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The GPS is not the territory

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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby SSSdave » Sat Oct 24, 2009 2:23 pm

Thanks Shawn,

Was pretty sure that was the group gdurkee was referring to. Had not seen the followup info in any news reports so was wondering what that had been about. An earlier news report said that they did not have required wilderness permits that caused the rescue effort to be too broadly scattered. Rather obvious they made some poor decisions. Anyone with Sierra topo map experience would not have attempted a route down Roaring River. Obviously that was the shortest route to the valley as the crow flies but there was a good reason no one has blasted a trail down through the steep zone. Generally foolish to descend unknown narrow granite gorges because glaciation often leaves bedrock with steep cliff-like steps and inner river gorges erode steep walled narrow sections.



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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby Shawn » Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:47 pm

Even though the blundering on their part is rather obvious, I almost wonder if they used a 100k map instead of a 7.5 view. The 7.5 map makes it r-e-a-l-l-y obvious their chosen route would be terribly wrong, while a 100k dilutes the view to an inexperienced map reader.

Either way, glad they made it out okay, thanks to a strong and speedy NPS rescue effort.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Oct 24, 2009 4:57 pm

rlown wrote:I'm hoping this isn't going to be another one of those threads on technology vs. just plain stupid. Let's face it, some aren't meant to be up there. They get at least 1 point for stupid by trying to throw a pack across a stream. There's nothing wrong with a GPS if intelligently used.

My reply was not intended to bash technology, given that advances in technology such as GPS are a key part of the research that I and many geoscientists do. The bottom line is that GPS gives you position, but a user needs to have the ability to read a topo map if they are to use the x-y position to safely navigate from point A to point B off trail. Fools such as those that were stuck in this story will get stuck in any era, but the concern among many, including me, is that existence of technology makes people think they can do things that they really shouldn't do. This is similar to giving non-swimming children flotation devices in various bodies of water. Kids end up going where they shouldn't (ie paddling into water that is over their head, should they lose hold of their flotation device) and get into trouble, so water safety professionals strongly discourage this. This is one of the first things one is taught as a lifeguard (I was a lifeguard and swim instructor many years ago). Of course this is no different than other backcountry safety issues, such as that involving folks that believe that "paint by numbers" climbing routes can substitute for climber's judgment and intelligent route finding.

GPS can certainly enhance one's navigational capabilities, but one needs to have basic map reading skills first, and must have topo map reading skills if one is to go off trail with one. I can think of plenty of times when a GPS would be helpful to me (were I to actually use one, which I don't for recreation), when navigating off trail in heavily wooded areas with poor lines of sight. I strongly believe in GPS for reproducible locations of geologic samples--I encourage all of my graduate students to use it.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby gdurkee » Mon Oct 26, 2009 6:59 pm

Glad that got into the public domain on Morning Reports. Paranoid that I am (in this only slightly post-Bush NPS) I don't want to give out information that is not yet public. The other cool thing (and maybe a first) is that these guys GPS'd their entire route, so we could look at exactly where they were -- literally every 20 seconds or so; decision points etc. You want to yell: "No, Aragorn, son of Arathorn, not the Paths of the Dead. Turn back!"

But, yes, everyone was OK. For as long as I've been doing this stuff, it's amazing what I learn from every search. Your tax dollars at work... .

g.

Oh PS: Shawn: Yes, I'm pretty sure they just had some sort of large scale map.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby maverick » Tue Oct 27, 2009 9:49 am

How many similiar incidents are we going to have to read about before people finally
realize that going to into the woods is not childs play?
George, I hope they are going to be charged for there rescue, and not SEKI eating
the cost!
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby rlown » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:37 am

ok,

This is somewhat embarrassing, but i was prepared and didn't need a 10k rescue.

We did a hunting/backpacking trip in Trinity alps to Horseshoe/Ward Lks out of Swift creek in Late Sept. We looked at topo's, talked to DFG biologists about route/fish/game, planned the routes loaded it all into GPS and thought we had it all planned. Um, per the North Cascades thread, Trinity is steep! 7200' lakes; 7450' pass; 4000' starting point. We knew it would be steep, but it did surprise us from time to time. We had no problems getting to Horseshoe and Ward, but then after my "friend" shot a 300lb bear as far back as you could get above Ward Lk overlooking Horseshoe and on a 40 degree slope, we had to get it out.

Turned out, it added 3 days to the trip, and we had to go in a different route to get the bear. It was a route i studied beforehand, and thought i could "skirt" around the top of a ridge from a better trail. WRONG! :o

This turned into a 1 mile rock hop over a skree field of 5-10 ton boulders. Trinity rock is very nice in that area; almost like anti-slip surfaces. Keep in mind this was to get the Bear out, so our packs were empty except for water, filter and lunch. Even with my little "miscalc" on the terrain, we arrived only 14 mins late to the lake, but it did tire us out.

