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  • #16
    I used the data published in DEC Press Releases. Here's an example of "Forest Ranger Actions" for the first half of December:
    http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/104406.html

    It doesn't contain an official assessment of the rescued individual's experience. One can sometimes infer the level of experience from the details of the incident (dehydration caused by having no water, benighted due to no headlamp, lost because of no map and compass, etc). However, this is, at best, an imprecise means of gauging experience.

    Experience may greatly reduce the odds of becoming lost, or disappearing without a trace, but it's not a guarantee. It was reported that Mr. Messick is an experienced hunter and Ms. Largay was an experienced hiker. The former remains missing and the latter was found (in her tent), off-trail and off-route, two years later. Sometimes circumstances trump experience. Fortunately, it happens very infrequently.
    Looking for views!

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    • #17
      Originally posted by EagleCrag View Post
      Is there any data on the experience level of the hikers that required assistance? Everyone runs the risk of getting injured, but I'm wondering about the skill/experience level of those that became lost and distressed.
      This summer I was poking around the whitehouse area/NPT with my dog. I made it back to the parking lot by 4pm or so and there were four people coming out of one of the side trails to nowhere. Three looked like they were ready to hit the club and the fourth at least had a book bag type backpack. They were looking for Buckhorn* Lake and wanted to know how far it was from there.

      It's at least 4.5 miles and you will likely be coming back in the dark. Do you have flashlights?
      No.

      A map & compass?
      No.

      Water?
      No.

      I gave them my map and suggested that they should just walk to Hamilton Stream Lean-to and to stick on the trail like glue. I was a little worried, but they were adults and the it is the NPT, so I can only do so much. I can certainly see why some hikers can be lost and distressed in the woods. It may be a trail, but its not a sidewalk in town.

      *I didn't bother to ask why they wanted to walk to Buckhorn from Whitehouse instead of walking from NYS-8.

      Comment


      • #18
        Originally posted by Fly Rodder View Post
        It's at least 4.5 miles and you will likely be coming back in the dark. Do you have flashlights?
        No.

        A map & compass?
        No.

        Water?
        No.
        And this is just the type who rangers receive a cell call from to come bail out because they can't figure out a trail junction, or they become overcome by darkness. Although most such cases are safely resolved in a very few hours, they still are taking rangers away from potentially far more critical duties.

        I am convinced that a large percentage of the "lost hikers" or "distressed hikers", being otherwise healthy, get themselves into trouble and needlessly call for help because they:
        1) have the attitude that they can use the cell phone as a bailout crutch and go where they never would have gone otherwise (that's what the phone and DEC Rangers are there for, right?), and/or

        2) did not take a little pre-trip time to better prepare with route and trail knowledge and proper gear, and/or

        3) did not take a few minutes when confused to sit down to figure out where they were and painlessly discover their own self-extraction route.

        In my early days of self-taught backcountry navigation and woodsmanship, (way before the cell phone or GPS), there were often times when I got a bit confused on the way to a remote off-trail destination, but I always figured out how to get myself out of it and successfully continue on. As a matter of fact I discovered that by putting myself into difficult situations and working out the solution, I learned and retained way more than I could have in any other way. Great stuff - "get lost" to figure out how to "stay found". When I teach navigation techniques (I do so on semi-pro and professional levels), I advise my students to do the same, with starting out in "safe" areas with unmistakable boundaries. Don't rely on external communication, work it out by yourself. Need to spend an extra night in the woods? Go for it.
        Last edited by Wldrns; 12-28-2015, 05:33 PM.
        "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

        Comment


        • #19
          I read most of the 190+ reported incidents and some of them did give me a sense they had ticked all three boxes you described.

          1) Assumed help is always a phone call away.
          2) Unprepared for conditions.
          3) Surrendered prematurely.

          Incident reports exclude many details, however the latest Distressed Hiker incident seems to support your suspicions.
          http://www.dec.ny.gov/press/104527.html

          The details of the medical distress that caused the hikers to call for help are not revealed. However, after rest and food, they were able to descend under their own power to McIntyre Falls where they met the rangers. If you can descend from the summit of Algonquin to the Falls, you've covered the most challenging portion of the trail. It suggests the call for help may have been premature. Maybe; without the details I may be drawing the wrong conclusion.
          Looking for views!

          Comment


          • #20
            Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
            Although prudence is always good insurance, the average hunting, hiking, or fishing trip rarely goes so bad it requires Search and Rescue (SAR) assistance. Yes, there are dangers in the outdoors but the odds of them causing one to require SAR are demonstrably low. That's not merely opinion but a conclusion based on available DEC data.

