Man Survives Four Days Lost in the Mountains with Buck 110

This story was written by Seth Vietti. Seth is a knife nerd and active member of the community. You can follow him here.

Some knife users carry a blade to prepare for dangerous situations. Luckily, most of us don’t have to encounter it. But Ron Hutter wasn’t so lucky, and spent three cold November nights lost in the mountains above the Sonoran Desert near Tucson, Arizona. All Hutter had with him was a half-liter of water, a few odds and ends, and two knives: a Victorinox Tinker and Buck 110. The Buck knife in particular played a major role in keeping Hutter alive in the wilds.

It started as a brief jaunt through the Upper Green Mountain Trail. Hutter stepped off the path for a moment, and then couldn’t find it again. Figuring he was just above the meandering mountain highway, he started heading straight down. In fact, he was marching deeper into the wilderness. Soon he was truly lost. “I was prepared for a 15-minute excursion,” says Hutter. “It was about two hours in before I realized I was in big trouble.”

Despite the life-or-death stakes, Hutter didn’t panic. “I remembered from a survival book about the importance of keeping a positive mental attitude.” He made a campfire to stave off hypothermia, then turned his attention to a less predictable danger: wild animals. Hutter knew that bears moved through the area. The Buck 110 is no small knife, but he figured it wouldn’t do much more than upset an attacking bear. So after selecting the hardest, straightest bough he could find, he fashioned himself a spear, something he could use to keep some distance between him and the animal. Using his Buck 110, he deftly trimmed off the twigs and rough bark and whittled one end down to a sharp tip.

For food, Hutter harvested prickly pear cactus pads, which he cut down and scraped clean of their spines, once again with the 110. Cut into strips, they were just barely edible. But by the third night, Hutter’s fire had burned through everything he could find to feed it, and his body had done the same. He was so dehydrated that he had to remove his contacts – he could no longer make the tears they needed in order to cling to his eyes. He had been sleeping little, if at all. And while trying to light a larger signal fire, he had lost his lighter.

Yet despite all this – or perhaps because of it – Hutter’s spirit refused to suffer. He felt grateful to have been prepared with tools that allowed him to make fire, protect himself, and gather food, grateful to have survived thus far. And he felt grateful, in a strange way, to be able to face his mortality so nakedly: tired under the sun instead of sedated under fluorescent hospital lights. “If this was going to be my last day alive,” he remembers thinking, “at least I was in an environment that I loved.”

On the morning of the fourth day, Hutter abandoned the relative comfort of his makeshift camp and started hiking again. He headed Southwest, up the canyon. It was slow going, and he didn’t think he’d make it through another freezing night. By 5:30, Hutter had been hiking for nearly ten hours when he spotted a well-worn trail cutting through a clearing. Within minutes, he was back at the highway, sipping water given to him by a Good Samaritan passing by.

Hutter, with the knife that helped save his life.

Hutter, with the knife that helped save his life.

Hutter plans to write a book about his experience, to help other adventurers avoid similar trials. “My number one mistake was hiking alone, without letting anyone else know my plans,” he reflects. But his ordeal hasn’t kept him off the trails. Wherever he hikes, he carries the same gear that helped save his life: his Buck 110 and Swiss Army knife. “I sometimes take an extra lighter, now,” he laughingly admits.

Knife featured in image: Buck 110 Folding Hunter and Victorinox Tinker