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Old 12-18-2016, 12:31 PM   #21
geogymn
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I just checked my emergency kit and my whistle is missing. This might be a good time to check out your kit.
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Old 12-18-2016, 12:41 PM   #22
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@Justin

Please elaborate how a user permit system would've prevented this incident. It would need a substantial educational component with particular emphasis on winter travel, notably in the alpine zone.

Despite clear signage at the trailhead, indicating required winter-time equipment and the need for snowshoes, they proceeded with one set of snowshoes, a bare minimum of essential gear and, from all appearances, they had no change of clothing (she commented on being cold in the wet clothing they wore).

Effectively, they ignored instructions that could've saved them a great deal of suffering. If the permit system is equally educational as the trailhead signs, one shouldn't expect much improvement in hiker behavior. The permit system would have to do better.

Your best bet Justin would be to find some place that implemented a user-permit system and measured a marked decrease in backcountry rescues as a result. That kind of evidence would go a long way to justify its implementation in the Adirondacks. Show Albany how it can save money and you'll have its ear.

I remain skeptical but I'd wouldn't be displeased to be proven wrong. The status quo isn't optimal and there's no sign anything will improve.
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Old 12-18-2016, 12:58 PM   #23
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What is this, Twitter?

I think that your questions & posts would be good examples of what should be officially addressed in order to be able to legally hike/camp in high use areas, especially during winter like conditions.

#Requiredsafeandresponsiblehikingpracticesinhighus eanddangerousareas
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:14 PM   #24
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#TooLazyToQuoteYourPost



It's clear the trailhead signs aren't 100% effective. The beginners who slip by and repeat mistakes made by last years beginners, cost a tidy sum to rescue. Seems there's enough financial incentive to at least explore the option of system that requires a degree of proficiency to allow entry.

Otherwise, just go with the "nuclear deterrence" option adopted by New Hampshire. Charge for rescues. Buying a Hike Safe card absolves you of fees if you're found to be negligent (but not if reckless). If you don't have the card and you're found to be negligent or reckless, you get a bill.

FWIW, Hike Safe seems like a cheap and easy system to manage compared to a permit system.
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Old 12-18-2016, 01:56 PM   #25
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Came across this link on Reddit, a first hand account of what the hikers say happened. They actually fell down the side of the mountain looking for the trail, which they couldn't see due to being socked in by dense fog. Scary stuff.

https://webcache.googleusercontent.c...&ct=clnk&gl=us
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Old 12-18-2016, 02:21 PM   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
There's no report of them having one but, I agree with your point, it doesn't mean they didn't have one.

Beginner winter hikers must accept the fact the alpine zone isn't just a treeless tundra. It's colder and windier and, especially in winter, nearly featureless. Clouds roll in and reduce visibility, sometimes to zero. Once you lose sight of the rut you were following, and your tracks, and the cairns, what is your exit strategy? Will your direction be randomly chosen from one of 360 degrees? You should have the answer in advance because your life may depend upon it.
They did have a cell phone and their battery apparently was OK. There seem to be a few free compass and/or GPS apps available. I wonder if having one would have helped?

We were all beginners at one point and while we are often taught what we should do when we "begin" doing something its not always galvanized in us through the "teaching" rather it is an actual experience that does the galvanizing. I think we can all relate to this if we look back at our youth. Lucky for them they will have another chance, if they elect to do so, to experience the outdoors.

“I also learned how valuable it is to bring the necessary gear,” she said. “I mean, we were geared for the hike, but we weren’t geared for the unexpected.”
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Old 12-18-2016, 07:29 PM   #27
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I find it interesting NH has a process in place, hike safe card, and NY does not. We are famous for our regulation and NH is opposite. Over here in Western NY a hunter was just arraigned for criminally negligent homicide. Tragic 'accident' but when the police looked into it it was easily preventable IF the hunter followed the basic safety techniques taught while getting your hunting permit. I wonder if that is the direction. If I have been told ti bring a head-lamp, even for day hikes, and I choose not to...

Trailboss - YOU taught me that my trusty water filter is not so trusty for cold weather hiking. I never would have picked that up. One article talks about how social media and such brings more people to the woods. Well, it can also better educate people as well.

