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Hikers and cotton in winter...again....helo rescue on the way

1:11 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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 This seems to happen every year...

amazing that just a little preparation can keep you alive.

http://www.knoxnews.com/news/2014/jan/03/national-park-rangers-find-trio-of-missing-sc/

 

2:04 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Man OH man....the news has been on about storms..........what do people think they are doing without preparations!

2:23 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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They may have thought that thick blue jeans and other cotton clothing was suitable.

People who don't know about cotton don't realize that it is a killer.

Sadly every outdoor store sells a lot of fashion cotton clothing along with their technical clothing. shoppers, who are not experienced, really have no clue when the salespeople are typically "Bevis" and "Butthead" and generally not outdoor experts.

2:27 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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True DAT. But when we have had reports for at least a WEEK for this incoming storm, you still have to bring supplies...even if the wrong ones. It appears these guys just walked off into the woods without even a kit of the wrong stuff.

3:02 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Yeah, articles like this make me think about all the advice given to new backpackers at places like Trailspace and how important it is to go over basic stuff.

Insulting someone’s intelligence is not much of a risk compared to making sure they know what they are getting into with a multi-day backpacking trip.

 It’s wild to think this group was planning a 10 day trip in winter and didn’t even pack any kind of tent or shelter. There is no way they had any experience and yet take off on a 10 day trip; that’s a little hard to wrap your mind around.

3:35 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Cheers to the rescue crews...and glad to learn that the men made it home alive! On the positive-side...hubris is often the best teacher (for me at least). It wasn't clear from the article whether the men had ANY form of shelter...as the article only talks about the absence of a tent (I'll chalk this up to the author knowing very little about outdoor recreation)...does anyone know if the men failed to bring bivies or a tarp (I'm assuming not since these gear choices are not common-place and media romanticizes the self-reliance of "cowboy" camping).

As far as outdoor stores selling cotton clothing I would argue that selling cotton clothing is hardly their greatest sin. While I would never wear anything but a cotton bandana in the spring+fall+winter...I typically wear a thin or "threadbare" cotton button-up t-shirt during the summer for hiking in high temps...because I find the long evaporative qualities of cotton and the superior ventilation of buttons keep be from over-heating too easily (a danger I believe experienced outdoor enthusiast too often fail to "talk" about to new backpackers...I've personally never seen a case of hypothermia but have seen several cases of heat related illness...not saying hypothermia is not a danger...just that heat related illnesses are more common). To be sure...I do also bring a poly-tee to ensure a dry layer in camp (mostly just to sleep in)...so synthetics are always in my pack...but I do believe cotton has its place in our gear-chest...and can be a perfectly logical choice at times...hence why I could see selling them in an outdoor store.

4:11 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Joseph,

True enough it didn’t say they had no shelter and I don’t know for sure. I was assuming such based on preponderance of evidence reported  (improper clothing, lack of tent, hypothermic state when found, etc…).

These type stories are also far too common around this area and make News quite often. I don’t know the official stats but there has been at least one rescue from hypothermia in this area every season that I’ve noticed such things (at least the last five years…); the reports catch my attention because I have often either planned a trip close to where the incident occurred or just got back from a trip close to where the incident occurred.

 Last year a fellow died from hypothermia at the Tri-Corner knob shelter on the AT. The year before that a fellow died from the same at Icewater Springs I believe.

I imagine a lot of National Parks deal with the same thing; because after all it’s just a park with maintained trails right? The word park seems to have connotations of safety for many.

4:41 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Pat,

I wasn't suggesting that hypothermia is not real and doesn't kill people...it most certainly is and most certainly does (I'm also not suggesting that you suggested I was saying this...I just want to be crystal clear on the matter). Exposure is the leading cause of death in the outdoors (at least as it is determined using the criteria set-forth by the WHO). What my comment was intended to communicate...was that a significant part of exposure related deaths (most certainly illnesses) are due to overheating (mostly because inexperienced folks tend to go "camping" and "backpacking" in the warmer months as opposed to colder months)...and that as a group I do not believe outdoor enthusiasts adequately address the dangers of heat as they do cold (probably because cold is a more serious adversary for the more experienced)...and that given the frequency with which folks suffer from severe cases of heat-related illnesses...I believe this needs to be remedied...as nearly every outdoor forum speaks repeatedly and lengthily (I didn't know that was a word until the spell-check let it fly) about the dangers of cold...on the other-hand...heat-related illnesses (when they are addressed) are boiled down to drink plenty of water...wear sun-block...bring sunglasses...all of which most folks who end up suffering from heat-related illnesses typically do. In regards to heat-related illnesses there is very little discussion about what to do when suffering from a heat-related illness or injury...what warning signs to look for to prevent them from happening...and what are the conditions in which they are most likely to happen...all three of which are addressed thoroughly in regards to hypothermia.

5:11 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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yeah I gotcha...sounds right to me

5:43 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Well, had they had a shelter of some sort like a bivy, I would think they would be less wet? Or they could have even huddled and lit a match with the bivy over themselves and created a tiny bit more heat (saw a survivalist do this when fighting to not get hypothermic.)

I agree we see so much heat related illness from hikers here in Vegas. Often dehydrated, hung over tourists underestimate the heat and go for a hike at red rock. I have given my water away numerous times because I know my limits. they fail to realize they are even sweating because it evaporates sooo fast.

5:56 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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But if they were wearing blue jeans and walking in snow the jeans would be soaked and would literally freeze. Just as bad, cotton thermal underwear under jeans would double he absorbency and double the freezing quality.

Anyone look at my thread about my visit to the First Ascent section of the Eddie Bauer store? Seriously wanted to bash my head against the wall after that 10 minute fiasco. Nobody in that store had a clue. I know the local Dick's Sporting Goods is just as bad.

So beginning hikers/backpackers are at the mercy of these stores, which are staffed by, dare I say, idiots and fools who may know fashion but don't necessarily have a clue about the wilderness.

6:06 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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So one of my favorite cave rescue stories is about a college couple who got lost and cold in a cave. In an effort to stay warm, the guy burned his cotton t-shirt.

Seriously...there's no wood in a cave. Exactly how long did he expect his t-shirt to give off heat?

Of course, they say it's better to be naked than to wear wet cotton. So maybe this was a good move for him.

7:33 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Gift...I'm guessing that the men didn't have any other form of shelter either...otherwise it would seem like the men might have not been in need of emergency-rescue (assuming they had a change of dry clothes in their pack...or even a dry blanket/quilt/sleeping bag...which I admit might be assuming way too much). I only asked because the article reports that the men had no tent...as though a tent is some kind of necessity in those conditions...when a tent is only one of many suitable options.

Gift...I think the heat is a much greater danger than the cold for the inexperienced (for reasons I stated above)...and I live in a region that is tree covered...though heat-related illnesses are nearly as common as mosquitoes here in the summer...I can only imagine what things must be like in a region where one has no natural cover from the sun to seek out when things turn for the worse...its my guess than illnesses turn into deaths very quickly!

Goose...I'm not sure what to think of your story: 1) I imagine a wet shirt doesn't ignite or burn well...so I assume his shirt was dry 2) a dry shirt seems like a better option than no shirt (lol).

Melen...I saw the thread on the First Ascent line...but I didn't really have much to say on the matter. That is...I think it is asking a whole lot of a store to find knowledgeable sales-persons who will work for next to nothing...which is what a lot of folks in retail make (most knowledgeable folks have better options). It is my guess that for knowledgeable sales-people one would be required to go to a high-end gear store where the employees are better paid and experienced...or a small store-front operation where the employees are knowledgeable and experienced but number in the single digits. Of course...one would think that any employee who had been there any length of time could have directed you to the product you asked for:-(

9:37 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

... I would never wear anything but a cotton bandana in the spring+fall+winter...

