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#153153 - 07/27/11 09:07 PM Let people know where you are going...
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
Got this off of Sierra Topix and figured it belongs in here as well. There's a lot to read but you might learn a few more things from it, I did..

Let people know (where you're going)

New postby AlmostThere on Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:59 am
I just got back from a Search and Rescue that reinforced the old piece of advice that you should always leave your itinerary with someone before you go. What is not often said - make the information you leave as detailed as possible.

We were looking for four males because they had told their mother they would check in with her at a couple of points along their trip. Their itinerary was five days - over Piute Pass, Sally Keyes Lake, then south to Cedar Grove. (Those of you who know the area already see where this is going, right?) They did not make a check in. They were late getting out. Mom was freaking. Mom also had NO INFORMATION - well, she did, but it was all confused, and confused information is in a way worse than none. They'd driven in the dark and she couldn't remember where she and a friend dropped them off!

Point Last Seen is VERY IMPORTANT, especially when you are ending your hike in a different jurisdiction - important to SAR, that is. We have not a lot of resources (cutbacks happen) and miles and miles of high country between entry and exit point on the wilderness permit. In this case we had three potential SAR actions - Inyo, Fresno County/Sierra NF, and Kings Canyon NP. We were given a description of what sounded like Edison Lake as the dropoff - within 24 hours documentation was found at North Lake that the group had registered there to camp the night before their search. (These are both at the end of 168 - which does not actually cross the range. Sort of an important piece of info - she said 168, but could not verify which one, probably didn't know there were two. They came from Southern California.) The confusion on the part of the folks dropping them off is a reminder that the non-outdoorsy folks we ask to help us will not always know how to describe where you are going or what you are taking - so help them out by leaving the details on paper they can hand to an officer.

Had these young men not taken care to do the safe thing and finally exited the wilderness as we were launching our search from Florence, things could have been very different. We would have wasted a lot of resources and time not having a clear idea of where they might be.

We always tell people to write down your itinerary to leave with family/friends - I'm going to suggest some additional info. Give them recent pictures! Give them a list of make/color of tents and backpacks. Also size and make/model of boot - we have trackers. A list of clothing you are taking, colors and sizes, so if we find a discarded/left behind shirt, we know there's a good chance it belongs to the person we're looking for and can focus on the area. Heck, stand there at the trailhead all geared up and have them take a picture with their cell phone! We would have had an easy time of knowing where to start if we'd had a shot of the four standing in front of a trailhead sign at North Lake. The pic could have been sent directly to a sheriff, who could have redistributed it far and wide. SAR volunteers could have been showing the pic to people on the trail.

If you decide to stray from what's on your wilderness permit, get a new wilderness permit and cancel the old. Some folks just ignore the quotas and do that. When looking for a lost person the first thing we pull is the permit. Theories we had included that the folks had just gone on a different route because no one questioned had seen the four on the route listed, so we questioned if they had even gone out there at all. Additionally, if you do decide to go somewhere other than backpacking because conditions or plans change, don't forget to call your family/friend to tell them.

Pre-planning helps! Know weather patterns, terrain, etc before you go - research what you need and how many miles you, in your current condition, might do. These guys had assumed summer and not packed cold weather or rain gear. It did pour down rain on them, twice, and they had to delay to build a fire and dry off. They did a lot of things right, FYI - but the things they did not do had us out in helicopters.

Our SAR teams and the various jurisdictions really work well together. We had two counties and the National Park Service on this one. Most of us county SAR folk are volunteers, with a few sheriff deputies - who are often also volunteering time. Have mercy on us. We need to know where you entered and where you plan to exit, what you are carrying, and we will come and get you even if you are determined to do your own thing wherever and whenever without a thought or expectation that we'll search anyway. We still have open cases on the books and still (years later) search the areas people have gone missing for clues or remains. Do yourself and your families the favor of listing out your itinerary, your gear and your dropoff and pickup points. We can only go on the information we receive! So make it good, clear, accurate information!

