Finding Nemo etc

7:55 a.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
52 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Was reading about someone having serious trouble, solo, finding their tent after doing a summit dash. That kind of thing has me slightly worried, mostly if I consider venturing into unfamiliar territory.

I know about using reflectives and that a bright coloured tent fabric would be great etc, but what about in a whiteout or fog? Some kind of luminous flag for a green/brown tent? Has anyone considered a kind of gadget, such as those things used for finding one's keys (don't ask) but with long-range capability? Or some smart phone wifi gps type thingy?

Is it a real risk or just something you would encounter rarely?

Ever happened to anyone in a serious way? Would a group be less risky in such cases?

11:16 a.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

I leave a battery powered glowstick hanging in my tent if im gonna be gone anywhere near dark. I buy them at walmart for 3.49 and they last 200 plus hrs. It really make my tent glow,easy to see from a long way. If im in a dip do to the weather then I hang it from a nearby tree. In really thick weather such as fog or blinding snow, I stay close or mark a waypoint on my gps. It would be awful to freeze to death a few feet from my tent.

1:48 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
200 reviewer rep
4,129 forum posts

 

Hotdogman said: The glowsticks last 200 hours plus.

Thats a long time really? Whats that more than 8 days. Seems like a long time to stay activated?

I once took a dayhike after setting up camp in the high Sierra in the winter of 1980 above Yosemite Valley. I sat up my tent at the edge of a huge meadow. When I returned later in the afternoon  I could not find my tent. I had not staked it down but it was filled with all my gear. I began searching in all directions, then thru my binoculars I saw it upside down on the other side of the meadow about a half mile away. It had blown over there during the hours I was gone! All my gear was still inside! Had I returned after dark I would have never found it and had a dark cold night with just the clothes on my back and the snacks/water I had in my daypack. After that I staked it down if I were going to leave it for any amount of time.

1:58 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,282 forum posts

Navigating in a whiteout or fog, or even dense vegetation, requires a set of skills that isn't talked about much, even in some of the best books on navigation. A couple nights ago, one of our local PBS stations had a program on the Donner Party. During the period they were snowed in at Donner Lake near present-day Truckee, CA, they sent several parties to try to get to Sutter's Fort for rescue. One group, called "The Forlorn Hope", ended up going in a circle for a couple days before they realized that they were following their own tracks - and that was dense woods combined with a blizzard.

I have spent a fair amount of time traveling through whiteouts and fog, as well as dense forest and jungle. It is a challenge, but doable with the right skills and certain pieces of gear. If you aren't prepared in advance, you may have to just hunker down and wait until someone comes searching or until the fog/blizzard/obscuring material clears up. Obviously, since I am still here and wandering the woods and hills, it is possible to travel through such conditions. However, GIANT CAVEAT - do not try driving through dense fog on freeways at speed. We get giant pileups on I-5, for example, every year that have involved upwards of 40 or 50 cars and trucks.

(1) Using a GPSR to mark the position of your tent before you set out helps. But remember that if you only mark the tent's position, the GPSR will you what direction the tent is from where you are, but does not warn you of cliffs, valleys, and streams between you and the campsite. You need to make periodic marks to retrace a safe path (continuous tracking will use up the batteries, so turning the GPSR and taking a mark every 15-20 minutes will save battery power and let you carry it inside your jacket to keep the batteries warm). Also, the GPSR accuracy is about 20 ft radius, but can be larger if you are getting multipath reflections from canyon walls or do not have a good lock on at least 4 satellites (too many "dumbed down" current GPSR models eliminate the satellite page, leaving you in the dark about the satellites - and, NO, the so-called "position accuracy" does not necessarily indicate the current accuracy).

