions, preparations and attention only, a trekking program can be completed successfully.