 Really? I know people in the Polar Bear Club chop holes in the ice and plunge in. But at least they wear a swim suit [8=>O

(sorry, couldn't help noticing the phrase set off by ellipsis - you are much more macho than I am)

9:51 p.m. on January 3, 2014 (EST)
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Ha!...that's a funny thought when read from that perspective Bill:-)

As far as the ellipses...they're a hangover from when I paid per text and used them to connect multiple unrelated topics in an attempt to save money...somehow the ellipse became a kind of conversational neo-comma for me and so I stuck with it. Of course now I need to find a substitute for the ellipse:-)

4:29 a.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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Nowadays there is little excuse for being unprepared. Weather reports and forecasts are readily available online. Websites like this one offer gear lists for all situations. Nonetheless people go out in storms without proper gear and clothes every year. FYI, in very low temperatures, cotton outerwear works really well. You can read about using cotton anoraks and such on wintertrekking.com, a winter camping site. Note, I said outerwear and very low temps, meaning below freezing. I don't wear cotton anything winter camping in the Sierra. I would take jeans and t shirts if staying at a cabin or lodge, but that is a whole different situation. I would put a whole winter kit with a bag, stove, food, etc. in the car if traveling in winter through snowy areas.

5:47 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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I looked up a bunch of reports on this one, and I am amazed at the whole thing. 

Concerning shelter, in the long video interview I found, they made it clear they didn't have any. When they stopped and huddled down, they used their sleeping bags draped over a branch as a shelter. Yep, you heard that right, they didn't get in their bags, they hung them out as makeshift tarps....and then proceeded to burn their jackets and clothing rather than putting them on. 

So, the summary is: 
Head out in for a ten days, in January, in the Smokies, wearing cotton, only expecting daytime temps of 40-50F, with no shelter of any kind, carrying mostly canned food, and only a plumbers torch for heat and cooking. 

And the upshot? They said they planned it for months, and were "Prepared for the forecast weather"

I shan't share my thoughts further, as I don't want to be mean. 

5:55 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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Gonzan...can you share some links...not a trust thing...just interested in reading about it:-)

6:11 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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 I just google the names of the guys in the link Patman posted, getting these results in the link below. I didn't read all of the countless reports, but read and watched a bunch of them, maybe eight or ten. 
https://www.google.com/search?q=Steven+White%2C+28%2C+and+Jonathan+Dobbins&oq=Steven+White%2C+28%2C+and+Jonathan+Dobbins&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i61.918j0j4&sourceid=chrome&espv=210&es_sm=122&ie=UTF-8#es_sm=122&espv=210&q=Steven+White%2C+Jonathan+Dobbins

6:19 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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Thanks Gonzan!...that was a fast reply:-)

6:29 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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One of the stories said they had checked the weather forecast just before heading out to the trail and they were prepared for rain, but not for snow.

I'd be curious to see the weather forecast from the day, and then again from the hour, before they left on their ill fated hike.

Something tells me these guys were not 'honors' students in common sense at their school.

6:39 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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gonzan said:

So, the summary is: 
Head out in for a ten days, in January, in the Smokies, wearing cotton, only expecting daytime temps of 40-50F, with no shelter of any kind, carrying mostly canned food, and only a plumbers torch for heat and cooking. 

And the upshot? They said they planned it for months, and were "Prepared for the forecast weather"

I shan't share my thoughts further, as I don't want to be mean. 

 

Far too often, people who survive these "adventures" are described as heroes just because they survived some debacle of their own making, usually saved by the extraordinary efforts of strangers; no, they are not heroes, they are morons. They claim they checked the weather, but didn't have rain gear, a stove or a tent and the forecast was for rain. One said they would be  prepared next time; why not this time? Why not turn back when the going got tough?

A few years ago, a Meet Up group in Seattle wound up in similar circumstances due to the inexperience of the group and the stupidity of the leader, who did not check the weather before leading them into the worst storm to hit the PNW in years. A massive SAR effort including helos, snowmachines, ambulances, dozens of SAR pros and volunteers saved them.

They were within a day of two of all dying from exposure - they had lost most of their shelters, had wet sleeping bags, wet clothes (including jeans and cotton hoodies) ran out of food, had no snowshoes or skis and no PLB, Spot or other rescue gadget. Yet, after all that.  some of them posted on a PNW website that it was no big deal and a great adventure. They had learned nothing and took no responsibility for the danger in which they had put themselves and their rescuers.

People get killed on SAR missions. I know they are volunteers or choose it as a career, but still, needlessly endangering others because of stupidity doesn't sit well with me.

FYI, I know people take risks; I've taken them myself and done things that if anything had gone wrong, I would have been killed. But, going out completely unprepared is stupid, plain and simple.

Two  of my favorite quotes-

"Adventure is just bad planning." — Roald Amundsen (1872—1928). Led the first expedition to the South Pole.

"Having an adventure shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone wrong. An adventure is interesting enough — in retrospect. Especially to the person who didn't have it." — Vilhjalmur Stefansson, My Life with the Esquimo.

 

7:02 p.m. on January 4, 2014 (EST)
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where these guys on drugs? sounds like something one would do while acid tripping.

8:04 a.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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gonzan said:

I looked up a bunch of reports on this one, and I am amazed at the whole thing. 

Concerning shelter, in the long video interview I found, they made it clear they didn't have any. When they stopped and huddled down, they used their sleeping bags draped over a branch as a shelter. Yep, you heard that right, they didn't get in their bags, they hung them out as makeshift tarps....and then proceeded to burn their jackets and clothing rather than putting them on. 

 

 Thanks so much for this, it really made my morning!  I laughed so hard at the part about them burning their clothes for heat that my eyes filled with tears and I had to refill my coffee cup before I could read the rest of your post. I can only imagine that this trip started with each of them carrying a case of beer 8p

8:26 a.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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Yeah when i read that, i was like. WTF!?!? lol

9:40 a.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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http://www.citizen-times.com/article/20140104/NEWS01/301040024/Rangers-rescue-stranded-hikers-Smokies?nclick_check=1

Anyone notice they were using a non-detailed park map.

How can you be planning a trip for months and not have bought a topo map? When I take family vacations to any National Park--with no plans for being in the backcountry--I still buy a topo map and carry it in my daypack at all times.

1:50 p.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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I haven't come across any interviews with the men...everything has been second-hand...does anyone know of an interview transcript/video/audio where we are privy to the answers of the men directly? It has nothing to do with trust...but there is a lot that can be learned from reviewing their responses directly.

2:47 p.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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I watched the video that GOOSE linked. I could list a dozen items in what the 2 in the video said that were wrong decisions. The first and most obvious is when the one is describing the start of the rain and turning to snow, when he says to speed up and get to the shelter. Hey, guys, one of the very first rules is "180 degree turn". Neither of them said anything about rain gear. Neither of them seemed to know how far they had gone vs how far to the hut. Neither seemed to think about "if it is like this and getting worse now, do we really want to continue for another 9 days" (they weren't very far from the trailhead, apparently when it started changing from rain to snow). Wasn't what the one guy said a BIG CLUE when he said they were walking in snow over their ankles and later said sinking into snow 8 inches deep? Hey, guys, that means TURN AROUND RIGHT NOW!!!!!

Propane torch??? Hunh???

A basic rule, repeated many times here on Trailspace and in every basic training course I have taught or been associated with is that it is extremely rare that a disaster happens because of a single event. Disasters happen because of a chain of events and wrong decisions. Break the chain early enough and you avoid the disaster. In most cases, you can break the chain pretty far along the way and still avoid the disaster. Learn to recognize mistakes early. Plan for the reasonably unexpected, like rain in the Smokies and potential snow in the mountains anytime from November through March (Barb and I one time got snow on Cape Cod in late April)

I had to laugh at the guy who said "Next time we will be prepared for anything, including meteor showers!" Yeah, right. And dinosaur attacks as well.

5:54 p.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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After watching the interview I realized how devoid of compassion you guys are! Here are three poor souls with nothing but the return trail under their feet, a grueling march downhill of five miles, and enough snow to cover the tops of their shoes... and, of course, cell-phones to call for help. And you insensitive louts berate them!

What would have happened if they had turned back? Well, I suppose the activity would have kept them warmer than sitting in front of a smoker for ten hours. It would probably have taken them several hours to make the return journey. The ranger who answered their call seemed to have been a bit incredulous...he told them that he couldn't find anyone to go out and get them in the snow (Hint:"Hey, guys, if you aren't broken and can walk, do it!").