(2) You can plan ahead and take compass headings from time to time (write them down in a waterproof notebook). You can retrace your path with these. Best way to follow compass headings accurately in a whiteout is to have a companion walk ahead of you and keep prompting them to stay on the correct bearing - a light cord tied between you helps keep things aligned

(3) Leave physical markers on your outbound journey. In snow areas (on glaciers, for example), you can place "wands" (basically those cheap bamboo garden stakes with a reflective or brightly colored ribbon wrapped around the top), or in dense vegetation, tie bright ribbons around head-height branches (remove them and collect the wands on your return journey). Climbers on glaciers are generally roped with about a 30-50 ft interval, so when using wands that you place every rope length, you can stand at one wand and have your buddy go out a rope length. S/he should then find the next wand. If not, you know the distance, so your buddy can sweep side to side until you find the wand.
image.jpg
In this photo, we were using a combination of techniques - we were following a wanded path, roped, and the path had been somewhat packed, though snow was drifting into the path, making it less visible. We had to go about 2 miles through this stuff, finally coming into the clear within sight of the campsite.

I suppose you could use a beeper or a radio homing beacon (the ham radio "foxhunt" type of searching). But that depends on the transmitter's battery lasting long enough.

2:02 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,757 forum posts

I skied out to Dewey Point a couple of years ago and left my skis against a tree while I took some pictures. When I turned around, I had no idea where they were. Took me about 20 minutes to find them. Sounds silly, but it can happen.

I used a candle lantern to mark my campsite when I went for a walk at night. I was alone and no campers at all near me, so having that was important. I didn't go that far, but it was Yosemite, and no moon, so it was really dark. 

If I remember right, there have been climbers lost on Hood in heavy snow and fog who weren't all that far from the trail to the hut, but had no idea where they were.

Here's a recent one where the climber was able to call 911 and was posting on Facebook that he was lost-

http://www.kgw.com/news/Search-on-for-climber-lost-in-whiteout-on-Mt-Hood-181284661.html

2:42 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
12 reviewer rep
843 forum posts

I keep a light on in my tent if I have to go out at night. I always stay in sight of it. haven't had any fog situations, but I imagine my travelling range would be shorter if it were foggy.

4:24 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
52 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Thanks, that is some great info, chaps.

Glow sticks: I had no idea they lasted that long.

GPSR and bearings, it makes sense that way. I was wondering about the accuracy and the direct route in fog risk is a good point.

Remarkable story about the skis - like finding your car in a parking lot!

I sometimes keep a mini LED light on in the tent, and my trekking poles have reflective on them (for roads as well) and I place one pole at a higher/more visible distance from the tent, so I can see it with a headtorch.

I suppose if one intends to stay away from the tent for something like summit bagging then an emergency bivi sack would be essential as well.

I look forward to the day when they invent something small, like a gadget for finding a lost dog, that is some sort of homing beacon. A light with a beep would be ideal for zero visibility/snow storm.

Walking in circles - I wonder why we do that. Do people lost in deserts drive in circles? Or animals?

6:25 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
59 reviewer rep
270 forum posts

Just read about this startup yesterday:

http://www.indiegogo.com/sticknfind

Tiny bluetooth stickers with a radar-style smartphone app. Problem: radius of only about 100 feet. Still potentially very useful in the backcountry, if it works. One on the tent, one on the waterbottle, one on the binoculars, one on my hat...on the other hand, there's all that extra exercise I wouldn't be getting anymore...

I've never lost my tent (knock wood), we spend a lot of time in the fog over here and I usually stealth-solo, so I'm slightly paranoid about that, I take a lot of landmarks and carry reflective blaze tape just in case (I put it up and take it down, been using the same 8" lengths forever). So I always find my tent. Finding my gloves, different story. Maybe if everything I owned wasn't green or grey or brown...

7:00 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,344 reviewer rep
1,230 forum posts

I had to help a guy find his tent after he attempted to summit Mt Adams.  Luckily my son and I kept taking back azimuths on our up-climb so we knew our way back and knew where his tent was.  Wands work well in a white-out too but so can careful compass work. 

7:48 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
MODERATOR
38 reviewer rep
1,757 forum posts

A chemical glow stick is good for maybe 6-8 hours. Hotdogman mentioned his was battery powered. Google glow sticks and all sorts of them pop up.

7:53 p.m. on December 6, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,282 forum posts

Islandess said:

.. Finding my gloves, different story. Maybe if everything I owned wasn't green or grey or brown...

