Hiker rescued after phone GPS batteries fail

11:44 a.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Don't know that we could even count how many times it's been said here not to rely on electronics for navigation. He's lucky he was even able to get a cell signal in that area.

Hiker rescued after phone GPS batteries failSeptember 25, 2012 By MIKE LYNCH - Outdoors Writer (mlynch@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Adirondack Daily Enterprise Save | lg-share-en.gif

SARANAC LAKE - Forest rangers rescued an Albany area man in the Seward Range Saturday night, after he became lost while attempting to use his cell phone to navigate.

Bernard Hyatt, 43, of Latham, ran into problems when the navigation application on his cell phone stopped working because the batteries had weakened, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. Realizing he was lost, he called 911.

A Franklin County 911 dispatcher was then able to text Hyatt and determine his general vicinity before the phone's batteries died completely.

Forest rangers then checked a trailhead registry to determine where Hyatt had started his hike. Three forest rangers were able to find Hyatt by 10:20 p.m. on Donaldson Mountain. During the last stretch, they were able to follow the sounds of his whistle.

Hyatt was returned to his vehicle by 12:45 a.m. Sunday.

Hyatt was attempting his final peaks to become an Adirondack 46er, a club for people that have climbed the 46 High Peaks that were originally believed to be above 4,000 feet. He did not have a map or compass.


12:08 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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No map or compass, how about a backup battery. I carry two sets of batteries for everything and a little dyno charger that fits my phone and gps, I still wouldnt leave wirhout a MAP and COMPASS!!!! He obviously has some experience if this was his last peak in that grouping. Maybe a bit of overconfidence. Atleast he didnt wander around making it harder for sar to fing him, they must have told him to stay put on the 911 call. Seems like the only common sense used on the whole trip.

12:41 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Usually where I go if I am in cell phone range I am NOT in the backcountry so that thing stays in it ziplock bag deep in the emergency gear pouch. I realize that other places are not like this but I agree: learn to navigate and always be prepared for an unplanned bivy; it doesn't take a lot of extra gear. 

Hotdog, I'd be interested in checking out your dyno charger.  Got a link I can look up?

12:44 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I bought it off craigslist for $15. My hikin partner has it on the trail right now, when he gets back ill check the brand and message you. It works pretty good, it will only give me about 70% on my droid but powers most things fully.

12:46 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Do GPS applications running off a cell phone require a cellular connection in order to work? If so, using one in mountainous terrain, where the signal can easily get blocked, is just asking for trouble. I'm not sure, having never relied on GPS for anything serious - just technophobic, I guess.

But obviously a map and compass, and a mindset that included self-reliance instead of trusting an electronic gadget, would have worked a lot better.

12:50 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I dont know about the apple versions, but I have several different ones on my droid and they only need a sat picture not call service. The ones on my phone seem to be more reliable than my gps, maybe more accurate is a better term.

12:52 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I use mine more to store waypoints and spots I want to return to. Its easier than marking up my maps. I still use a map and compass for navigation, seems to work for me in conjunction with my gps apps.

1:07 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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hotdogman said:

... seems to work for me in conjunction with my gps apps.

Thank, hotdogman. I can appreciate using them in combination. One backs up the other - always a good policy if your life is involved.

3:48 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Yeesh. It amazes me that after hiking enough to bag the other peaks he was relying solely, or so heavily, on his gps that he got lost badly enough to call for rescue. 
I rarely use my Android phone's map apps when hiking, but I do sometimes. But it is never my main or only tool for navigation. 

Peter, there are at least a couple apps that allow you to download and cache map quadrants to the phones memory prior to leaving cell coverage. 
The best Topo Map app for an Android that I am aware of is Backcountry Navigator Pro.  I was astounded at how long it took for a good topo app to become available, but that one is really an awesome program. 

4:25 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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I have a gps and a phone. not a gps in my phone, but a gps. I would never rely on my phone like that...this guy was lucky. hopefully he learned his lesson. I think he was experimenting with it. heck of a way to find out it doesn't work. 

8:06 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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Why was he so quick to call SAR? He hadn't even spent one night on the mountain. It would seem reasonable to stop hiking when he could no longer feel confident in his knowledge of his location. Get a good night's sleep. The next morning he could use basic skills - e.g., sun rises in east, water flows downhill - to attempt self-rescue. I hope he gets stuck with a stiff fine for reckless conduct (grrrr!).

9:07 p.m. on September 25, 2012 (EDT)
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A little common sense goes a long way. For starters he should have had the 10 essentials at a minimum, obviously he did not if he didn't also have a map and a compass., and should not have relied soley on his phone for navigation.

Now that being said:

I have an Iphone, and I do use it as my phone/gps/electronic maps/ backup flashlight/ and camera while on my trips. It works awesome, just as well as my Garmin Rhino. And No, you do not need cell service to use the gps functionallity. However, if you DO have cell service it greatly improves the accuracy. Without cell service it is just as accurate as any other handheld GPS I have seen. On long trips I carry a New Trent 9900mah battery pack that can recharge my Iphone about 5 or 6 times from 0 to 100%(i can also charge other things like my headlamp etc). I do not rely solely on my Iphone for navigation however, but it is quite a handy tool with gps and electronic topo and satellite picture maps. A gps is a tool to be used, no matter what it is in, whether its a smart phone or a stand alone handheld gps it is still a tool and is meant to aid in navigation but should not be the sole resource. A smartphone can be a valuable tool and multi purpose item (camera,gps,electronic maps,phone,text,email,weather,moon and celestial information, trailspace!, police scanner, flashlight, survival and first aid manuals, plant identification, and the list goes on and on)

I always carry a map and compass and use them primarily. I do use my iphone ocassionally to get a fix, but normally i keep it in airplane mode to conserve the battery. Using it this way I can make my phone battery last quite a few days. I do not always have cell signal on trips, but when I do have a signal at camp for the night I call my wife to check in briefly. If I have signal I can also send any unforseen changes in my itinerary to my wife.