P.S... this is not a thread to bag on the stupidity of lost people. Most lost people are not stupid. Just not prepared. This includes the experienced hunters, backpackers and others who have been hurt or deceased while out there... you cannot be prepared for some of the things that happen, just as prepared as possible... and judging people for their behavior when the unpredictable happens is to judge without complete information. Remember that sane and rational people can be made stupid by dehydration, hypothermia, and just the panic of being lost despite whatever measures they took - lost person behavior does not correspond to the behavior of people in familiar surroundings, and is not a reflection on the intellect or level of preparedness of the lost.

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#153155 - 07/27/11 09:22 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
Glenn Offline
member

Registered: 03/08/06
Posts: 2617
Loc: Ohio
I always leave a written trip plan and a map with our route and intended campsites marked on them. I also give Karol (wife) our expected time of exit, and leave her the correct number to call - with instructions not to call until we are 8 hours overdue. Then I make sure I call her when we leave! (The 8 hours gives us plenty of time to get where there's cell reception.)

Sometimes, I'll send a duplicate of the trip plan and map, and timetable, to the agency managing the area (USFS, DNR, or whatever) - especially if the area is lightly traveled or cell coverage is a long way from the trailhead.

And that's here in the East, where the backcountry isn't all that remote!

It's not that hard to do, and it's cheap insurance.

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#153169 - 07/28/11 12:26 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1094
Loc: Madison, AL
I always send an email to my wife titled, "where to find our dead bodies," with a map of where we are going. I never thought about shoe info or a cell phone pic at the trailhead. Good things to know, though I don't think most of the trail heads I go to have cell phone reception.


Edited by BZH (07/28/11 12:26 PM)

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#153177 - 07/28/11 02:33 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
mana Offline
member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 24
127 Hours was a Godsend. My son is still a little too young to be off hiking with his friends but after watching that movie with him he has promised me he will always let me know his plans!

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#153186 - 07/28/11 07:55 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: BZH]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By BZH
I always send an email to my wife titled, "where to find our dead bodies," with a map of where we are going. I never thought about shoe info or a cell phone pic at the trailhead. Good things to know, though I don't think most of the trail heads I go to have cell phone reception.


If someone is dropping you off, they'll have it in their phone when they get home. If you are driving yourself, you can have someone at home take your picture with all your gear, and write down which trailhead - and call from a pay phone or drop a postcard in the mail from wherever you go if plans change.

Many ways to do this.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#153210 - 07/29/11 09:48 AM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: lori]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
I think you are too easy on us. If I'm in need of help, I'm probably not where I'm supposed to be. Otherwise, someone would come along before I'm missed that can send for help.

Next week, I'm headed out for a through hike of the Colorado Trail which means I will be out of contact for 4 or 5 days at a time and in areas without cell phone coverage. Chances are, someone will pass us each day to give minor assistance should we need it.

Giving a detailed itinerary is really impossible except to give a friend a data book and a spreadsheet of where we expect to be along the trail. With the spreadsheet he should know where we plan to be virtually every hour on the trail. But that's not a lot of help if we accidentally get sidetracked on any number of wrong trails over a 5 day period before something happens. (We are planning to resupply every 4 or 5 days and MAY be able to call in.)

So I'm carrying a SPOT transmitter with me which can be monitored online. I have a trusted friend monitoring us and any help messages will arrive as a cell phone text. He will be able to give a detailed map of our progress to SAR. It updates our position every 10 minutes. Sure, sometimes it skips an hour in deep valleys, but he is smart enough to figure that out.

I've talked to sheriffs in areas we are going to and the most likely response to a missing person situation is sending a couple horses out. With the SPOT, I can send a simple "Help" where that is sufficient or I can call 911 where it's a more serious medical problem. If he sees the spot transmitter move to an open area after sending the 911 call, he should suspect a helicopter is needed if possible.