What was a real cause for SCOK (Spraying Coffee on Keyboard) was the fellow describing the trail going uphill. He seemed shocked that the AT would go up mountains, or even that mountains had an UP.

But go easy on cotton, guys. I used a cotton anorak for years - or a 65/35 mountain parka, also cotton pants (made with the fabric of Nimes), and a cotton shirt. I spent many winters in such gear, often far from the comforts of electricity. Keep cotton dry and it will keep you dry. In fact, before snowmobiles and snowmobile wear, most of Canada's farmers and outdoor workers probably wore denim or canvas pants year-round. 

9:18 p.m. on January 5, 2014 (EST)
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Some how I missed the fact that the article had a video attached to it (I'll blame that on being text as to video oriented). Thanks for mentioning it Bill...that was exactly what I was looking for:-)

11:48 a.m. on January 6, 2014 (EST)
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What I wonder is how you could be in the woods with a propane torch and the only thing you can find to burn are your clothes?  There surely must have been wood or twigs around and while they might have been wet and difficult to light, the torch would seem like the solution to that problem.

9:27 p.m. on January 6, 2014 (EST)
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these guys are idiots, plain and simple. I watched the video, these guys are morons.

3:26 p.m. on January 7, 2014 (EST)
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Now, don't misunderstand me, I believe these men were idiots. The burning of their clothes instead of putting them on, I mean, I can't even comprehend that. But my very first overnight backpacking trip was a bit similar to these morons.

I almost made some of the same mistakes these guys made, and if it wasn't for my friend, I would of been in a world of hurt

The #1 mistake these guys made was not in their gear (which was admittingly terrible), it was overestimating their physical ability. They assumed they would be able to make the 10 miles to the shelter no problem. Then, when it got night and snowing, they were no where near where they wanted/needed to be.

I did the same thing my first trip. I was in the same place as these guys, but I was going from cades cove up russell field then on the AT to spence field shelter in late Jan. No tent, no tarp, as I was staying in the shelter for the night. About 6 hours in, we were no where near the shelter and already dead tired from way to heavy of packs and not nearly enough conditioning. Very long story short, we stopped at the russell field shelter instead of the spence field one. There were several moments of thinking of laying down in the 3 inches of snow and calling it a night. If we had been doing 10 miles instead of the 6 or so we did, we would of been stuck out there with no shelter. It got down to 34 that night and rained very heavy. I had blue jeans and not a single thing that wasn't cotton. The last mile at least was walk 10 feet, stop and rest, walk 10 more feet. I loved every second of it. It got me hooked. But I know that had God not provided a literal shelter along the path for us, I could have easily died from exposure. When I got home, i knew I would never do a trip like that without being more prepared both mentally and physically. Trailspace really has been a perfect place for me to learn.

These men are idiots, but so was I in my youth. Oh wait, they aren't young. They are just dumb. 

4:27 p.m. on January 7, 2014 (EST)
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melensdad said:

 

Anyone look at my thread about my visit to the First Ascent section of the Eddie Bauer store? Seriously wanted to bash my head against the wall after that 10 minute fiasco. Nobody in that store had a clue. I know the local Dick's Sporting Goods is just as bad.

So beginning hikers/backpackers are at the mercy of these stores, which are staffed by, dare I say, idiots and fools who may know fashion but don't necessarily have a clue about the wilderness.

 Let's look at your statement here. The lack of knowledge of retail sales persons. (my paraphrase, and I agree with you).  We have to know by the time we are grown ups living in this day and age that retail cookie cutter stores of all kinds employ minimum wage sales people and don't train them. So to think walking into EB or Dicks or REI means we will be met with good folks to help us beyond taking our money, is really absurd. And these people are some of the most absurd amongst us. Common sense was NOWHERE in sight. I am gobstopped at their complete lack of knowing ONE thing to do right. I shudder to wonder what they are like in any of the other avenues of their lives.

So my point is, if they relied on anyone in a sporting good store for info, and the info they got lead them to the choices they made, they were dumb to think these workers were a good source of info. And if they had any common sense and heard any advice that would lead to the things they chose to do...they would not have done them. So I cannot believe they sought any advice from anyone. Even my Barista could help me more than the things these people chose...IN A GROUP to do. 

3:43 a.m. on January 8, 2014 (EST)
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Tom D said:

Nowadays there is little excuse for being unprepared.  Weather reports and forecasts are readily available...

I get bad reception under the rock where I live, perhaps they do too, and don't get out much... 

Thank God Los Angeles isn't where Bishop is; imagine the stories resulting if the Sierra were only a short drive for a semi intelligent metropolis.

Ed

8:01 p.m. on January 8, 2014 (EST)
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giftogab said:

So my point is, if they relied on anyone in a sporting good store for info, and the info they got lead them to the choices they made, they were dumb to think these workers were a good source of info.

 I posted a thread a while back at some of my more frustrating REI moments.

I had the good fortune that the guy who first took me backpacking made me read The Backpacker's Field Manual before he would agree to take me into the backcountry. While it's a little outdated (recommending pack weight be no more than 45-50lbs), it still provided me insight into preparing for nature.


The #1 cause of death in Yellowstone National Park is tourists being swept over the tops of waterfalls. In our bubble-wrap society people just don't understand that nature WILL kill you if given the chance.

10:12 p.m. on January 11, 2014 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Tom D said:

Nowadays there is little excuse for being unprepared.  Weather reports and forecasts are readily available...

I get bad reception under the rock where I live, perhaps they do too, and don't get out much... 

Thank God Los Angeles isn't where Bishop is; imagine the stories resulting if the Sierra were only a short drive for a semi intelligent metropolis.

Ed

 Between tv, radio and the Internet, I doubt lack of opportunity to get a forecast is the reason they ignored the weather. That MeetUp group I mentioned was from Seattle, not exactly the boonies.

LA isn't far enough away from places like Yosemite to keep people out of trouble, like being swept over waterfalls. In fact, there are a few helicopter rescues in Griffith Park, our big park in the Hollywood Hills, every year. Some are lost hikers, some are hikers who have fallen down steep hillsides or gone down a hill off trail.

I made the mistake a few years ago of not having a fully equipped day pack with me on a day hike at Idyllwild in the local mountains east of here. Didn't have a light with me and we got caught out getting back to the car as the sun was setting. Won't do that again.

2:22 a.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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Tom D said:

Between tv, radio and the Internet, I doubt lack of opportunity to get a forecast is the reason they ignored the weather. That MeetUp group I mentioned was from Seattle, not exactly the boonies.

LA isn't far enough away from places like Yosemite to keep people out of trouble, like being swept over waterfalls. In fact, there are a few helicopter rescues in Griffith Park, our big park in the Hollywood Hills, every year. Some are lost hikers, some are hikers who have fallen down steep hillsides or gone down a hill off trail.

I made the mistake a few years ago of not having a fully equipped day pack with me on a day hike at Idyllwild in the local mountains east of here. Didn't have a light with me and we got caught out getting back to the car as the sun was setting. Won't do that again.

The bit about bad reception was ironic humor.

While plenty of folks get in trouble in the Sierra, The number would be far greater if it elbowed up to a truly proximal metropolis   That is why, in part, so many flounder on Mt Washington, because it requires little time commitment to visit for an afternoon, an incentive to the impulsive and like minded folks who are more likely to not make adequate preparations.

And of course folks can get in trouble in our local LA mountains.  Wandering around in the dark is a favorite mistake those biting off more than they can cover in day light commit, to transform a mistake into a chain of errors that lead to serious consequences.    But the local mountains have relatively benign weather most of the time, whereas Mt Washington has a rather temperamental disposition.  There are other distinctions that why we have fewer SAR incidents per square mile for most of California's mountains, compared to the compact space surrounding Mt. Washington.

3:19 p.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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Ironic humor? I figured as much. :)

I agree about Mt. Washington. I've never been there, but belong to Views from the Top, a NE website (a good source for winter camping tips). Seems all year round, hikers are getting lost or falling down steep trails. Not that many fatalities, but lots of rescues. Lots of good comments from the regulars about what lead to the rescues, some of whom do SAR or may have even seen the missing hikers at some point. The weather there is a big factor in most of these rescues, as you said. It seems to be far less stable than out our way.

