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4/27/2013 7:29 AM
 

I've been talking in this thread:

http://www.hillpeoplegear.com/Forum/tabid/679/forumid/23/threadid/2767/scope/posts/Default.aspx

...about a "Backcountry Device". One of the goals was to eventually pair it with a device that allowed 2 way texting via Satellite, and hopefully also had true PLB capability. I'll post more info on the nuts and bolts in the aforementioned thread, but I now have a DeLorme InReach. It offers stand alone PLB functionality and also 2 way texting when paired with my android phone. If I had no responsibilities in this world, I wouldn't have one. But since I've got a wife and kids and spend solo time in the backcountry, I decided it is necessary to have this thing. My sister tells me she is very glad that I carry it now.

This raises some interesting questions that I don't have answers to. Before getting it, I said that it should not change my decision making process in the backcountry. That was before my first trip with it.

This week, I was the first guy of the spring into a large drainage that Superbadger and I were the last guys out of last year:

http://www.hillpeoplegear.com/Forum/tabid/679/forumid/25/threadid/4093/scope/posts/Default.aspx

By late morning, travel required snowshoes as the drifts became soft enough to sink into. There were a couple of guys camped at the trailhead who tried to dayhike in after me. One of them twisted his knee not very far up the trail, but far enough that they had quite a day of it getting back down.

On my part, I was on-trail for the first part of the day. After that, I started off-trail up an inviting drainage. By 4pm, I was getting pretty tired. I'd been making my way along a steep hillside, crawling over and under logs, kick stepping my way sidehill through frequent snow fields, sliding at times, etc. I wasn't necessarily leaving a trail that could be easily followed by your average SAR tracker. I got to the point where I needed to assess what to do. It was getting late, I was losing my focus and getting sloppy, and I wasn't certain that a comfortable and secure camp lay ahead. Without the PLB, I probably would have turned around to get back down to a known accessible spot along a trail that had good snowshoe tracks going to it. On the other hand, I knew I wasn't far from my goal and that I could "pop a smoke" via PLB if I injured myself in the steep terrain.

I decided to redouble my focus and push on. More routefinding and a stream crossing later, I was rewarded with a nice camp at the foot of a wonderful basin I've been trying to get into for several months:

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put it back in. Should I have "artificially" limited myself by behaving exactly how I would have without the PLB? Or did I make the right choice by pushing on with partial support from my "artificial" aid? I sure was happy to get into that basin, but might have lost something along the way. For the reasons mentioned above, carrying one is non-negotiable at this point in my life. Since I have one, now what?

What are your experiences with PLBs? What are your thoughts on the matter?


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/27/2013 8:33 AM
 

 Evan,

I don't have any experience with PLB's. I'm glad they exist. Its a very responsible thing for you to carry for you families sake. That said, I have had experience waiting for SAR once after I whacked myself in the knee with a hatchet, such a simple tool, yet ignorance with one will kill you quick. I landed it in my leg, just above the knee. This was MAYBE a mile into a well used trail, on a well used camp site. A call was put out immediately via a cell phone. I happen to know a lot of the fire/rescue/SAR people in that area and they were based no more than 15 minutes from my location. A friend was out on the trail waiting to direct them immediately to my possition. Over an hour later, possibly two, rescuers were there. PLB or no, and with great respect to SAR and other rescue personel... I wouldn't go an inch further with a PLB than I would without one. If my injury had been only minutely (and I mean milimeters) I would have severed rather than knicked an artery. I'd have been deader than a hammer long before they could have ever hoped to reach me.

 EDIT: This post is not intended in any way as a knock or down on SAR. I am so thankful to those people. They do so much in service to others, and I owe them my life as well. Its just a reminder, the beacon won't get you beamed to hospital by Scottie. For all their effort they must still traverse time and space in order to help us.

God bless,

Adam

 
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4/27/2013 10:06 AM
 

Evan, I have no idea why my previous post loaded up that way.  Anyway, it's from me.

