It was mid November and winter was approaching. A group of us headed to the Adirondacks Mountains for 5 days to summit as many peaks as we could. The temperature was forecasted to drop and a slog of snowy days was a guarantee. Our third day in, the weather drastically dropped from the predicted -10C degrees to -30C degrees. Our hiking pace was discouraged to 1 km an hour, drag up Mount Philips with a combination of frigid weather and thick, dollar size snow draping our vision. Every water source froze solid and our energy reserves were depleted. We were in survival mode.
After our summit, one step after another, we tried to find our way to the lean-to on the map. This area was washed out 2 years before and many of the lean-tos’ were removed and relocated. Finally after 2 hours we lucky found 2 lean-tos’ that were a scramble to reach, as they must have been relocated. The trail was nearly impossible to see. It looked like no other hikers had been in this area. Had it not been for 2 packs left in the corner of one of the lean-tos’ we would have never expected anyone was there before us. We raced to boil water and cook our food so we could find solace within the warmth of our sleeping bags. Hours went by, and still the 2 packs remained unclaimed? Who did they belong to? How long have they been here?
Darkness consumed the sky, all that was left was the light howl of wind and snow cracking as it fell. In the still of winter lights began to flicker in the distance. Footstep crunches soon followed.
“A Ranger calls out with a salute. He is here to retrieve the packs. Two individuals hover behind him. Both mute, crippled by shock, (or as we know it, acute stress reaction). We learn that the two individuals, a father and son, completed their summit early and decided to leave their packs and practice some triangulating with their compasses. As the storm swept in they could not see their hand in front of them. No chance to gain a bearing. Their footprints swept away, they were lost in the dead of winter. Survival through the night was looking grim.”
The father and son would certainly not have survived the night. Even our fully equipped group struggled with maintaining warmth and motivation. Despite leaving their packs, the father had the insight to bring an emergency communication device. The ranger received a call from SPOT (an emergency communication response company) and was given the signals coordinates. The Ranger left his station, geared up and set out to find a very rattled but relieved duo.
The father and son had the innovation of consumer satellite communication technology to thank for saving their lives. The mere witness of such an event hit home to us the importance of ongoing preparation in risk management. Technology in the field can be highly regarded and implemented. There are many communication devices on the market that are worthy devices for emergency communication. A few companies such as SPOT and Delorme are considered mass-market leaders. The father and the son used the SPOT device that provided timely success. My personal favorite is the InReach Delorme for usability, coverage and price – Yet I have thankfully not needed to use it.
The device that is right for you depends on your trip location, coverage, price point, and personal user preference. I encourage you to research which one matches your needs and above all, don’t underestimate the value of your purchase.
Stay Safe and Happy Travels