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SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

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SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby gdurkee » Tue Apr 06, 2010 6:55 pm

Campers:

There's three overdue skiers on the High Route (Tyndall to Lodgepole in Sequoia Park). If any of you have been out skiing between April 1st and today (6th), we're really interested in skiing conditions, winds during the storm, snow accumulation, your estimate of avalanche hazard, traveling conditions etc.

Also, if you've just come off the High Route or skiing in Sequoia or Kings Canyon, call Incident Command at 559-565-3711 and report your observations. If that number gets no answer, call 565-3195.

The route will be flown tomorrow, so the hope is they were just bogged down in the storm.

If you were on the east side during the storm, posting your weather/conditions observations here would be helpful.

Thanks!

George Durkee
Sequoia Kings National Park



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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby gdurkee » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:05 pm

OK. Good news. They were found safe yesterday afternoon. Took a wrong turn and, with the storms, got a bit behind.

Thanks for checking in.

George
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby rlown » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:09 pm

so, i read this account at http://www.snwburd.com/bob/trip_reports/giraud_1.html and was wondering if there's something more we should be doing more to prepare for such incidents? Seems like radio/cell/sat phone aren't enough, or haphazard at best. Any thoughts?

glad they're safe.
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby gdurkee » Thu Apr 08, 2010 4:36 pm

Best bet right now is an Iridium Satellite phone -- they get the best continuous signal. Globalstar is pretty iffy. A SPOT would get a response, so is also a good choice. There's probably 4+ hours after activation (at best) that you'd see help, assuming good weather.

There's a couple of devices soon to be offered (within the next month +). Both are GPS with texting capability and emergency activation buttons. One is a Delorme GPS coupled with a SPOT, the other will be a new device not yet announced. The disadvantage of the SPOT is SAR has no idea what the problem is -- this doesn't necessarily delay response, but when you don't know what you're responding to, it's not as efficient.

I'll post links when the appear. I just saw the unamed one demoed the other day and was sworn to secrecy until it's release... . It operates through a satellite and, unlike the current SPOT, will cache messages until it gets a successful signal. Does other cool stuff too.

As much as many of us (myself included) don't like the idea of gizmos in Wilderness, it sure makes things a lot easier for SAR if you know exactly where people are and a good description of the problem.

g.
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby Cloudy » Thu Apr 08, 2010 5:28 pm

I'm glad it turned out OK. George, I almost pushed the "buy" button for a decent $300 PLB the other day from REI, does your secret device warrant holding off until it's released? No hurry to buy but would rather have no regrets :-)

Alan
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby BSquared » Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:22 am

It's always good to hear when these things turn out well! I suspect it was a real learning experience for the skiers, and I hope it didn't turn out to be too costly -- for anyone!

Wow, exciting news on the PLB/SPOT front! I'll eagerly await your links, George!
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby gdurkee » Fri Apr 09, 2010 9:47 am

The problem with this stuff is there's always a better one (or different, anyway) around the corner. I just looked up the Deloarm/SPOT -- it says it's 2.2 lbs! That's hard to believe so maybe Amazon got it wrong (it's two units). If so, that kinda eliminates it for backpacking.

The new unit I saw is 13 oz. Still a little hefty, but maybe within the zone if you want the two way texting capability. I think the new Sat phones are lighter, though without the location capability or emergency panic button. All these things are a trade-off. The texting gives the ability to tell friends that you've tweaked a knee and need a pickup; same with the SOS -- you can describe the situation and how critical the response speed is (broken ankle at 6PM -- maybe can wait until next day if circulation is not compromised...). Same with coming on someone who needs help (more likely). That way your family knows it's not you.

We also saw a data test of PLB capability in slot canyons of Zion. This was done a few years ago using their Doppler technique to find the beacon. The newer models also have GPS, so would be much more accurate. There also used to be a problem at their command center on which data they sent to SAR agencies, GPS or Doppler solution, but that's supposed to have been solved. The advantage to the PLB is it also has a locater transmitting at 121.5 (??), so you can be pinpointed as a crew gets nearer to you. This hasn't been a problem with a GPS fix, but might be helpful in some situations.