Ken

 

anonymous wrote 

Evan, 

First....I'm really glad that you bought the InReach, I carry mine all of the time.  Did you get the original model, or the new "dot-2" version that has the key pad right on the InReach (which will offer even more stand-alone functionality)?

A large part of my job involves educating students on the left and right limits of PLBs and other means of emergency communication.  They are most assuredly not the proverbial "Silver Bullet"....but then again, nothing is.  One of the things we stress above all to the people I teach is that Situational Awareness (SA) is paramount.  I like to describe it like this: Situational Awareness is the cup.....everything else is what goes into it.  We must fill it and refill it if it empties somehow....always striving to keep it full.  I've used and carried several different incarnations of PLBs over the years.  We had the PRC 112 emergency radio in the first Gulf War, which actually remains a viable system.  Later on, a few different "Blue Force Tracker" options came about, all with their own attributes and limitations.  Still later, I bought and carried an ACR Microfix for years for my own solo forays into the backcountry.  Once I picked up my own InReach (the PN-60W GPS pairing version), I knew I had something that offered just about all of the functionality I could want with capability on par with the things I had while active duty in the SOF world.  The ACR I have was actually bought because I had made a stupid mistake several years ago.  I was out on a solo late-season ice climb and fell through thin ice into very cold water up to my chest.  I had about 4 miles of rough terrain seperating me from my truck and the spare clothing in my pack, along with everything I had on, was soaked.  No cell coverage and danger-close to a true Hypothermia situation.  Building a fire was really out of the question, as that all of the wood nearby was covered in ice and wet snow.  I stripped down, wrung out my clothes as best I could, and got warm spiced apple cider into me from my bullet thermos.   I also broke open several chemical warmer packs that I placed in key spots (armpits, stomach, boots, gloves) and moved as fast as I could straight back to my truck and (thankfully) a good heater.  I remained deeply chilled for the rest of that day.  My wife was less than happy about my epic, to say the least.  I realized that I was pretty irresponsible by not having a good means of emergency communication with me.....hubris can be a killer.  The old saying: "There are old mountaineers and bold mountaineers, but there are no old, bold mountaineers." never rang more truly.  I bought the ACR very soon thereafter.  The InReach I now carry offers quite a bit more as a backcountry tool, as you know.

All of that said, all of the technology and gear available to us today still does not replace solid SA and good decision-making in the backcountry.  Just by virtue of the fact that you invested some thought into whether you should proceed up that "inviting drainage" is a good sign that you are not putting all of your eggs into the "PLB basket", so to speak.  Once again, in my mind none of the devices currently available are the "Silver Bullet".  I dare say, nor will any that come out in the future be so.  There are those out there that think that having a PLB absolves them of any further self-responsiblitiy when out in austere environments.  To wit, we've all heard things like "If I get into a jam, I'll just press the button.  The cavalry will arrive to save my butt shortly thereafter."  Nope.  It doesn't always pan out like that, and SAR units sometimes lose their own lives trying to rescue somebody that thought that very thing.  Conversely, there are those like Aaron Ralston who carry no means of emergency device and let their zeal for the adventure and desire for backcountry solitude lead them down a bad path...but he's at least got that cool ice tool arm now!

Even though today's PLB options are outstanding, we all (me included) must ensure that we learn and practice sound pre-trip planning, decision-making, risk mitigation, and individual preparation (in the forms of both personal physical fitness and equipment choices).   All of these things provide the basis for us to develop a strong level of SA in the hills/deserts/mountains/et al.  Staying "left of the X" or bad event, and preventing it before it occurs is far better than only relying on a device to save us from harm.  However, sometimes we seem to learn that lesson only if there is pain involved.  If that's the case, the trick then is to hopefully survive that epic and let that bad experience drive the lesson deeply into our brain housing group.  But...hope is never a good course of action.  Murphy loves to show up and prove otherwise!

