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Old 26.10.2008, 22:39
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Emergency - who to call?

It was a beautiful day today in sunny Ticino so I decided to go to Cardada (1,400 meters) with my husband son and dog. We took the cable car from Locarno and the plan was to hike back down the mountain.

We left plenty of time so that we'd be down before dark. We were about a third of the way down, when my dog gave my husband a nice big pull on the leash and he lost his footing on the steps and made a quick grab for the railing. His hand was bleeding but the worst part was that he pulled a ligament in his knee. After this, walking became more and more painful. He was using a stick and leaning on me for support. (I wasn't much help as he's quite a big guy compared to me.)

The injury wasn't that bad and there was nowhere to go but down so we progressed slowly. Then we realized that we still had a long way to go and it was getting really dark. We started kidding with our son that we will have to sleep in the woods but after a while it wasn't that funny as it seemed like a real possibility that we would end up in total darkness before reaching civilization. Then, just like in the movies, on the verge on total darkness we reached a road and some houses. We were lucky to find a couple who spoke English and they called a taxi for us which brought us home.

This experience was quite scary because had he suffered a more serious injury, what could we have done? We had a mobile phone but who do you call for help? How do they get to you when the track is only accesible on foot? How do you even describe where you are?

Also, if you get stuck in the woods in darkness, what do you do?

Of course, next time we'll be hiking with full survival gear, including flashlights and tents but this was only supposed to be an afternoon walk.
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Old 26.10.2008, 22:48
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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This experience was quite scary because had he suffered a more serious injury, what could we have done? We had a mobile phone but who do you call for help? How do they get to you when the track is only accesible on foot? How do you even describe where you are?
In the end it you would probably have needed some money to pay for the 'rescue'. Thus having an insurance is a must when hiking (and check the conditions, as there are many liability exclusion clauses). I think that Swiss Alpine Club had some decent info about.

As for the hiking and the accidents - fortunately so far I haven't had any... I always take my GPS (palmtop) with me - depending on the conditions you may get the position.

Apart from that, for long hikes I try to be prepared for emergency conditions (take some extra clothes - preferably waterproof and warm, torchlight, some extra food with lots of calories and some first aid - bandage, elastic bandage, adhesive bandage, hydrogen peroxide, can't remember more at the moment).

Depending on the place I would try calling default 117 or for specific region check the local services.
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Old 26.10.2008, 22:51
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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It was a beautiful day today in sunny Ticino so I decided to go to Cardada (1,400 meters) with my husband son and dog. We took the cable car from Locarno and the plan was to hike back down the mountain.

We left plenty of time so that we'd be down before dark. We were about a third of the way down, when my dog gave my husband a nice big pull on the leash and he lost his footing on the steps and made a quick grab for the railing. His hand was bleeding but the worst part was that he pulled a ligament in his knee. After this, walking became more and more painful. He was using a stick and leaning on me for support. (I wasn't much help as he's quite a big guy compared to me.)

The injury wasn't that bad and there was nowhere to go but down so we progressed slowly. Then we realized that we still had a long way to go and it was getting really dark. We started kidding with our son that we will have to sleep in the woods but after a while it wasn't that funny as it seemed like a real possibility that we would end up in total darkness before reaching civilization. Then, just like in the movies, on the verge on total darkness we reached a road and some houses. We were lucky to find a couple who spoke English and they called a taxi for us which brought us home.

This experience was quite scary because had he suffered a more serious injury, what could we have done? We had a mobile phone but who do you call for help? How do they get to you when the track is only accesible on foot? How do you even describe where you are?

Also, if you get stuck in the woods in darkness, what do you do?

Of course, next time we'll be hiking with full survival gear, including flashlights and tents but this was only supposed to be an afternoon walk.
That's quite a story you've got there. Thanks for sharing.

How about we add a GPS device to the list? (Or all in one iPhone with access to Swiss directories, capability for emergency calls and built in GPS with maps )
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Old 26.10.2008, 22:54
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Re: Scary time in the woods

Glad you got out safely!!!

I would say that a flashlight is absolutely essential on all hikes. Even without an accident it is possible to mis-estimate the time required for the trip.
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Old 26.10.2008, 22:55
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Re: Scary time in the woods

We had two I-phones with us so perhaps we did have GPS. That would certainly be helpful when calling for help.

This was the first time my husband came for an actual "hike". Usually it's just a quick stroll with the dog along the lake. I think this was probably the last time too.

Thanks for the tips guys!
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Old 26.10.2008, 22:59
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Re: Scary time in the woods

Oh wow. Rarely do I hear stories in Switzerland of close brushes with the harshness of life. Afterall, the forests look like they are manicured.