I chose tenderfoot as a screen name because even with hiking & camping experience, military field experience, and Scout leader experience I still am humbled by the trail craft shared here. So thanks to the Rangers and SAR but also to you guys for your wisdom and patience sharing it.
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Old 12-18-2016, 08:44 PM   #28
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A glimpse at what it takes to pull it off:
https://dailygazette.com/article/201...-in-the-office
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Old 12-18-2016, 09:01 PM   #29
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Brendan, I'm usually in agreement with you but a few things you said made me wince.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
This kind of behavior doesn't actually "usually" result in a rescue, though, and that's part of the problem. For every unskilled and unprepared group out there that needs rescuing, there are hundreds (perhaps even thousands) of other groups out there that are similarly unskilled and unprepared that make it through their hikes relatively unscathed.
I agree the rescue to trip ratio is very small. My commentary was focused on the same rookie mistake repeated for the fourth winter in recent years. It's becoming a regular feature to open the winter hiking season: newbies blindly walking off an alpine summit.

How many people blindly wander off an alpine summit in winter and DON'T require a rescue? If you know this statistic please share it. I don't believe anyone knows the answer because it's not measured. Let's not speculate about unknown stats and focus on what is known, this injurious beginner's error.

Quote:
Even for the inexperienced, the chances of needing to be rescued in the backcountry are relatively small, and that unfortunately makes it all that much harder to explain why certain skills and gear are necessary.
Harder? Point to the four consecutive seasons of people losing body parts to frostbite or, in one case, dying of hypothermia. All because of easily mitigated errors. Sounds compelling to me.

Quote:
...that emergency situations are rarely the product of a single action or mistake, but more frequently the result of multiple small decisions and events that, when left unchecked, snowball into one major emergency situation.
Yes and no. It's not quite like an aviation disaster where an unanticipated chain of failures finds a bypass route around fortified and multiply redundant systems and procedures. Hiking accidents aren't usually that tricky; typically it's "A+B=Oh $hit". You provided a perfect example:

Quote:
The classic example of this is carrying a headlamp (or other light source). With it, getting caught out in the dark is rarely more than a minor inconvenience. Without it, getting caught out in the dark can be a major issue with the potential to result in even worse circumstances (getting lost, injured, ailments from exposure, etc.)
  • For want of a headlamp, the day-hike became an unplanned overnight.
  • For want of a bearing, the day-hike became an unplanned overnight.

This years crop of lemmings walked off shrouded Algonquin without the benefit of a bearing (despite having a GPS). Like their predecessors, they left their fate to chance ("This way looks promising"). Someone ought to tell them that hikers who go on to climb dozens of winter peaks don't succeed by leaving important decisions to chance. However, you'll be hard pressed to find this reported by the media. They're too busy romanticizing the accident as yet another man vs nature epic.

Quote:
Originally Posted by SaraHikes View Post
Came across this link on Reddit, a first hand account of what the hikers say happened. They actually fell down the side of the mountain looking for the trail, which they couldn't see due to being socked in by dense fog. Scary stuff.
The reason that article is now in Google's version of carbonite is because the Daily Gazette expunged it and released an updated version with fewer flaws.

They didn't fall 100 feet off the mountain because there's no such place on Algonquin to do it. They walked southeast, 265 feet away from the summit (to the location where they were found). That distance from the summit happens to be at an elevation that is 100 feet lower. It's not a precipice but a slope. Somewhere along that 265-foot slope, probably near its very end, they did slip down a steep section and became mired in snow. They tried but couldn't re-climb it so they stayed put.

They were somewhere within the highlighted area I've drawn on Algonquin's southeastern side:


They lived because of their youth and fitness and not because of exceptional survival abilities.
  1. You don't walk off a clouded alpine summit in a random direction. You consult a map & compass or GPS to acquire a bearing. The teenagers had a GPS but there's no indication they used it. If they did, they misused it (went southeast instead of north).
  2. If you can't walk without seeing where you're going, you risk falling down a slope (like they did). You pause and wait for the next fleeting glimpse; it may be a very long pause.
  3. If only one has snowshoes (as was the case), you are forced to operate at the level of the lowest common denominator. Groups require parity in critical equipment.
  4. If you didn't bring a change of clothes you'll be forced to bivouac in the sweat-soaked clothing you had hiked in (like they did). Extended winter survival requires dry insulation.
  5. If you dump your pack's contents on unconsolidated snow you will lose equipment and food (like they did). Think before acting rashly.
  6. If you don't make yourself visible (they didn't), searchers will have a hard time spotting you. Something that contrasts against the snow is needed.
  7. If you don't use a whistle (they didn't) you'll shout yourself hoarse.