I realize SAR people have lives too. They may be losing pay if looking for me, or it may come at an inconvenient time for them. They could also get hurt looking for me. If a rescue is needed, I feel a responsibility to make it as easy as possible.

Knowing I have the SPOT also makes it easier just to stay in one place if something happens knowing rescue would have a pretty good idea of where I am.

Sure, it's expensive, and not totally reliable. But in my pack, it's considered essential gear.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#153227 - 07/29/11 12:39 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: Gershon]
sjohnny Offline
member

Registered: 10/29/10
Posts: 185
Loc: Central Texas
Originally Posted By Gershon
If I'm in need of help, I'm probably not where I'm supposed to be. Otherwise, someone would come along before I'm missed that can send for help.

I don't believe this to be true at all. You can be exactly where you are supposed to be and not see another living person for days. In fact, that's a good way for me to know I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

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#153243 - 07/29/11 07:23 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: Gershon]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Gershon
I think you are too easy on us. If I'm in need of help, I'm probably not where I'm supposed to be. Otherwise, someone would come along before I'm missed that can send for help.


The vast majority of hikers interviewed on the trail give incorrect information - people are very poor eye witnesses. In the case described above someone saw them out there but denied they were the missing people - they reported their ethnicity incorrectly.

Other hikers are poorly prepared to do anything to help other hikers. They do not often recognize symptoms of hypothermia or dehydration, because they do not know you personally to recognize when your personality is altered. Thus a man who died on Whitney two years back talked to other backpackers, who were aware that where he said he was going and where he was actually headed were two different things, but hiked out without taking action at that time to help him.

Quote:
Next week, I'm headed out for a through hike of the Colorado Trail which means I will be out of contact for 4 or 5 days at a time and in areas without cell phone coverage. Chances are, someone will pass us each day to give minor assistance should we need it.


No guarantee of that.

Quote:
Giving a detailed itinerary is really impossible except to give a friend a data book and a spreadsheet of where we expect to be along the trail. With the spreadsheet he should know where we plan to be virtually every hour on the trail. But that's not a lot of help if we accidentally get sidetracked on any number of wrong trails over a 5 day period before something happens. (We are planning to resupply every 4 or 5 days and MAY be able to call in.)


Without a general itinerary (where you are every hour isn't possible, no one expects that) SAR is unlikely to even send anyone out there. No one's going to spend resources and time chasing you when you have left no clue.

Quote:
So I'm carrying a SPOT transmitter with me which can be monitored online. I have a trusted friend monitoring us and any help messages will arrive as a cell phone text. He will be able to give a detailed map of our progress to SAR. It updates our position every 10 minutes. Sure, sometimes it skips an hour in deep valleys, but he is smart enough to figure that out.


SPOT have failed. The itinerary is your backup. One fella wrote in a trip report I read last year that he managed to put his down on a rock somewhere and never found it again - the whole 2/3 of the cross country bonkers expedition went without a track log. But I'm sure that SPOT faithfully reported the location of that rock until the battery died.

Quote:
I've talked to sheriffs in areas we are going to and the most likely response to a missing person situation is sending a couple horses out. With the SPOT, I can send a simple "Help" where that is sufficient or I can call 911 where it's a more serious medical problem. If he sees the spot transmitter move to an open area after sending the 911 call, he should suspect a helicopter is needed if possible.

I realize SAR people have lives too. They may be losing pay if looking for me, or it may come at an inconvenient time for them. They could also get hurt looking for me. If a rescue is needed, I feel a responsibility to make it as easy as possible.

Knowing I have the SPOT also makes it easier just to stay in one place if something happens knowing rescue would have a pretty good idea of where I am.

Sure, it's expensive, and not totally reliable. But in my pack, it's considered essential gear.


Again, leave the itinerary as a backup. Don't forget to leave a current picture and some description of your stuff. That helicopter going over may be going to investigate the other dozen tents out there without stopping at yours because you never bothered to tell us what color to look for.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#153244 - 07/30/11 12:19 AM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: lori]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Lori,

Thanks for all the great information.

