Top 9 Things Never to Do While Hiking

up by Thousand Island Lake in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. All was fun and games until...


I was incredibly stupid a few weekends ago and got hopelessly lost and borderline delirious in the Ansel Adams Wilderness area near Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada of California.  I love adventure, both close to where I live and halfway across the world but this time I went a little too far.  Below, I catalog my mistakes:

1) Don’t hike on your own – And yet I definitely did.  My buddies and I had hiked about 3 miles from our camp to the absolutely stunning Thousand Island Lake.  The scenery was amazing but I was feeling sleepy so I told the group I was heading back to camp for a nap.  At least two people protested, saying that I might get lost.  “I’ll take my chances,” I said.

2) Don’t hike without a map, GPS or a compass – With the exception of my iPhone which provided limited help at best (the reception was sketchy and even when I did have reception, the inbuilt navigation only works well for street navigation), I had nothing in the way of way-finding devices.

3) Do not automatically assume other hikers are brilliant navigators – The start of my hike home went just great… until I got to a fork in the path.  It was more like a crossroads – and none of the arrows on the wooden sign pointed to Clark Lakes – where I needed to go.  Confused, I asked a hiker that was coming by.  She was positive that there was a sign to Clark Lakes further down the path.

4) If you are obviously on the wrong path, turn around, EVEN if it is beautiful – OK, so I am embarrassed about this one.  I KNEW I was on the wrong path.  But the great river and AMAZING waterfall to my right kept me going.  Just a little further… maybe I’ll find a sign for Clark Lakes like the hiker told me.  I kept going… and going.  Even after some other hikers told me they had NOT seen a sign for Clark Lakes.

5)  Don’t think you know a short cut – That’s when I decided I knew a shortcut.  “I’m pretty sure that if I just cross that ridge on the right, I’ll be at camp.”  Eager to avoid wasting time backtracking, I followed my impulses and set off wildly, straight up a ridge.  The bushes were thick, wild grass grew high and I felt like I spent half my time getting torn to shreds by the brush as I rode the adrenaline of my potential discovery of the ultimate route home.  It was not until hours later that I would have to admit to myself that I had made a huge mistake and was beyond lost.

taken from half-way up the ridge I was climbing.... deceitful beauty

6)  Don’t not drink water – Conscious that I had a limited water supply I decided to conserve water by consuming as little as possible.  This was stupid as I had water purification tablets that I could have used on stream water.  I was being lazy in the worst way possible.  Soon I was parched and slowing down.

7)  Don’t waste your phones precious battery life on audio books and random video and pictures while lost – I was bored and eager to get my mind off the exhausting hike up the ridge so I started taking random picture and videos as well as listening to an audio book.  This was obviously a ridiculous move as I should have preserved battery power for emergency calls.

8)  Don’t wait until almost sunset to get real about your problems – I think I would have kept exploring and abandoning myself to more denial had it not been for the fact that I knew the sun would set and I would be stuck on a mountain ridge, completely lost and all alone.  Two hours before sunset I decided that pride-be-damned, I would retrace my steps and find the long way home.

9) Don’t take off without a flash light or jacket – You’ve clearly given up on me by now but yes, as nightfall approached I faced the darkness with no flash light or jacket.  Mad at myself for being so irresponsible, I stumbled down the ridge in the cool dusk until I found a small path I had not taken previously.  I followed it in the general direction of where I thought my Clark Lakes camp was.  As though by a miracle, I eventually came across this sign (pictured) for Clark Lakes and I was able to follow these signs back to the general vicinity of camp.  From there other hikers helped me find my way home.

the sign that saved me!

Needless to say I received much love/chastisement as I finally stumbled into camp, hours after dark.  Never again would I be so foolish. My list of hiking sins was long and nature can be very unforgiving.  I was incredibly fortunate to be OK.  Exhausted, I crawled into my sleeping bag, relieved to have survived to tell my tale.



Bjorn Karlman

9 thoughts on “Top 9 Things Never to Do While Hiking”

  1. Bjorn – don’t take this the wrong way. I don’t thing hiking’s your thing. ha ha – just kidding thanks for the post.

    Interesting how I have to do math on your blog to post a comment!?! lol you might be missing out on half the commentors who are not able to do math.

    maybe you don’t want people who cant do math to comment on your blog. brilliant!

  2. Glad you survived. Yes indeed, nature can be so unforgiving especially at altitude!

    Some of my fondest hiking and backpacking memories are in the same general area (in may case, Ediza Lake, Iceberg Lake) you wrote about. But at that time, it was called the Minaret Wilderness area (the “Ansel Adams” name came later–I wonder if international politics had something to do with it). It was also the site of some of my dumbest hiking mistakes. In spite of severe headaches and nausea–sure signs of altitude sickness, I once forced myself to reach the top of Banner Peak. Scrabbled down just in time to beat the inevitable summer afternoon lighting and thunderstorms that are a normal part of the high Sierras.

    Happy and safe hiking.

    1. Thanks for checking in! I hope all is well in Hollywood..

      I’m impressed with the Banner Peak ascent! I’ll have to try that next… with some other hikers this time…

    1. Thanks for checking in! And yes, those photos never fail to inspire… the beauty is less charming when you are horribly lost though:)

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