Once again, I'm glad that you picked up the InReach...no, I'm not a rep for them, but I do believe it has great value and I never go out in the hills without mine.  Both you and Scot seem to have a lot of well-earned experience in the hills (Hmmm....I guess your last name has some kind of strange connection there?).  It's way better for all of us that have it to use that experience, knowledge, and judgement to stay out of backcountry trouble.  Certainly, have some type of appropriate emergency device along, but maybe it's proper role is as one of multiple layers of safety that we carry both in our packs, and in our most important piece of equipment....our brain.  We got to have the opposable thumbs and higher intellects gifted to us...we ought to use them!

To coin yet another good line from Jeremiah Johnson...."Watch yer top knot."....while out there enjoying those yet undiscovered backcountry treasures!

Best Regards,

Ken


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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4/27/2013 12:55 PM
 

My actions and travel in the backcountry have not change since I got my Spot beacon. I never even think about it most of the time. In fact I only have it with me half the time even though my family thinks I always do have it.

There are very few scenarios I think it would actually work for me. For my top 5 concerns in the BC I think PLB would be worthless anyway. Some of those include avalanche, stuck in a tree well or dead already. Lets face it most of us here are not going to hit the "911" button because we are lost, tired cold or hungary. Only way I see myself hitting the button is if I am injured to the point of not being able to self evac. Even then I might not hit the button till its too late. Thats probably because of pride and not wanting my friends to think I bitched out and called for help.

One of the only reasons I feel more comfortable carrying my Spot is hearing the story about that guy in Utah who had to cut his arm off. That is my worst nightmare because I am not man enough to do that or even put myself out of my own misery. If you think it can't happen it can. I was boulder hopping through a rock slide and had my foot go down in between a gap in the rock. My foot was only stuck for maybe 10 seconds but panic already set in because of knowing of that guy in Utah. My foot came out and I was fine but I felt a lot more comfortable doing things like that with a PLB in the pack. I would still do it anyway though because the first rule of BC saftey is telling someone where your going and when you will be back. I might have my foot stuck between those rocks for a day or two but I hope someone would eventually come find me.  A PLB will just make it easier and faster for SAR teams.

 
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4/27/2013 3:00 PM
 

Thanks for the responses.

Ken, that happens when you spend so much time in the editor that you are logged out before posting your response. I haven't been able to extend logout times or fix it in any other way.

In the case of the example I started out with, I would guess I was ~16 hours from seeing the first SAR person and maybe 20 from extraction. At least that's what I was thinking at the time. That was with the InReach. Without it, add another 24 hours to those times and maybe more. Depends on how good a tracker they have since I was off trail. Scot knew my destination, but not my exact route. I didn't either until I found it, and I used a different one on the way out because I found a better one. Cutting out the "he should have been home" time and also the "where exactly is he" time is huge.

From what I've seen, backcountry accidents are preceded by loss of focus (or people who never had it to begin with). For the most part, loss of focus is preceded by being physically tired and hungry. Without a PLB, I have habitually responded to being tired by throttling back because I know it is an antecedent to loss of focus. I know that I can double down and refocus even if I'm physically tired. I did enough 24 and 36 hour shifts on the fire crew to know that I can maintain focus even when I'm starting to hallucinate. But we had a pretty good safety net in those days. With no net whatsoever, I've been VERY conservative about watching the line between tired and loss of focus. The backcountry is a great place to physically push yourself, but not a great place to lose focus. "You can't cheat the mountain". That's one of the reasons I've got no interest in being part of the chest thumping "extreme hunting" crowd. Knowing I had the PLB, I was willing to push a little further into "double down and refocus" territory.

This thread has raised a couple more questions in my mind.

First of all, there are different classes of accidents. WEG and Adam talk about classes of accidents that can't be helped by a PLB. To what extent are those accidents avoidable? Do they boil down to loss of focus as well? I don't think so. I can think of a couple of other types.

