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Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby MoapaPk » Tue Nov 05, 2013 2:59 pm

I carry a SPOT because I am solo most of the time, often in remote areas with no cell phone reception. Out here, a big worry is: bites by Mojave Green rattlesnakes. Plus, I often send my wife a "delayed" message if I anticipate needing more time. I have medical conditions (e.g. kidney stones) that may cause me to take more time, and I don't want to start S&R if it is just a matter of slowing down for painkillers. It puts my wife's mind at ease (relatively).

Chacun à son goût. I went solo for years without ever using SPOT or GPS. I still don't take a cell phone with me.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby Bob Sihler » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:04 pm

mconnell wrote:I am married, have kids and have no use for carrying one. Never felt the need. My wife is comforted in knowing that, if something goes really wrong, she has a big ass life insurance policy on me.


Same here. While I realize the benefits, the idea of it really takes away something for me. As a concession to my wife, I started carrying a cell phone about four years ago, and sometimes I text her from summits to let her know where I am and that I'm okay. Also, I usually leave a detailed itinerary with expected routes, return times, and "start worrying" times.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby Catamount » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:29 pm

I'm very low tech. No PLB, no GPS but do carry a cell phone, which I use mostly to snap a quick photo or two and send to my wife when I get reception. Let's her know that I'm not only OK but really am in the mountains and not at the strip joint.

Did take a slightly reduced pension that extends to the end of her life simply so I can have the freedom to get myself killed in the mountains without having to worry about post-death money concerns. Plus life insurance.

That said, if I regularly went into avalanche territory, I think I might be inclined to get an avalanche beacon. That would be a really sucky way to go.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby Buz Groshong » Tue Nov 05, 2013 3:31 pm

I don't need one; the NSA knows where to find me. :wink:
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby asmrz » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:05 pm

Might be time to present completely differing opinion.

I have never carried any of these devices and I never will. None of my climbing, backcountry skiing and hiking friends carry them either. First, totally different (and false) sense of security is achieved by carrying any of these units. Secondly, what someone said above regarding the amount of calls these units generate to authorities is totally true. Third, you would not carry anything like it if you were in Peru, Nepal, Tibet etc. anywhere where the call would go into a black hole...Why carry it here?

When we accept the possibility of making catastrophic error, we already passed the threshold of disaster and no amount of gadgets will lower it. When we put our own backcountry knowledge, experience and learning curve second to any of these devices, we not only completely destroy what the "backountry experience" is, we put ourselves in immediate danger.

I hear you, I'm an old timer and my opinion might not be relevant. But just for the sake of discussion, why not learn how to behave in the backcountry in a way that could/will/should/might make these devices completely un-needed.

Some years ago, I wrote an article for a local club here in Southern California. I think this short excerpt from it is as valid today as those 25 years ago:

"Never - not even for a second - think that rescue is an option. Rescue is totally opposite to safety. Once we need rescue, we already screwed up big time and passed the threshold of disaster. Expecting to be rescued is totally irresponsible. Nobody owes us rescue. Let’s use our own backcountry sense and skills to make the kind of decisions that will make rescue unnecessary."
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:20 pm

asmrz wrote:"Never - not even for a second - think that rescue is an option. Rescue is totally opposite to safety. Once we need rescue, we already screwed up big time and passed the threshold of disaster. Expecting to be rescued is totally irresponsible. Nobody owes us rescue. Let’s use our own backcountry sense and skills to make the kind of decisions that will make rescue unnecessary."

Very well said I think.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby bscott » Tue Nov 05, 2013 5:59 pm

asmrz wrote:Some years ago, I wrote an article for a local club here in Southern California. I think this short excerpt from it is as valid today as those 25 years ago:

"Never - not even for a second - think that rescue is an option. Rescue is totally opposite to safety. Once we need rescue, we already screwed up big time and passed the threshold of disaster. Expecting to be rescued is totally irresponsible. Nobody owes us rescue. Let’s use our own backcountry sense and skills to make the kind of decisions that will make rescue unnecessary."


So my aunt, who tripped in a freak accident on Rainier, leaving both her fractured tibia and fibula sticking out of her leg, should have, according to you:

a) sat there and died.

or

b) bootstrappily crawled through miles of muddy trail to rescue herself

Your post presents a false dilemma, as do many of the posts on this board. The appropriate use of a PLB is not to enable you to do stupid stuff you otherwise wouldn't do. The purpose of a PLB is to (hopefully) enable you to be rescued if you, by accident, wind up in a situation you find you cannot easily get out of. Note the usage of the word "accident", as I did not use it accidentally.

Defining the two sides of the debate as "of no use at all" vs. "makes you behave like a dumbass" is intellectually dishonest.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby asmrz » Tue Nov 05, 2013 6:56 pm

I know, some people will never have a clue and instead of conversation, offer insults. Fair enough, this is internet. Read my post over and over, there is a hidden message in it for people like you...
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby bscott » Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:05 pm

asmrz wrote:I know, some people will never have a clue and instead of conversation, offer insults. Fair enough, this is internet. Read my post over and over, there is a hidden message in it for people like you...