Now, why did he call for rescue so soon? Probably because he wasn't prepared to spend the night. This time of year it can be deadly up in the High Peaks, with frequent rain fall and night time temps dipping below freezing. He was smart to call for help if he was not prepared, and by the sounds of it, he was not at all prepared and only had some basic gear with him.

Moral of this story is don't be an idiot. If you are going out into the backcountry, or even a hike close to home but in a seldom used area, carry the 10 essentials at a minimum. Be prepared to always spend the night out there, because you never know when something will go wrong. I am sure this guy wasn't planning to get lost, but lets face it, stuff happens. Hopefully this incident will teach the guy to be a little smarter when going out, and hopefully others learn from his mistake and don't head out unprepared. He is lucky the weather was fairly decent on that day or he might have died from exposure before they found him. It doesn't take long in temps around the freezing mark, with rain, to make a day hike turn into a life or death struggle.

And before anyone says it. Yes, i do go out into the backcountry to 'get away from it all, technology included'. My tarp is high tech, but i don't leave it at home, so is my head lamp, but i bring it too. I don't spend hours on the phone while hiking, or surf the internet,facebook(trailspace occassionally!) etc. A smartphone is a tool, use it in conjunction with your other gear basics and it complements them wonderfully.

Stay safe out there!

9:23 a.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Good words, Ken.

9:55 p.m. on September 26, 2012 (EDT)
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Well put. I use my android as a test, I mark a waypoint on its gps app then find it by using my map and compass. Its the best way I know to test my navi skills.

11:25 a.m. on September 27, 2012 (EDT)
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Honestly, the only time my compass comes out of my pack is when I'm bushwhacking.  If I'm hiking on a trail, it's usually pretty easy to track my position on the map by using landmarks and trail junctions along my route.  At least that way, I can isolate my position to a specific segment of the trail.  I also carry a stand-alone GPS unit for times when I need a spot-specific location reference.

As far as hiking with the ten essentials/emergency gear, most days I feel like an idiot for hauling a pack containing these items when I know that there is a 99.99% chance that the pack is never coming off my shoulders.  But I would rather feel like an idiot than prove myself to be one by getting myself into a position where I needed that extra gear and didn't have it.  So I always take it with me.      

12:19 p.m. on October 1, 2012 (EDT)
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I agree that people should be charged for using such services due to their own stupidity.  I was in the Grand Canyon once, and some lady was running a private trip, and they got one of their dories stuck on a rock.  Any three boaters from this forum could have retrieved the boat.  She called in a NPS helicopter.  It was later found out that she had done this before on a previous trip.  A large bill should be in her mailbox the next week.

2:23 p.m. on October 1, 2012 (EDT)
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Relying on GPS or a cell phone to find your way or be rescued, is arrogant and also disrespectful to the SAR who have to find the person(s). Long distance sailing, both for racing and for pleasure is commonplace today. Though most boats have GPS plotters on board, experienced sailors still take a sextant as back up and know how to use it. Compasses and charts are always handy. On the majority of my trips, I still rely on a compass and a map, and the best tool I possess, my noggin and a little common sense.

7:49 a.m. on October 3, 2012 (EDT)
andrew f. @leadbelly2550
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i carry a phone but don't use it to navigate, and generally keep it completely shut down.  i also carry a handheld GPS, spare batteries, a map, and a compass.  so much for traveling light.  

then again, i (with others) have been fogged and snowed and turned around, yet I haven't ever had to call for a rescue.  

As is often the case, the hiker left home basic items that would have meaningfully assisted self-extraction.  the best wayfinding device, ultimately, is one's overall common sense.  he didn't have a trail or topo map or a compass, and he didn't simply reverse course and walk out the way he came.  

11:15 a.m. on October 3, 2012 (EDT)
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I carry mine. But I also have maps, compass, whistle, mirror. In this case, the cell phone helped. But he would have been screwed with no backup gear.

11:05 p.m. on October 3, 2012 (EDT)
Oldman Mike
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I also use a compass and topo maps, but I have learn big lesson that your maps should be water proof or cover in clear plastic, but I think water proof maps is the way to go, I carry GPS, most of the time I use it to mark the trail head only, and I enjoy getting a bearing many miles down the trail and using the compass for bushwhacking back.  I use the GPSLogger II on the crackberry, I know this phone is outdated but the company I work for pays for all the services, and I find on 5 hours or less hikes it has a setting were it will send my location every 30 minutes; this information is sent to my wife email address to let her know were I'm on the trail via google map link.  It also has setting for none movement which will also send email saying that you should try to make contact for safety reasons.  The problem with the phone is batteries and it will not work in the mountains for long periods of time, which I don't care because it's in my pack. 

July 2, 2020
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