Occasionally I see posts where an experienced hiker has tried to give advice, such as "you may want to consider turning around because it's too late in the day to summit", to someone who is obviously unprepared, yet they usually get rebuffed. Too often, those are the people who rely on their cel phone for rescue rather than advance planning to avoid it in the first place.

7:24 p.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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Hiking around a metropolitan area is more dangerouse...IMHO because people think it is NOT the wilderness. They don't prepare as if they were trying something new out in the rurals/wilds. They are either lacking common sn=ense or just don't get it but I think it is true. The people who are the subject of this OP, they are simply idiotic to have done what they did in so many ways. Do I wish them the harm that befell them? I do not. Do I hope they recover fully? Of course I do. But I have no sympathy for the fact they got where they got and how they got there.

7:38 p.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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I just can't help but think they will probably need rescuing again in the future when their over-weighted packs stuffed full of stuff in preparation for ANYTHING will lead to a serious injury or exhaustion:-(

11:32 p.m. on January 12, 2014 (EST)
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jrenow said:

I just can't help but think they will probably need rescuing again in the future when their over-weighted packs stuffed full of stuff in preparation for ANYTHING will lead to a serious injury or exhaustion:-(

 By coincidence, that topic is a current thread on VFTT with pros and cons of fast and light v. prepared for anything. As with many choices, the answer is "it depends."

9:09 a.m. on January 13, 2014 (EST)
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I now feel embarrassed, ass-holish and find it necessary to apologize for posting this link and setting the tone for a public internet lambast.  I really did not post this to publicly lampoon, ridicule, or belittle these fellows, though no doubt I’m guilty of some level of both schadenfreude and superciliousness . My initial thought in sharing the link was that this event was a good reminder of the need for proper backcountry preparation and germane to the overall website of Trailspace.  

I was particularly humbled and shamed by jptrains post. I too made many stupid decisions as a younger man and put myself in a bad situation more than once because of unpreparedness; luckily my personal idiocy did not result in the need for rescue….but it could have. In fact, some of my events were so stupid and egregious that I’m still too embarrassed to list them publicly.

Going forward, I don’t think I’ll post such links again; these examples are easy to find if anyone needs to reference one to make a point.

So to Shawn, Steven, and Jonathon, please accept my apologies for spreading the news of your mis-adventure. And to the Trailspace forum goers please accept my apologies for propagating any negativity and being a public “stone-thrower’.

11:13 a.m. on January 13, 2014 (EST)
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Patman said:

I now feel embarrassed, ass-holish and find it necessary to apologize for posting this link and setting the tone for a public internet lambast.  I really did not post this to publicly lampoon, ridicule, or belittle these fellows, though no doubt I’m guilty of some level of both schadenfreude and superciliousness . My initial thought in sharing the link was that this event was a good reminder of the need for proper backcountry preparation and germane to the overall website of Trailspace.  

I was particularly humbled and shamed by jptrains post. I too made many stupid decisions as a younger man and put myself in a bad situation more than once because of unpreparedness; luckily my personal idiocy did not result in the need for rescue….but it could have. In fact, some of my events were so stupid and egregious that I’m still too embarrassed to list them publicly.

Going forward, I don’t think I’ll post such links again; these examples are easy to find if anyone needs to reference one to make a point.

So to Shawn, Steven, and Jonathon, please accept my apologies for spreading the news of your mis-adventure. And to the Trailspace forum goers please accept my apologies for propagating any negativity and being a public “stone-thrower’.

 Patman...I don't think that It is wrong to post. I also hope they never find themselves in a similar situation. I would venture they may be lovely people on all other accounts. But the stark void of anything at all to justify being out there like they were is what struck me. Not that they simply lacked a few things and had a series of events that led to this. I used to watch a show avidly called I SHOULDN'T BE ALIVE about folks who were out on wilderness adventures and encountered a near death event along the way. Thus the title. All too often it was a case of they never told anyone where they were going. They didn't take anything in case they were there over night despite being out for a day hike. That sort of thing. I taught me just how bad things can get fast...even for the experienced. I hike in red Rock where there are a lot of people. I take everything I need to be out over night. Some of my friends chuckle at me. But we lost a guy here who fell from one of the most popular peaks in Red Rock and he wasn't found for 3 months. So if I were to get hurt and maybe not be able to call out, I would at least want to do what I could for myself. Stories like the one you posted are actually a reminder that we are all human and fallible and can act like idiots ourselves. I remember a guy a couple years back who was inspired by the story of the Utah man who had to cut his own arm off to get safe. That inspiration led the 60+ year old to go hike in the same area. IF you recall, Aaron of the original story didn't tell anyone where he was going which led to some of the trouble he had in nobody looking for him. This "inspired" guy, despite knowing the story and being driven to hike by it, did not tell anyone either and broke an ankle and had to drag himself 4miles to his car for help. We often get in our own way and don't even know it.

11:33 a.m. on January 13, 2014 (EST)
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I guess you'll have to deal with your own reasons for posting and how you feel about it Patman, but I think these stories are best shared.  I know I have learned from some I've read and not had to make the same stupid mistakes. 

The VFtT stories have made it abundantly clear to me that I am neither equipped nor skilled to go up into the Whites this time of year as one example.  They aren't the Himalayas but they might as well be if you go up there unprepared.

I also know one of the reasons I try to be extra careful on the trail is so I don't end up in one of these stories so they are inspirational in their own way too 8p

5:50 p.m. on January 13, 2014 (EST)
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Patman, I see nothing wrong with posting these kinds of misadventures and as a long-time member, you should have expected the kind of responses you seem to now regret. That said, I also see nothing wrong with calling these guys morons or pointing out their mistakes.

As I have probably mentioned here before, but will do so anyway for those who are new, I had a friend, along with two other people, killed in a helo crash while looking for a hiker lost off of a well-traveled trail. Apparently his hiking partner abandoned him and walked out on his own, which started the search. The lost hiker was never found. One way to look at it is that the hikers' mistakes started a chain of events that caused four deaths.

I would bet we all have done some stupid things that endangered us, whether we knew it or not. I know I have, but my point is that in this case, even a minimum of planning or reading about earlier incidents might have encouraged these guys to be better prepared or wait for better weather. LoneStranger's observation helps  prove my point-he read accounts of what could go wrong on Mt.Washington, evaluated his skill level and gear and said "not for me, at least in winter."

My winter camping is limited to a few trips to Yosemite, including one where I got sick and the weather was bad, and one trip up above Palm Springs in ideal weather. On the PS trip, I had my map and compass, GPS and plenty of clothes, food and fuel so that if I had gotten lost, it would have been no big deal while I sorted out where I was. As it was, I got off the trail on the way back and it took me a bit of time to figure out where I was. However, because I had the tools with me to figure out where I was, other than expending some extra energy, not much of an adventure.

It is really easy to get lost in winter - snow covers up your footprints, the trees all look alike and daylight may be minimal. Once it starts snowing, it's even worse, so taking some extra precautions is only common sense, which as the saying goes, isn't all that common.

10:56 p.m. on January 13, 2014 (EST)
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I would add...that while media reports such as the one you posted can over-represent the number of folks that are going out on unprepared outdoor adventures (much like it does crime...well probably not as much as it does crime)...I think it is critical to have some account. That is...before your post I would have assumed that such a case was make-believe...the straw-men fodder of those who want and/or like to tell others how to do things outdoors "safely"...but now I know (that while probably very rare)...there are at least a few people who go out into freezing weather with forecast of rain and snow...who bring little more than a sleeping-bag and a propane torch with them. I am not being judgmental when I say this...but I would have never in a bazillion years imagined someone bringing a propane torch on a backpacking trip...and so I very much learned from your post (see you did some good too!).

9:44 a.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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Joseph...I would assert that crime is NOT over reported. There is sooo much crime that you hear of very little of it really. Not to hi-jack the thread, Patman.