Kindly quote where I insulted you.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby MoapaPk » Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:48 pm

asmrz wrote: Third, you would not carry anything like it if you were in Peru, Nepal, Tibet etc. anywhere where the call would go into a black hole...


GPS works nearly world-wide, SPOT works in all the areas you mentioned, and rescues have been done in very remote areas-- the rescue guarantee is through Lloyd's of London Insurance. People have been carrying sat phones in remote mountains for some time; SPOT is less bulky and in my opinion, less intrusive.

Really, I respect all opinions on this, But whatever choice you make, try to minimize negative impacts on other people. Consider:

Technology has advanced a lot, and not just in electronic gadgets. All those advancements have increased ease of access to remote areas. We could still be carrying oilskins, wool jackets, alpenstocks, crampons without front points, and manilla ropes. Perhaps the greatest change has been wrought by the internet; back in the early 70s, even a through-hike on the Appalachian Trail was an adventure into the unknown. Nowadays you can find detailed instructions and advice on-line. The very fact that you are reading this post on SP, means that you have bought into one aspect of the advance of technology. The advance in technology has turned some ideas of wilderness upside-down; there is Wi-Fi and cell service much of the way to Everest. There are places I go in Nevada that are, in some senses, more remote than Everest; there is no 3g service (we don't even get normal radio).

An awful lot of S&R actions out here are for rock-climbing accidents, and the rescue is typically initiated by cell phone calls. I don't think the climbers in Red Rock are doing more risky moves because they think their cell phones will save them; there are just more people out there, and a lot more people who treat everything like a rush-rush competition. The cell phone calls just increase the chance that there will be a rescue, and not a body recovery. Being able to pinpoint someone (based on info from the call) saves S&R time. Las Vegas S&R used to get a lot of "overdue climber" calls, and would be out there at midnight flying around with bullhorns and spotlights (I had a friend in that situation 11 years ago).

In the last two years, we've had unfortunate accidents in the Sierra, where folks left little indication of where they were going. It's a lot more expensive (and more painful for the relatives) if the rescue can't narrow the area down. I advocate people wear bright clothes; I tell people it's for safety and so others can see them, but what I don't say is that it makes body recovery a lot easier.

Perhaps I'm atypical; but I have found I've become more careful since I took to carrying a SPOT. A lot of my solo trips involve aretes like this: http://hwstock.org/chaze/images/IMG_0563.jpg
...I used to just climb these in a stream-of-consciousness way, and nearly lost my life to loose rock many times. Now I've promised my wife that I will send a signal before and after any risky move. So I now I sit and study the routes a lot more.

I can't make other people be responsible; just as there will always be people who abuse rescue devices, there will also be people texting while driving and otherwise driving recklessly.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby Fletch » Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:56 pm

asmrz wrote:I hear you, I'm an old timer and my opinion might not be relevant.

You are a very well respected SP member and equally respected in climbing circles in CA... your opinion matters very much.

asmrz wrote:But just for the sake of discussion, why not learn how to behave in the backcountry in a way that could/will/should/might make these devices completely un-needed.

I agree, but nothing in completely safe. I almost fell off my roof this weekend pulling leaves out of my gutter... it's not a matter of being safe or competent --- it's just that sooner or later, something will cross your path. Someone will twist an ankle, break a leg, etc, and frankly, I'd rather use my PLB and save some epic story for the next guy than let my pride or ego get the best of my common sense. And who knows? Maybe the thing saves my life or someone elses... I'm ok with that.

asmrz wrote:Some years ago, I wrote an article for a local club here in Southern California. I think this short excerpt from it is as valid today as those 25 years ago:

"Never - not even for a second - think that rescue is an option. Rescue is totally opposite to safety. Once we need rescue, we already screwed up big time and passed the threshold of disaster. Expecting to be rescued is totally irresponsible. Nobody owes us rescue. Let’s use our own backcountry sense and skills to make the kind of decisions that will make rescue unnecessary."

I agree again (in part). I think your making a good point, but you're extrapolating a conclusion from personal bias. I don't go into the backcountry thinking rescue is an option. It has no place in my decision making. In my opinion, that's selfish to the SAR folks, dangerous to my partners, and takes away from the personal experience. I realize that there will be folks out there that use a PLB as a crutch, and that's unfortunate. Not to sound arrogant, but I don't expect to ever use mine --- I hope and pray that I will never need it. But there really isn't a logical reason for not carrying one...
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby asmrz » Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:00 pm

Fletch

Good points, fair enough. You guys can say it better than I ever will.

Rescue is not an option in backcountry activities.

Responsibility for and the knowledge of the activity lies with us.

