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Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search

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avatar Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 15, 2010 11:15AM
Yosemite National Park (CA)
Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search

On Saturday, September 4th, a group of backpackers from southern California began a backpacking trip in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The group’s plan was to hike for three days and come out of the backcountry on Tuesday, September 7th. All members of the group were experienced backpackers. Mike Arends, a member of the group, decided to stay in the backcountry for another night because he wanted to take a day hike to Grand Mountain. He planned to finish his trip on Wednesday. When Arends did not rejoin the rest of the group on the 8th, his fellow hikers contacted park dispatch. A hasty search was initiated that afternoon, but Yosemite rangers were unable to locate Arends. On Thursday, the park launched a more extensive search, concentrating on the area in which Arends intended to hike. During this time, Arends realized that he had lost the trail and began hiking towards what he believed to be a ridge near Halfmoon Meadow. After 11 hours of hiking, Arends hiked further into the backcountry towards the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne along the Cathedral Creek Drainage, an extremely rugged area of the park. Arends realized he was lost and began self-survival procedures by rationing his food and water supply. After observing a helicopter over the area he was in, he realized that rangers were searching for him. He placed a green tarp on the ground with large white rocks spelling out “SOS”. He also lit a fire to alert rangers of his location. During midday on Saturday, September 11th, rangers spotted the “SOS” message from the helicopter. It landed and picked up Arends and flew him to Tuolumne Meadows. He was found to be unhurt and in good shape.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 15, 2010 09:02PM
Send him a bill.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 18, 2010 09:27AM
SAR in Yosemite is a different thing than SAR anywhere else. The SAR folks get paid.

I volunteer in a neighboring county - we don't get paid, we buy our gear and we take unpaid time off to do the work. I don't think we should charge for rescues - not at all. A lot of our rescues are kids lost in urban neighborhoods, sometimes we find the Alzheimers grandpa who wandered off, and oh yeah, we go out in the woods a lot looking for late/missing hikers. I don't think we should charge the hikers for any of it. They didn't go out to get lost. Some people who are not hikers do, want to commit suicide by wilderness, others are going out to get away from legal troubles, we look for all of them with the same determination. We don't charge them either. They have enough problems.

Yosemite will bill medical insurance for medical services and it sounds like they are starting to bill for the rescue... well, those SAR folks need a lot of training as they are frequently climbing vertical faces, swinging out of helicopters, and doing things the run of the mill SAR volunteer won't do. They are training all the time. We train once a month. We ride in a helicopter but never swing from them out to vertical rock faces. We don't climb the face of Half Dome. We hike gridlines and look for tracks or evidence. So I understand Yosemite needing to charge... I just don't think that needs to be universal.

I don't believe in a "dumb" tax. Someday, I may go hiking and get turned around, or caught up in weather, or hurt in some freaky accident no one can predict, and need rescue. That wouldn't make me stupid. It might mean I was complacent, or distracted, or just hit the lucky number in the roulette of Crazy Things That Happen. It might mean the map blew away from me in a gust of wind, or the companion I thought would stick with me got turned around, and then I got lost looking for him. SAR would go out looking and maybe find me, or maybe I would walk out on my own - either way, I bet you would see it in the paper and assume all kinds of things and be wrong. Having been privy to the details of things that showed up in brief vague articles, I can tell you the papers nearly always get some of it wrong, no idea where the communication breaks down there....

A lot of folks who go out there don't know what they don't know. That's just ignorance, and it's curable, which is why SAR volunteers also give presentations at REI and go volunteer to teach boy scouts how to use maps and compasses.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 16, 2010 01:20PM
I believe they will. I took the hikers shuttle on Sunday from Curry Village to the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. The bus driver mentioned that hellicopter rescue for overdue hikers generally runs $3500 and that the hiker is billed. If they do not pay, she said the bill goes to a collection agency.

I recommend the book "Death in Yosemite," which has a great chapter on the extraordinary financial cost for Search and Rescue in the park. Tragically, some search and rescue workers have been killed while searching for lost hikers.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 16, 2010 02:32PM
Many of the personnel who participate in search and rescue do so because they are service minded and desire, for whatever personal reason, to be a part of wilderness rescue efforts despite the risks. Accidents happen and mistakes are made, even to people who are well prepared and experienced. Should people be afraid to go to national parks, be reluctant to try backpacking or climbing, or delay in summoning help and make their situation worse because they'll be socked with an enormous bill by search and rescue? Sure, there are reckless people and ill-prepared risk takers, and these people could receive fines for gross negligence, but I don't think that characterizes the vast majority of people who need rescue in the wilderness.

