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Re: Need for groups to hike together ?

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Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 03:57PM
On another current thread, AlmostThere posted this nugget of wisdom that I thought could use some discussion on its own:

"I wonder why I hear so often of people who are lost from groups, then. You get no security in groups unless there is a very clear understanding within the group - it does you no good if they all go marching off full speed and assume you are coming along slowly, you're fine, and then you twist an ankle. You have to resolve to stay together NO MATTER WHAT. Communicate about where you are going and how long you will be gone, even if it is merely going out to dig a cathole. One whistle means stop, two means come here, three means come here hella fast there's a critter chewing on me/I fell and can't get up/can't move/OMG...."

What do the rest of you think? What is your own experience? How do you folks handle this?

It is a statement I tend to agree with strongly though there are some minor exceptions. It is just way to easy to become disconnected in most areas. Especially in some terrain like dense forest or where multiple trails and use trails junction with trails one's route is on.

It is however in my decades of experience passing groups of both day hikers and backpackers on trails, often not followed. Thus I've often passed a person on the trail and then 5, 10, 15 minutes later someone or more parts of a group pass. Two separate solo hikers? Well sometimes no doubt but not when someone asks if a described hiker passed me on the trail? And worse are large groups that pass a few here, one two minutes later. two more five minutes later, etc. And have even seen this with groups out crosscountry in unfamiliar landscapes.

Most of my own trips involve crosscountry and I make it very clear to others that if they are part of the group I am leading, that they will need to agree before hand to hike together. Regardless of how slow the weakest or most loaded individuals might be. Especially if we've shared transportation to trailheads. Thus no wandering ahead or lingering behind out of eyesight or earshot. If someone in the rear gets tired and wants to stop, they are not allowed to simply plunk down without yelling out to others ahead that they would like to stop. And no splitting up with two here and three there etc. One reason it tends to be more important in my groups is we often don't know exactly where we will be siting our camp at about a given destination. Since I tend to camp well away from trails and lake edges, finding where we actually decide to site could be rather difficult.

Now if someone else totally independent gear wise with their own wilderness permit, and trailhead transportation, wants to join us or leave us at any point, that's fine too. In fact that is how I often join people and groups I am unfamiliar with. So if say someone on a web board wants to get together with me to backpack to some destination, I usually suggest each of us do so fully independently in case things don't work out. Also the reality is on our group trips that once we reach camping locations where we often basecamp for days that most of us spend time each day wandering off, sometimes for miles alone. That is indeed dangerous but no more so than solo crosscountry backpacking we all do.

With on trail hiking the stick together wisdom has obvious exceptions. For instance if some of us are planning to fish at the inlet to Convict Lake, if someone wants to linger back at their car for 15 minutes to fix their reel, fine. There isn't any way they are going to get lost because the lake edge use trail is all too obvious even for the unfamiliar. They surely aren't going to hike in the water nor climb up the steep slope behind the lake. And likewise if one is backpacking in a group to say Greenstone Lake behind Saddlebag Reservoir, its again trivial. So yeah there are minor exceptions.

David



http://www.davidsenesac.com



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/2011 04:03PM by DavidSenesac.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 05:15PM
Quote
DavidSenesac
On another current thread, AlmostThere posted this nugget of wisdom that I thought could use some discussion on its own:

"I wonder why I hear so often of people who are lost from groups, then. You get no security in groups unless there is a very clear understanding within the group - it does you no good if they all go marching off full speed and assume you are coming along slowly, you're fine, and then you twist an ankle. You have to resolve to stay together NO MATTER WHAT. Communicate about where you are going and how long you will be gone, even if it is merely going out to dig a cathole. One whistle means stop, two means come here, three means come here hella fast there's a critter chewing on me/I fell and can't get up/can't move/OMG...."

What do the rest of you think? What is your own experience? How do you folks handle this?