            Last month, I compiled and categorized all DEC SAR incidents reported for 2015 (~11 months of data). An explanation of the results of the results can be found here. In brief, as of November 2015, there were 190 incidents. Here are the top seven categories:
            1. Injured Hiker, 54
            2. Lost Hiker, 48
            3. Distressed Hiker, 29
            4. Overdue Hiker, 8
            5. Injured Snowmobiler, 6
            6. Lost Hunter, 4
            7. Stranded Hiker, 3




            Hikers comprised the majority of the incidents (142). That's unsurprising because they represent a sizeable proportion of the annual visitor population. In 1998, a census of hikers was performed in the High Peaks Wilderness and produced a figure of approximately 150,000 visitors annually. Almost two decades later, one can assume that figure has grown to at least 200,000 visitors. 142 incidents out of 200,000 hikers is a vanishingly small proportion.

            As of November 2015, four "Lost Hunter" incidents were reported. I don't have data for the annual number of hunters (but it's undoubtedly a sizeable amount). Six hunters were involved in the four incidents. All were found, in good health, except for the last one involving Mr. Messick. His case represents the only "lost person" incident, out of over fifty, that failed to conclude happily.

            The overwhelming majority of Adirondack hikers, hunters, fisherman, skiers, bikers, snowmobilers, etc leave the Park without complications requiring SAR assistance. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, and enjoy the outdoors.
            What is the difference between injured and distressed?

            Comment


            • #21
              Originally posted by Troy64 View Post
              What is the difference between injured and distressed?
              How skilled they are at faking an injury to justify rescue.

              More seriously, I think "distressed" applies to medical conditions, and to exhaustion, dehydration, etc.

              Comment


              • #22
                Yep, what TCD said.


                FWIW, the same question was posted in the original thread on ADKHighPeaks (worth reading). Here's my answer:

                Based on the incidents I've read, "Distress" is when someone cannot continue because of exhaustion, dehydration, or hazardous conditions as opposed to physical injury. Examples include, exhausted after post-holing, stuck at the base of falls or atop a ledge, overwhelmed/exhausted by snow-melt conditions, benighted while descending, etc. Medical conditions like arrhythmia, hypoglycemia, etc would also fall under this category.

                While I'm at it, I'll include the other chart I posted in the original thread. For the High Peaks area, the top two categories, Injury and Distress, comprise the majority of incidents. "Lost Hiker" is a distant third.
                1. Injured Hiker, 33
                2. Distressed Hiker, 16
                3. Lost Hiker, 9
                4. Overdue, 6

                Last edited by Trail Boss; 12-28-2015, 10:12 PM.
                Looking for views!

                Comment


                • #23
                  Originally posted by Wldrns View Post
                  And this is just the type who rangers receive a cell call from to come bail out because they can't figure out a trail junction, or they become overcome by darkness. Although most such cases are safely resolved in a very few hours, they still are taking rangers away from potentially far more critical duties.

                  I am convinced that a large percentage of the "lost hikers" or "distressed hikers", being otherwise healthy, get themselves into trouble and needlessly call for help because they:
                  1) have the attitude that they can use the cell phone as a bailout crutch and go where they never would have gone otherwise (that's what the phone and DEC Rangers are there for, right?), and/or

                  2) did not take a little pre-trip time to better prepare with route and trail knowledge and proper gear, and/or

                  3) did not take a few minutes when confused to sit down to figure out where they were and painlessly discover their own self-extraction route.

                  In my early days of self-taught backcountry navigation and woodsmanship, (way before the cell phone or GPS), there were often times when I got a bit confused on the way to a remote off-trail destination, but I always figured out how to get myself out of it and successfully continue on. As a matter of fact I discovered that by putting myself into difficult situations and working out the solution, I learned and retained way more than I could have in any other way. Great stuff - "get lost" to figure out how to "stay found". When I teach navigation techniques (I do so on semi-pro and professional levels), I advise my students to do the same, with starting out in "safe" areas with unmistakable boundaries. Don't rely on external communication, work it out by yourself. Need to spend an extra night in the woods? Go for it.
                  I whole heartily agree with you Wldrns
                  Red means run son, numbers add up to nothing.....

                  Comment


                  • #24
                    I've attached a file containing the "Lost Hiker" incidents for Jan-Nov 2015.

