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Sad End to This Cautionary Tale, As Folks Start to Head Back Out Into the Wilds, Pls Be Careful

AbleGuy

A Son of the Purple Sage
A frequent helpful and informative comment here has been regarding the important potential benefits of carrying something like a SPOT or InReach with you when you’re out exploring in the more remote wilds.

The thing that strikes me about these gadgets is, they’re somewhat expensive to buy and/or maintain a subscription to. So realistically, how likely is it that the average, casual, “hey, let’s jump in the Jeep and head out and explore Death Valley a little this weekend” explorer is going to stop first to consider spending money on buying one of these, before taking off on a last minute, otherwise unplanned (or under planned) short trip?

(and please, before you all dogpile on why this person is just another idiot who should stay home instead, consider that this is the reality of that average, casual travel weekender)

So, to make our long post tragedy, post mortem here contribute better to problem solving the issue of how we can help others take safer adventures, my questions are about the availability of these safety net electronics. Clearly, better public education about these devices and their availability would help.

How hard is it to find these devices to rent on the spur of the moment, and more specifically, where would that casual weekend warrior even find them? Do any of the more remote park visitor centers have these available for rent? Do you think they should?

How do we help encourage a better, general awareness of the benefit/utility of and/or the need to carry these devices?

One idea? Maybe, instead of surviving families setting up GoGundMe’s to pay for memorial services after the unnecessary death of a loved one, they might instead be encouraged to use that money to subsidize the rental of these devices at some of the more notoriously dangerous public lands use areas, as that memorial.
 

ChadHahn

Adventurer
The trouble with renting one is that people might use it for non emergency reasons. I can't readily find any examples but I've read of people calling 911 when out hiking for petty reasons. If people rent a beacon they might feel entitled to push the SOS button for non emergencies.
 

jbaucom

Active member
From what I've seen, renting is expensive, unless you only venture away from cell service maybe once a year for a few days. Anyone that doesn't venture out away from reliable cell service regularly can opt to turn their InReach service on and off as needed - I believe that basic plan starts at $24.95/mo. Turn it on a couple times per year and it's only $50. A basic annual contract is about $160/year. I bought my InReach from Costco for $219. A SPOT Gen4 is even cheaper ($149 to buy, $11.95/mo service plan), but still appears to lack 2-way messaging. Anyone who can spend nearly $1000 for a cell phone and $70-$80/mo for cell service can't really argue that these are too expensive for their hiking/biking/camping/traveling hobby if they regularly venture into areas that lack reliable cell service.
 

4000lbsOfGoat

Active member
How hard is it to find these devices to rent on the spur of the moment, and more specifically, where would that casual weekend warrior even find them? Do any of the more remote park visitor centers have these available for rent? Do you think they should?
Those of us who are planning extensive time in the backcountry probably all have these things already - after we've spent in the neighborhood of $100k on gear it would just be silly to "cheap out" on emergency communications. As you point out though, the issue is more around how do we help educate\protect the more casual adventurers who may get in over their heads? There can probably be many ways to reduce this kind of risk but the reality is that any solution would need to start with properly funding the Park Service and Forest Service so that our public lands can be managed for the safe use of the public (which will include lots of novice travelers).

This winter we ran El Camino del Diablo Road, the whole length from Ajo to Yuma - Cabeza Prieta NWR and Barry M. Goldwater Range. A (free) permit is required prior to entering these areas. Watch a 15 minute safety video, take a quiz and hey!, you've got a permit. You then have to "check in" and specify the length of your trip online before you actually enter the area. I really liked this model because not only does it force you to spend at least a few minutes thinking about safety and the risks you will encounter, it also lets administrative personnel know that you are in the area (in this particular case it's mostly so they don't drop bombs on you, being a live bombing range and all...)

I don't think it would be unreasonable to require the same type of process for access to any backcountry areas in the National Parks. If you want to go off the paved roadways, you need to get a permit. When you come back out, check out with the Park Service (this can be done online, over the phone, etc.) Having to follow a formal process makes clear to you that there are risks involved in what you are doing and would let the Rangers know where you are and when you expect to be back. Permitting shouldn't be a way to generate revenue but just a way to keep track of who is where and when they're expected back. This entire debate around "should they have stayed with the vehicle or not?" would be pretty easily settled if Park Rangers knew where they were and when to expect them back. They know you're out there and will come looking.

Again, this would require significant increases to Park and Forest Service budgets but could go a long way toward making for safer experiences for all.
 

whereuat

New member
"Know your limits" comes to mind, also learn basic survival skills if you plan on venturing into the wild. Based on what I have read this couple had experience in the outdoors, so they weren't newbies. After following this situation closely both on the news and this forum I have concluded given the possibilities that this couple unfortunately made the worst choice for themselves. They initially did a super important task before they left on the trip, (although they probably could have been more specific or checked in as their trip progressed, I don't know maybe they did). The task was to let friends, family, co-workers know where they were going and when to expect them back. I suspect they broke down a little short of the end of Gold Valley Road either Friday April 2nd or Saturday April 3rd and had planned on camping over one of the nights since they would have a full day drive back to Tucson Sunday April 4th. They were expected at work Monday 5th and when they didn't show the ball got rolling to find them. By Tuesday April 6th "Notification of potentially missing individuals" had been released to the DV area. Wednesday April 7th SAR ramped up by checking for cellphone info and initiating both aerial and ground support. Thursday April 8th 11 AM they locate the vehicle and note, later that day around 4PM they spot the couple in the Willow Creek area but are unable to attempt the rescue till Friday April 9th.