Second, to what extend does having a PLB let you re-route off of a route plan that you've given others, or not worry so much about a route plan? Part of the answer is tied into the answers to question one I suspect.


We are fortunate in this matter that your conduct will be your marker and, thus, your reputation. The conduct of others on this forum has been, and will continue to be, their marker, and thus, their reputation. In the west, a person invests in one's reputation carefully. - 112Papa
 
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4/27/2013 3:32 PM
 

evanhill wrote
 

This thread has raised a couple more questions in my mind.

First of all, there are different classes of accidents. WEG and Adam talk about classes of accidents that can't be helped by a PLB. To what extent are those accidents avoidable? Do they boil down to loss of focus as well? I don't think so. I can think of a couple of other types.

Second, to what extend does having a PLB let you re-route off of a route plan that you've given others, or not worry so much about a route plan? Part of the answer is tied into the answers to question one I suspect.

I agree losing focus is the reason for most accidents. For example twisting an ankle is far more likely to happen after hiking all day and being tired. I have come out the woods stumbling around like a drunk after a hard day of skiing or hiking. You push yourself to the point of saying "okay, its time to turn around and head back to the trailhead", but by that time your already toast and still have to walk all the way out. Thats when bad things can happen. I think you have to be smart and know your body enough to know when its time to call it and still have enough strength to "maintain focus" all the way to camp or the car

A lot of dangers in the backcountry are avoidable, by staying home! Even the fittest most experianced travelers have freak accidents. Going out into the wilds is not risk free, as you know. Some like to push the limits and that leads to possible danger. All we can do is weigh the risks with the rewards and remind oursevles what we have to lose by pushing the limits. For people like yourself that have familys that depend on you your choices are going to be different than mine. Then there are people that are just plain stupid or wanna be "go hards"! You can't help those people and nature will take its course.

 Thats another thing I forgot to mention. A PLB will allow me to have more freedom while out and about. For example if I am out on a 3 day trip and plan to hike out the last 10 miles the 3rd day but can't make it. I may have bad blister's or be tired and dehydrated. I really don't need help I just need rest. So if I need to have that extra day to heal and gain strength I can send a "OK" message to my family(or a real text message with these new devises) and let them know I will not be home but I am OK. If I didnt have that option I would push for the trailhead and that might create an even worse situation or have SAR called because I didnt show up that night.

Its funny to think about how all this technology is such a game changer for all of us now. Hearing stories from back in my Grandfather's day is just amazing. If you were in trouble you were shit out of luck. You had no way to call for help even if your car just broke down. Now we have a huge saftey net and help is just a push of a button away. 

 
New Post
4/27/2013 11:03 PM
 

 Evan, and all,

Thank you for another interesting thread and discussion.

I have a couple of questions:

What was your trip plan going in?  Day hike only, overnight?

What was your understanding of the area/route you were in/on, and your destination?  Water available at your destination? 

What was your equipment load out?  Sleep/shelter system, cooking/heating, water availability, etc?

How far to your destination from where you made your decision to go forward, how far back from the same place to an acceptable camp site?

How did the self generated focus process work out(undertsanding the outcome that you made it to your destination)?

What critical factors, and at what levels of severity, and cues did you consider in your decision making process?

Would you compare and contrast the decision making process you used on this trip with the decison making process you used last fall on your trip, when you decided to turn around and withdraw before making the ridge.

Some what related, or not - Do we drive with less care because we are wearing our seatbelts?

Thank you,

112Papa

 
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4/27/2013 11:13 PM
 

 So do you take a uneccesary risk becasue you have a device that makes you easier to find, and makes a rescue easier ? I doubt many folks do, but it does give others around them a peace of mind. From what I have seen, with most accidents in the backcountry, they are often just that, accidents. A rock fell for some reason, a rope was not tied correctly. I've been carrying a spot for a few years. Honestly, I don't have the greatest confidence in it, and in reality half the time I don't even know if the batteries are in good shape. However, when things get a little risky, I will always check it, or before a long trip as well. Have I taken a risk I wouldn't have becasue of it ? I don't recall having done so. I know rescuers, love having a real location it beats searching for a needle in haystack. 