Maybe the fire department should charge people when it provides assistance. Or maybe there should be a charge for 911 calls. We could put a price tag on the "jaws of life" perhaps. Should people be charged if a burglar or rapist enters their homes and they need police support to deal with a crisis? Maybe parents should foot the bill for search efforts when their child is abducted.

We come up with trillions to bomb some country and its people into oblivion, but we have to nickel and dime to help save people in our national parks? Hundreds of thousands of people come to Yosemite every year and are charged to enter the park. Taxpayers support the park system as well. There's apparently money available to add curbing on every stinking road in and out of the park. I feel certain that there's money enough to lend assistance to someone in need in the wilderness, if only that money would be appropriated correctly.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 16, 2010 03:52PM
The salient point really is that there are countess people who launch seach and rescues in national parks who are not in an emergency situation.

Recently, some hikers in the Grand Canyon recklessly issued an emergency alert from their GPS because their 'water tasted salty." So a dozen seach and rescue people were detailed to rescue these people who were not in any danger at all. Their services could have been diverted from someone seriously injured, thus endangering someone truly in need of assistance.

I confess that I have limited sympathy for ill-prepared people who enter the wilderness and attempt extreme physical exertion when they have neither the fitness, expertise, knowledge or gear suitable for the adventure. They get tired and demand a rescue. Or they attempt an off-trail, strenuous hike when they don't even have a backpack, food or shelter. These people are the ones who compromise legitimate rescues within the National Park system.

I have every sympathy for hikers who legitimately require emergency assistance because of circumstances beyond their control. But people also need to accept responsibility for their own safety. In November, 2007, my husband fell and broke his leg while doing a 24 mile rim to rim hike in the Grand Canyon. This is a hike we do with some frequency, but walking 21 miles on a broken leg was difficult, to say the least, especially with an elevation gain of 5600 feet. When I phoned search and rescue office from the emergency phone at Phantom and Cottonwood campground, the fellow said, "Can he bear weight on the leg?" I said, "Barely." He said, "If he can bear weight, we are not sending anyone out." And they did not. We did make it out safely and have no gripes no one assisted us, especially when the North Rim officially was closed at that time of year.

We hikers assume risk when we enter the wilderness and should not expect assistance when emergencies strike.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 16, 2010 06:06PM
It is frustrating to hear stories about people who head out with a SPOT device or GPS and don't bother making proper preparations or learning basic survival or self-rescue techniques. The salty water people contacted rescue personnel no less than three times during their trip, if I recall correctly. Making every rescued person pay for rescue because a few groups of suburbanites have misused a SPOT device can't really be justified to me, though, at least not yet.

Lack of preparation didn't seem to be the case in this most recent situation, although the details are fairly scant. The individual in this scenario was called an "experienced backpacker," but what that means exactly is difficult to discern. There are probably as many definitions of "experienced" as there are people backpacking in the wilderness. I agree that people who want to enjoy the wilderness should apply themselves and learn how to conduct themselves responsibly rather than figuring that someone or something will bail them out if they go in over their heads.