If you lead a lot of organized group day hikes, I think equipping everyone with a fully charged FRS/GMRS two-way radio (like this one: Motorola MH230R) is an excellent safety measure. I would also recommend them if you regularly hike with a large group of friends or relatives. For backpacking trips though, they can be a bit problematic because there's no convenient way to recharge them overnight out in the wilderness. But for day hikes, they're close to ideal.

Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 05:53PM
I have a set of those. Unless you are in line of sight and within a mile of each other, it's not worth the effort. Not ideal for anyone who accidentally sets them to the wrong channel and can't figure out they've done it either. Yep, been there, done that... only worth it with a group of people who agrees to use them, knows how to use them, and all hike about the same pace, give or take half a mile.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:25PM
Quote
AlmostThere

I have a set of those. Unless you are in line of sight and within a mile of each other, it's not worth the effort. Not ideal for anyone who accidentally sets them to the wrong channel and can't figure out they've done it either. Yep, been there, done that... only worth it with a group of people who agrees to use them, knows how to use them, and all hike about the same pace, give or take half a mile.

They shouldn't have to have line of sight. If yours do, then they're defective or deficient. While many claim to have a range of 23 miles, in real life use, I found them very effective up to three miles in mountainous areas like Yosemite, and in the desert up to five miles or so.

I do agree with you that people need to learn how to operate them and it would be great if one could lock in a channel (needing a passcode to change it) so the clueless don't accidentally switch channels. I'm surprised that the manufacturers haven't yet included such feature (or maybe they have and I'm aware of it).

Still, even with their limitations, I found them to be very useful in keeping groups of friends and families organized in outings.
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:29PM
Nice that you hike with people who can use technology!

Mine are pretty much the same radio in a different color as the Motorola in the photo. They work about as well as the FRS radios we are given for SAR trainings sometimes - and we stopped using those, and started using the VHF bricks that will hit the towers, because they don't work very well.

Must be hiking somewhere you don't, I guess.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:38PM
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AlmostThere

Nice that you hike with people who can use technology!

I do tend to hike with fellow techies... Most of my friends are very familiar and comfortable in using high-tech gadgets. smiling smiley


avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:40PM
My understandings is that Rapid Chipmunks and TechNOlogy no mixy.



Chick-on is looking at you!
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:53PM
Quote
chick-on
My understandings is that Rapid Chipmunks and TechNOlogy no mixy.

Only chipmunks I see are the slow kind, who sit on your foot and beg for trail mix.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 07:03PM
Dear Ms. Rabid Chipmunk,

Please do not feed the wildlife trail mix or technology.

Signed,
(YourPinkFeatheredFriend)
Chick-on is looking at you!



Chick-on is looking at you!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/2011 07:03PM by chick-on.
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 07:24PM
Quote
chick-on
Dear Ms. Rabid Chipmunk,

Please do not feed the wildlife trail mix or technology.

Signed,
(YourPinkFeatheredFriend)
Chick-on is looking at you!

And where did I say I fed them anything at all?

I wave and kick harmlessly in their general direction to instill the proper and correct attitude toward tall bipedal creatures, in the vain attempt to keep them from being fed trail mix in the future.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 07:51PM
U Nuts

tongue sticking out smiley



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 08:32PM
Camping at Showers Lake I had an extremely persistent pika who was after my wine. I kept waving and yelling at him/her, but sadly evidence of a proper and correct attitude never appeared. However, I didn't lose any of my wine, drank it all myself, so my attitude was proper and correct.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 08:35PM
Quote
plawrence
I think equipping everyone with a fully charged FRS/GMRS two-way radio (like this one: Motorola MH230R) is an excellent safety measure.

Besides being a way to make people over-confident the noises those things put out don't make me very happy. I'm not in the wilderness to listens to squawks and beepy-sounds.
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 09:57PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
plawrence
I think equipping everyone with a fully charged FRS/GMRS two-way radio (like this one: Motorola MH230R) is an excellent safety measure.

Besides being a way to make people over-confident the noises those things put out don't make me very happy. I'm not in the wilderness to listens to squawks and beepy-sounds.