 


http://www.seekoutside.com | sig added by EH... go check out Kevin's stuff!
 
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4/28/2013 8:14 AM
 

The tragedy that befell the Kim family serves as an example where the outcome may have had a happier ending if they would have had a good quality PLB like the InReach.  This happened during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2006 in southwestern Oregon.  It's a sad story but is worth looking up and reading.  They weren't found for days, even though they did good things like burning tires for signals.  The father lost his life when he finally made the decision to strike out and find help.  If they would have had some type of PLB that would provide their geolocation, rescuers would have had a better chance of reaching them in time.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
4/28/2013 11:54 AM
 

alpendrms wrote
 

The tragedy that befell the Kim family serves as an example where the outcome may have had a happier ending if they would have had a good quality PLB like the InReach.  This happened during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2006 in southwestern Oregon.  It's a sad story but is worth looking up and reading.  They weren't found for days, even though they did good things like burning tires for signals.  The father lost his life when he finally made the decision to strike out and find help.  If they would have had some type of PLB that would provide their geolocation, rescuers would have had a better chance of reaching them in time.

At the time I spent a fair amount of effort to research this incident as it was near to us, and a very big deal in the area. The Kim's died of stupidity and hubris plain and simple. Was it sad, sure, but then so was the Donner Party, which was a very similar situation in a nearby area only involving more people. The Kim's died due to a series of stupid decisions, that they were warned against in some cases. To bring it back to this topic given the geography there were in I am not sure if a PLB would have gotten a signal out without heading up high. That is an interesting question.

As Evan says you can't cheat the mountains, and as a professor in college I had was fond of saying nature is red in fang and claw.  Meaning Mother Nature is unforgiving and if she catches you slipping she will get you.  I have some pretty specific views on back country travel and responsibility, and while I hate the term Big Boy Rules apply. To be perfectly honest my views are a bit harsh and unforgiving. I am not saying there is no room for learning or neophtes, but simply be prepared and take responsibility for your own actions.  I am single without kids so I have a luxury that guy's and gal's with kids don't, and that leaves me torn on PLBs. For Evan it is a no brainer, but personally I doubt I start carrying one until my life situation changes. I will continue to leave a trip plan and leave it at that. For me part of the reason to go back country is to leave that stuff behind. It is me and the mountains, and I have to come to terms with my place in nature, and know my limitations and exercise the appropriate cautions to work within those limitations. I guess you could say I only take calculated risks, and that is with the knowledge that if something goes wrong I will be paying the piper. I accept that responsibility. This view has has been formed over the years and includes an awareness of accidents and includes more than a couple of very close calls on my part and in at least one case I literally thought this is how it ends. That is why I stress the importance of reliable gear and taking enough equipment for the unknown, and knowing what you can do. 

Having a PLB shouldn't change your behavior in anyway in my opinion because it is not a magic button or ruby red slippers you can click to go home, it simply makes it easier to find your body if you screw up.

Not to derail, but the use of a saw and axe are two of the things I see the most from "experienced" folks that make me cringe.  Especially, hand axes.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
New Post
4/28/2013 3:11 PM
 

 Absolutely.  The Kim family made a poor decision to go down that logging road in snowed-up conditions.  They missed a sign and also map info warning not to use it in bad weather.  Lots of stories where people made poor decisions due to their own misconception of their abilities in austere environments.  If they had had a PLB with at least clear view of the sky, an Iridium-based system would most likely have gotten a signal out.  That said....you're right....they still are not going to be a magic wand for rescue.  Traveling in the mountains without any means is done all of the time.  At the end of the day, we all assume a certain amount of risk to go out into the mountains.  If you are prepared, educated, and plan properly, you can mitigate much of it....but nature can be cruel.  We are either up to the challenge of the backcountry or we aren't.