 Almost all my gloves are  black - which makes finding them in my packs difficult (most of my packs are also black).

Pathloser asked:

I look forward to the day when they invent something small, like a gadget for finding a lost dog, that is some sort of homing beacon. A light with a beep would be ideal for zero visibility/snow storm.

There are such beacons for children, Alzheimers sufferers, and other similar situations. Some of these are GPS-bracelets, some are proximity alarms (get more than some set distance away and the alarm sounds), some are beepers to guide you to the location (like an avalanche beacon). I recall seeing something like that at the OR Show a while back that was billed as a "lost tent finder". I don't remember the cost or range. There have been a half dozen or more lost "elderly" parents in the SFBay area over the past several months. Luckily most have been found within a few days, but several have ended tragically. Most recent was the 16-yo whose mental age was said to be 4 or 5 yo, who wandered away from a special home. The caretakers tried to follow her, but lost her in a mall (seems the security guards stopped the caretakers for questioning). The girl ended up being kidnapped, but eventually rescued - again, after tragic abuse from the kidnappers.

Tom said:

If I remember right, there have been climbers lost on Hood in heavy snow and fog who weren't all that far from the trail to the hut, but had no idea where they were.

Apparently fairly common for climbers coming down after dark or in whiteout to turn downhill at the Hogback, not realizing that will take them significantly to the west of Timberline. There are signs posted at the climber checkout station in Wy'East Lodge giving the compass bearing from the Hogback, as well as on the registration sheet you are supposed to carry with you.

When you check out at the climbers' desk at Hood, there is a big sign on the wall listing the gear they "suggest" you take. If you do register and have the recommended gear, there is no fee for rescuing if needed. There is a rescue fee if you don't register or lack the recommended gear. Cell phone and GPS receiver are among the listed items.

The following two photos are from my first visit to Hood in July this year, taken about 20 minutes apart. I slept in the car that night, but had heavy thunder and lightning from 11PM to 1AM (when you usually start the ascent), finding the car was covered in ice. I stuck with an afternoon training hike up to a thousand feet or so above the ski area that day. Just shows how fast the weather can change on mountains like this.
image.jpg

image.jpg

Ya know, if you are traveling on snow climbing a mountain, it's often a good idea to have avalanche gear with you, including an avy beacon. You could always leave a spare beacon in the tent turned on. The batteries last for many hours, even when cold. True, beacons are expensive, but you can sometimes get old, fairly basic ones cheap (especially with the fancy high-tec ones that have been coming out in the past 5 or so years, so that lots of BC skiers are getting the new ones). You do have to get within 100 meters or so to pick up the signals.

5:56 a.m. on December 7, 2012 (EST)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

One tip that helps prevent not finding camp, is to choose a site in close proximity to large, unmistakable terrain features.  It won't help much if you end up on the wrong side of the mountain, but it reduces the chance of walking out of proximity because you missed it by only a few yards.  Reduce frustration and time wasted wandering around near camp by noting a compass vector and pacing off its distance from your benchmark feature, before you depart.  I use these techniques to locate favorite camp sites in Joshua Tree and SW Utah slot canyons on moonless nights.  My companions, who are plenty outdoor savvy, are always amazed how I can guide them through miles of confusing terrain in the dark right to our destinies with pin point accuracy. 

About wands - Sometimes you don't have enough wands to mark the journey completely.  If you prepare ahead of time, procuring several colors of wands, you can place a picket line of wands that runs through camp (or a critical waypoint), perpendicular to the anticipated return route.  Place one color of wands to one side of camp, and the other color on the other side.  For example: if the return route is along an east/west bearing, yellow wands could be placed north of camp, while green wands would be south of camp. 

Another tip is using an altimeter to get an altitude fix on your camp's location.  While weather fluctuations can cause this reading to drift, it still will help put you in the ballpark of your camp. Reliability will be improved if one recalibrates their altimeter whenever happening upon features of known altitude.

There are inexpensive GPS devices (~$25) perfect for homing in on camp;  You take a position reading before leaving camp, then later use the device to get back via an as-the-crow-flies vector, augmented by a straight line distance reading to camp.  Some models allow several locations to be "marked" thusly, allowing one to also note and later locate critical way points.