Well, if I am hiking off-trail alone, I carry a GMRS and a cell phone. Turned off. To call for help. Just part of the safety kit.

Hiking off-trail with one other guy, it's still turned off. You can almost always keep one other person in sight.

If it's three or more of us, on or off trail, I carry one and it's turned on. The front guy can't see the last guy, and the party slowly splits apart. However, the radio is used maybe once per day, to find out if the missing person is ahead or behind or whatever. I agree that people who chatter on the radio are a nuisance.

On the other hand, to coordinate with my wife when she is wandering around in the Valley, they are both useful. I'm certainly not ruining anyone's wilderness experience when I am talking outside the Visitor Center....
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 04:43AM
What channel on a GMRS do you use to call for help (assuming that it's one of two devices you intend to use and you don't just mean the phone)? The park service doesn't use those channels. They use VHF/UHF high band. I can't even get my high band radio to connect to the park towers. They don't advertise what frequency they use.

Cell phones work great as long as you are in line of sight of the tower on Glacier Point, tho. I forgot I had my cell phone on - a friend called just as I was making my way out Moraine Dome. (oops.)
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 08:22AM
Quote
AlmostThere
What channel on a GMRS do you use to call for help (assuming that it's one of two devices you intend to use and you don't just mean the phone)? The park service doesn't use those channels. They use VHF/UHF high band. I can't even get my high band radio to connect to the park towers. They don't advertise what frequency they use.

There is no official emergency channel. I've never actually had to do it, but I would use scan mode, with the subchannels off, to find activity on some channel. Then call for help. Not perfect, but what can you do? Some ski patrollers and ski clubs have an agreed emergency channel, but it varies from one area to another.

When I'm hiking alone near the Valley, my wife has her radio on our personal channel. You'd be surprised how far they carry some times. Hit and miss, though.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 12:24PM
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AlmostThere
They don't advertise what frequency they use.

They aren't that hard to find: http://www.radioreference.com/apps/db/?aid=4302
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 10:00PM
Quote
eeek
Quote
plawrence
I think equipping everyone with a fully charged FRS/GMRS two-way radio (like this one: Motorola MH230R) is an excellent safety measure.

Besides being a way to make people over-confident the noises those things put out don't make me very happy.

There is a lot gear out there today besides two-way radios that tend to make people over-confident, the worse probably being four-wheel-drive vehicles followed closely by GPS units.

Quote
eeek

I'm not in the wilderness to listens to squawks and beepy-sounds.

If you can hear the squawks and beepy-sounds then you're really just too near other people to have a true wilderness experience anyway. I doubt that where the Chick-on backpacks that he hears any beepy-sounds from other backpackers to spoil his wilderness experience. For me, any land that's close enough to visit just on a day hike I personally don't consider it to be a true wilderness experience for me. For me, it's just being out in nature, which is nice in it of itself, but nothing more. smiling smiley
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 03:14AM
Quote
plawrence
There is a lot gear out there today besides two-way radios that tend to make people over-confident, the worse probably being four-wheel-drive vehicles followed closely by GPS units.

And that is relevant how?

Quote

If you can hear the squawks and beepy-sounds then you're really just too near other people to have a true wilderness experience anyway.

Still not relevant. People on trails shouldn't be making noises from radios. It's not much different than noise boom boxes.

Quote

I doubt that where the Chick-on backpacks that he hears any beepy-sounds from other backpackers to spoil his wilderness experience.

And again you aren't relevant.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 11:47PM
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eeek
Quote
plawrence
There is a lot gear out there today besides two-way radios that tend to make people over-confident, the worse probably being four-wheel-drive vehicles followed closely by GPS units.

And that is relevant how?

Just points of reference. There are other man-made devices that probably make people more overconfident in a wilderness setting compared to a two-way radio. Everything is relative.

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eeek
Quote

If you can hear the squawks and beepy-sounds then you're really just too near other people to have a true wilderness experience anyway.

Still not relevant. People on trails shouldn't be making noises from radios. It's not much different than noise boom boxes.