A favorite Scottish Alpinist of mine, Dougal Haston (who died in an avalanche in Switzerland), once wrote:

"If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its forfeit."


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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4/28/2013 5:55 PM
 

 Scot, since you're torn about whether you ought to have a PLB or not, even though you are a single guy with no kids, you still have close family that would be very deeply hurt if you became a victim of Nature's red fangs and claws.  It's still worth considering having a PLB.  No...not a magic device that ensures rescue, but definitely still a valuable tool for the backcountry traveler.  No doubt, no PLB on earth will ever take the place of sound backcountry preparation, judgement, and skill...but they do offer one more chance at survival when all else has failed.  It's kind of like deciding to drink untreated water when you've got no way of treating it and you're near death.  You can take the chance and drink the water, knowing you might get sick, but at least giving yourself a chance at another day of life.  Or...don't drink the water and die.  At the very least, firing a PLB can give that final chance of surviving the event.  Even highly experienced outdoorsmen have that bad event happen to them....why not have the one final option to live through it and also save family members and close friends the grief?  True....it's still about our personal choices as free Americans, and I am 100% for American freedom.  Given the choice to carry a small device that could save my life on the day when I gave all I had to get myself out of the jam and couldn't, I'll take one along because I'd rather survive the event than become a statistic.  For someone that already has a good backcountry skillset, a PLB has a place in the pack for that bad day where all of those skills just weren't quite enough.


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
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4/28/2013 7:43 PM
 

evanhill wrote

Once the genie is out of the bottle, it is hard to put it back in. Should I have "artificially" limited myself by behaving exactly how I would have without the PLB? Or did I make the right choice by pushing on with partial support from my "artificial" aid? I sure was happy to get into that basin, but might have lost something along the way. For the reasons mentioned above, carrying one is non-negotiable at this point in my life. Since I have one, now what?

What are your experiences with PLBs? What are your thoughts on the matter?

I suppose the plain answer to your first question is yes.  While the presence of a communication device will change the dynamic, ideally we'll always make decisions as if our life depends on them. 

That said, most "accidents" have a much greater human component than we care to admit.  It may not be easy to articulate the role of refocusing on safety, but it's vital.  And for some an electronic safety button will interfere with them and, in practice, make them less safe.

I had a Spot, given me by a family member, and let it lapse after two years.  It was handy, and worked most of the time, but also didn't when I thought it had.  The confirmation signal was not 100% reliable, and this lack of 2-way communication bothered me.  I've also used a sat phone in AK on a few trips, and the reliability of a useable signal was not impressive.  Things like the InReach, with reliable 2-way sat texting, seem like the future.