I'll be sure to include a picture of our tent with the itinerary. Also a picture of the bottoms of our shoes. We figure a before and after picture will be fun anyway.

Current pictures of us front and back. Our packs are a little unusual so they are easy to identify. It will be good for the front and back covers of the book.

I think I gave the impression I was downplaying the itinerary. That's not the case. It's 17 pages long with 612 planned waypoints along the way which matches the data book. It also has what day we plan to hit each checkpoint and where we plan to camp each day. It also has phone numbers for planned resupply locations. (I'm a bit anal about planning and usually hike the plan closely.)

The itinerary also has every known water location, an elevation profile and a bunch of other stuff for planning purposes.

The SPOT will leave electronic breadcrumbs in case I get off the trail by mistake or decide to take a pre-planned bailout route. It also has the capability to signal for help early in case something happens early in a segment. One thing I didn't think of is to email this information to the person watching out for us as well as giving them a hard copy. This makes it easy to forward to SAR across the state.

Another thing I did was buy a Colorado Search and Rescue card for $3.00 so volunteers get their expenses paid.

My goal is to make it as easy for SAR as possible and it's really helpful to know what helps.

Thanks again,

Gershon


_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#153247 - 07/30/11 04:09 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
I suppose it might be a good idea, and of course this should be part of our beginner orientation and a good rule. smile

Its just that I've NEVER done that. I guess I'd have to decide where I was going before I left to do that. I generally decide that on the way. I know there's a huge gulf between the modern need for safety and the desire to take nature on its own terms. What ever happened to the "I'LL get there even if it kills me" spirit? confused I guess its just 2011 and things are crazy - like pigs fly smile - so frankly now humans also fly in squirrel suits. cool

On the other hand. If you have a cell phone just turn it on till the light winks once or twice and "they" will know where you are - no need to leave it on or even make a call. You gps location and id are sent as part of every communication with the network, and that since the tellecommunications actof what? 1996? sorry forgot - every cell phone since then has a gps that cannot be turned off.
Jim
What I mean is: If people epend that much time and energy watching me, why should I help them? Its getting harder and harder to get lost... and stay lost. cool


Edited by Jimshaw (07/30/11 04:11 PM)
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#153262 - 07/31/11 09:18 AM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: Jimshaw]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By Jimshaw

What I mean is: If people epend that much time and energy watching me, why should I help them? Its getting harder and harder to get lost... and stay lost. cool


The phone thing? We don't do that. Not all places are set up for that.

You do what you want, Jim - just be aware that SAR teams do not care whether you wanted to be found or not, and will waste a lot of resources and time on you because you didn't leave any info. I'd suggest one of those insurance policies in the event you end up somewhere the SAR team does actually charge you, so you don't end up totally bankrupt in the process of exercising your freedom to be dumb about letting people know where you are.

Thinking that it's a big brother situation is ridiculous - we aren't paying attention to you until we need to. Your family has the information, not us.

ETA: I certainly hope you have been responsible enough to think through the consequences of what will happen if, on trip #4,599,293, you do manage to break a leg on a solo outing, get stuck, and never make it back to your family - do they get to collect on your life insurance policy right away, or do they have to wait X years because no one can confirm your death? Do you think they will be okay wondering forever where you went? Are they going to offer $15k reward for some clue of your whereabouts (there is an open case locally where the family has done just that, in hopes of finding their adult son who disappeared while deer hunting)? Are they going to suffer somehow not knowing?

I'd certainly hope you would give yourself the chance to be found and rescued alive. It's hard enough finding people alive *without* the information.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#153269 - 07/31/11 12:40 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: lori]
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
This post was intended to help out the SAR teams for those of us who may get seriously injured or lost. I posted it in the begginer section but even the most experienced out there should follow a common sense rule of leaving behind detailed information. I personally like the freedom of not having my hikes set in stone but even that should be passed along to not just your loved ones but to the Rangers and SAR. I've been hiking for over 30 years but have never thought to expand my itinerary beyond what is required for the permit, which if you really think about it, is very minimal. So for this year and future trip, I'll improve in that area.