The test results gave solutions of +/- several miles from slot canyons in Zion. Again, using Doppler. There were, I think, two where no signal was sent. Still, not bad for being "deep in the bowels of the earth."

Which is all to say it's just going to depend on what you want, how much you're willing to spend and the capabilities of the device (duh!). For a basic emergency signal, the SPOT will do OK. So will the PLB, but I don't think it has the separate tracking or text pre-agreed messages to friends. So it's emergency only.

Good luck on a decision or just wait to look at the new gizmo coming out. It's in the final stages of testing.

g.
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby gdurkee » Fri Apr 09, 2010 10:01 am

PS:

Bill. These guys were pretty experienced. That route is kinda hard to thread and, if you miss a turn, it can go badly. I came in on the end of the interview, so don't know what their visibility was, but I suspect a GPS would have been useful with the route programmed in. That's the 3rd or 4th SAR we've had there for people with route problems. As simple a SAR as you can have and (very loose guess) it was probably over $5,000 -- most of that was helicopter. Rangers are cheap... .

Another note. As I understand it, SPOT protocol when they get an SOS activation is to first call your list of contacts to confirm you're out there and see if they have any information. Then, for California, they call the California Emergency Management Agency which will in turn notify the SAR agency responsible (Sheriff or NPS). SPOT will give the coordinates and name a nearby geographic landmark. We're hoping to make it a standard protocol to send a hardcopy and Google link to a map.

So you can see there's going to be a lag time of several hours at best to start someone your direction. I'm always amazed at the magical luck that often happens on severe injuries. Getting people out at last light through a series of lucky accidents finding communication or a ranger or whatever.

g.
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby BrianF » Fri Apr 09, 2010 7:42 pm

George, I kNow you are not in the business of giving advice about or endorsements of products, but obviously you have done alot of research on these devices. A few years back, after a near miss on a solo trip, I bought PLB made by ACR that activates the SARSAT system adminstered by NOAA. This was just before the Spot became available. Do you have any particular knowledge of this device and its relative effectiveness?
At 12oz I have considered getting a different model, and it would be nice to be able to send a message other than HELP!
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher
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Re: SAR in Progress: Sequoia Park: Condition Reports needed

Postby BSquared » Sat Apr 10, 2010 6:07 am

gdurkee wrote:I just looked up the Deloarm/SPOT -- it says it's 2.2 lbs! That's hard to believe so maybe Amazon got it wrong (it's two units). If so, that kinda eliminates it for backpacking.

I suspect it's an error (or at least a confusion between shipping weight and unit weight). The DeLorme PN-40 weighs 7.00 oz. (DeLorme website -- I doubt they really know it to the hundredth of an oz ;) ) including batteries, so even if the PN-60w's second unit weighed as much (in the pictures it looks a lot smaller), the two would still add up to less than a pound, or almost exactly as much as the mystery-unit you got to see. (Damn, rangers may be cheap, but they sure seem to have a lot of fun! Of course, so do scientists... :cool: )

Brian, there are a couple of threads here and elsewhere (Mt. Whitney board? I don't remember...) about SPOT vs. PLBs; not exactly what you wanted but you'd probably find them interesting. We used a SPOT on our sort-of JMT hike last summer, and after we figured out how to use it :\ it was great! The two things we needed to know but were not clear in the instruction manual: a.) set the unit on its back, not upright as you would hold a hand-held GPS, b.) wait the full length of time (I think 20 minutes) for it to make all three attempts to send to a satellite and pay no attention to the blinking light that says it's sent a message.

Slot canyons, eh? I agree that it's pretty impressive that they got a signal out at all! I do wonder how useful a location within a few miles would be, especially in canyon country, but it's certainly better than having no notification whatsoever.
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