Technology leads to trouble

9:59 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/22/science/earth/22parks.html?hpw

Some of these stories are old, but worth a retelling.

11:24 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Yes, people sometimes do not realise how dangerous tame looking wildlife can be.

11:45 p.m. on August 22, 2010 (EDT)
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sweet. so next time im out there and my water tastes salty ill call the rangers to ship out a chopper with some fresh Dasani bottles

..idiots

4:08 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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SOS! SAR: Please send Grey Pupon mustard. And more ice for the champagne!
Ed

5:41 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm always interested in the gray zones...

When IS it OK to make a call? Only in the event of death/serious trauma? Hopelessly lost in bad conditions with the possibility or probability of not making it out before nightfall? Your buddy is seriously hyopthermic and you're having trouble keeping him/her moving in bad wind or rain? You saw an avalanche cross some ski tracks but you're not really sure if there was anybody in its path?

THere are a lot of situations where you might make it, but you might not. Without the cell phone in hand (and a signal...) you wouldn't have any choice but to keep on, but now that we have them, what are the rules? Should we make "conditional" calls: "We might be OK but I'm calling just in case..."? Now you're sort of shifting the decision/responsibility on to someone else, so "wait until..." isn't much of an option.

6:40 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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We've had some interesting discussions on this subject and opinions covered the spectrum. I opine that if you cannot self-rescue, you should pay the tab for the rescue service... at a minimum. If the call was especially frivolous, a fine as well. So, before those canyon hikers pushed the panic button, they would need to determine that they were willing to pay thousands of dollars for their bottled water. :)

7:47 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I guess the headline is catchy and gets people to look, but technology is not the problem here. The trouble is a growing number of people in society that no longer value others, are compulsive, don't think things through, and have no common sense.

Some where along the way parents for the most part gave up responsibility of teaching common sense to their children with the mistaken assumption government aka. public schools would and could do it.

randy

9:00 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I guess the headline is catchy and gets people to look, but technology is not the problem here. The trouble is a growing number of people in society that no longer value others, are compulsive, don't think things through, and have no common sense.

Some where along the way parents for the most part gave up responsibility of teaching common sense to their children with the mistaken assumption government aka. public schools would and could do it.

randy

So very, depressingly true.

[...]if you cannot self-rescue, you should pay the tab for the rescue service... at a minimum.

I am not sure I completely agree with this, but then I am not sure I entirely disagree with it either. By the statement alone, everyone who requires SAR rescue would have to pay for it. Should those who, of no fault of their own, legitimately need rescue be held to the same level of financial liability as those who don't? I don't know what I think about that, as there are definitely occasions where the most capable and well planned people find themselves in an unforeseeable or preventable situation and in need of help. In those situations, who should that bill fall to? I am not sure at the moment.

So, before those canyon hikers pushed the panic button, they would need to determine that they were willing to pay thousands of dollars for their bottled water. :)

I completely agree with those sentiments! There definitely needs to be distinction between legitimate and frivolous SAR calls, and corresponding allocations of liability. Those morons shouldn't have been allowed to stay out after the first response, and they should have been required to pay the tab for the SAR bill.

9:02 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I have to grin every time i hear that story.

I've always been a compassionate person but its gett'in tougher with stories like this and the various self induced injuries i keep hearing about due to the prodding of wildlife by tourist.

Ignorance always seems to be the culprit.

9:29 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Ignorance always seems to be the culprit.

I would assert more often it's stupidity than ignorance.

11:17 a.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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"Hello, I just called to talk to someone. I have been outdoors for the last couple months and have not seen anyone. So how's it going in the world today?"

12:25 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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"Hello, I just called to talk to someone. I have been outdoors for the last couple months and have not seen anyone. So how's it going in the world today?"

I'm sorry but this number is no longer in service or has been disconnected. If you have reached this number in error, please recheck the number and dial again. :-)

2:04 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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Apropos of nothing, a couple of lines from an old Bill Morrissey song, "Oil Money" about a guy from NH who winds up working in the oils business on the gulf

Hello operator information for New Hampshire
No town special, any one will do
I just want to hear the operator
Talk the way I used to

4:42 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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As a tax payer I rankle at the notion of the public footing SAR operation costs. The reasoning is self evident. Less obvious, however, is the arguments for no-charge rescues. First off, these operations have been rationalized as training exercises, even if they happen to be the real thing. SAR organizations need their skills to be in fighting condition to minimize risk to all, thus are going to incur these costs anyway. Mr. Taxpayer should consider it a sunk cost, using this logic. And then there is the issue that attaching a fine or service charge to the party requiring rescue may cause the penny wise to forego rescue, possibly fermenting a tragedy no descent person would find acceptable.

All is gray. Perhaps SAR services should be treated similar to 911 services. 911 call responses are usually free, but municipalities can levy fines for blatant gratuitous abuse of these services. That becomes a somewhat subjective judgment, and I am sure some object to that litmus test too. At some point a consensus that addresses the cost, need, respect of life, and resources, is the logical avenue.
Ed

8:07 p.m. on August 23, 2010 (EDT)
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GPS rescues do work like 911 in some cases, with fines, etc. depending on who did the rescue.

SAR in general though is considered a benefit of society-we all pay for it, whether we need it or not.

Sometimes SAR is done by the military and they just chalk it up to training. The CG spends millions looking for lost sailors every year. Sometimes it is stupidity, ignorance or plain bad luck that sends them out, but it is your tax dollars at work.

It really isn't technology that gets people into trouble, it is reliance on technology to get you out of trouble that is the problem and a lack of understanding that ignorance can be fatal.

I've read about people who were killed by lightning in the high Sierra because they didn't know better to turn around when the weather got bad. Technology wouldn't have saved them, no matter what, but it did save the survivors-helo rescue off the top of Half Dome at night.

