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How to Survive in the Rocky Mountains
Bugging Out to the Rockies

Bugging Out and Surviving in the Rocky Mountains
by James Roberts and , Copyright ©
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Bob English never believed 'American Hiroshima' would reach him -- not where he lived in Montana

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When that first nuclear bomb was set off in New York City he watched the television dumbstruck -- and then he was filled with dread; still, he never believed anything would reach him way out west. Terrorists only strike big cities, Bob thought.

The next day a second nuke was detonated. This one in Washington D.C. News aircraft caught shots of social chaos unfolding in the surrounding Maryland suburbs -- looting, robbery, violence etc. -- and as Bob watched, it was time for a drink. A good long drink.

But when the next bomb went off in Seattle the following day - closer to his part of the world and somewhat beyond the scope of where many military strategists figured terrorists might attack - the thought began to enter his mind.

What if they strike here?

Then the next day, Boston got a dose of terrorist hatred in the form of another nuclear suitcase bomb. Unbelievably, though, that wasn't the most horrifying news Bob came across.

You see, the newscasters told everyone something even worse. Gruesome, in fact. Outside of New York, Washington D.C, and even Seattle, smaller cities, towns, and suburbs had been attacked also (he could only guess that Boston's suburbs would be next). Murder and who knows what else was going on by people that had been waiting to attack those just outside the nuclear detonation zones (knowing that the military would be focused on the areas being hit with bombs).

According to reports, it wasn't just Arab terrorists that were doing the damage, either. South American paramilitary forces, Russian, North Korean and Chinese forces that had been smuggled into America in the weeks and months before the attack, and even apparently some cartel muscle that had supposedly helped get terrorists across the Mexican border, were all involved in the attacks.

And last, but not least, American Muslims who had been radicalized were now turning on the very nation that had given them citizenship. And there were quite a few of them in most U.S. cities, especially considering that Homeland Security once said in recent years over 80% of U.S. mosques had been "radicalized". Now we know exactly what that meant.

These weren't just nukes and terrorist attacks -- this was an invasion of the United States.

Al Jazeera

And when he turned the television to the local channels, at first there was static. Then an Arab man with a turban and long beard began to speak in broken English. Despite the fact that many of the words were hard to make out, the essence of what he said was unmistakable.

We have entered Montana. Resistance is futile.

The terrorists had done the unthinkable. No one would've guessed they'd come to Montana. No one.

Rocky Mountain Front

Then Bob looked out his window at the start of 100 miles of mountains called the Rocky Mountain Front in the distance. The Front stretched into Canada. The perfect escape for someone that knew how to survive the dangerous terrain, and just as the terrorists could survive in the mountains near Afghanistan, so could he in his hometown Rockies. Bob knew them like the back of his hand.

And as Bob went out the door with as much as he could gather in only a few minutes, he knew one thing.

That he would make it.

Maybe Bob knows how to survive the Rockies, but do you?

Mountain ranges, particularly ones 100 miles long, are dangerous places. However, that's exactly the reason why one might want to escape to them in the case of an invasion (after all, invaders are unlikely to follow anyone there). So here's the question: What are some things to know about surviving the Rockies?

Have your emergency pack ready to roll

This is something that has been hit on at so many times it will only be delved into briefly here. We're talking about a bug out bag. That said, having warm clothes, firearms (if you own them), a knife, fishing gear and the ability to fish, tent or tarps, insulated sleeping bag, water bottle, portable water filter, etc, and emergency food supplies, are just some of the things that it may be very wise to keep on hand. We've covered these lists in depth in other articles on our site. (Refer to our section on "Survival Gear" at the top or bottom of the page).

What if you're in the Rockies with nothing but the clothes on your back?

Maybe you were at work many miles from home when small attacks took place across the city. Maybe a major highway bridge was blown to pieces, cutting off an evacuation route, trapping tens of thousands of people in the city. Maybe attackers got so close that you had to take off immediately, even ditching your car as you were trapped in stalled traffic.

Or, maybe somehow you're just lost in the Rockies with nothing to stay alive.

Well, that's where you're wrong. If you have your mind and the elements, then you have a way to survive.

First thing's first: Where do you want to go?