Think about it. For instance, in a city the size of Las Vegas you have over 2,700 Metro police officers to cover Clark County. You have state troopers, Henderson Police, North Las Vegas Police, UNLV police...all in the greater Las Vegas area. In a half hour newscast at 5 you hear about three or four higher profile crimes. You do NOT hear of all the murders that happen in a day or violent crimes such as rape, battery, armed robbery. You just don't hear of them all every day. With 14 Justice courts with full calendars every morning sifting through all of the cases there is a LOT of crime. Those cases end up sifting up to District Courts and only about 1% ever go to trial and that still keeps at least 15 criminal district court trial calendars full.

9:50 a.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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Much like bear attacks and avalanches it depends a lot on where you are.  Living in CA they slowly stopped reporting all but the most sensational crime during the 80s and 90s.  Here in ME I am amazed at the details of even the most petty crimes that make the papers and TV reports.

9:53 a.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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I am not trying to make jokes, but I seriously bet these guys end up on Tosh.O. They need a redemption! I am glad to see they are still in good spirits and do appear that they want to try again (as they said that next time they will be prepared for "anything"). Hopefully they will have some serious discussions with an experienced hiker/backpacker before their next adventure.

12:00 p.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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I think, Patman, that your post and subject line were very worthwhile. While I disagree that cotton in winter should be verboten, the helo rescue was, as so often, unnecessary. There was no attempt at self-rescue - they were not lost and could have taken their backtrail. And when found, one of them, according to the video, adamantly refused to walk out with assistance, demanding a helicopter instead. 

It would be interesting to have a thread regarding means of encouraging self-rescue. Self-rescue not only places no burden on SAR resources, it educates the hiker in how much more he or she is capable of. The last, in itself, can transform a person.

5:09 p.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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Gift...I think we should just message back and forth privately on the matter of crime and reporting...I didn't mean to start a conversation....I was just using it as an analogy. While I am firm in my position that the media over-represents crime...I should be clear in stating that I meant that it over-represents violent crimes like murder and robbery not all crime...I agree completely that there is a lot of crime that goes unreported...but this is mostly in matters of less serious crime and white-collar crime. For the most part violent crimes like murder and robbery our reported and we (as in the folks that look at these statistics) have a fairly accurate understanding of how much actually takes place...primarily because there are bodies and hospital visits involved.

As far as the issue of media reports over-representing (violent) crimes specifically...in most metropolitan areas the total number of media reports for murders exceeds the actual number annually between 100%-500% due mostly to the fact that they will continue to report the same murder repeatedly for weeks...or until another violent crime takes its place (it is worst for smaller towns). For example...in my metropolitan area of +250.000 people the number of murder reports exceeded the actual number by more than 300% last year. Finally...it is not just my opinion that the media over-represents the actual amount of violent crime...there is a long and rich literature on the fact in Criminology/Psychology/Sociology. Warr 1982 (p. 187) reported that the distortion of crime by the media is often attributed to the "overemphasis of violent crime, the creation of artificial crime waves, the use of crime news as 'filler', misleading reports of crime statistics..." In 1983 Baker, Nienstedt, Everette, and McCleary reported that the public's beliefs about crime are mostly inaccurate, largely because of media distortion in covering crime. The situation is so bad that as far back as 1976 (before 24 hour news and the drop in violent crime that started in the 1990's) Clemente and Klieman claim that the fear of crime is a more severe problem than crime itself!

5:42 p.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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hi overmywaders,  

How does one "self-rescue" when they get themselves lost or in a bad predicament?  Doesn't self-rescue defy the #1 rule of being lost or distressed which is STAY PUT! and wait for help.  

Encouraging self-rescue seems to me to be a very slippery slope.  Someone who needs rescue or assistance in the first place often times is in over their head to begin with so encouraging self-rescue can only exacerbate the problem IMO.  

Self-rescue is a bit of an oxymoron IMO.  Doesn't make much sense to me.  I think it is the kind of concept that creates situations worse for SAR and increases the likelihood of death.   

10:01 p.m. on January 14, 2014 (EST)
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Jason Ruff said:

hi overmywaders,  

How does one "self-rescue" when they get themselves lost or in a bad predicament?  Doesn't self-rescue defy the #1 rule of being lost or distressed which is STAY PUT! and wait for help.  

Encouraging self-rescue seems to me to be a very slippery slope.  Someone who needs rescue or assistance in the first place often times is in over their head to begin with so encouraging self-rescue can only exacerbate the problem IMO.  

Self-rescue is a bit of an oxymoron IMO.  Doesn't make much sense to me.  I think it is the kind of concept that creates situations worse for SAR and increases the likelihood of death.   

 I think you miss OMW's point --calling for rescue when you don't really need it puts others at risk, so make an effort to get yourself of your predicament.  It is up to you to first attempt to solve your problem before calling for help. If you don't believe that, you should be in a contained environment, like Disneyland, not outdoors.

Too often we've seen stories where SAR was called because someone just wanted a helo ride back home because they hiked too far, not because they were hurt. In fact the very first use of a PLB was for that reason-the user set it off two times in a row. The first time may have been justified, but he was fined the second time for going back to the same place, then wanting a ride back.

Staying put works when you get separated from a group or when someone has an idea where you are and knows to look for you; this is what parents should tell children, because someone will be looking for them; otherwise, I see no point in it. This is why for example, at Yosemite, you put a copy of your backcountry pass in the your car window with your likely campsite and out date on it. You don't come back, they will come looking for you.

On the other hand, when I was bike touring and hiking in NZ, I was alone a fair amount of the time, no one I knew had a clue as to where I was and if I got hurt, it would have been up to me to get out of my predicament.

FYI, I don't recommend how I hike or travel to anyone, in fact I would discourage it, so if you decide to go off on your own, you are assuming the risk.

10:02 a.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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That is just it, you aren't assuming the risk because while they may not have a clue where to look, someone will look. And the more who look the more it costs. We did a search here for a lost hiker who actually ended up dead. It was three months of organized searches. SAR searched for a couple days...helo and infrared as the have that FLEET or whatever it is called to find hot bodies. That was very expensive. After that it was volunteers organized to go looking. three months of it. In the end he was found by a hiker not out looking for him, but just hiking. Lots of recourses spent. nobody knew where he went, just that he was "going for a run".

insurance companies who insure Everest treks have started being VERY strict on airlifts from base camp. It was becoming too convenient for tourists who just didn't want to walk back out to call for evac. at $8,500 payout for each of those flights, the premiums suffered and the insurance company said NO MORE! When I was lifted from Base Camp, I had to provide my medical stats and tests to get covered. Believe me, I wanted to walk out. It is what I went there for. But one of my trekking partners was "jealous" and "mad" that he could not jump on too cuz he had reached his goal and was not all that interested in the slog back down. That helo ride was the scariest thing I have ever done!

2:15 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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Jason,

I think Tom has pretty well covered the matter of self-rescue, but I would like to add a few words about self-rescue in everyday life.

Most Americans and Canadians (85%) live in cities; however, that is a relatively recent phenomenon. It may, therefore, be difficult for you to visualize the possibility of not being constantly connected to others. Here is one scenario I recall...
A friend ("B") went into his woodlot, about 1/2 mile behind his farmhouse, over a small ridge of land. No-one knew he was there, because there was no-one home to tell; B just wanted to bring down a few maple trees before dark, so he could haul them in the next day. 

It was just getting dark when a stick B was standing on skidded out from under him and he fell flat on his back. The chainsaw blade landed mid-calf of his left leg, touching for an instant before he pitched it away over his head. The blade had cut into the muscle and there was lots of blood but no artery was severed. What should B do? If he waited where he was for someone to come, he would die. Forget about cell-phones, he had a party line. B did what he had to do, he made a tourniquet for his leg, cut a crutch, and staggered and dragged himself home. Called his neighbor on the party line - thus insuring that four other people overheard - got in his truck and drove to meet his neighbor halfway, then off to the hospital.

Rural people cannot rely on someone risking their lives to help them; in an emergency, they generally need to rely on their own wits and strength. Even so, "Farm tractors accounted for the deaths of 1,533 people between 2003 and 2011" (OSHA) Woods workers face similar and other threats. Don't imagine that someone cutting wood near Oxford House, MB, has great cell reception : )

There is nothing inherently "noble" in self-rescue. In cases as above, it is the only dependable means of rescue. However, where it is not a matter of life or death, it is far better to use your own resources than to ask others to sacrifice their time and, perhaps lives, to extricate you. The difference has physical, moral, intellectual, psychological, and spiritual dimensions.