In cases of life or death emergencies, there is a service called Rega that could dispatch a helicopter to pick you up. I heard they could dispatch a rescue from any part of the world. My father-in-law always gets us a yearly subscription. When I asked him if they would pick me up from Mogadishu during an ambush, he said "Sure". I imagine you just have to be willing to carry the expenses. I never had a chance to try it out, thank God.
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Old 26.10.2008, 23:05
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Re: Scary time in the woods

Thanks Phos. That is pretty amazing! I'm glad you never needed them.

The woods are really well kept but there are a lot of leaves and the granite stones can get quite slippery with them.
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Old 26.10.2008, 23:13
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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In cases of life or death emergencies, there is a service called Rega that could dispatch a helicopter to pick you up. I heard they could dispatch a rescue from any part of the world. My father-in-law always gets us a yearly subscription. When I asked him if they would pick me up from Mogadishu during an ambush, he said "Sure". I imagine you just have to be willing to carry the expenses. I never had a chance to try it out, thank God.
Surprisingly, a yearly membership for the whole family is only 70 CHF. That's a pretty good investment!
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Old 27.10.2008, 00:01
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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I imagine you just have to be willing to carry the expenses. I never had a chance to try it out, thank God.
hmmm. was just looking at their website and no, for the tiny patronage fee of 30chf per year for an individual they will waive rescue costs not covered by your accident and health insurance even from abroad!

well worth it for skiers, snowboarders, hikers and anyone else that likes venturing into the mountains. I will be signing up shortly!

Last edited by Blaze; 29.10.2008 at 19:22.
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Old 27.10.2008, 00:02
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Re: Scary time in the woods

The Emergency Number for Alpine Rescue is 112. This number should work even in some areas where other numbers may not. I think that emergency services can locate people reasonably closely from a phone signal. Obviously GPS is much better.

This episode acts as a timely remider as to how easy it is to get caught out in what appear to be friendly surroundings. Glad it all turned out fine.
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Old 27.10.2008, 00:29
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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Oh wow. Rarely do I hear stories in Switzerland of close brushes with the harshness of life.
The harshness of life huh? I thought we were talking of someone with a strained knee ligament.
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Old 27.10.2008, 01:15
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Re: Scary time in the woods

In Australia we were also told to hike with a minimum of four people...It's quite strange for me to see people up the mountains where the weather changes so fast and it easily gets to just a few degrees overnight, hiking alone or in pairs...we were up Mt Rigi the other week and it was a nasty miserable day and there were just a few lone hikers...

Hypothermia is a real risk...add a 'space blanket' or similar to your 'survival kit', and a whistle is kinda handy too...
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Old 27.10.2008, 16:11
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Re: Emergency - who to call?

Glad to hear that you got down OK.
The Rega is a great institution but it is by no means as simple as it sounds in some posts here.
IF you are in a place where there is reception for your phone, you can call the REGA. They help, but this doesn't mean they come rushing out with a helicopter. It might mean they get in touch with the local police, local climbers, mountain rescue groups, depending on the situation. (So it is certainly a great advantage if you call tell them exactly where you are). In the case of bringing someone ill or injured home from abroad, the help from the Rega might mean they arrange seats on a normal flight.
As far as I know, they don't fly helicopters in the dark, in heavy mist, nor do they take off when it is very rough and windy, and they cannot land in deep narrow wooded valleys.
One friend broke his fibula in 'hill-walking country' with his teenage son. No Mobile reception. They used one 'walking stick' to splint it and walked all the way down to a hut where they had Mobile reception. He was collected by Rega helicopter from there.
Son-in-law in a group in alpine territory. There was a fall of rock. One woman was badly injured. At the point where the accident happened it was too foggy for heli to land. The woman was carried down on a stretcher to a point below the cloud layer. Several hours after the accident, the Rega picked her up and flew her to hospital.
Happy endings but horrifying when the events took place.

Maybe we should look on the 'defensive' side.
My Rule of Thumb. If you can't walk up it, you shouldn't be walking down it! 1100m downhill (and on the map you only have to glance at the track from Lucarno-Cardada with all the wiggles to guess how steep it must be) is quite a LOT unless you are used to it. And even then, you are better off if you walked up quite a bit of it before coming down! The thigh muscles don't like downhill much and the more tired they get, the less co-ordination you have in your walking, and the more likely it is that an accident will occur. If you can't get out walking often enough to keep the thigh muscles 'in practice' step slowly down from a low stool keeping the knee steady - again and again.
As GPS doesn't like deep valleys much either, it's not a bad idea to have a decent map. Since sometimes the best option is to get to the nearest bit of civilisation, it is useful to know in which direction that is!

