You must have heard the story about Aron Ralston falling into a slot canyon and getting pinned by a rock fall, leaving him with no ability to communicate–and no one who knew where he was. His book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” and movie, “127 Hours” should be enough to get you to heed this message. If you are taking a longer or remote hike or climb, 1) tell someone where you are going, and 2) take an emergency GPS communicator device with you. Just do it. I mean the kind that sends your location periodically via satellite to a web site that friends or Search and Rescue can use to find you in distress situations.
I like the DeLorme InReach, but there are others. Here is my process:
- Before the outing, I send an email to 2 or 3 people describing where I am going and including a link to a private sharable website DeLorme has for me. That site is where they can go to see my real-time progress and location within 50 feet or less all during the day.
- I pick one friend who is willing to take a look at the site a few times per day and we have a deal – if I stop moving for three hours and I don’t text him that I’m OK, he should call the sheriff of the county in which I’m hiking or climbing. It must mean I am unconscious or somehow incapacitated.
- At the trailhead to the hike, I turn on the GPS and turn on the Tracking feature. That sends a satellite signal several times per hour to the tracking website and shows where I am. It works well above tree line or in areas sparser with trees, but if you are in a forest it will continuously seek a hole in the leafy top cover to get a signal sent.
- If I choose to stop for an extended time, the device lets me send an “I’m OK” message via satellite (it needs no cell coverage) that shows up in the recipients’ email so they know not to call out the troops.
Documenting Your Trip
You get another benefit of a GPS satellite communicator aside from safety. The tracking information sent to the web site will paint your whole route so that you can see what you did afterwards and send it to others in a trip report, or social media post. If you are summiting a mountain, and you don’t like signing the cannister at the summit, the GPS marker is evidence you got there!
Most Search and Rescue groups know about these GPS devices and rely on them either to communicate with you (they can email your device) or at least know where you are so they can initiate a rescue.