And of course, if self-rescue is possible, then rescue really isn't needed. Maybe this guy could have found his way out eventually, but without knowing why he as overdue, the others in his party no doubt felt an urgency to report that he was missing, and SAR would have to make the call at that point about whether to launch a rescue effort. Definitely a lot of unknowns in these situations at times!
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 16, 2010 07:52PM
Quote
Nancy
... The individual in this scenario was called an "experienced backpacker," but what that means exactly is difficult to discern....
An experienced packpacker would have stayed with the group.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 18, 2010 11:27PM
I'm very surprised that some people have implied that solo backpacking is irresponsible. In this case, the guy walked in alone (mostly on a well-travelled trail), met a group of people at a lake, then walked out alone, staying a day later than the rest of his group. That doesn't sound very irresponsible to me. Sure, he could have had better equipment (e.g. GPS). Sure, he could have reacted better when he failed to pick up the trail back to the trailhead (e.g. go back to the main lake as soon as he suspected he wasn't on the main trail and either make more attempts to find the trail or ask someone for assistance, as there were other groups at the main lake). However, I have a lot of sympathy for the guy. The last time I was there, I had to do a little hunting for the right trail to get out. If he didn't pay close attention to where the trail came over the ridge on his way in, I could see how he could end up going off course.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 19, 2010 07:14AM
It's funny that you think a GPS is "better" equipment. If you don't know how to use it, or it glitches or tells you the trail is somewhere it is not (this is a common problem, the map shows the trail a quarter of a mile from the trail you are clearly standing on), you just get more lost. We've had the GPS units tell two of a seven man team to head a mile in a different direction than the rest of the team with their GPS units pointing the other way. Why we are never sent out without a map and orienteering compass. I just finished a 40 mile backpack, on trails, and the GPS never showed a single trail. Old USGS topos are slow to catch up with the park systems.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 19, 2010 07:31AM
I don't think that finding the trail is as important as walking in the right direction. Whatever equipment allows you to do that is fine. Even if you have a GPS, I agree it's still essential to have a map and compass also.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 19, 2010 08:37AM
Quote
yosemite_backpkr
I'm very surprised that some people have implied that solo backpacking is irresponsible. In this case, the guy walked in alone (mostly on a well-travelled trail), met a group of people at a lake, then walked out alone, staying a day later than the rest of his group. That doesn't sound very irresponsible to me. Sure, he could have had better equipment (e.g. GPS). Sure, he could have reacted better when he failed to pick up the trail back to the trailhead (e.g. go back to the main lake as soon as he suspected he wasn't on the main trail and either make more attempts to find the trail or ask someone for assistance, as there were other groups at the main lake). However, I have a lot of sympathy for the guy. The last time I was there, I had to do a little hunting for the right trail to get out. If he didn't pay close attention to where the trail came over the ridge on his way in, I could see how he could end up going off course.
I've been solo hiking and backpacking since I was 10 years old. I've never been lost.... mighty confused for a week or two, but never lost.

Whenever I plan to go into an unfamiliar area I study the maps before I go. I draw in my planned hike and bring the map, and compass, with me. Several times I've found my position on the map faster than someone's GPS unit.

If this guy was an "experienced" hiker, he would have had a map with him.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 19, 2010 09:51PM
If this guy was an "experienced" hiker, he would have had a map with him.

I don't recall the article saying that he did or didn't, but having navigational aids of any kind is still no guarantee against becoming misplaced or misinterpreting landmarks. I've seen it happen to experienced people who were using a map. Hiked a little farther and it all sorted out, but again, it happens. How does one gain the experience and know-how to use a map and compass if these skills are never tested outside the classroom?
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 19, 2010 10:10PM
To paraphrase a guy from the Whitney Board: Good judgment comes from experience but experience comes from bad judgment.



Old Dude
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 06:59AM
There are plenty of "experienced" people who hike without a map and never learn to use one. I can think of two search and rescue ops that involved older gents who relied entirely on other people for navigational aid. One walked out on his own on trail after finding the trail again hours after becoming separated from his two friends, with whom he backpacked every year. All three of them were going cross country, argued, and the old fellow stomped off on his own in a huff.

One was found by a helicopter after pitching camp after becoming lost going for help when his navigating friend made a very poor decision that led to his injury and eventual death. He didn't put out any sign he was lost. To all appearances he looked like someone camping on the edge of a meadow. After a couple of flights out to drop personnel, the copter landed to check and see if the camper had seen anyone matching the description of the lost hikers, and discovered he was one of them.

I have been encouraging groups I hike with to get a map, learn to use it, and have it even when in groups. I'm sure I am a tedious broken record to them. It doesn't make it any less important or true. You can easily pick up basic map reading without having to calculate lat/long or really do much with a compass other than understanding - top of the map is north. North is where the compass needle points. And if you are paying attention from the trailhead outward, know the basic headings and remembering the turns and landmarks, putting together a return route isn't so hard. The key is paying attention.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 07:57AM
I would add that hikers have to take extra care in finding good quality maps. This year I talked with a number of folks, both backpackers and day hikers, who had lousy maps. I don't remember what species of map it was but the most common one I saw covered all of Yosemite, had poor trail detail, and no topographical information. This kind of map will provide only marginal assistance if you are lost or about to get lost. Most maps covering all of Yosemite at one time are just not capable of providing the detail needed for useful trail following.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 08:20AM
Quote
Nancy
I don't recall the article saying that he did or didn't, but having navigational aids of any kind is still no guarantee against becoming misplaced or misinterpreting landmarks.
An experienced hiker would have a map, compass, at least knew how to use them and actually used them.
Quote

