Short-term catastrophes play out fast. Take this quiz to find out how you’d fare.
1. Midway through a river crossing, you’re swept off your feet and into the racing current. You decide to:
(a) Crawl stroke like mad for the riverbank. (b) Ditch your pack, flip over onto your back, and float feet-first downriver. (c) Swing your trekking poles overhead in hopes of snagging a low-hanging tree branch.
Answer: (b) Floating belly-up, you can use your feet to push off boulders and other obstacles while protecting the old braincase. Backstroke with your arms to steer. If you hit an eddy or other calm stretch, flip over onto your stomach and swim to the bank.
2. You’re crossing a frozen lake, but— surprise!—you hear a sudden crack and feel yourself plunge underwater. Your plan?
(a) Ditch your trekking poles and bust out the beached-whale move. (b) Use your poles to span the break so you have something to support your weight while you call for help. (c) Stab those carbide tips into the ice and claw your way out.
Answer: (c) If you were smart, you’d have brought something like ice claws (basically little dowels with spikes on the end) in case of a plunge. But sometimes sharp pole tips will do the trick. Get horizontal, float your legs up behind you, and frog-kick yourself forward onto the ice.
3. In a hurry to pick up a resupply before the post office closes, you’re hustling down the trail when a rattler sinks its fangs into your ankle. You’re 5 miles out, and there’s no cell reception. You should:
(a) Apply a tourniquet to keep the venom from spreading. (b) Keep on walking; you’ve got a limited amount of time. (c) Wait for help. Sitting still will slow the venom’s spread.
Answer: (b) True, a jackrabbit heart rate will pump venom through your system faster. But in most cases, you’ve got a few hours before you’re in real trouble—long enough to hike a ways, but not enough to spend the night. Stay calm, try to ID what bit you, and walk at a steady pace toward the nearest trailhead. Have cell service? Call 911 ASAP.
For each incorrect answer:
For each correct answer: