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The Secrets of Search and Rescue

You’re out in the backcountry, and something goes wrong. Maybe you break a leg. You’re hit by a rock. Now what? If you’re lucky, search and rescue will find you. Whether volunteers, rangers, or helicopter pilots, these are men and women who brave dicey and dangerous conditions to help stranded climbers, hikers, and hunters. We’ve collected their stories about what they know, what you can learn from them—and the burdens they carry long after you are home safe.

Who We Are

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What happens when you find yourself on El Cap with a badly injured partner? Former Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) worker Josie McKee and climber Quinn Brett found out.

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For some climbing rangers in Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park, every ridgeline holds the memory of a rescue, every peak a body bag. It's more than they can handle alone.

In the off chance that you are caught up in an avalanche, a beacon, bright gear, and a rescue dog are your best chances for survival

How We Work

When a person goes missing outdoors, there’s a specific protocol for finding them within the first 24 hours. After that first day, it becomes much tougher.

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Five days after an ad hoc army of volunteer searchers rescued hiker Amanda Eller, the yoga teacher missing for 17 days on Maui, the same crew located missing person Noah "Kekai" Mina just 20 miles away. This time, the ending was not so happy.

Max Whittaker

Aaron Smith has been a member of the storied Yosemite Search and Rescue team for over 15 years. He’s also on the park’s elite helicopter rescue squad. Here’s a list of the gear he relies on most during his missions.

How to Come Home Alive

When—and how—should you call in search and rescue?

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When you’re stuck in the backcountry and need help, several states could bill you for the trouble of saving your life. It’s worth knowing where you might be held liable.

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Being able to call for help from his watch helped saved John Zilles, but will wearable tech be a help or burden to search and rescue?

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A solid budget-minded option, so long as you can tolerate the infuriating keyboard

Stories We Tell

A search and rescue veteran recounts some of the most nail-biting missions on land and water

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When you spend months each year in the backcountry, things are bound to go wrong eventually

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Aspen’s Michael Ferrara is bringing attention to a little-known problem: post-traumatic stress disorder among the people who save our lives

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When 18-year-old Joe Keller vanished from a dude ranch in Colorado's Rio Grande National Forest, he joined the ranks of those missing on public land. No official tally exists, but their numbers are growing. And when an initial search turns up nothing, who'll keep looking?