Unfortunately, I live in Idyllwild with full view of Tahquitz Rock, San Jacinto Peak and the heli pad. One of the things that colors my opinion is the amount of rescues and the reasons for them. Every week during the spring and summer, people get tired while hiking local trails, run out of water, or miss the trail and, you guessed it, press the locator or make the call. When we first moved here 15 years ago, it was amusing. It is less so now. Basic skills of backcountry travel are not followed, people have not a clue about outdoors, responsibility for one's safety is given to that button and the experts, who will pull my ass out of danger so I can do it again next weekend. This is not complicated, it happens every week here, and I'm sure in lot of other places.

We know where the answer lies. It is not in that button at all.

BTW. Thanks for your kind words.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby MoapaPk » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:42 pm

We could use some data here. I'm trying to get a breakdown for the local S&R; but until then, some inadequate plots from "Accidents in American Mountaineering." These data are just for Americans involved in mountaineering accidents in North America, and the criteria for inclusion are vague. I have data through 2006 only. By the year 2000, cell phones were becoming ubiquitous. In 2007 (I think) analog services were severely cut back, and cell phones had a down-click in utility in the mountains, till more towers and newer digital protocols were offered. GPS didn't really become useful till about 1998. The PLB protocol was introduced in 1982, but the units didn't become inexpensive till about 2008. SPOT didn't come out till 2008.

Image

EDIT: PLB stats are a bit difficult to interpret: http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/en/operato ... statistics

...as they include both marine and land rescues. The second plot
Image

in the above reference shows responses to the two commonly used frequencies -- since the lower frequency is declining in usage, you should add the magenta and blue bars.
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby mrchad9 » Tue Nov 05, 2013 11:48 pm

It seems somewhat cyclical. You should climb in the odd numbered years because those are safer than even ones!
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Re: Do you carry a PLB ( Locator Beacon) ?

Postby SeanReedy » Wed Nov 06, 2013 10:21 am

I've used a first generation SPOT for nearly five years. It has consistently worked when sending OK messages and mapping those spots I checked in from. I got it as a gift from my wife and parents after we started doing lots of driving in remote areas and I started doing lots of remote solo hikes out of cell phone range. My carrying the SPOT gives them and other family members some peace of mind and some mild entertainment when I send OK messages. It is simple to quickly and effortlessly use during brief breaks or while enjoying a summit. I find that it takes almost none of my attention away from enjoying the wilderness. The SAR coverage could help a bad situation turn out better than it would otherwise, but regardless, I generally prepare and behave as though I/we will not be able to contact anyone, be helped in any way, nor be rescued. I am considering adding the roadside assist coverage and still would only pay what amounts to about $10-$12/month to have a SPOT. Good life insurance doesn't have to cost tons more than that, but my wife is capable of financial independence and money would be virtually no consolation to her, my kids, nor my family if I were to die or if any of us were to have a more harrowing experience than necessary in a remote area.

Moapa, Fletch, and a few others have already amply represented other examples and points that came to my mind, but I'll elaborate on the subject of injured ankles as it hits close to home.

I am currently rehabbing my ankle after injuring it in the Sierra and needing surgery to place a couple of screws in my tibia. I would only use my SPOT to call for help if doing so might save a life or likely reduce chances of serious permanent injury. Given that I didn't need to down-climb a substantial cliff (a situation I tend to avoid, especially solo), my common sense told me that a duct tape splint/wrap and improvised crutches, along with my other supplies would get me out in one piece just fine. Had bone broken through skin, blood loss been severe, circulation been severely impaired, or had serious shock set in, I might have given the SAR capabilities of SPOT more thought, but I just used it to send OK messages during rest breaks. After spending a couple of hours crab-walking down the rougher parts of Little Slide Canyon and, when feasible, hopping on my good leg with the aid of a hiking pole and a stick, I was fortunate to meet a group of backpackers just as the terrain became more of a trail. One gave me a hiking pole to go along with the one I had brought along (normally I use or carry two, but had lost one the previous day). The same guy offered to hike out with me, but we assessed the situation and decided that was not necessary. After six hours of hopping on my good leg, I was back at camp to clean up, cook some burgers, refuel, and briefly await my family's return from the nearby beach/lake for the drive to the hospital in Mammoth to unwrap and x-ray my grotesquely bruised and swollen ankle. I was glad the hike out only took as long as it did; I was exhausted, but I could have gone farther or spent a night (or more) out to rest if needed.

A trip out with SAR would have taken longer than six hours to reach a conclusion (or possibly to have even commenced) and would have likely been less comfortable. If I couldn't have safely gotten out of the wilderness under those circumstances in the given weather conditions without calling SAR, maybe I shouldn't have been as far out as I was. Had I been out overnight, the SPOT could have been used to send OK messages and to avoid family calling for SAR. If the situation had been more dire, the SPOT could have lessened SAR response time and made me easier to locate.

.
.
Perhaps it is most important to note that the SPOT GEOS SAR coverage and insurance through Lloyds of London will not aply if you call for assistance while in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Somalia, Iraq, Congo, or embattled portions of Israel. Anyone up for a hike in Syria? It seems as though locations there are covered.
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