If you're retreating into the Rockies then you likely want to delve deeper into the mountains (for now, anyway). However, if you're lost in the mountains then you want to get home. Both scenarios start with the following.

Survival in the Rockies

Find a high point and then look for a body of water

If you're trying to retreat, going against the current toward the source of the water will likely bring you deeper into the mountains (this doesn't always work, but oftentimes it does). Further, if you're trying to get out of the mountains, follow the currents until you come to civilization.

Next step, makeshift weapons

Find two stones, one thicker than the other. Take the thick one and slam it against the thinner one until it breaks.

Under most circumstances, the smaller one will have a sharp point after it's broken. Voila: A makeshift knife.

Grabbing a big and sturdy stick for a club wouldn't be a bad idea, either. After all, there are wolves, rattle snakes, and grizzly bears in the Rockies. Thus, you'd want your weapon to create distance between you and your adversary.

Of course, if your adversary is a Grizzly, you're pretty much cooked unless they lose interest.

Debris shelter

Once you decide that you have found a good spot to set up shop, here are some things to remember.

First, unless you have tools with you - and that's not the case in this scenario - you're going to have to use the elements pretty much as is. Thus, you'll want to find a knocked down tree and several strong and long logs and sticks. Perhaps put them up against a tree and again, make them as thick as possible.

This will be the basis of your debris shelter. Next, find some moss (there should be plenty of it) and cover your shelter on all sides with it. The reason for this is simple: It will make your shelter near water and wind proof, which is hugely important (temperatures in the Rockies even in September can drop below freezing at night, and the last thing you want to do is get wet).

Last, find some more moss and pine needles for the ground in your shelter. Something most people don't realize is that the majority of heat people lose under such circumstances is through the ground, and the pine and moss will help protect against this.


Scour the land for edible insects, if there's no food on hand.

In fact, while you're building your shelter, check under logs for insects to eat. Insects are a great source of protein, and you'll be sure to come across worms, ants, millipedes and centipedes, and other things below debris and in the dirt.

Keep in mind, centipedes bite -- pin it down with a stick and cut off it's head before you pick any up.

Also available for food are snakes (stay away from rattlers if you can). That said, if you do kill a rattler with your club (distance would be the key in that maneuver) make sure to cut off its venomous head and tail, peel off its skin, and take out the guts before eating.

Then, of course, there will be trout in any body of water you come across (remember that bears will also often be close to water, so proceed with caution). That said, with no fishing pole, etc., you'll need to catch fish the old fashioned way.

Catching fish with your hands

Simply sit over a rock in shallow water and wait. When you see a fish, move quickly to press it into the ground. The dirt at the bottom of the pool will help you to grasp it.

Also remember that this is extremely difficult.

That said, if you're planning to set up shop for a while in the mountains and can find a string and hook (remember that people have likely fished where you are before and they may have left things behind) that's optimal. Along those lines, don't be afraid to scavenge.

Oh yeah, and the stream will be glacially fed. Thus, it will be cold and a good source of water for you.

One other thing – keeping a long black net packed in your bag may come in handy. Simply stretching it across a shallow stream can catch you dinner in a hurry (make sure it's durable and can handle multiple use).

Finally, always remember to cook all of your meat when possible. Which, by the way, leads to the next point.


When you don't have matches, always realize that making a fire is going to be difficult. That said, without one you won't be able to cook your food, you'll likely freeze, and may even be attacked by wild animals (fire scares most of them off at night).

In other words, fire is a necessity.

The good thing is that there is plenty of dry pine and spruce for you to work with. Further, kindling will not be hard to come by.

One of the best things you can do to learn survival right at home is to practice making a bow drill, and then using it. The key to making a good bow drill is to understand that they can create a burning coal in minimal time, if your bow drill dimensions are exact.

There's a simple art to making a bow drill. It comes down to what kind of wood you're using, the thickness of the fire board, the length of the rod, where you cut your notch on the fire board, the tightness of the string, and if you've practiced using a bow to turn a rod to produce a coal well before hand.

With practice, comes coordination. Let me break it down for you:

Using a bow drill

1) Learn about bow drill dimensions (remember, it's all in the dimensions).

