Geraldine Largay was a Appalachian Trail hiker who got lost, and died of starvation. Misguided decisions combined with bad luck and lack of skills lead to her death.
It begins like any other backpacking story: two friends decide to hike the AT, having a great adventure. But that wasn’t how it ended. On July 22, 2013, Geralidine’s hiking partner suddenly had to call it quits due to a family emergency. Ever the go-getter, Geraldine decided to press on alone. They found her remains over 2 years later.
In many cases, this wouldn’t be THE worst decision a hiker has made. Many people have hiked the AT alone. Hikers are on this trail almost year round. Geraldine’s husband was even following along in the car, driving ahead, and meeting her a predetermined locations. But Largay was 66, and had the normal hearing and physical ailments a person that age has. Additionally, she had left her SPOT GPS in the last hotel her and her friend Jane Lee had stayed in.
Lee told an investigator “(Largay) did not know how to use a compass. She didn’t know if Geraldine even had a compass,” the report said.
What’s worse, is that Lee told rescuers that Largay MAY have had a compass, but even if she did, she did not know how to use it.
Let that soak in. A 66 year old woman who has no idea how to use a compass decides to hike the Appalachian Trail, one of the longest trails in America, and pushes on alone after her trail buddy leaves.
She got lost in a heavily wooded area, with several water sources nearby, albeit apparently undiscovered by her. There were no doubt squirrels and other small game in the forest, as people have been living in the Appalachian Mountains for generations. Thus, one has to consider: could she have survived if she had better skills & knowledge? I mean, she didn’t even know how to use the most BASIC of gear essentials, why would we think she had knowledge of wild edibles, or water location/filtration? This tragedy was totally preventable.
We can LEARN from this.
She made several bad decisions, lets take look at them and LEARN from this:
- Didn’t learn how to use her compass.
- Had no land navigation skills.
- Relied on GPS.
- Forgot to “gear check”, and left said GPS in hotel.
- Left her “battle buddy” and went solo, with no land nav or compass skills.
- Went off-trail with limited skills, and being alone.
- Stayed put longer than 48 hours.
- Did not effectively place herself in open area.
- Failed to effectively signal (smoke, fire, sound, light)
- Did not possess wild edibles or trapping skills.
Largay lasted 26 days according to her journal, and ironically ended up being the hiker who got lost and starved to death IN a Naval SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) training ground. She was found roughly just 4,000 FEET from a rather large water source, and 2,000 feet from a road that would have taken her directly to said SERE facility. If Largay had known how to use her compass, had a decent map, and possessed moderate survival knowledge and skills, the hiker who got lost, might be the hiker who got found that summer.
Ne Te Quaesiveris Extra