What does Longbyt do?
Boots - always. We don't carry a flashlight - perhaps we should - but, up till now, we have always had plenty of time to get home before dark. Windproof jacket, quick-drying trousers. In the rucksack, besides food and drink, there is waterproof clothing, head covering, cotton scarf, extra pullover, sunglasses etc. I almost always take my walking 'poles/sticks' with me, although mostly only use them for more than about 800m downhill at one stretch. Also plasters, needle and cotton, pen-knife, tweezers, small bottle of disinfectant, insect stuff in summer, a whistle and a 'aluminium foil' type of sheeting. (the latter is also wonderfully 'warming' if you fall off your bike and break your collar-bone in the rain). We always carry a map and although Mr L is the 'navigator', if I look at the map I usually know where we are! Hiking in rough country in Greece - no roads, no villages, no people, no Rega and no mountain rescue service, I always carried a special knee elastic bandage.
And we don't do 1000m downhill first time we are out walking in the season.

Accidents do happen. Some could be avoided, others can't.
Together with other numbers folk have given, you can put the Police Emergency Number 117 on your mobile. The chaps on the phone are experienced, keep their heads, have all the other necessary information at their fingertips and will either give you the number you need or put you straight through.
But don't let this accident put you off walking. It's a great hobby.
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Last edited by Longbyt; 29.10.2008 at 11:15. Reason: Corrected idiom
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Old 27.10.2008, 16:27
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Re: Emergency - who to call?

I second the motion that REGA is by far compulsory for anyone doing any outdoors (be it hiking, skiing, etc). Sure, it's not perfect or simple, but it is only CHF 60, increases your chances of getting saved big time, as opposed to just carrying a torchlight.

But please get the membership! it's only 60 francs, but if you get a heli rescue without being a member, it will cost you around SFR 4'000!!!

Please note also that if you are in distress, or look like it without actually being in distress, other people might call REGA for you. If you are not a member, and you dont need to be rescued, you still have to pay for the rescue. I have met 2 people that had that happened to them (one of them had his mother call rega when he didnt come back from an outdoor trip before dark. He was not lost or in any emergency, but still had to cough up the CHF 4000, as he was not a member).
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Old 27.10.2008, 16:38
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Re: Emergency - who to call?

Ouch a knee injury how painful for your poor husband i feel for him, and hope he gets better soon.

We are also with REGA never had to use them thankgod, but they will also pick you up from anywhere in the world they will send a plane with a Doctor, and a Nurse on board to bring you back to Switzerland to be treated here
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Old 27.10.2008, 16:43
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Glad you got out safely!!!

I would say that a flashlight is absolutely essential on all hikes. Even without an accident it is possible to mis-estimate the time required for the trip.
"Flashlights are tubular metal containers kept in a flight bag for
the purpose of storing dead batteries."

Cheers

Jim
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Old 27.10.2008, 17:14
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Re: Scary time in the woods

"In cases of life or death emergencies, there is a service called Rega that could dispatch a helicopter to pick you up. I heard they could dispatch a rescue from any part of the world. My father-in-law always gets us a yearly subscription. When I asked him if they would pick me up from Mogadishu during an ambush, he said "Sure". I imagine you just have to be willing to carry the expenses. I never had a chance to try it out, thank God.[/quote] phos


This is so true!!! i was living in west africa, and had some swiss friends there. they had a car accident and my friend broke her neck. Rega arrived the next day. The doctors in senegal wanted to operate on her neck, but the resources in the hospital were quite limited.i cant tell you what a relief it was that she had another option. The shiny rega plane looked so out of place on the dusty runway! she is fine now, but the doctors here rehabilitated her using braces, they said an operation may have made things much worse.
definitely worth the yearly supscribtion if you're planning any adventures
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Old 27.10.2008, 17:26
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Re: Scary time in the woods

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"Flashlights are tubular metal containers kept in a flight bag for
the purpose of storing dead batteries."
I should have been more precise ...

"A flashlight with spare batteries and, in the days before LEDs, a spare bulb."

I do not use a flashlight but a headlamp, so I wonder ... do they make flashlights with LEDs like the headlamps?
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Old 27.10.2008, 17:29
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Re: Emergency - who to call?

What an incredible story Maisy!

Thank you everybody for all the great tips and suggestions. My husband is OK, except when he's walking down the stairs. Then his knee starts to hurt but he'll be fine.

I'm quite active, I run, bike and walk quite a bit but he is more of a couch potato. He was a real trooper until our dog saw that bird and the rest is history!
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Old 27.10.2008, 17:32
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Re: Emergency - who to call?

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What an incredible story Maisy!

Thank you everybody for all the great tips and suggestions. My husband is OK, except when he's walking down the stairs. Then his knee starts to hurt but he'll be fine.

I'm quite active, I run, bike and walk quite a bit but he is more of a couch potato. He was a real trooper until our dog saw that bird and the rest is history!
Buy some Tiger Balm from the chemist and rub it into his knee this should help with the pain
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