 
New Post
4/29/2013 9:10 AM
 

An essential safety step to any outdoor activity is letting a responsible person know where you are going, when you expect to return, and who to call, such as the sheriff to initiate a SAR (Search and Rescue) mission, if they don’t hear from you by a date and time certain. This is the same as a private pilot filing a flight plan. On short hikes and hunting trips in our local area we always carry a cell phone and ham radio 2-meter band transceiver, (for which we are licensed). We make arrangements with a local radio amateur for us to check in nightly, advise that we are OK or to update any adjustments to our status, routing or schedule. On backcountry trips beyond 2-meter repeater or cell phone coverage, we take a portable, battery-operated single-sideband HF (High Frequency) radio with wire antenna and matching network to set up a check-in schedule on the 40-meter band which gives trans-continental coverage in daytime. If not licensed for ham radio, viable options may be to rent either a satellite phone or personal locator beacon. When I deployed under EMAC after Katrina refurbished Globalstar units started at about $400. Buyer beware that SatCom companies offer tempting low-cost initial plans (less than $50/mo.) designed to appeal to cell phone users. Once the introductory deal expires, sticker-shock on subsequent bills may indeed kill the faint of heart and wallet!. Use only for emergencies! You can rent a personal locator beacon or PLB for $30-50 per week from REI and similar outdoor stores. My feeling is that for many people “Satellite 911” may provide a false sense of security which does not substitute for adequate pre-planning and caution. If you activate a PLB unnecessarily, you could be billed for the cost of emergency response! For detailed information on PLBs see: http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/emerbcns.html and also http://www.rockymountainrescue.org/about_PLBs.php  When travelling where we don’t know the locals, we leave a trip plan with the sheriff’s office containing description(s) of our vehicle(s), the number of people in our party, with name, equipment, outdoor skill level, where we will park, foil impressions of our boot prints, description of our itinerary, cell phone numbers, ham radio repeaters or working frequencies for communications schedules. We also leave a partially completed SAR Form 201B with the info needed to initiate a search, if we miss two consecutive check-in schedules. An advantage of having a ham license is that several times when we have been hunting in a new, less familiar area, sheriff’s deputies would assign a volunteer radio amateur who was a member of their Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES). This gave us a local contact person to call for daily Personnel Accountability Reports or “PAR-checks” – using common terminology of fire services. This practice paid off big time during an unexpected blizzard, pre cell phone and Satcom days, back in 1979 when we got snowed in and our 4WD vehicles were unable to make it out on the fire road as planned.   A radio contact to our assigned RACES station contact advised that we were holed up in camp, everyone was OK, we had plenty of firewood and food, and were waiting out the storm. The RACES operator relayed a phone call home to advise our wives that we wouldn’t be at work on Monday, but not to worry. But a few days later as the snow continued seemingly without end, a record 100-year storm, RACES then used our situation to coordinate an exercise, using a radio-equipped snow mobile group with a SAR team to bring us out. We left our two 4WD vehicles back in the woods, and came back to get them after the snow melted. Inconvenience, but no disaster. The most successful SAR mission is the one you plan for ahead of time, where everybody gets home alive. My two cents.

 
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4/29/2013 9:21 AM
 

Evan and I spent awhile talking about this yesterday and queing off something WEG said, if you think of the inReach as a means to communicate from the Backcountry much like a ham or something of the sort I start to see the convience of it, because plans do change and it is easy to give folks a heads up if need be. I am still ambivalent for SAR becaue either they aren't going to get there in time or I am going to handle the situation on my own.  Perhaps it is that the vast majority of SAR folks I have encountered would be folks I would have to worry about rescueing if they came to rescue me.


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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4/29/2013 9:49 AM
 

 I think you can make an argument that does an avalanche locater result in riskier behavior , which I doubt. It does provide a better margin of safety but even with a avy beacon, you can still end up suffocated. One of the statistics of avy training is that you are more likely to get die in an avalanche after you have had the training. Granted statistics can be scewed, depending on if you account for the total amount of back country days, or as an average of all people in general. However, I would say that statistic at least gives some creedance to people potentially partaking in riskier behaviour with training and tools. Take it for what it is worth. 

Regarding the SAR comments, I know different groups are all over the board. Some are well trained, some are not and it depends on budget, training and skill. However, I will say the voulneteer organization I work with is highly highly trained. Many of the members teach rescue with Rigging For Rescue (RFR). They teach it around the world, to military groups and to the NPS in places such as Denali. Many of the members themselves, have had some RFR training as it is provided to us, some have had tracker training, and most if not all have a least WFR certifications as well and many are part time EMT's. Granted few voulenteer rescue organizations probably have the level of training afforded to our group, but you could do a lot worse in the backcountry. Recuer safety trumps all else so the comment about the rescuer needing rescue, is at least in our case overstated. I can state specifics, but we generally get to most areas quickly. We have dirt bikes we often deploy frst to do a scene size up and they can get to most areas within our county within a half hour, and from there it is on foot. Most often, someone is at the scene within an hour. In many cases, if the situation warrants it, we can get a heli evac from very remote locations, when patients have significant injuries.  So yes, I take some offense to the comments posted here. We do this as a volounteer effort, we raise money as a volounteer efftort, and generally speaking, we are pretty well trained and able to get on scene quickly. 


http://www.seekoutside.com | sig added by EH... go check out Kevin's stuff!
 