Noise is noise. Why single out the noise made by a two-way radio?

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eeek
Quote

I doubt that where the Chick-on backpacks that he hears any beepy-sounds from other backpackers to spoil his wilderness experience.

And again you aren't relevant.

I'm being very relavant. You seem to be greatly bothered by the prospect of listening to the squawking and beeping made by two-way radios when in use. Yet, to actually hear those noises you need to be somewhat near a person using the two-way radio. If that's a major problem for you, then I would suggest finding less crowded trails to hike which would lower the probability of you being subjected to such noises. That's all.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 05:46PM
Depends on the situation. It can vary based on who I am hiking with and their skills, along with what they know about me. But mostly, I (and the people I hike with) go with the following 'rules':

1. Everyone must be self-sufficient - the only gear we share is usually among couples (and even if my husband is along I make sure I still have the ability to be self-sufficient). Self-sufficiency includes the ability to navigate both on and off trail.
2. When on-trail: People are free to hike at their own pace but we wait for each other at junctions, stream crossings, or other points that may cause confusion or a stop. (like pre-agreed stopping points such as lakes, passes, or possible camp spots)
3. When off-trail: always stay within sight of each other.
4. When I'm with a 'newbie' or someone without much experience I tend to stay close regardless.

Many of the friends I backpack with are experienced outdoors people and do solo hiking as well. One of the reasons we hike together is because we tend to have the same rhythm on the trail so we really don't separate that much anyways, but it does happen from time to time. One other thing I do is make sure we know each others footprints. Even if you know the way, it can be reassuring to see your hiking companion's footprint on the same path you are following. Earlier this summer my husband got way ahead of two of us when climbing Arrow Peak. I wasn't sure if he knew the proper pass to aim for so was worried he might have gone a more dangerous route. But then I saw his footprints heading the right direction and was greatly reassured.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/19/2011 05:47PM by calipidder.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:33PM
Doz are the rules to have.

If off trail then I'll keep other peeps in sight all the time.
If wit da wifie and on trail that is well worn I can blaze ahead and wait here and there for her. Always stop at jcts. and stream crossings.
If trail covered or new territory with suspect trail... then stick together. If on snowshoes... then it's pretty hard to get really far ahead.

Can't count how many times have gone different way than others on a backpack trip.
Nothing wrong with that.
I wanna go check this lake out off trail. You don't. I wanna go up that peak. You don't.
Nothing wrong with that.
We'll meet right here.

Only "lost" the wife once. Of course she didn't understand where I told her to meet me.
I'll say this. A whistle ain't the end all.
Don't worry I found her. It involved me running around a bit. But no biggie.

Radios. Dang. There is some use for them. But they drive me nuts mostly.
I don't own a pair. They'd end up off a cliff after getting pissed at them.

Have fun out there and quit worrying



Chick-on is looking at you!
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:38PM
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chick-on
They'd end up off a cliff after getting pissed at them.

Please don't litter.
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:42PM
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chick-on

Radios. Dang. There is some use for them. But they drive me nuts mostly.
I don't own a pair. They'd end up off a cliff after getting pissed at them.

Understandable. Two-way radios aren't very practical on multi-day backpacking trips because there's no easy way to recharge them out in the field.


avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 11:59PM
Quote
chick-on
Doz are the rules to have.

If off trail then I'll keep other peeps in sight all the time.
If wit da wifie and on trail that is well worn I can blaze ahead and wait here and there for her. Always stop at jcts. and stream crossings.
If trail covered or new territory with suspect trail... then stick together. If on snowshoes... then it's pretty hard to get really far ahead.

Can't count how many times have gone different way than others on a backpack trip.
Nothing wrong with that.
I wanna go check this lake out off trail. You don't. I wanna go up that peak. You don't.
Nothing wrong with that.
We'll meet right here.

Only "lost" the wife once. Of course she didn't understand where I told her to meet me.
I'll say this. A whistle ain't the end all.
Don't worry I found her. It involved me running around a bit. But no biggie.