Quote:
Originally Posted by bioguide View Post
They did have a cell phone and their battery apparently was OK. There seem to be a few free compass and/or GPS apps available. I wonder if having one would have helped?
Forgive me if I sound cynical. The ranger reported they had a GPS. Nevertheless there's no evidence they used it. Therefore if they had a GPS app on their phone, I have little confidence they would've used it either.

Let's not overlook the fact there's a compass app on iPhones (and free versions are available for Android). Had they known they approached Algonquin from the north, their phone could've told them in which fog-bound direction to go.

Otherwise, yes, a GPS app can be the difference between heading down the correct versus incorrect side of a mountain. ViewRanger is free for both iPhone and Android. Paid versions like Gaia and Motion-X (for iPhone) and AlpineQuest and Locus Map (for Android) offer a broader selection of maps and features. A modern phone's GPS hardware rivals the sensitivity of old purpose-built GPS receivers. The key thing to remember is GPS apps are battery-hungry.


Quote:
“I also learned how valuable it is to bring the necessary gear,” she said. “I mean, we were geared for the hike, but we weren’t geared for the unexpected.”


Oh my. I really would like to believe by "gear" she also means knowledge and skills but I doubt it. They brought gear for at least one flavor of unexpected, the GPS. There's no indication it was used and if was, it was used incorrectly. I implore their parents to send their children to a winter outdoor skills class (BEFORE gifting them a PLB/SPOT/InReach).

Quote:
Originally Posted by tenderfoot View Post
Trailboss - YOU taught me that my trusty water filter is not so trusty for cold weather hiking. I never would have picked that up.
That's why we hang out here in between hikes, to share our tips, successes and failures so we can all spend safer and more enjoyable days in the outdoors.

Last edited by Trail Boss; 12-18-2016 at 09:11 PM.. Reason: typo
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Old 12-18-2016, 09:34 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Trail Boss View Post
[*]If you didn't bring a change of clothes you'll be forced to bivouac in the sweat-soaked clothing you had hiked in (like they did). Extended winter survival requires dry insulation.
It appears as though they did have extra layers of clothing. From one of the Gazette articles...

"On the one hand, vanLaer said Alois had “above average” gear packed for the trip, and the pair carried a GPS device, emergency blanket, extra layers of clothing, fire starting equipment and a crank flashlight. They each had microspikes, but they had just one pair of snowshoes."

There hasn't been any mention that I can find saying whether they had dry base layers as well. This sort of suggests perhaps just an extra jacket or fleece or mid layer? Absent a shelter I would assume whatever they had got wet.
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Old 12-18-2016, 09:54 PM   #31
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I would also argue that in most of the cases where hikers blindly descended off a summit, there were multiple factors at play. Inexperience was one factor in all of them, yes, but we also saw situations involving inclement conditions, unfamiliarity with the terrain, early stages of hypothermia that likely affected decision making skills, approaching nightfall, etc.
Well you can argue it but the facts of the past four incidents don't support it. Disorientation brought upon by low visibility is adequate to have people walk off in the wrong direction.

The couple from Quebec who lost their way atop Marcy were fit enough to post-hole 2000 feet down into Panther Gorge, build an all-night fire, and get rescued the next day with all body parts intact.

The triathlete who became separated from his son atop Marcy chose to hunker down below the summit in a snow-hole with over 2 hours of daylight remaining. The next morning, somewhat frustrated that he hadn't been found yet, he emerged, ascended back to the summit and met a ranger.

The group-leader ascending Marcy, fell behind her group, had trouble following the route up, chose to return to Schofield Cobble following her own tracks and then lost her way. She ended up well west of Schofield Cobble (but didn't know it at the time). She had a map and compass but felt her skills were rusty so she used her SPOT and waited for the rangers.

The mother and children who came to snow board Marcy, lost their way on top, descended its opposite side and then called for help, indicating they were on the north side.


Disorientation alone is adequate to explain walking off in the wrong direction. Pausing to determine the correct direction can avoid a bad day (and night).
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Old 12-18-2016, 11:08 PM   #32
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Sorry, Taras, I'm not going to keep debating the issue. Your willingness to type furiously into the keyboard at 10pm on a Sunday evening has eclipsed mine (and we all know that's saying something ).

I tend to stay out of these threads (ones about specific SAR incidents) because the end result always seems to be inane debates on minute details that distract from any broader lesson to be learned. They also often seem to be full of speculation based on incomplete facts. In retrospect, I was doing both of these things myself, and I regret getting involved in this thread.