New Post
4/29/2013 10:32 AM
 

 I think I should add a bit of color around my previous post. So we are moderately well funded, which allows us to have a lot of the training we do. We acquire the funds mostly through events. We put on a pancake breakfast every 4th of July, we sell T-shirts , hats etc, we get donations from events that come through town and from individuals and businesses. 

One case in point last year. I had just done a long strenuous day hike, unfortunately, I got home and realized I left something somewhere on my hike. So I grabbed a quick drink and set off to do my hike over again, but to get to the first likely spot. While I was retrieving my gear, I got a call that there was an injured canyoneer, who had taken a fall, way up in a pretty nasty spot. It was likely to be an all nighter, just becasue it was difficult 1000 - 1500 ft scramle up from the nearest trail, which was 3000 ft up from the nearest access point. The trail itself, is very cliffed out in a lot of spots, and gets more difficult once off trail. It would be difficult to navigate and handle at any time let alone the darkness. By the time I was at the barn, many folks were on site. A heli evac by normal means was not possible as there was no LZ. Luckily, our current team captain who has a lot of heli experience from having been in the coast guard, called an air force rescue place. There was a capable bird at a high altitude training center in Eagle. They were able to deploy that and get the PT safely out. Under most scenarios, that would have been a nightmare, and an all nighter. The location itslef was a good 3 hr plus hike from the nearest access point, if you maintained a 1500 ft per hour rate at altitude and gear. All told it was probably 5 hrs from call out to safety. 

Don't let this encourage more risky behaviour, but don't under estaimate the capabilities. If you feel strongly that the local organization is not up to snuff, perhaps you could volunteer, and help organize better awareness, and better training therefore helping people get rescued when they need it.

 


http://www.seekoutside.com | sig added by EH... go check out Kevin's stuff!
 
New Post
4/29/2013 11:28 AM
 

kevin_t wrote

 Most often, someone is at the scene within an hour. In many cases, if the situation warrants it, we can get a heli evac from very remote locations, when patients have significant injuries.  So yes, I take some offense to the comments posted here. We do this as a volounteer effort, we raise money as a volounteer efftort, and generally speaking, we are pretty well trained and able to get on scene quickly. 

Just to add on to what kevin_t wrote, if significant trauma is sustained, being able to get SAR personnel on site within an hour can spell the difference between life and death.  This adds another valid reason to carry an appropriate device like the InReach.  Having spent a good bit of my active duty life as an SF Medic, I can definitely say that getting trained personnel to the victim inside of that  "Golden Hour" is critical.  Not having a way to get a signal out leaves the victim without a decent chance of surviving the event, if the injuries are serious enough.  Even if only one SAR team member gets there in that first hour and for the sake of discussion is trained only to the most basic level, that person will still be able to render several life-sustaining  procedures to help the victim hang on until other more highly trained SAR pax can arrive on site, or until evac'ed to a definitive care facility.  


Hill People Gear Coureurs des Bois (Brand Ambassador). Victoria faveat paratam. De Oppresso Liber.
 
New Post
4/29/2013 2:02 PM
 

kevin_t wrote
 

 I think you can make an argument that does an avalanche locater result in riskier behavior , which I doubt.

Take folks' beacon away and I imagine the vast majority would ski more conservative lines, which is a bit contradictory given the stats Kevin cites about dying from blunt trauma during the slide.

Technology fosters risk homeostasis, even when the added safety margin provided by the gear is mostly illusory.

 
New Post
4/30/2013 8:53 AM
 

 Perhaps I overstated in my haste to get a post in between flights, kevin said it better that groups are all over the place regarding skill and training. 


Co-Owner Hill People Gear "If anything goes wrong it will be a fight to the end, if your training is good enough, survival is there; if not nature claims its foreit." - Dougal Haston
 
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