Media (books, magazines, podcasts, etc) about backcountry accidents
September 2, 2020 4:29 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for media (of any form, but primarily written or podcasts) that cover accidents in the backcountry. I'm primarily interested in less-technical backcountry travel -- particularly backpacking -- vs things like rock or ice climbing, but the more technical sports are interesting too. I'm looking for non-fiction that leans more towards the analytical incident post-mortem style (what happened, contributing causes, lessons learned, etc) rather than fiction or literary non-fiction.

Some examples of things I already know about to give a flavor of what I'm looking for:

* The Sharp End and Out Alive podcasts are exactly what I'm looking for, more like these please.
* The AMC's Accidents in North American Climbing journal is very much what I'm looking for, but I'd like coverage of other sports beyond mountaineering (particularly backpacking).
* Death in Yellowstone, Over the Edge, and Off the Wall are all pretty much exactly what I'm looking for in terms of analysis. I'd prefer work that also covers incidents where people survived, though.
* Some SAR groups like Inyo SAR and Rocky Mountain Rescue publish incident reports, but they (obviously) focus on the rescue rather than the incident. I'd like to know more about the incident, particularly contributing causes.
* I quite enjoy works like Into Thin Air, but they aren't what I'm looking for here. They're more about telling a (good) story than analyzing the contributing factors and understanding the technical details of the incident/rescue.
posted by jacobian to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
The forums at High Sierra Topix have regular posts on SAR incidents - example.
posted by niicholas at 4:35 PM on September 2, 2020

Hmm...Minus 148 degrees might be more on the Into This Air side, but there are lots of specifics about what went wrong, and I found it riveting.
posted by latkes at 4:52 PM on September 2, 2020

You've already found most of the resources I came here to recommend, except that I'll note that Rock & Ice Magazine has a special column that covers accident reports.

For fun, I can't help but also mention this absolutely legendary report.
posted by kickingtheground at 5:02 PM on September 2, 2020 [5 favorites]

Ooooh I love this genre! Here are some of my favorites:

- Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
- The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why
- Young Men and Fire
- The Hunt for the Death Valley Germans
- Outside Podcast had a bunch of this type of thing in the 2016 series Science of Survival (and is an overall excellent outdoorsy podcast to this day)
- Take a dive into the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center for professionally comprehensive incident reviews
- A couple journal articles: Dead Men Hiking, No Hiking Beyond This Point, Austrian Alps hiking accidents
- use search terms like "incident review" or "incident analysis"
posted by scrubjay at 5:50 PM on September 2, 2020 [2 favorites]

Some of the Mount Washington SARs post occasional reports; a few sites will do occasional longer analyses in or after the initial report. Unfortunately they aren't well marked. There used to be a better site for the White Mountain reports but I can't find it now - I also love reading these, so I'm watching with interest.
posted by cobaltnine at 5:55 PM on September 2, 2020

National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) blog sometimes publishes Case-Studies.

Our National Parks has a web page, SAR: Lessons in the Field, not just about the SAR portion, but how people got into their predicament in the hopes that readers can learn from the experiences of others.

Wilderness Medicine Society magazine might not be what you are looking for, but I added it here. You can decide.
posted by gloturtle at 6:16 PM on September 2, 2020

I'm not sure this is exactly what you are looking for, but the story of two young Dutch women, Lisette Froon and Kris Kremers were headed off for a day hike in Panama and never returned. Their backpack with their two phones and camera was recovered later, and some of their bones. The forensics of what could have happened to them based on their phone and camera data and the bones had me intrigued and moved with pity for them for months. There is a wiki page, numerous YouTube videos and Dutch blogs about their story. The geography, conditions, unique fauna and flora.
posted by effluvia at 6:38 PM on September 2, 2020

Outside has a pair of stories, both fictional but scientifically rigorous, on (nearly) freezing and overheating to death: Frozen Alive and What It Feels Like to Die from Heat Stroke. (Published 20 years apart: Can you pick the recent one, with the clunky title presumably optimised for search engines?)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 7:04 PM on September 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

Posted on the Blue in 2016, the sad, controversial, frustrating, maddening story of Geraldine Largay, the Appalachian Trail thru hiker who went missing in 2013.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:57 PM on September 2, 2020

I believe this was posted in the Blue when it was first published. Talks about lack of statistics on people who go missing in national parks among other things.

I found this while looking into the Brandon Swanson story. (Spoiler: I’m of the view he fell in a river rather than foul play or aliens)
posted by BAKERSFIELD! at 10:55 PM on September 2, 2020

kickingtheground - oh my goodness! I've not seen that account before and you're right, it's truly legendary! Thanks for suggestions, folks, really appreciate it.
posted by jacobian at 4:51 AM on September 3, 2020

It's been a long time since I've read it, so I don't remember how much analysis it gets into, but Not Without Peril is all about accidents on New Hampshire's Mt. Washington.

If you're on Facebook you can follow The Pemigewasset Valley search and rescue team. They give details about rescues and accidents in the White Mountains that they are involved in. It's more about "this thing happened today and here's what we had to do" rather than after-the-fact reporting but it's still interesting.
posted by bondcliff at 6:56 AM on September 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

This New York Times article is a deep-dive on a specific avalanche. It won a Pulitzer and made such a profound impact in the world of journalism it has its own Wikipedia page.
posted by zeusianfog at 4:41 PM on September 3, 2020

I think you might like the book Lost in the Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods.
posted by Frenchy67 at 10:30 AM on September 8, 2020

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