We trailed out over the pass behind ward and down the extremely steep kidd creek slope (i didn't want to do in the first place), with bear in packs.

So, even with the planning, i screwed us a bit. GPS was still comforting to know where the lake was as a reference, and then use good judgement in the best way to get there. For us, the key was to stay high enough and on plane with the level of the lake.

The GPS tracks were kind of scary to review later. Lack of planning would have screwed us more.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby SSSdave » Tue Oct 27, 2009 11:48 pm

Shawn wrote:Even though the blundering on their part is rather obvious, I almost wonder if they used a 100k map instead of a 7.5 view. The 7.5 map makes it r-e-a-l-l-y obvious their chosen route would be terribly wrong, while a 100k dilutes the view to an inexperienced map reader.

Either way, glad they made it out okay, thanks to a strong and speedy NPS rescue effort.


Another issue is that there are lots of backpackers that infrequently use their 7.5m topographic maps even though they are buried down in their packs. And that includes quite alot of very experienced users I've met that tend to stay on trails. Even quite a lot of peakbaggers that tend to eyeball their peak routes by sight when nearby. It is mainly people who go offtrail that tend to learn how to use their topographic maps because not doing so is likely to quickly get a person into trouble or at a minimum they inefficiently waste alot of effort thus they learn from such mistakes. I'm pretty much at the opposite extreme as my folded topo map is usually in my hand or dangling from my chest in a clear map holder. Accordingly I have alot of mutilated maps due to lots of handling and refolding.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby BSquared » Wed Oct 28, 2009 10:57 am

Start with Map.jpg
Even some of us trail hikers take our maps seriously ;)
Start with Map.jpg (23.67 KiB) Viewed 466 times
—B²
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby Shawn » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:40 pm

Good words of wisdom SSSDave.

And Mr. B - nice picture!

I usually have an 8x11 map stuck in my front pants pocket which I refer to often and a full map stashed in a cargo pocket.

Years ago I read thru this little gem of a book before venturing off trail. Not long after I was meandering down Sphinx Creek on my way out and expecting to see the obvious trail which I had just left the day before. Rather than refer to my map (just like SSSDave says above) I had *assumed* (cough) that the trail would be obvious where it crosses the creek. After all, it seemed simply enough when I left the trail.

Anyway, I walked right past the trail and a fair amount beyond it. Eventually I noticed my surroundings didn't look right and my gut was telling me something was wrong. As I peered down the next headwall to descend, that little book kicked in and I came to a full stop.

A quick glance at my altimeter watch provided the altitude, a look at my map told me specifically where I was along the creek. Needless to say I turned around and marched back to the trail.

Thankfully this simple little lesson has served me well over the last half-dozen years, thus my comment about SSSDave's words of wisdom.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby rlown » Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:50 am

Shawn wrote:A quick glance at my altimeter watch provided the altitude, a look at my map told me specifically where I was along the creek. Needless to say I turned around and marched back to the trail.



how is an altimeter watch better than a GPS? I have to admit that maps are great if you can see landmarks. My maps are well worn as well, and carried in my pocket, but it seems every 15 mins, i get asked, "where are we?", if i'm leading a hike. GPS kinda removes that setting altitude/pressure issue with altimeters. I'm not saying GPS are perfect all the time, but i like mine when it gives me 3+ satelites.. My map has become a backup to gps if i have problems on the trail.
If weather blocks me and i'm off trail, i hunker down.
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby Shawn » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:55 pm

It's not that the altimeter watch is better or worse than a GPS, it's just having the altitude information given my situation.

Since I knew I was clearly along the Sphinx creek, all I needed was the altitude info to pinpoint my location by using the elevation/contour lines on the map where they intersect with the creek. Once I could determine where I was along the creek I could readily see that I had passed the trail crossing. I think this is refered to as "straight line navigation".

My Suunto watch isn't all that accurate (my GPS is much more accurate but I don't carry it that much). But I've had the watch for so long I've learned it's altitude variances without having to adjust it much.

Funny you should mention being asked all the time about "where are we" when leading a hike. I actually experience the opposite, seems no one cares which troubles me a bit. Wouldn't you think others would want to have a clue just in case?
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Re: The GPS is not the territory

Postby Jmma » Wed Nov 04, 2009 7:14 am

There was an article recently in the local paper where I live in Ventura County about emergency beacons.It was similar to this GPS story,hi tech gear cheaply available to low tech thinkers.It told a story about a group hiking down the Grand Canyon that used their emergency beacon to summon help because the water in their bottles tasted salty!Unbelievable!The rescue crew arrived in a helicopter to find this out.They then summoned help 2 more times for frivilous non emergency B.S. and the third time the rescue crew made them all get in the helicopter and told them they have to go home.I would hope that the people in theese ignorant non emergency situations are fined to cover the costs and danger they put rescue crews in.
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