I've seen it happen to experienced people who were using a map. Hiked a little farther and it all sorted out, but again, it happens. How does one gain the experience and know-how to use a map and compass if these skills are never tested outside the classroom?
By familiarizing themselves with the map and the terrain BEFORE starting out.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 11:06AM
Of course, but the NPS report didn't provide enough detail to know what navigational aids this guy was carrying and exactly what his level of ability with them might have been. He might have found his own way out had SAR not gone looking for him. Who knows? The assumption by many in this forum, though, seems to be that anyone who gets misplaced in the wilderness is an incompetent boob who has no business backpacking in Yosemite and deserves to be soaked for every last penny spent in a rescue, and I think that's a bit harsh.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 11:43AM
Quote
Nancy
Of course, but the NPS report didn't provide enough detail to know what navigational aids this guy was carrying and exactly what his level of ability with them might have been. He might have found his own way out had SAR not gone looking for him. Who knows? The assumption by many in this forum, though, seems to be that anyone who gets misplaced in the wilderness is an incompetent boob who has no business backpacking in Yosemite and deserves to be soaked for every last penny spent in a rescue, and I think that's a bit harsh.

Reality is harsh. He left his party. Not a bright move. He went off trail without knowing the terrain. Not a bright move. He put the lives of his rescuers in danger and cost all of us money. Send him a bill. I have trouble mustering up a tiny bit of sympathy for him.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 23, 2010 02:24PM
Quote
Dave
Reality is harsh. He left his party. Not a bright move. He went off trail without knowing the terrain. Not a bright move. He put the lives of his rescuers in danger and cost all of us money. Send him a bill. I have trouble mustering up a tiny bit of sympathy for him.

You can study a map all you want and still not "know the terrain" until you get there, unless other topo maps are showing vastly different data than the ones I'm using. Other people's trip reports and photos can augment the map, too, of course, but you still can't know everything. And who wants to anyway? Knowing all there is to know about an area kind of defeats the purpose of going off trail.

We don't know what knowledge this guy had of his intended route because the article didn't specify, and I still maintain that solo backpacking and off-trail travel cannot, in themselves, be considered irresponsible or stupid.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 23, 2010 07:26PM
Quote
Nancy
You can study a map all you want and still not "know the terrain" until you get there,

You would know a lot more than you would if you did not study. I'm not stupid enough to go walking off in the wilderness without being prepared. Those that are stupid enough are the ones other people have to risk their lives to save.

Quote

unless other topo maps are showing vastly different data than the ones I'm using. Other people's trip reports and photos can augment the map, too, of course, but you still can't know everything. And who wants to anyway? Knowing all there is to know about an area kind of defeats the purpose of going off trail.

Where did I say anything about knowing everything? You should know enough to stay safe. No peak, no valley, no tarn, is worth losing my life on the way.

Quote

We don't know what knowledge this guy had of his intended route because the article didn't specify, and I still maintain that solo backpacking and off-trail travel cannot, in themselves, be considered irresponsible or stupid.

We do know he did not know enough not to get lost.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 20, 2010 11:38AM
Quote
Ulysses61
"If he can bear weight, we are not sending anyone out."

I find that very disturbing. Even if he can put some weight on the leg, it is not good to be walking on it.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 08:25AM
Of course he shouldn't be charged unless he did something reckless. And hiking solo does not equal recklessness.

It's a disturbing trend that local governments have started to use SAR operations as a chance for finger wagging and preaching about fault. A few bad apples abusing their SPOT devices hardly warrants abandoning the whole system. I think most hikers are thankful and grateful for the rescue workers who put their lives on the line. They would never put themselves and others at risk knowingly. Thankfully, the NPS has not yet jumped on SAR-as-a-revenue-opportunity like some states have.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/29/us/29rescue.html?_r=1
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 11:57AM
"He/She who hikes alone, has a fool for a companion."

I also have problems with anyone leaving a hiking group, either for a day hike or backpacking adventure.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 02:26PM
Quote
Ulysses61
"He/She who hikes alone, has a fool for a companion."

I also have problems with anyone leaving a hiking group, either for a day hike or backpacking adventure.

I agree with the sentiment about hiking alone in Yosemite but only in application to off-trail areas.

