There’s nothing better than being in the mountains. The air is fresh and cool. The scenery is like the Lord of the Rings movies. What could be better? Suddenly, the weather is changing. Fog hides everything. In minutes, your hiking adventure has gone from delightful to dreadful. What could you do? Your lifelong dream of hiking in the Andes Mountains has come true. You planned it for months, and you’ve got your hiking gear. The Andes Mountain Range spans 7,200 km (4,500 mi), along seven countries. Only the Himalayas are higher. And it’s home to 99% of the tropical glaciers in the world. You’ve planned to enjoy two days of scenic hiking, and have about three days of supplies for your adventure. Suddenly, the weather changes. You lose your bearings, and your hopes of a dream adventure disappear. What are your priorities? What are the dangers? What is your best chance of survival?

Step 1: Be Organized

Preparing for this trip is vital. Bring all the supplies you may need, including water and food. Bring the correct clothing and gear, and don’t forget your first aid kit. And if possible, bring a GPS device, it could come in useful later. Also, plan your route in detail, and let someone know where you’ll be, and when you should return. This can make it easier if a rescue team needs to find you.

Step 2: Know Your Surroundings

Having good knowledge of the area you are in is a must. And once you’re there, note landmarks or geographical features that could help you later. Likewise, keep checking behind you, to make sure the route you took is still accessible. And if you think you could get lost, use anything around you to mark that you were there. If you do get lost, the first thing to do is get your bearings. Take your time, and think things through carefully. Remember your priorities.

Step 3: Find Shelter

If the light is fading, and night is approaching, find shelter. You do not want to be navigating around in the dark. If you have brought a tent or a tarp, use it to build your shelter for the night. If you don’t have anything, start collecting branches and wood to make a shelter. Find somewhere that’s not deep in a valley. And hopefully, you’ll have the protection of a boulder in case of avalanches. Making sure you rest is crucial to having enough energy the next day.

Step 4:  Keep Dry

One of the biggest dangers you’ll face is getting wet. Try to keep as dry as possible. Wearing wet clothes in cold weather can easily lead to hyperthermia. If you do get wet, change out of the wet clothes. Avoid rivers and waterways if possible, and if you need to cross them, keep your spare clothes dry so you can change into them after crossing the water.

Step 5: Water

If you’ve watched any of our How To Survive episodes, you’re probably thinking that this step should be pretty high on the list. And you’re right. In the Andes Mountains, most places should provide drinkable water. Your best option is fresh spring water if you stumble upon it. But river water will suffice if there is nothing else. Be warned, though. Even if it seems fresh, river water could still be contaminated. So if you can, boil the water first.

Step 6: Rescue

Remember that I suggested packing a GPS device? Well, that could be your lifeline if rescuers need to search for you. Make sure not to move too far from your location. Build a shelter, and start looking for extra water and food if you can. Even though your friend or family has alerted the rescuers to find you, it could take them hours, or even days, to find you.

Step 7: Self-Rescue

Use this final step if you don’t have a way to communicate, and haven’t notified anyone before your trip. Surviving pretty much relies on your abilities now. Hike and move about during the day, and rest as best you can during the night. Wear brightly colored clothes to help attract attention. Finally, your best chance of escaping is to follow streams and rivers flowing downwards. This should eventually lead you to lower ground, safety, and hopefully a settlement.Being in the great outdoors is exhilarating and exciting, but don’t let that give you a false sense of security. According to research, in Yosemite National Park, 13 people get lost every day. We know that’s not the same as surviving in the Andes Mountains, but it’s a good lesson to learn. Remember 58-year-old Raul Fernando Gomez Circunegui, who got lost in the Andes in 2013. He survived for four months by finding a hut to use as shelter. So remember, hiking in big mountains is never a walk in the park. Follow these steps to stay safe on your next hiking trip.

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