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October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby peninsula » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:43 pm

lostcoyote wrote:anyway, whilst the storm was going on, i SPOTted out "OK" messages to my wife and friends.
there was a period where she did not receive a signal for about 33 hours - and based upon what a few other friends were telling her, she bagan to panic. she called the park rangers and they said to call back when she received the next SPOT signal from me. they had me in the que for a rescue after the 3 hikers.

i have mixed feelings about SPOT now. i bought it this year as an experiment and fun way to track me.... but i discovered that it is not reliable when there are trees (even with a 30% view of the sky) and especially during a storm. only 2/3 of my total messages went through (i did on the average 3 a day).... it was always able to get a GPS lock - the problem is on the transmit (uplink) side.

and so if it is a REAL emergency and you are hurt in a deep forest and can not get to clear open sky, of what use is SPOT when it doesn't have enough signal power to communicate with the globalstar network of satellites?


Only 2 of some 13 of Ted and Jenn's okay messages got out! Mine all made it out, but one before the day of the storm was delayed and caused panic. SPOT is apparently not everything they represent it to be and the NPS is growing impatient with them and their technology. My wife says the NPS and S&R organizations want to have a pow-wow with SPOT along these lines, or so she was told when she was checking up on me when my ok message did not come through.



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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby lostcoyote » Tue Oct 27, 2009 1:50 pm

sorry about diverging from the topic....

but along those lines, one of the guys that was on my SPOT list of contacts did a little research for me when i told him only 60% of my messages transmitted OK and came up with this story:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33470581/ns/us_news-life/
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby peninsula » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:05 pm

lostcoyote wrote:sorry about diverging from the topic....

but along those lines, one of the guys that was on my SPOT list of contacts did a little research for me when i told him only 60% of my messages transmitted OK and came up with this story:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33470581/ns/us_news-life/


It is a very good topic. I think anyone who summons a S&R, regardless of legitimacy, needs to pay all expenses! Those stories of abuse are disgusting. I am always amazed how people can behave so brainlessly.
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby gdurkee » Tue Oct 27, 2009 2:23 pm

Campers:

Glad everyone's OK that was out there. Also hope you moved up on the learning curve some. As one of the people who was trying to figure out how big a search we were going to have and where people were, it's very cool that everyone (except the 3 original folks in trouble) got out on their own. (I have to add that I was augured into a cushy chair, coffee at the ready; our buddy Skibum was actually tromping around in it...).

I'd reemphasize my note elsewhere here on preparing for a trip after mid-September or so. You've mentioned a couple of the things here: better tent (I'd definitely go for a 4 season tent); better clothing etc. But no one's mentioned the weather report. (It was a northern front with a fetch of tropical moisture feeding into it). I think this storm was on the forecast a full 7 days out. I would be really hesitant about going into the Kern anytime after October 1 or so -- just too easy to get stuck there. The later into October, the greater the odds that whatever storm does hit, the snow won't melt on the passes.

This seems to be happening more often -- people hiking later in the season and getting hit by serious weather. Of those, various agencies end up pulling a few of them out (or, as in 2004 -- all of them) at huge expense and not a little risk. So I'm just saying to really think about your route and make sure you're well prepared.

thanks,

george
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby peninsula » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:12 pm

Thanks George,

I figure I'll go back to the Kern-Kaweah drainage next year, but I believe I'm going to stick with late September. This October trip was a product of doing a photography workshop the first week of October and family obligations in September, otherwise, I'd not gone as late.

That said, the fall color is really nice in October in the Kern River area! I imagine it can be just as nice in September depending on the climate any given year.

Thank you for keeping an eye on us!