                    If you're an experienced hiker, who knows how to navigate off-trail, you'll conclude most of the incidents were due to inexperience. If the individual didn't bring the means to navigate, see after dark, food, or water, and becomes lost tens of yards from a trail, one can safely conclude they are inexperienced (or incredibly forgetful).

                    FWIW, based on the data, lost hikers comprise a small fraction of all incidents. Rangers are far more likely to be tending to injured or distressed hikers.
                    Attached Files
                    Looking for views!

                    Comment


                    • #25
                      One of the issues regarding this search that bothers me is not having found his rifle. I can understand how a body can very quickly be scattered by hungry animals so as to make discovery nearly impossible.

                      What I don't understand is how a rifle could escape detection. Once he went down, however he went down, the rifle was not going to move. It stayed were it laid.

                      Any thoughts why the rifle escaped detection as well?

                      Comment


                      • #26
                        Two scenarios are most likely: Either he's no longer in the area (kidnapped; left the area intentionally; picked up disoriented and transported to some odd place; etc.); or he (and the rifle) fell in a hole (cellar hole, old well, etc.).

                        But this is an odd one, because none of those scenarios is really very likely.

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          20 years ago my friend's father, who was in his mid-80s at the time and had hunted in Maine all of his life, was hunting with us here in the Adirondacks. Things were fine and it was always great to have him with us but the last year he was alive he would not stay where we left him on watches. Within five minutes he was moving, often walking up the trail to another watcher, and wondering where everyone was and when the drive was going to end.

                          One of my hunting areas is not far from where this gentleman was last seen and I can't help but think of my friend's dad and wonder if this man had a similar experience, wandered off and wound up crawling in a tight spot when he got cold and hungry and is thus now hard to find. Much stranger things have happened.
                          Life's short, hunt hard!

                          Comment


                          • #28
                            I've hiked a little bit in that area previously. There are some pretty nasty cedar swamps in the vicinity that I certainly wouldn't want to end up in if I was disoriented or injured. I have a few photos from a day trip I took through the area in 2013:

                            https://picasaweb.google.com/dsettah...31829438555698

                            https://picasaweb.google.com/dsettah...31856725988978

                            Both of those pictures were taken on the trail that connects Round Pond to Buttermilk Pond.
                            Last edited by DSettahr; 04-28-2016, 04:22 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #29
                              Originally posted by wiiawiwb View Post
                              One of the issues regarding this search that bothers me is not having found his rifle. I can understand how a body can very quickly be scattered by hungry animals so as to make discovery nearly impossible.

                              What I don't understand is how a rifle could escape detection. Once he went down, however he went down, the rifle was not going to move. It stayed were it laid.

                              Any thoughts why the rifle escaped detection as well?
                              The question of why the rifle was not found was especially baffling to the Rangers on scene. That was the one item we were told to especially be on alert for. Mr. Messick's sons said he often would lean it against a tree. I was there for a full week and it is inconceivable how we could have found nothing at all in a case like this. The most probable areas were grid searched (close in, nearly shoulder to shoulder) more than once from multiple directions.

                              The first day I was there I noted that the fresh leaf litter was very thick and fluffy, as much as 8 inches in many places. A rifle could easily have disappeared beneath the leaves. After the second day it rained lightly, compressing the leaves somewhat, but a rifle could still have escaped detection. Overall, however, we should have found some kind of clue of Mr. Messick. But a full two weeks later nata thing. Extremely unusual for a case like this that should have been open and shut within a couple of days. We've had a number of similar cases with elderly hunters. Sooner or later they get resolved, with rare, very rare exceptions likely due to other circumstances that have come to light later. But not the case for Mr. Messick.

                              D, you are correct about the multiple cedar swamps. Horribly difficult things to traverse. Nevertheless, we grid searched them in detail as well, and were confident to a high probability we would have found him if he ventured far into them within a statistically reasonable distance from the last known place (LKP). With no clues at all nor any further information whatsoever, statistics compiled from hundreds of other "similar" cases are all that drives the search plan. Any further away enters the region known to searcher professionals as "rest of world", with little known reasonable scenario or practicality of search potential.
                              Last edited by Wldrns; 04-28-2016, 05:08 PM.
                              "Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman

                              Comment


                              • #30
                                I can't imagine the utter disbelief you guys on the ground must have had after all the searching you did. And kudos to all of you. It's literally as though he and his rifle vanished in thin air.

                                Given the leaf debris, the rifle is probably there underneath or in the muck and mire of the swamp. Are sweeps ever made with metal detectors in cases where someone is known to have had a firearm?

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