In any case I prefer not to put my life in the hands of battery powered devices so I always use one of the alternative, non-technology, methods to find my way back. 

Ed

6:10 a.m. on December 7, 2012 (EST)
52 reviewer rep
312 forum posts

Wow, lots of good info to peruse, thanks guys.

Gary, you need a homing beacon for your wandering tent!

By the way, taking an azimuth, is that bearing and slope/height measurements or reading from the stars?

10:45 a.m. on December 7, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,282 forum posts

By the way, taking an azimuth, is that bearing and slope/height measurements or reading from the stars?

 

No, from your compass and/or your map. This assumes you know where you are on the map, of course, which you always should.

1:52 p.m. on December 7, 2012 (EST)
TRAILSPACE STAFF
234 reviewer rep
942 forum posts

Ya know, if you are traveling on snow climbing a mountain, it's often a good idea to have avalanche gear with you, including an avy beacon. You could always leave a spare beacon in the tent turned on.

So what happens if there's an avalanche in the vicinity of your tent? Rescuers may spend precious time locating and/or digging for the beacon in your tent, instead of rescuing human victims. (Possibly including you!)

To prevent false positives in a search, an avalanche beacon really should only be on and in transmit mode when being worn on your body.

(Pieps and Ortovox both make dog avalanche beacons for dogs. They operate on different frequency than normal beacons, so as not to interfere with the search for human victims.)

8:53 p.m. on December 7, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,282 forum posts

I would hope that people would have sense enough to not camp in an avalanche-prone area (notwithstanding the incident last spring in the Himalaya on one of the 8000 meter peaks, where the basecamp(? I forget which camp on the route?) was wiped out, killing and injuring a number of highly experienced climbers.) Still, what a bummer to return to camp and find it was wiped away by an avalanche.

I do have to agree with Dave, though. There are many ways to find your campsite in a whiteout without resorting to beacons.

3:48 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

Bill S said:

I would hope that people would have sense enough to not camp in an avalanche-prone area

Sometimes safe and common sense are relative. 

As you are aware, Bill, several camps on the route up K2 are exposed to slides, there just isn't much safe refuge on that mountain.  But these climbers are aware of this risk going in. 

Back in the 1980s we attempted to ascend Denali via the West Rib route.  We established our third camp in the advised location up the NE Fork Kahiltna Glacier, below the West Rib (Access) Couloir.  This was to serve as our operational base camp.  We had the unusual occurance to share this camp with two other small groups.  It took several days to shuttle our gear there.  On the third day seracs broke lose from the rdge up high on the saddle south of camp that connects Kahiltna Peak to the Cassin Ridge.  That in turn triggerd a larger slide, sending all campers scurrying like cockroaches caught in the light.  I wasn't sure which I feared more, falling into a crevasse as we left the safety zone marked out around camp, or being overrun by the slide.  The ice made it all the way down to the glacier, but stopped considerably short of camp.  No one got hurt; nevertheless the wind blast shot accross the canyon floor, found our camp and wreaked it, ending our trip even before we actually set foot on the mountain.  (Several top brand name tents of various geometries were trashed; I am here to claim no tent is totally wind proof.)  In fact there really isn't any "safe" harbor on the NE fork, given the canyon's extreme narrowness and precipitous walls along its entire length.  But if you wish to do that route, such risk is the price of admission.

The hubris of youth...

Ed

4:55 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

GaryPalmer said:

I once took a dayhike after setting up camp in the high Sierra in the winter of 1980 above Yosemite Valley... ..When I returned later... ..I saw it upside down on the other side of the meadow about a half mile away. It had blown over there during the hours I was gone!...

Friends on a winter camp had a tent with three grown men inside get blown away in a nighttime blizzard near Lake Virginia in the Sierras.  One facilitated their escape using a pocket knife.  The tent was anchored but was still sent tumbling.  Scares me just hearing them tell the story.  The end result was some bruising, a lot of lost gear, and they had to abort the trip, taking two days to reach the nearest road head.  Sounds real fun;(  Almost joined them; glad I didn’t.