Survival choices:

1) Stay with the vehicle - regulating body temperature is more important than water (at least initially) so seeking out shelter is the first thing you do. Also way easier to spot than two individuals trekking through the desert or tucked away in some dark slot canyon. Get ready to burn tire/s to signal for help if you spot any sign of SAR As jbaucom posted "Considering that their car was located before they were, and that she was still alive, it's safe to say with nearly 100% confidence that they would both be alive now if they'd stayed with the car."

2) Walk it back - 20 to 25 miles back to a road that will get you help. Avoid traveling in the heat of the day, a reliable flashlight will allow you to travel at night. Split parties, most guys would hate leaving their wife or girlfriend behind however you preserve energies and water by doing this

3) The canyon route - beware the shortest route, what may appear as the "easiest" most expedient route can turn into a death knell. Canyons are formed over much time, erosion of rock by water and elements and have no place for the impatient. Travel to far into this scenario and you may literally find yourself between a rock and a hard place
 

Kmrtnsn

Explorer
"Know your limits" comes to mind, also learn basic survival skills if you plan on venturing into the wild. Based on what I have read this couple had experience in the outdoors, so they weren't newbies. After following this situation closely both on the news and this forum I have concluded given the possibilities that this couple unfortunately made the worst choice for themselves. They initially did a super important task before they left on the trip, (although they probably could have been more specific or checked in as their trip progressed, I don't know maybe they did). The task was to let friends, family, co-workers know where they were going and when to expect them back. I suspect they broke down a little short of the end of Gold Valley Road either Friday April 2nd or Saturday April 3rd and had planned on camping over one of the nights since they would have a full day drive back to Tucson Sunday April 4th. They were expected at work Monday 5th and when they didn't show the ball got rolling to find them. By Tuesday April 6th "Notification of potentially missing individuals" had been released to the DV area. Wednesday April 7th SAR ramped up by checking for cellphone info and initiating both aerial and ground support. Thursday April 8th 11 AM they locate the vehicle and note, later that day around 4PM they spot the couple in the Willow Creek area but are unable to attempt the rescue till Friday April 9th.

Survival choices:

1) Stay with the vehicle - regulating body temperature is more important than water (at least initially) so seeking out shelter is the first thing you do. Also way easier to spot than two individuals trekking through the desert or tucked away in some dark slot canyon. Get ready to burn tire/s to signal for help if you spot any sign of SAR As jbaucom posted "Considering that their car was located before they were, and that she was still alive, it's safe to say with nearly 100% confidence that they would both be alive now if they'd stayed with the car."

2) Walk it back - 20 to 25 miles back to a road that will get you help. Avoid traveling in the heat of the day, a reliable flashlight will allow you to travel at night. Split parties, most guys would hate leaving their wife or girlfriend behind however you preserve energies and water by doing this

3) The canyon route - beware the shortest route, what may appear as the "easiest" most expedient route can turn into a death knell. Canyons are formed over much time, erosion of rock by water and elements and have no place for the impatient. Travel to far into this scenario and you may literally find yourself between a rock and a hard place
People are missing that the “canyon route” involved a 3,800 ft drop in elevation over five miles.........
 

whereuat

New member
People are missing that the “canyon route” involved a 3,800 ft drop in elevation over five miles.........
smh - yeah it's crazy. Survival is definitely a risk reward kind of thing. I've watched survivor dude Cody Lundin's show and read his books and always get a kick how he would sooner eat grubs than risk injury hunting big game in survival situations
 

Foy

Explorer
People are missing that the “canyon route” involved a 3,800 ft drop in elevation over five miles.........
Not everybody missed that, hence my comment f "there is no complete substitute for a topographic map, a compass, and the skillset to use them". Even a less-experienced topo reader could have checked the elevation changes between points A and B and realized the profile of the canyon trace was extreme. Even lower resolution, less detailed topographic maps, such as the whole park scale topo available as a PDF on the DVNP website shows enough elevation information to determine the canyon's precipitous descent, even if not the exact number of feet in elevation drop.

Foy
 

jbaucom

Active member
The best thing a casual explorer can do before they decide to head out for the day (or weekend, however long...) is to let a couple of reliable people know: A) that they're leaving B) where they're going C) when they will return D) when they will check-in E) who to contact if they don't check-in at the appointed time. This is a free safety measure, and it ensures that someone is aware that they are missing, and approximately where they should be, if they don't return. Knowing that you have a reliable, trusted, contact to get the SAR ball rolling if you don't check-in is a good failsafe. Also, if you know that you have someone who will contact the authorities when you don't check-in, then it's even more reason to stay with the vehicle.
 
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