 

3:16 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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OMW you hit on something very interesting. The part about people in cities always being connected. So It could follow that people unfamiliar with the out of doors and very urban, truly do not know what they do not know. Especially given I am now OLD (53) and young'un's in cities do not know a life where there are no phones or other technology available in the wilderness and sometimes even just in the rurals. They never lived in a time where your phone, if you had one, was stationary and didn't have an answering machine.

3:36 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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OMW.  I don't disagree with anything you guys are saying and I understand that ignorant people waste and abuse available resources but unfortunately, that is human nature in any facet of life.  It is also the reason many states have instituted laws that hold ignorant people responsible for the costs to utilize resources like Search and Rescue.  

With all due respect, I guess I just don't understand "self-rescue" in the sense that you are using it.  I wish you would give me a definition of what you believe it to be and a good example of a "self-rescue" situation.  Am I having my own successful personal "self-rescue" every time I get back to the truck from an outdoor adventure? 

"self-rescue" is a term familiar to mountaineers and rock-climbers but I don't know how it applies to this conversation or subject.  

Either someone is mentally and physically competent to return from their outdoor adventures or they aren't.  How does one teach someone to "self-rescue"?  

5:47 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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I think "self rescue" in a sense of backpacking or backcountry travel in general is simply having the propper equipment for the conditions and a general knowledge of how to use it, general wilderness skills, and a bail out plan in the event something happens while your on a trip.

Take this case for example. Say much of the circumstances were the same, but they also had a tent and sleeping bags, and the sleeping bag had been kept dry in one form or another. Self rescue would have been to set up the tent, strip down out of their wet clothes, and get into their sleeping bags to get warm. Hunker down in the tent until the brunt of the storm passed and then follow a pre established bail out plan to an exit point. Oh, and not burn their clothing.

Self rescue can take many forms. But it comes down to if something happens on a trip or outing, no matter what it is, to have the essential items, and some basic knowledge to get yourself out of the situation and to a greater level of care/help under your own power. If your not ambulatory then it becomes a totally different scenario. But if your just cold and wet, lost, twist an ankle etc. You should be able to get out on your own without having a 3rd party risk their own well being to come find you. Proper equipment, basic knowledge, and a bail out plan will allow 99% of people to find their way out/to help in the even some unforseen even occurs while on a trip. aka self rescue

These individuals failed because they neither had the proper equipment or basic knowledge, or a bail out plan. The vast majority of SAR cases are a direct result of the lack of one of those 3 things in one way or another. If they had even the bare bones of basic equipment, shelter and a sleeping bag, they would have been fine more than likely and could have bailed out at first light.

6:11 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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Jason, please don't use "with all due respect" on this forum, this is a family show and we know what you mean. At least try something more original like "In deference to your senility..."

As for what ignorant people do or don't do, I'm sure you would better understand that than I. (I don't know anyone who is not ignorant of something) The people we were discussing were not ignorant of their circumstances, they were aware of snow and rain, uphill and downhill, etc. Their problem was not ignorance, rather they felt themselves the pampered children of a society devoted entirely to their care and nurture; a.k.a., college students :)   (College: a womb with a view)

The hikers in question did not apply common sense and "self-rescue" by walking the trail back downhill to their car. They called and requested someone to come for them. When told that no-one wished to go out in the snow, since they weren't injured or requiring assistance, they still did not take the hint and apply shank's mare.

I didn't suggest teaching self-rescue. I said:

It would be interesting to have a thread regarding means of encouraging self-rescue. Self-rescue not only places no burden on SAR resources, it educates the hiker in how much more he or she is capable of. The last, in itself, can transform a person.

If you can't derive the definition of self-rescue from the examples I've given, it is possible the deficiency is on your doorstep.

6:19 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

As for what ignorant people do or don't do, I'm sure you would better understand that than I. 

If you can't derive the definition of self-rescue from the examples I've given, it is possible the deficiency is on your doorstep.

My apologies.  I guess I am an idiot for trying to understand your term "self-rescue".  I did not disrespect you or your comments in any way shape or form.  Just simply asking questions.

I certainly don't appreciate the disrespect or insult given above.   I may be a lot of things but ignorant isn't one of them.  thanks.

6:34 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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Well, you see, Jason, as I noted above, everyone I know is ignorant of something, that includes me. So I don't build a class called "ignorant people"; you OTOH, do, so I assume that you have the parameters of that set well-defined.

If you are not ignorant - which simply means "without knowing" or "lacking knowledge or information" - than why are you asking me to describe, yet again, self-rescue? 

6:49 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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SIMMAH DOWN BOYS...unless I am just blind, it appeared OMW was using some humor. Let me give this a try:

SELF RESCUE, by the context used, seemed to be that if you are out, ill prepared and things start getting out of hand.....turn around and go back the way you came. This was absent injury, being lost etc. It seemed the discussion suggested that there was no reason to not back track on your former trail since they were not hurt. So the STAYING PUT is if you are lost and don't want to get lostter. but simply seeing things might be sorta bad, don't call for underdog, turn around on shanks mare and get moving back from whence you came.

11:02 p.m. on January 16, 2014 (EST)
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Maybe this counts as a "self-rescue" story:

About 10 years ago I went on a mountain backcountry camping trip in Montana with two good lifetime friends, Bob and Matt. We drove for a couple hours and once off the main highway we drove several miles on some gravel county roads and finished off the drive with a few miles of jeep trails to a trailhead. We geared up and hiked about 3 miles to camp. We had a fun couple days/nights of enjoying the beautiful Montana backcountry. The morning we got up to break camp and head out I decided to get up early and make breakfast for us. I needed some wood chopped up for the fire so I grabbed my buddy Bob's razor sharp Gerber hatchet to cut up a little wood for the fire. I had never used one of those lightweight razor sharp hatchets before, the ones with the black carbon handle and stainless steel head. Well, I got a bit careless with the hatchet while cutting wood and struck myself directly in the middle of my right knee joint with the corner of the razor sharp hatchet blade. The blade penetrated/cut my knee deep enough that it went into the Bursa Sac of my knee.  Lots of blood and transparent brown synovial fluid were instantly gushing from my knee.  I immediately hollered over to Bob and Matt and told them of my very, very stupid mistake.  We all remained calm but went into action very hastily. Bob got into my backpack and grabbed my handy, well stocked first aid/survival kit that goes with me on every trip.  I was splinted up, dressings over the wound and a tourniquet above my knee within a few minutes. Camp was quickly packed up by Bob and Matt as well. After that we all took a deep breath and had a discussion on how we were going to get me out of there. Bob mentioned he would get back to the truck and go call for help as soon as he got back into cell service. I decided that probably wasn't necessary because the
bleeding was under control and the pain killers I took (first-aid kit) were keeping the pain at bay. We all decided that Bob would head back to the truck while Matt helped me walk down a main drainage about 4 miles until it met up with the jeep trail. It was a bit longer route for Matt and I to walk but the route was mostly downhill vs. going back the 3 miles over a few steep hills. Thanks to Matt and Bob I got to the truck within about 4 hours of having the accident. We drove very fast for a while and once we got into cell service a couple hours later I made another mistake and I called my then wife at the time and she freaked out and was ready to call emergency services. I talked her down from that and told her to meet me at emergency at a small community hospital in about an hour. We got to the emergency and the Doctor didn't have the expertise to help me out so he sent me to another hospital in a bigger city 2 hours away. He did mention he was impressed with the first aid we administered to my leg though, thanks to Bob and Matt. My parents and my then wife drove me 2 hours to another hospital that had a good orthopedic surgeon so I could get emergency surgery. From the time I had the accident to the time I got into surgery was several hours. After surgery, I ended up not being able to walk for about 6 months and my leg had some serious atrophy. It was nothing but bone. No muscle at all. Luckily my leg permanently recovered to about 90% its original function which is a real blessing.