Radios. Dang. There is some use for them. But they drive me nuts mostly.
I don't own a pair. They'd end up off a cliff after getting pissed at them.

Have fun out there and quit worrying


We once had a guy with a radio and we did not understand a dang thing he said. Mostly due to the fact, he naturally, in conversation, is loud and at one point was screaming into the radio!

Anyhow, as far as rules, you left one out Chick-On: Wait for the Donk at all log crossings! Head roll
avatar Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:36PM
And from the "Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarten" department, one basic thing that's helpful in either day hikes or backpacking in large groups, is strict enforcement of the "Buddy System". Everyone on the hike or backpacking trip needs to pair up, and if there are an odd number of participants, then one group would be a threesome. If that church group that hiked to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls had employed the Buddy System, then at the very least there would have a been a very strong probably about what happend to the missing hiker even if his buddy might not have been able to save his life (if he had gone over the brink as an example).
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 06:45PM
I have used that type of radio quite a bit. Mine can be locked, I assume most can. One time I got separated from my wife and she had managed to change the channel. From then on I locked them both. As I recall there was a small lock symbol on a button that when pressed for a few seconds the settings would be locked. There is a limited range, but it is far greater than the range of a whistle or yell. Being able to guide someone back to the group from a mile or two away, or more, would be a lot better than having to contact them by voice or sight. Ken
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 19, 2011 07:37PM
Mine have the lock button too. Not sure how people who don't understand radios get that to unlock, but it's happened.

Have also lost a radio - the guy got back to the trailhead with the clip attached to his belt, sure enough. Just no radio on it. He didn't feel it pop off and I even went back and hiked the trail to find it with no joy.

I should clarify that I dayhike in larger groups - not a couple buddies or a family unit. Fifteen to twenty people get real spread out across terrain real easy. Three to five radios, some mine, some brought by other people, all on the same channel, and we have static and difficulty receiving each other. The largest group we ever had turn out was 32 people, on an 8 mile out and back hike - the first folks reached the destination and ate lunch, and were ready to hike back by the time the last hiker arrived. Never needed radios that trip - I could turn and tell the person behind me, who told the person behind him, who told the person behind her....

Usually we figure out who's slower or faster, and use the buddy system.

National parks limit dayhiking groups to 35 - I have to wonder how they would ever enforce that, there is no way to hike together as a group of 35 people! Nor would I want to. Subgroups are going to happen with a mere ten people. They always do.
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 20, 2011 12:34PM
As a group leader I think it imperative that there be a leader who is familiar with the intended course, track or trail AND another with similar knowledge to act as what I call a sweeper. The names identify clearly their rolls on the trail. The leader to make sure the proper trail is taken and a sweeper to stay with the slowest of the group to insure that they end up in the right place at the end of the day.

Backpacker
Re: Need for groups to hike together ?
September 21, 2011 04:42AM
Group safety...

If the leader is a volunteer, you are not paying for a commercial outing, there is no leader. You are responsible for your own safety. Or you should plan to be! Volunteer group leaders aren't there to keep you out of trouble, they are there to keep the group organized, more or less. Sierra Club groups ask you to sign a waiver because they will not guarantee your safety. Going with your buddy who thinks he knows what's best for you, if you go along with what he says, you are in fact taking responsibility for yourself - choosing his judgment over yours - and anything that goes goofy is still your problem. (This has been argued and wrestled with numerous times with our hiking group trip organizers, and two civil attorneys later, this is still our stance - you are responsible for yourself, we'll help you, but if you decide to march off back to the car all by yourself - we can't stop you. If you're hurt, and don't want us to touch you, we don't touch you. If you are unconscious all bets are off, we're helping you.)

Does not matter if you are hiking in a group - same rules apply as when you are alone - always have the 10 essentials, always be equipped and ready to make it out there alone if you have to. Take a map, leave itinerary info at home with someone.

Radios should be lumped in with GPS units and phones and any other electronic device... they can fail. Don't rely on them to be your safety net.
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