Greg
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby lostcoyote » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:47 pm

gdurkee wrote:But no one's mentioned the weather report. (It was a northern front with a fetch of tropical moisture feeding into it). I think this storm was on the forecast a full 7 days out.



thanks for the inputs george,

yeah, that's sorta what i figured (in previous post, i noted the southern turning western flow of clouds)
unfortunately, i was going to be going in for a while longer and had only a sketchy 10 day forcast going in. wish i did have the 7 day and it was the couple i crossed paths with (tedd & jenn) who gave me more detail as i was headed out (lots of rain tuesday, clearing wednsday is what they told me and i presumed that came from lodgepole where they got their permit)

i was well prepared in terms of food supplies and warm clothing (ski mask, gloves, long johns, layers of shirt/swaetshirt/jacket, etc) but it was my rated 3/4 season tent that failed me in the downpour resulting in a wet sleeping bag - uggggg - go figure.


did you read the MSN report i left a few posts back about the problems rising up with the "SPOT" devices? i agree with greg that ayone pushing a 911 ought to be responsible with whatever costs go along with the rescue... and those helicopters are expensive to fly & maintain. and how can any cost be attached to the intrinsic risk you guys take when going out on a rescue.

my wife jumped the gun and called me into you guys simply because she had psychologically gotten used to me sending 2-3 check-in's a day and then my check-in's went AWOL for 33 hours during & after the storm because SPOT failed to send a morning check in on the day i was hiking through snow and i had a good view of the sky. i guess it's a good thing that i did finally get one out because she told me i was on the que for a pick-up if i didn't check in soon - and that would have been totally unessessary and a waste of time for the S&R guys.

======

greg,
please check your PM. i want to make contact with tedd & jenn if possible and so i left my email with you.
Last edited by lostcoyote on Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby gdurkee » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:09 pm

my wife jumped the gun and called me into you guys simply because she had psychologically gotten used to me sending 2-3 check-in's a day and then my check-in's went AWOL for 33 hours during the storm.


Actually, I remember sitting in my comfy chair and one of the guys came in to say we just got another phone call from a worried spouse. My first thought was: "Hey, more overtime!" No, just kidding. We selfless public servants are concerned only with the public's well being and not filthy lucre... .

I did read that MSN article. I had started calling the 911 button the mommy button. Still, they're definitely a useful device just as long as people use them when they really need them and also realize that the signal isn't always going to get out, so they can't depend on them.

I suspect that after this flurry of bogus calls, the publicity and, I hope, some sort of stronger warning from the SPOT and PLB people will get folks to use them more responsibly.

I also don't want to sound like I'm coming down on anyone -- just making sure that all factors are taken into account before heading out for adventure... .

g.
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby lostcoyote » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:36 pm

gdurkee wrote:
Actually, I remember sitting in my comfy chair and one of the guys came in to say we just got another phone call from a worried spouse. My first thought was: "Hey, more overtime!"

:lol: that's a funny visual :lol:



gdurkee wrote:I also don't want to sound like I'm coming down on anyone -- just making sure that all factors are taken into account before heading out for adventure... .


i took extra maps with me, especially the golden trout wilderness just in case i did need to head down the kern through lower elevations and come out kennedy mdws. my out plan for the upper kern, had i gotten dumped on there would have been to bail out over shepherd pass and avoid the steep trail over south forester.


i should mention - one of the really kewl things was when i was headed up to kaweah gap, i got to see a couple of deer tracks enroute through the snow as well as mountain lion tracks. the cat prints were 3-4 inches across - a big one. once atop the gap, the deer tracks kept rising along the northern ridgeline before dropping into hamilton bowl. they avoided going down to precipice for some reason.

at the tunnel above hamilton lakes, i reported a rock fall to the ranger at the park boundary entrance station as i drove out of the park. it may have taken out the trail just east of the tunnel and i had to sit and move across a few 5 ton boulders to get across. if those boulders go, they'd take a backpacker along with them as thre is a 150 foot near vertical gorge there. so i was really moving slow as i crossed over them as i did not want to dislodge them.

that trail's a mess above hamilton, as there are numerous washouts. hope you guys put in for some good funding for trail maintenance next year. i imagine lots of trail repair work to be done between the 5000-9000 foot level.
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby JenniferP » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:35 pm

Hi there...Jennifer here...one half of Ted and Jen...so good to hear from you all.