Last edited by DSettahr; 12-18-2016 at 11:18 PM..
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Old 12-19-2016, 07:04 PM   #33
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Was anyone able to get the GPS coordinates from where they were found?
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Old 12-19-2016, 08:17 PM   #34
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Was anyone able to get the GPS coordinates from where they were found?
Perhaps a geocache challenge for the lost backpack items when the snow melts?
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Old 12-19-2016, 10:23 PM   #35
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Perhaps a geocache challenge for the lost backpack items when the snow melts?
It'll be too late then, go right now (don't forget to bring a shovel and buy life insurance )
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Old 12-20-2016, 03:52 PM   #36
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I read the one first-hand account from the interview in the hospital, and his girlfriend said, (I'll paraphrase) "My feet got really cold so he dumped his backpack out and put it over my feet until they were warm. But all the contents got lost in the snow."
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Old 12-20-2016, 05:59 PM   #37
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It'll be too late then, go right now
Depends on what kind of knife.
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Old 12-20-2016, 08:18 PM   #38
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Personally I will never understand the opinion that if you get into trouble and need SAR then you should be forced to cover the expenses. Maybe its because I am accustomed to our (Canada) health care system(no where near perfect) that it boggles my mind that a population of almost twenty million people really cannot accept the cost for saving the lives of people in distress, regardless of ineptitude.
I am also not taking a shot at NY by any means as I have had many debates here in my own backyard about rescue costs. I just don't see how a paid civil servant who is employed by a level of government, funded by the taxpayer should tell the rescuee that this cost will be passed onto them. By definition, they have already contributed to the local departments budget by filing their state/federal taxes. I understand the risks associated to those SAR members, but you either volunteer or are employed in this role so therefor are making a decision to accept those risks, how can you rescue someone and then condemn them to potential bankruptcy or severe financial hardship all in the guise of a "hard lesson learned" attitude. If someone who is in distress and requires SAR decides not to make a call because they cannot afford the aid and they die, are we all better for it because the cost was saved? I think a little humanity and common sense needs to be applied.
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Old 12-20-2016, 10:23 PM   #39
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@nickchevy

First, let's not overlook that New Hampshire will hand you a bill for rescue services only if you are deemed to be negligent or reckless. If you bought an inexpensive "Hike Safe" card, think of it as rescue insurance, you'll be covered even if you were negligent (but not if found to be reckless). Basically, the state provides free rescues but not if you did something that a competent individual wouldn't.

Second, handing you a bill for services rendered isn't all that unusual is it? I don't know about Ontario but here in Quebec, if you get to the hospital by ambulance, you'll receive a bill that's more along the lines of limo service rather than Uber.

If you don't have thousands of spare dollars to:
  1. replace a damaged or stolen car
  2. repair/rebuild your home after a fire
  3. replace your possessions after a burglary or fire
  4. keep food on your family's table if you kick the bucket
  5. pay medical bills if you get sick
... then you get insured.

As Canucks, since 1966, we don't buy insurance for the last item because of Tommy Douglas, the "Greatest Canadian". (We only buy it if we want dental coverage, the use of private medical services, etc.)

Insurance as a hedge against personal bankruptcy is fairly common.

Paying $25 annually for a Hike Safe card ($35 for families) isn't a deal-breaker. NH sold about $120K of them this year: https://www.boston.com/news/local-ne...hire-this-year

BTW, as a Canuck, should you require medical services in the US, the Canadian health care system will only pay for the cost of the equivalent service in Canada. US medical services are far from cheap. If services in a Lake Placid hospital cost US$10K and the equivalent services in Ontario cost CDN$7K, you have to pay the difference out of your pocket ... unless you have private health insurance that covers the gap.

It's my understanding that SAR organizations dislike "rescues for a fee" for the very reason you stated, they're concerned people won't call for rescue. I'd like to see some stats on that. In places where they implemented "rescues for a fee", how many people died or delayed calling for help because they didn't want to pay for it?

Caller: I wish to report my husband is overdue from a hike to Haystack.
Responder: It's my duty to inform you that if we determine his situation is due to negligence, we will charge for the cost of the rescue.
Caller: Never mind! <click>

... just don't see that happening.

Last edited by Trail Boss; 12-21-2016 at 07:44 AM.. Reason: Autocorrect! Grr!
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Old 12-21-2016, 07:50 AM   #40
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...how can you rescue someone and then condemn them to potential bankruptcy or severe financial hardship all in the guise of a "hard lesson learned" attitude... I think a little humanity and common sense needs to be applied.
Perhaps instead of making them pay for the full amount of the rescue, maybe call it a "stupidity fine" and charge them enough to make it sting, but not enough to cause "severe financial hardship."
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