5:36 a.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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I sometimes get hassled for taking too much contingency gear with me if I'm out more than a days walk back. It's difficult to justify until something goes wrong, and that something is usually as a result of those that are doing the hassling. Being able to self rescue in nearly any situation, barring paralysis/ back/ neck injuries or other more extreme situations, is the height of backcountry responsibility.
I remember one night heading out on the sleds at about midnight after a frantic woman burst into the office beside herself with the absence of her husband. They were out all day cross country skiing and he decided to take some late afternoon photos while she headed back. So we take off, and soon enough we find his tracks leading to a well known hut. Turns out his wife was getting a bit much for him and he just wanted some time out. He was very apologetic and thankful for our efforts but as much as we sympathized with his situation, we had to give him a stern run down of the protocol involved in "having a night off from the missus in the backcountry".

8:05 a.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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This story says the New York Times' premise is bogus.

In the 11th paragraph of its Page One, Aug. 22 story about how technology—cell phones, GPS devices, satellite-location devices, and even video cameras—tends to get visitors to the national parks into trouble, the New York Times confesses the inherent bogusity of its premise, stating:

The National Park Service does not keep track of what percentage of its search and rescue missions, which have been climbing for the last five years and topped 3,500 in 2009, are technology related. But in an effort to home in on "contributing factors" to park accidents, the service recently felt compelled to add "inattention to surroundings" to more old-fashioned causes like "darkness" and "animals."

Just thought I'd share.

11:28 a.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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...we had to give him a stern run down of the protocol involved in "having a night off from the missus in the backcountry".


So what exactly is this special protocol? The usual protocol includes leaving a written plan with someone like one's spouse. But in this case, it sounds like that was the last thing he wanted to do. Does your group have a "don't tell the wife where I am, just that I'm ok"?

1:40 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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When I and a couple friends went backpacking for the weekend recently, my wife spent the weekend hanging out with one of the other wives. I found out when we got back that the other wife had been an emotional wreck the whole time. And he was calling her via cell every time we got to a high peak, which was exceptionally annoying. Apparently, that was the first time in their two years of marriage that she had let him be away from her for more than a day. Yikes.

I am not sure what she thought catastrophe was going to happen to him with four other extremely capable and experienced outdoorsmen in the group along. If I need to get away for a while, I just let my wife know I need to get out in nature for a while, and she is happy to let me. I don't know what I woul do if she wasn't so great about it.

So, how do your spouses respond to your desire/need to get away for a while?

Edit: I just started a new thread posing the question as to not derail this one.

1:49 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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He was only a couple of hours out but had turned his phone off. That's why she was freaking out, so we just told him to call and let us know in future. He didn't think she'd raise the alarm and was even more annoyed with her because of it.

As far as my own group goes, our protocol usually kicks in when we're having extended meetings at the pub.

3:12 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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In my case, since Barb and I met in our university climbing club and grew up in woodsy families, we often go together (like our Africa trip, Easter Island, or the upcoming climbing trip to the Sierra). But when I am off on my "Grand Adventures" that she doesn't go on because of the knee injuries some years back or technical climbs or the long trips (until she retires sometime in the next few months), she usually has helped in the preparation and knows where I am headed and the schedule. Sometimes, like Antarctica, I will call in on Iridium (one of the projects I worked on briefly while employed in aerospace) when I get off a climb or when there are delays (like 2006, when they couldn't get us off the ice for an extra 2 weeks). Usually, I let her know when I am leaving the house and when I get back to the house, with no contact in between. And as she says when I come back with scrapes, cuts, and bruises from the jam cracks, she understands that it "goes with the territory" (also means I don't get much sympathy for all my bloody arms and hands, although I did get sympathy for the dislocated elbow caused by a snowboarder running into me).

One of the funniest "contact" incidents I saw was on my 2002 Denali climb. One of the party had just gotten married about 2 weeks before the trip (they had originally scheduled for a couple months later, but moved the date up on short notice). He discovered as we went up the Kahiltna Glacier from the landing strip that he could get a cell phone connection through some local cell company that served the Matsu region in Alaska (around Talkeetna and the 3 major rivers in the area). The cell company required a temporary contract at some huge fee and, of course, charged roaming and long distance. We hauled from KIA (the air strip on the lower glacier) to the foot of Ski Hill in one pull, then ferried gear up to 10,000 ft in two loads and on up to the 11,000 ft camp with a back carry. So that's 4 days that he and his honey were calling, adding up to something like $250 in phone calls. They missed each other so much that he helped us haul a load up to Windy Corner, then hitched a rope tie-in back to the air strip and headed home. Then again, I guess that was 2-way, not just the wife. Now note - going up Denali requires several months of preparation and arrangements. So there was plenty of notice to sort things out.

My advice is - when choosing a spouse or other life-long companion, be sure he or she is into the woodsy life. I guess in this day and age, this means that when you fill out your e-Harmony or Match.com form with their zillion dimensions of compability, you better check the "backpacker", "Thru-hiker", rock climber, mountaineer, or "polar explorer" boxes.

5:36 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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Cellular phones have been a very nice and convenient invention/technology, but the more and more of them there are and the longer they are around, the more I have started to despise them. It seems people can't go more than 5 minutes without checking for "updates" on social network sites, or just take/make calls at not appropriate times. Seriously, people calling on their cell phones for a cup of hot chocolate....ridiculous!

6:57 p.m. on August 24, 2010 (EDT)
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My wife has a 500,000 dollar life insurance policy on me.

She just tells me to go have fun.

I call on the mobile phone if I can get a signal, out of courtesy to her, but she never seems worried. It's just a matter of time and she has a lot of patience.

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