That is my story and I don't know that I would consider it "self-rescue" but others certainly raised the question of why didn't I get help instead of walking out of there and my response is always the same, "it never crossed my mind." I personally feel using the term "self-rescue" is a much more serious matter and probably applies more to the individual (Joe Simpson) in the story Touching the Void (separate thread-great book) who endured unthinkable things to stay alive. That seems more like a self-rescue story to me than a hypothetical story about a couple rookies going into the woods and making a good decision to turn around when things get tough or a story about some idiot who sticks a razor sharp hatchet in his knee.  

@Gift gave a good rescue story that was an assisted emergency story. I just gave a story that has to do with a backcountry emergency and possibly a loosely defined self-rescue.

Maybe others have a real life story of rescue or a possible "self-rescue" story they would like to share.  

2:14 a.m. on January 17, 2014 (EST)
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I am not a survival expert. "Self rescue" in my mind is pretty much in line with TheRambler's definition, but I would posit that self rescue starts at home-by avoiding unduly dangerous situations in the first place starting with one simple thing-checking the weather forecast. By avoiding the danger, I have "self-rescued" myself from a miserable, if not potentially dangerous situation by either avoiding the trip entirely or taking precautions, such as bringing extra food, fuel, clothes, etc.

For example, the PNW MeetUp group debacle I mentioned above could have been avoided by a weather check before starting out into the worst storm to hit the PNW in years. How do you not hear about this on the local tv news or radio? Had they checked, the less experienced hikers (almost all of them since this was supposed to be a winter camping class of sorts) might have stayed home or have been better prepared.

Knowledge - read a few books or read online about camping and how to prepare. Not the same as on site instruction, but a reasonable introduction. A book like "Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backcountry Ski Book" which costs about $10, has great winter camping tips and instruction for beginners. I have a copy.

Camping on snow usually means hiking on snow, which means using snowshoes or skis. No one in the PNW group had either one, and got snowed in.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Many problems can be solved before calling for help if you have some knowledge and the right gear or a reasonable alternative. Rule Number One - Don't Panic (with a shoutout to Douglas Adams fans :).

10:30 a.m. on January 17, 2014 (EST)
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You hit the nail on the head Tom, "self-rescue starts at home."  TheRambler eludes to the exact same idea.   The young men in this story obviously didn't start at home on anything at any level so self-rescue couldn't even come into play for them and their circumstance.  

 

Tom D said:

"Self rescue" in my mind is pretty much in line with TheRambler's definition, but I would posit that self rescue starts at home-by avoiding unduly dangerous situations in the first place starting with one simple thing-checking the weather forecast. 

10:40 a.m. on January 17, 2014 (EST)
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Well that is it. We all have a responsibility to prepare and understand as much as we can about what we are about to undertake, But that isn't how many humans think. And teh "you don't know what you don't know" factor comes into play as well. So you will have situation where ill prepared people find themselves in a situation that they never expected. The question then is, what to do. If the answer is use a cell phone, sit where you are and let everyone else cone and get you, in my book, you better not be able to have turned around and walked out.

11:05 a.m. on January 17, 2014 (EST)
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I couldn't agree more GOG.  Maybe it would have been a good thing if the young men didn't have cell service or a functional cell phone.  It would have forced them to get out on their own without having rescue at their fingertips.  At the same time you certainly don't want to see anyone die or lose any digits from extreme hypothermia or frostbite.

As you know, every year someone calls from up at Mt. Charleston for help/rescue when they simply could have just sucked it up and walked out.  I remember an officer was killed in a helicopter rescue at Mary Jane falls last July.  It was the first officer fatality since 2009.  Sad deal.  

2:42 a.m. on January 18, 2014 (EST)
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GOG - ah yes, Rumsfeld's famous quote about knowns and unknowns comes to mind. One thing I think factors in is how simple it all seems, after all, camping is just walking around and sleeping outside, isn't it?

Unlike scuba diving (which I used to teach), the dangers aren't obvious. No, I don't mean sharks, I mean the fact that unless you are Aquaman, most of us can't breathe underwater, which we usually learn pretty quick. Scuba accidents are kept to a minimum by the fact that no reputable shop will rent gear or fill a tank unless they see a certification card. Backpacking requires nothing more than a credit card at REI (or other fine retailers) and a trailhead to get you into trouble in short order.

For example, how many beginners know that the cotton hoodie they love so much will be absolutely worthless if it gets wet? Far too few.

The best we can do is learn from the mistakes of others and perhaps be able to encourage others to learn a bit before wandering off. And that is not about to change, ever.

3:19 a.m. on January 18, 2014 (EST)
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I'm a member of a GSAR unit in Manitoba, Canada. There is a debate going on in the SAR world right now about charging a fee or a fine for people that require rescue and are found to be " At Fault" and I know that a few places like New Hampshire have instituted a policy like that.  There is a excellent documentary called To the Rescue that discusses these issues, and the expectation of rescue that Cell phones, SPOT systems, PLBs, and other tech has brought about. There was a point when "self-rescue" was the norm. People using the outdoors understood you were on your own and needed to be prepared. Now some people seem to have a attitude of why be prepared when help is a button push away.

5:58 a.m. on January 18, 2014 (EST)
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I agree with James, now young people are so used to be online, that they think that this is the case also in the nature. They think it is a disaster when the batteries of the remote control are flat, and it is for them uncomprehensive that it may take days to be rescued if the weather is foul.

We had a terrible winter many years ago with a lot of casualties in the easter holidays. That led to the construction of the mountain code or fjellvettreglene as we call it. http://english.turistforeningen.no/article.php?ar_id=7090&fo_id=3622

In US you have to get a permit for a lot of places. Why not include a small folder with such information when sending the permit? And also a gear list like this one http://english.turistforeningen.no/article.php?ar_id=7093&fo_id=3622 Of course one need to make local adaptions. The list I linked to is for the notwegian mountains, and I guess that in California you do not need gloves/mittens in the summer. There you may need some water purification, this is not needed here.

But I guess todays youth are as ignorant an immortal we thought we were. It is only when it is on TV when a poor family has to sell their only car to pay for the rescue of their foolish teenager, that may change the opinion to a more responsible attitude. Even last week I had to correct a german youth that had planned to hike a week in the mountains without any navigation tool, not even map an compas! He wanted to travel ultra light, and thought that the map in the cellphone was enough.

11:41 a.m. on January 18, 2014 (EST)
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Unfortunately providing the information doesn't mean people are going to use or pay attention to it. The men in question here were on the Appalachian Trail, a minute on google would have provided all the info a person needs specific to that trail including gear lists, clothing suggestions etc. Yet it would seem that these men chose to ignore the info available.  When you buy your park permit for Yellowstone National Park they hand you a pamplet telling people to stay away from the animals in the park yet every year people are injured and killed by wild animals in the park while people try to get close up photos. I fully agree with Ottostover that people need to educate themselves before enjoying the outdoors, There is a massive amount of information and tools available to people nowadays yet you can't force people to use any of it. 

12:01 a.m. on January 19, 2014 (EST)
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Hi Otto! How is winter in Norway? It has been very hot here in California, unlike the big freeze back in the East and Midwest. We have a drought, so very little snowpack. Sometimes we need gloves in summer, depends on where you are. Park brochures here usually mention to be careful with tips for hikers. In New Zealand, folders like you mention are available and the guide books warn people about the weather. The same information is online - for example - http://www.softrock.co.nz/mg/index.php this site covers the Arthur's Pass area on the South Island, but other sites cover the rest of the country.

Here is the Yosemite website (one page of it) with similar info on weather-

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/conditions.htm#CP_JUMP_124745

6:36 p.m. on January 19, 2014 (EST)
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Hello Tom, all well here in Norway, but we have little snow, in fact none at all here at the coast! So I had to take a weekend in the muntains to fend off the worst skiing abstinence. We have had a cold period now, but today was the first day of sunshine on my house so we know the world is on track for a sunnier spring.

Regarding the poorly equiped tourists I agree that it is almost impossible to avoid them. But luckily they are a small minority here, most hikers are in fact very responsible and well equiped for the tour. My attitude is that it is better to inform properly, even if most young people are very good in finding most of the info they need on the net.

