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Begley Leads Survival Course in Red River Gorge

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by Elizabeth Davis

You are completely isolated in the middle of the woods without a tent, a blanket or food. Your heart is racing at an amphetamine-level pace. You have no idea how far from camp you are. And it’s 1 a.m.

What should you do?

During a recent wilderness survival course in the Red River Gorge, Professor Chris Begley shows participants how to light a fire.

Dr. Chris Begley will be teaching a survival course in the Red River Gorge this Saturday that will address this situation and many other disasters that can happen in cities and in the wilderness.

“The skills involved will be basic,” said Begley.

How to start a fire, how to improvise shelters, how to use all things in your surroundings, how to use parts of your car, and direction-finding in daytime or nighttime are just some of the situations that will be covered in the course.

Begley said he was inspired to teach the course after reading a story about the death of James Kim in 2006. Kim and his family were stranded in a car in rural Oregon; after leaving to get help, Kim didn’t make it.

“He made several really basic mistakes,” Begley said. “If I could have spent 15 minutes with him, he would have survived.”

In addition to the physical aspects of the survival course, Begley will also be addressing the psychological components.

While it’s a commonly held belief that people in these kinds of dire circumstances are most afraid of dying, Begley said embarrassment and humiliation were actually reported to be survivors’ biggest fears.

These fears can actually inhibit survival, he said.

“What if the parking lot’s just around the corner?” he said. “What if you’re not that far from help?”

Nutrition during a life-threatening circumstance will also be discussed. Begley said that he will employ knowledge he gained from nutritionist Jamie Hale of Winchester, Ky., in this overview.

Begley’s background for teaching this course stems from two main life experiences: working with indigenous groups in Central America over the course of the last 20 years and his work with renowned survival experts Ray Mears and Ewan McGregor for a documentary.

“You would have to build a fire for every meal,” he said of his life in Central America. “People would go out for weeks with a fishing line, a machete and a pot to cook in.”

He enjoyed working with both Mears and McGregor, and praised Mears’ knowledge.

“He’s the real deal, and I have great respect for him,” Begley said.

Both experiences, in addition to reading a number of survival books in order to actively engage in the subject, have prepared him for the class in the gorge.
According to Begley, he chose the gorge “partly to give the sense of getting away” and also because people do get lost in places like the gorge overnight.

“The main thing I hope (those who take the class) will come away with is a decision-making paradigm … anywhere you’re in a survival-type situation where you have to make decisions,” Begley said.

He also hopes that the course will help demystify the outdoors for participants.

“You don’t really get good at camping,” he said.

For those who are unable to take the course this Saturday, there will still be more chances.

“The course will absolutely be offered again. I’d like to do one in mid-November,” Begley said.

There are still spaces open for this Saturday’s course as well. Participants will depart at 8 a.m. for the gorge. If you’re interested, e-mail Dr. Begley as soon as possible at [email protected]

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Begley Leads Survival Course in Red River Gorge