2) Learn about bow drill woods to use. Grab the wrong wood and you'll have a hard time making a fire. But if you look around a few more minutes for the right wood to use in your region, you'll have just about all your bases covered.

3) Make your first bow drill from wood from a nearby hardware store or lumber yard. Go for wood such as cedar, found in several U.S. forests and a popular wood once used by Native Americans for fire making.

4) Next, practice constructing a bow drill, and then get your coordination down. The first few times don't try to make a fire. Simply try to get your form down, and ensure that you're building your fire drill according to proven to work fire board dimensions.

5) When you can make a burning coal at home with wood from the hardware store or lumber yard, take the next step of going to the nearby woods and start searching for the correct wood, and practice building your bow drill now from scratch -- just as you would do in a true survival situation.

6) Once you've got this down, you can count on a bow drill most likely coming through for you in a survival situation.

* In survival you can end up in an emergency with no string handy. Without string, you can't build a bow drill. You can attempt to make string or cordage out of natural materials, as Native Americans did at one time. However, building string out of natural materials (like cedar bark) is an art; unless you learn that art well before hand, instead you should start using extra long shoe laces on your shoes, or even military spec paracord guts (thin string used in paracord) as your shoelaces. Then, in a survival situation where you need to build a bow drill, you'll always have string handy for your bow. Problem solved.

Dangerous Wildlife in the Rockies

Keep food far away from your camp, including scraps. In fact, rope it up and keep it tied up high in a tree, out of a reach of any bears. That warning is worth repeating. Remember, the Rockies are Grizzly country. Nowadays, you can add wolves to this warning as well, though most wolves at least for now tend to avoid humans. Sometimes though wolves can pose a threat, and in a few occasions have attacked humans.

Finally, if you have reason to believe that a bear is nearby, particularly a Grizzly, get out of there immediately if you can.

Remember that the Rockies are an unforgiving place

Unless you or someone in your party has real survival skills, the Rockies are likely to take your life. Life in the mountains long term means hunting and trapping. Sure you can fish, but mountain fishing isn't the same thing as lowland fishing. Fish tend to be smaller and there can be less numbers, or even no fish in some high alpine lakes -- though in recent decades many alpine lakes have been stocked with fish, and fishing in alpine lakes is a favorite pursuit of a few anglers.

Rivers, especially larger low land rivers, can be teeming with fish. Fly fishing skills and appropriate gear can go a long way in that regard. So if you're going to spend some time in the Rockies, learn how to fly fish.

Beware of hypothermia in the winter months

Every day you're in the Rockies you're in danger from hypothermia, in addition to the wildlife. You need to be well rounded and experienced in survival before counting the Rockies as a possible place to make a temporary life in, in the event of a national emergency.

Not unless you have a cabin you have access to, and plenty of food stocked to last a few months, but you should still not be up there unless you know a thing or two about real hunting, have the firearms and ammunition, or at the least have a couple people who can hunt along side with you.

While you're fly fishing, they can hunt, and all of you keep an eye out for grizzlies.

Going after grizzlies

Guess what though? Grizzlies make good eaten also, though not every one would agree. When you're hungry though, meat is meat, and grizzlies have a lot of meat and you know that heavy fur would make a great winter blanket.

Come here, Mr. Bear. Meet Mr. Winchester. Read about hunting grizzlies here and which bear rifles to choose from.

Life in the mountains may be possible in the late spring through early fall months, but most people with only minimal survival skills shouldn't try to tackle the winter months, when temperatures and snow can take your life, if you're not well prepared. You'll need snow shoes. A snowmobile and fuel can go a long way. At least until the fuel is gone.

Avoid the winter, if you can

Before winter begins, plan on moving your camp down to the low lands. No sense in getting caught by an early snow storm you didn't expect. What about food? Big game like deer and elk often migrate from higher elevations with the changing seasons, and you can follow their example and head on down to where the hunting can still be good, even as winter weather sets in to the mountains, and the snow starts coming down.


The story above unfolds around a worst case scenario.

If you ever have to flee to the mountains, for any reason, it would be smart to plan this with a few resourceful friends. Someone needs to know how to hunt and care for firearms. Someone needs to know how to fly fish. Someone needs to know how to trap and make fire.

All of you need to know how to deal with grizzly bears.


The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountain Front

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