I'll add my thanks to the search and rescue folks. My brother called in on Satuday when he had not gotten any of our SPOT messages. He said you guys were terrific. We were also pretty prepared with gear, but not with good "ranger advice". We're from the east coast and were aware of the general forecast, but not the various counties specified so we checked in with ranngers on the east side of the park. They assured us there would not be more than a "dusting" of 1/2" to 1" at higher elevations and told us just to be prepared for the cold. We had that covered...just not the 5' drifts, absence of trail markers/blazes, and the need for crampons and ice axes going up from guitar lake and down from Whitney.

Has anyone talked to SPOT to see what the deal is? We got the new SPOT 2 - which I'm returning -- but it soundens like not just a 'new product' issue but a broader SPOT issue? Beyond letting family know the itinerary and worst case return date, what IS the best safety device for trips like this?

After a week and a half back in civilization, we're getting over our fear of the Sierra Nevadas and will definitely be back...maybe even the HST from Crescent Meadow to Whitney...but definitely not around a big storm. I agree with everyone else that I NEVER want to repeat that. I'm so thank ful that we are safe, that the S&R guys/gals were ready if we needed them, and that we met such good and kind fellow hikers along the way. Thanks for your good thoughts and well wishes.

By the way, lostcoyote....did we really look so frail that you thought we'd have the S&R guys out after us? Come on!!!!! We were getting out of there on our own if it took another week!
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby peninsula » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:43 pm

JenniferP wrote:Hi there...Jennifer here...one half of Ted and Jen...so good to hear from you all.

By the way, lostcoyote....did we really look so frail that you thought we'd have the S&R guys out after us? Come on!!!!! We were getting out of there on our own if it took another week!


You go girl!!!
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby maverick » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:22 am

First of all I am happy to read that JenniferP has changed her mind about coming
back to the Sierra!
Second of all thank you for all these updates on the Spot, I was considering getting
the newer model to put my wifes mind at ease, but from these reports it seems it
may cause more anxiety than good.
Lostcoyote and Peninsula, was your Spot the newer model also?
Peninsula what photo workshop did you take?
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Re: October Snowstorm, Sequoia National Park

Postby lostcoyote » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:58 am

JenniferP wrote:
Has anyone talked to SPOT to see what the deal is? We got the new SPOT 2 - which I'm returning -- but it soundens like not just a 'new product' issue but a broader SPOT issue? Beyond letting family know the itinerary and worst case return date, what IS the best safety device for trips like this?

By the way, lostcoyote....did we really look so frail that you thought we'd have the S&R guys out after us? Come on!!!!! We were getting out of there on our own if it took another week!


nope!
you all sure looked strong ,gung-ho, and high spirited to me. it's just that you were the first people i had seen in awhile - lol - and with the severeity of that storm, plus a 13,000+ foor pass to get over, i just was not sure about an exit over whitney. the chopper flew 1000 feet over me following the high sierra trail route. i did not mean to offend - but i was worried for anyone caught in that storm who i came across and since i only met three people on the whole trip, i thought the backcountry was pretty much emptied out... so yeah, that thought did cross my mind. my bad...lostcoyote tucks his tail low between legs.

one of my friends on my checklist contacted spot during the ordeal said that the customer service guy was not much help. my friend was trying to see if that could fetch any information like signal strength and the customer service guy just said how reliable their product was.

i kept a log of my check-in's and some of them which did not come through were sent in good-view-of-the-sky conditions (greater than 80% view of the sky). i can certainly understand why the signal would not get through in a forest or heavy cloud cover because water vapor or content in tree foilage simply attenuates an L-band RF signal (SPOT transmits around 1.6GHz). what amazed me is that two of the signals transmitted OK during the storm (not at night when it was dumping hard) and this leads me to believe that a good connection to the globalstar satellite network is not only a function of open sky conditions, but satellite overhead position as well.

maybe they (the engineer design crew) need to increase their RF transmit power level or make the antenna more efficient. i dunno.


maverick, no, mine is the larger & older model.
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