Ed

8:45 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

Yea the glow sticks im talking about are from wallyworld. They cost about 3.50, they have a flashlight on one end and the rest is glow stick. They advertise 200 hrs, I tested one and got 213 hrs before it died. They work on small leds. I have every color, when I have my kids in the woods at night they each have their own color and keep them hanging around their necks. They are made by life gear. Ive tried other companies glow sticks and these work the best for me.

8:53 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
606 forum posts

I also use reflective material for my guy lines. Nite eyes makes a good bright line for that. My sierra design tent has schotchlite or some other reflective material as well. Not to mention the bright orange color. I like the stealthy green tents im seeing everywhere, but that might be part of the problem. They are much harder to find in the dark green woods compared to a contrasting color.

10:58 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
1,631 reviewer rep
3,962 forum posts

hotdogman said:

I like the stealthy green tents im seeing everywhere, but that might be part of the problem. They are much harder to find in the dark green woods compared to a contrasting color.

My Hille soulo has the reflective material that you reference(or at least similar.) The amount is somewhat minimal imo though.

Feb-2012-LHHT-003.jpg

Something to consider is purchasing 50ft-100ft or so of the reflective guyline available at many retailers and then cut it into 6"(or longer) sections.

Then take these sections and tie them to various points on one's shelter(guyline attach points/guylines themselves.)

This will increase the amount of reflective material w/o actually having to do anything major to the shelter itself(keep in mind alterations can void warranties.)

The line itself is quite "bright" when hit with a headlamp as seen in the photo below:

034.jpg

11:19 a.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
2,329 reviewer rep
5,282 forum posts

Ed, There is a reason why the NE Kahiltna is called "The Valley of Death". Parties have disappeared in there.

12:43 p.m. on December 8, 2012 (EST)
21 reviewer rep
1,128 forum posts

One of the best uses for a GPS is to find camp.  A compass will do it, especially with 2 bearings from known spots.

Hunting frequently requires coming in after dark.  Study the topograpy when you leave, so you know what it looks like coming back.

If you don't have to be out after dark, don't do it.  Camp somehwere that is visible from a distance.  Don't hide your camp.  Carry somethinig to signal with in case all else fails.  If people are back in camp have them keep a fire going when they know you will be looking for camp.  A lantern inside a tent is a like a beacon.

Use common sense.  If you are in a place with fog or horizontal snow, do not stay out after dark.

 

 

 

10:52 a.m. on December 11, 2012 (EST)
TOP 10 REVIEWER REVIEW CORPS
3,344 reviewer rep
1,230 forum posts

Ed said:

Almost joined them; glad I didn’t.

If you had, the extra weight might have kept the tent from blowing away.

6:09 a.m. on December 12, 2012 (EST)
102 reviewer rep
2,285 forum posts

I would have dug a cave before the wind got to that point...  I just don't like the idea of six people cramming into a thre man tent.  (There were five on the trip.)

Ed

9:55 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
0 reviewer rep
153 forum posts

If I am going somewhere with no trails I try to always give myself 3 ways to find camp. I put it near some obvious landmark, mark it visually and mark it on the gps. My favorite landmark is a stream not only for water but if I miss camp in the fog can follow the stream to get there. When returning to camp it is also easier to aim to the right or left of camp so when you get to the stream you know which way to turn to find camp raher than aiming right for it. As for marking camp in treeless areas I will take hiking pole pushed into the ground on a high spot near camp and attach a bike taillight and leave it flashing. My experience is on a dark night in open country like tundra is that it is easily visible for a couple of miles. They are only visible for 180 degrees but I usually know which way I will be coming from. On extended trips with a group I commonly will carry a spare hiking pole since hiking poles often get broken on our trip. For the spare we use a carbon z pole since it weighs nothing. If we aren't using it as a spare than it works great for mounting the bike light to.

August 27, 2014
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

 
More Topics
This forum: Older: iphones and extreme cold Newer: 59th National Park
All forums: Older: Background images.... Newer: Do it yourself idiot leashes - looking for ideas