9:11 p.m. on January 19, 2014 (EST)
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Honestly this sort of story and situation is inevitable and likely never to stop altogether. There will always be this type of thing happening. People want to do fun and adventurous things but are inexperienced. Access to trails in some areas is very easy, and anyone can get on the trail whether it's safe or not.

I've told a few stories here about people on or around Mt Washington who I've told to turn around or who's plans I thwarted when they realized they didn't know what they got themselves into. I've helped people off mountains who got trapped above steep sections of ice, with no ropes, no crampons, no ice tools. Instead of turning around they just kept pushing up.

Sometimes, there's so much that people don't know, they don't even realize that the information exists. But remember, we all started off there. SOMEONE had to teach us. A parent, family member, scout leader, whoever. Someone taught us. We can criticize, we can call names, we can toot our own horns about how much we know and how resilient we are in the wild.

That's not productive, though. Instead, with all of this experience and knowledge gathered in one area, maybe we try to come up with a way to educate people and prevent this problem from happening. Or, we could do neither, because we can type 'til our fingers fall off, if people aren't here asking us questions and getting info from us, what we type won't reach the folks who this story will be about in the future.

9:04 a.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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That's not productive, though. Instead, with all of this experience and knowledge gathered in one area, maybe we try to come up with a way to educate people and prevent this problem from happening. Or, we could do neither, because we can type 'til our fingers fall off, if people aren't here asking us questions and getting info from us, what we type won't reach the folks who this story will be about in the future.

 

But unfortunately this is not really a very friendly - welcoming forum. I think beginners who read some of these threads may be afraid to post here. It is not that there is an attack attitude on this forum, but rather a more subtle attitude of superiority and looking down the nose at less experienced people who are treated, in subtle ways, as inferiors.

In my shooting group we welcome newbies, we encourage them to come out shooting with us, we share our guns and our experiences, and we are more than willing to train someone in weapons handling, safety, techniques and even take them up to advanced training for shooting sports like IDPA and 3 Gun events.

Its probably much harder to effectively train someone in outdoors without spending weekends with them, and hiking/camping/backpacking/climbing equipment is highly specialized and subject to a lot of personal preferences. But I find this forum to be the LEAST welcoming and LEAST friendly forum that I frequent. Its just the subtle underlying tone, not anything overt. I had mentioned this same thought in another thread and a moderator asked me to point out who was breaking the rules. But nobody has to break a rule, nobody has to directly insult anyone else for there to be an undertone across many posts/threads that is not welcoming to newbies. No rules infractions, but overall tone is still somewhat foreboding.

I was trained in winter survival in the late 1970's, walked park of the AT in the early 80's, while I have stuck with day hiking over the decades, I have wondered away from the formal backpacking sport over the years but kept up with outdoor pursuits and when found the yearning to return this is one of the forums from which I sought advice. But I still am not comfortable here. Imagine the feelings of total newbies.

My personal belief is that the average skill level of the members of this forum is so high that it intimidates the newbies. Consequently the newbies show up, they poke around, and then they leave with their tails between their legs looking for a forum that is more newbie friendly.

JMO

But if you want any evidence of what I am suggesting, simply look at how infrequently the "BEGINNERS" forum is used.

10:27 a.m. on January 20, 2014 (EST)
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To Karen, LS, Tom D, Joseph, and Over My Waders

This is a very late reply (I’ve been in the woods!)

Thank you. I appreciate the perspective and it does help me feel a little less ass-holish. And Tom you are exactly right, I knew very well the type of responses that would ensue once people read some of the details of the event and yet I posted anyway.

Have you ever noticed the gleam in someone’s eye when they deliver a juicy piece of gossip or can be the first to deliver a scandalous story? I really don’t like that and don’t want to be that person to the point that I’m probably hyper-sensitive about it.

 So, yes I detected something “not so good” in my own heart about it. However, since reading all the comments since this was started, I’ve reconsidered the value of a good cautionary tale.

2:37 a.m. on January 22, 2014 (EST)
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There is a reason Accidents in North American Mountaineering and many other publications and websites rehash accidents and rescues--so that others may learn from these incidents and hopefully not become another statistic. Yes, there may a bit of "man what an idiot!" in posting some stories, but that's fine; some people deserve that. With others, it may have just been bad luck, but I think most of us can see the difference. I'm all for it; if I remember one simple thing, that's one less thing that might get me in trouble.

Direct TV has a series of ads featuring a chain of events that starts, for example, with one simple event like a guy looking out a window and cascades to some catastrophic conclusion, ending with the tag line "Don't be that guy, get Direct TV."

Many of the stories we read and discuss are like those ads-a simple misstep starts a chain of mistakes that leads to a life-threatening situation. For my money, I would rather read about these events from the comfort of my living room than relive them because I never learned the lesson in the story. Simple things like check the weather, take a map and compass (or GPS), tell people where you are going, leave a note in your car window, take plenty of fuel and food. These simple things can make a big difference and can be learned by these stories.

 

1:52 p.m. on January 22, 2014 (EST)
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Melensdad - I have felt that way on several occasions myself, and I'm not a newbie. My lowly 565 posts here speak volumes to how little time I spend here anymore. I think this is a valid topic, but as it would go off topic from the original post, I will post more in the feedback section.

5:41 p.m. on January 22, 2014 (EST)
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As an avid hiker who would not consider myself as experienced as many many many of you, I came here starting from scratch, really. I got sooo much help from so many of you...and you know who you are for the most part. Every question I have ever asked has been answered. It has only been recently that I have seen these things that people are eluding to. And it wasn't coming from the oldies, as far as my perspective. I am sorry people are feeling that way...either end of the spectrum. But I question whether there is any adult afraid to ask a question on a forum because someone behind a keyboard my act superior to them.

 

Jason Ruff: that Mary Jane Falls thing was just AWEFUL! Those helis are out there at Red Rock every weekend. Metro is a great SAR and we are fortunate to have them. as well as RRSaR. (I thump my chest a bit as a founding board member of RRSaR). I have given over my water to many a tourist unprepared out there. People just don't know what the heat does and how fast. Not a criticism, just the truth. They are usually out here while also partying at the strip so they dehydrate even worse because they are hung over or depleted from the alcohol consumption and don't take that into account. But again, if you have never lived or spent time in an arid climate, that would all get lost on you, perhaps. So, iClimb...melensdad....I help when I can. I answer any question I see in the beginner thread that I feel I can help with. Other questions too and I see the other old/experienced ones doing quite a bit of assistance. New folks too.

1:32 a.m. on January 23, 2014 (EST)
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I disagree with the argument that melensdad and iclimb are making. Yes, there is a bit of "I know more than you" sometimes, but often that is the case. Perhaps some people rub you the wrong way, but that is typical of the Internet in general, just as it is in life in general.

I work in a business where rough and tumble talk is the norm. I don't take it personally. If I did, I wouldn't get anything done.

I don't have a personal relationship with anyone on this site, except through the site. I have developed opinions about some of the regulars from what they post. Some I take seriously, some I don't, based on what they are saying, but to argue that this place is unfriendly is not true in my experience and I have been here a long time.

6:37 a.m. on January 30, 2014 (EST)
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I haven't been on Trailspace in ages, but I've hugely enjoyed this thread and have learned a lot from it. I wanted to pipe up to disagree with the person who said this is not a welcoming forum, I am an inexperienced backpacker and have never had anything but helpfulness from the people at Trailspace. 

And I have to admit I've also had had a lot of giggles from this thread, some of you guys are really funny, and witty - sorry if that makes me a bad and insensitive person. A famous Aussie icon once said "I have been blessed with a wonderful gift - the ability to laugh at the misfortune of others." I hope I'm not that bad, but I'm OK with other people being amused when I am an idiot. We are all idiots sometimes. I really don't think it's that horrible to have a bit of a good natured laugh, given that it all ended well for the guys.

Oh, and cotton is the best for hiking in hot dry weather. I think it's OK for hiking stores to stock it. Synthetics don't allow you to maximize the evaporative cooling properties of your own sweat (or any other moisture - a wet cotton shirt in dry heat is a marvellous cooler!). 

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