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#153270 - 07/31/11 01:33 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By intrek38
This post was intended to help out the SAR teams for those of us who may get seriously injured or lost. I posted it in the begginer section but even the most experienced out there should follow a common sense rule of leaving behind detailed information. I personally like the freedom of not having my hikes set in stone but even that should be passed along to not just your loved ones but to the Rangers and SAR. I've been hiking for over 30 years but have never thought to expand my itinerary beyond what is required for the permit, which if you really think about it, is very minimal. So for this year and future trip, I'll improve in that area.


Thanks for that.

Despite the fact that you posted it without permission, it was a good thought. I did not post here simply because I knew this board had residents who would step up and say they never do it. Not interested in causing a war - but now that it is here, I wonder if I should have simply to confront the erroneous notion that it isn't something experienced folks need to worry about doing.

It isn't that backpacking is so dangerous that we have to make hard and fast guidelines. It's that the unexpected happens and sometimes it's catastrophic enough that we can't recover from it in ways that make it possible to walk back out again, so having that little bit of insurance can make a difference in the outcome. It won't even make a difference every single time even if you do leave detailed info - but we do find people alive, and we do rescue them. It's better to have the chance than to deny the chance at all.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#153286 - 07/31/11 09:45 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: lori]
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
I wasn't aware that I needed permission to post a safety suggestion or anything else.. Oh well, I guess learning is a lifetime endeavor. Thanks..

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#153289 - 07/31/11 10:10 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
ndsol Offline
member

Registered: 04/16/02
Posts: 678
Loc: Houston, Texas
If you are hiking solo in Big Bend NP, the permit office takes a picture of you front and back with your gear on and also a picture of the sole of your boots to aid in tracking if you don't show back up to close the permit.

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#153320 - 08/01/11 09:39 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: lori]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3973
Loc: Bend, Oregon
What exactly is safe? I don't think we can find a universal definition of safe that applies to the real world. Safe might mean having an AK47, or not having an AK47, it depends. Are we as citizens responsible to do only safe things so the government (now personalized as SAR people) do not have to rescue us in places that saner people would not go? I mean this IS NOT cut and dried. Many non-climbers think all climbers are insane and should not be rescued for doing something stupid and screwing up. (we have this huge debate about Mt Hood here in Oregon and whether it should be closed for safety reasons and whether people need electronic leashes up there) Same goes for backpackers, trail runners, and people who walk their dogs - they are choosing to expose themselve to un-necesary danger outside of their cubicle.

You can save an SAR person by staying at home....

I have .3 acre of jumbled lava flow on my property thats far more dangerous than anything most beginners will ever see, and thats what I climb/hike through to get up my deck. I don't file flight plans, I instead use care and skill and good equipment and keep an eye out for cougars.

Jim :-p
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#153335 - 08/02/11 12:30 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: Jimshaw]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 1094
Loc: Madison, AL
Originally Posted By Jimshaw
.... I instead use care and skill and good equipment and keep an eye out for cougars.

Jim :-p


Jim, if I understand your age correctly, the women coming after you wouldn't actually be classified as cougars.


Edited by BZH (08/02/11 12:30 PM)

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#153339 - 08/02/11 01:13 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: intrek38]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By intrek38
I wasn't aware that I needed permission to post a safety suggestion or anything else.. Oh well, I guess learning is a lifetime endeavor. Thanks..


You posted someone else's post in its entirety.

I'd ask permission. You'd be surprised how many people get upset about that.

(Notice that I didn't?)
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#153340 - 08/02/11 01:15 PM Re: Let people know where you are going... [Re: Jimshaw]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
It's not about safe. It's about safER.

Beginner/expert has nothing to do with it either. We rescue as many experts as we do beginners. The attitude that you are impervious to random events by dint of your vast wealth of knowledge and experience is false bravado.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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