Yosemite is so amply populated with hikers on most trails that sooner or later somebody will show up who can assist or go for assistance if a hiker is found to be in trouble. I hike alone in Yosemite once a year (from across the country) because finding somebody to go with on my schedule has been too tall an order. This year I spent the first day of hiking entirely off-trail and soon realized I could be in a serious predicament if I hurt myself in some manner that immobilized me. I will not be doing that again. Other than that I see no serious flaw with overnight hiking alone as long as I am sticking to the trails and both somebody at home plus the permit rangers have a detailed copy of my hiking plan. I can't count the number of people I passed this year on the day hikes.

Fortunately, it appears I may have a hiking buddy for part or all of next year's visit. Not only will it be safer, the evenings sitting around camp waiting for dark will not be so boring.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/17/2010 02:28PM by tomdisco.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 04:59PM
My dictionary does not seem to list “experienced” as a synonym for “incompetent".

A quick look at a map shows that Grand Mountain is approx. 0.5 mile due N of the trail winding through the Ten Lakes area with <±100 ft. elevation differential to the top via a saddle. Intense, concentrated effort is needed to get lost, even without a map & compass or a GPS unit. (Sun rises in the south and sets in the east... right?)

I have no problem with someone separating from a group as long as they actually know what they are doing and are properly equipped. (Although it would be infinitely preferable if it was agreed upon beforehand and not a spur-of-the-moment decision; it's not clear what the situation was here.)



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/18/2010 10:15AM by szalkowski.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 05:13PM
Experienced where? This smacks of the snow shoeing guy last winter that left the Peter Grubb hut heading for I80. He went north instead of south. He was rescued also.

Yosemite is not an area to be off trail in without some pretty good knowledge of where you are and where you are going.



Old Dude
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 05:20PM
Quote
mrcondron
Yosemite is not an area to be off trail in without some pretty good knowledge of where you are and where you are going.

Or at least a guide Chickon Boo?
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 17, 2010 06:24PM
The backpacker in question may not have been experienced enough for off-trail travel in Yosemite (impossible to know what happened), but he seems to have been properly equipped for his trip. He did manage a few unplanned nights in the wilderness and was found in good condition.

Backpacking isn't badminton. It's intended to be an adventure, and I support those who participate in it for just that reason. How do we gain experience? Usually by observing, learning, and then trying something on our own. Should no one ever attempt to climb a peak because others have fallen or died? Should people never leave the safety of car camping in Yosemite Valley because a backpacker gets lost now and then? Should someone always hike in a group and stay on trail because others have gotten lost in the wilderness? Sometimes limits must be tested--safely and with the proper preparation, but tested nonetheless.

It's like learning to drive. You might have taken Drivers Ed, completed Behind the Wheel, and drove countless hours with Mom or Dad riding shotgun with white knuckles. But to truly be a driver, you have to go out on your own. And it's dangerous! People die on the roads every day, a lot of them teens. But parents still send their kids out, and kids still want to go. That's just how this kind of stuff works.

I backpack regularly with an experienced partner, and it's rare that we don't go off trail. He's been backpacking in Yosemite for nearly a decade and knows how to do it. I'm learning how and hope that I'll be as good as he is some day. I fully intend to backpack solo in Yosemite, if not this season then definitely next. I will plan my trips along the trails for now, and I don't think that's foolish or particularly risky at all. I know my limits in the wilderness, but they have surely been tested, and those experiences are some that I wouldn't trade for anything.
Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 21, 2010 12:09AM
Quote
mrcondron
Experienced where? This smacks of the snow shoeing guy last winter that left the Peter Grubb hut heading for I80. He went north instead of south. He was rescued also.

Yosemite is not an area to be off trail in without some pretty good knowledge of where you are and where you are going.

The same could be said of just about any wilderness or remote area. But in my opinion, Yosemite is a fairly easy area to do off trail hiking, at least in comparison to many others areas I have been.
avatar Re: Lost Backpacker Found After Multi-Day Search
September 18, 2010 07:28AM
Coincidentally, I came across this listing while perusing the Los Angeles television schedule for the morning of 18 September, 2010:

Sesame Street
Episode: Wild Nature Survivor Guy (First Aired: November 13, 2009)
Wild Nature Survival Guy mistakes ``Sesame Street'' for the wilds of nature.


(Perhaps another example of symmetry in the universe?)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/18/2010 07:45AM by szalkowski.
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