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  • #16
    I agree with both of you, Neil and Nessmuk. I think many of our trails need better signage and marking. Most of the hikers out there are "trail hikers" who rely on the signs and markers, and the visibility of the trail in order to navigate. And I think that's fine; that's why trails are marked. But we need to do a good job of it. And I would certainly also be happy to help people learn basic map and compass skills. As Pete Fish said in a recent article, at least learn to read the compass in general; "If going north got you into an area, going south will eventually get you back out." Even if people had that much, along with "bring lights" and "don't separate the group" they'd be far better off.

    A watch out for the trails: there is a large contingent of "wilderness advocates" both in and out of government who adhere to the "trail standards" thought process that says if a trail is in a wilderness area, it should be poorly maintained, with lots of junk to step over, a difficult-to-see trail bed, and poor or lacking signs and markers. Of course this is idiocy, but it's on rampant display in NH right now, where the Forest Service is actively removing perfectly good bridges and painting over trail markers in order to give the trails a "wilderness feel." If we want to prevent MANY more lost person incidents here, it will be important to keep that thought process out of here.

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    • #17
      I have noticed an effort to better sign trails in the EHP's especially along the top peaks, Marcy, Colden, Phelps and the trailed Mac's also the Upper Great Range. The majority, as they should be are at junctions. I wonder if the public would be better served to examine placement of trail markers. I have come to several sections of trail that the direction to continue is often confusing due to lack of markers causing herd paths. I would have to think that less experienced hikers would be more likely to get lost at these points than at junctions
      "Climbing is about freedom. There's no prize money; there are no gold medals. The mountains are all about going there to do what you want to do. That's why I'll never tell anyone else how to climb. All I can say is, This is how I prefer to do it."
      Ed Viesturs

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      • #18
        Originally posted by ADKJack View Post
        I wonder if the public would be better served to examine placement of trail markers. I have come to several sections of trail that the direction to continue is often confusing due to lack of markers causing herd paths. I would have to think that less experienced hikers would be more likely to get lost at these points than at junctions
        I think so, as I have seen more than my share of DEC SAR reports about people losing their way (esp stragglers in group hikes) and going onto herdpaths which they thought were trails. I remember EMS used to hold a map+compass, free of charge, years ago (I took it 4 yrs ago), but don't think they do it anymore - at least the ones near me don't. I'm curious if LL Bean provides a map+compass class. I gather many hikers frequent these stores, so perhaps it would help some if such places offered a basic day-course in orienteering. A thought ...
        We are closer now than we were five minutes ago

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        • #19
          Originally posted by tcd View Post
          I agree with both of you, Neil and Nessmuk. I think many of our trails need better signage and marking. Most of the hikers out there are "trail hikers" who rely on the signs and markers, and the visibility of the trail in order to navigate. And I think that's fine; that's why trails are marked. But we need to do a good job of it. And I would certainly also be happy to help people learn basic map and compass skills. As Pete Fish said in a recent article, at least learn to read the compass in general; "If going north got you into an area, going south will eventually get you back out." Even if people had that much, along with "bring lights" and "don't separate the group" they'd be far better off.

          A watch out for the trails: there is a large contingent of "wilderness advocates" both in and out of government who adhere to the "trail standards" thought process that says if a trail is in a wilderness area, it should be poorly maintained, with lots of junk to step over, a difficult-to-see trail bed, and poor or lacking signs and markers. Of course this is idiocy, but it's on rampant display in NH right now, where the Forest Service is actively removing perfectly good bridges and painting over trail markers in order to give the trails a "wilderness feel." If we want to prevent MANY more lost person incidents here, it will be important to keep that thought process out of here.
          Conversely, is it at all unreasonable to expect some minimum level of navigational ability from those who choose to visit a Wilderness Area, an area that by definition is supposed to be challenging to visit and traverse, and inherently wild? Is it really the governments job to do everything it can to keep the public safe in the backcountry (ultimately, to protect the public from itself)?

          I don't think that it is at all "idiocy" to provide for a spectrum of opportunities with regards to trails, with opportunities ranging from very well marked and maintained, to minimally marked and maintained, to unmaintained herd paths, to pure bushwhacks. It provides a range of choices so that everyone can select a destination tailored to the experience they desire, it eases the burden of maintenance and expenditures upon management agencies when they don't have to maintain every trail to the same standards, and it facilitates navigational training by providing visitors with incremental increases in navigational difficulty rather than a sudden jump from well marked and maintained trails (easy) to true bushwhacking (very difficult).

          With regards designated Wilderness Areas- for me, one of the chief defining aspects of Wilderness is that it is an area where we modify our skill level to meet the resources, not an area where we modify the resources to meet our skill level. I think that it is absolutely appropriate that in wilderness, trails might not necessarily be as well maintained as in other destinations.

          The High Peaks (particularly the Eastern High Peaks) really isn't wilderness anyways, though, and I often find myself questioning whether it should even be managed as such. Or if even trying to do so is ultimately detrimental to other areas that do better meet the definitions of what wilderness is. I find that many members of the outdoor recreation often expect well maintained and marked trails in all wilderness areas, and I think this is because the bulk of their wilderness experience comes from high use and necessarily intensely maintained Wilderness Areas such as the High Peaks.

          Given the high levels of use there, I don't have a problem with well marked and maintained trails in the High Peaks, or with management techniques that are generally considered to be inconsistent with wilderness values. I'd rather the herd paths remain marker free, but absolutely they should be maintained to minimize impacts. But I think we need to remember that when it comes to wilderness, the High Peaks are the exception and not the norm. To expect a higher standard of "wildness" in other Wilderness Areas (excepting maybe the Pharaoh Lake Wilderness) I think is perfectly reasonable.
          Last edited by DSettahr; 11-16-2015, 12:16 PM.

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          • #20
            Based on DEC SAR reports for the first five months of 2015, the majority of High Peaks rescues fall into three categories:
            Injury.
            Distress.
            Overdue.

            "Lost Hiker" is last. In other words, the conditions (trail and/or weather) have largely been responsible for physical injury, medical distress, exhaustion, or delay. Even the few lost-hiker incidents occurred in winter conditions when signs, markers, and cairns may be obscured/buried.

            The reports show the majority of lost-hiker incidents happened outside the High Peaks area, typically on hikes to Scarface, Crane, Black, etc.

            Looking for Views!

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            • #21
              Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post

              The reports show the majority of lost-hiker incidents happened outside the High Peaks area, typically on hikes to Scarface, Crane, Black, etc.
              Would be interesting to speculate as to possible reasons for this. Could it be that a High Peak hike is seen as more serious business than a non HP hike and therefore less experienced people self-select themselves out of the population? Or, are there more hikers outside of the HP than in?

              Maybe it's the excellent signage.

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              • #22
                Originally posted by Neil View Post
                Would be interesting to speculate as to possible reasons for this. Could it be that a High Peak hike is seen as more serious business than a non HP hike and therefore less experienced people self-select themselves out of the population? Or, are there more hikers outside of the HP than in?
                I have noticed anecdotally that there seems to be a higher percentage of hikers on non-High Peaks mountains that enter the woods without even rudimentary "essential" equipment, such as a source of light or food and water. It's not a huge increase but I think it is a noticeable one.

                I suspect that a good portion of rescues could be avoided if everyone carried a reliable light source. When one reads through the official rescue reports, it is obvious that a lot of the hikers reported as lost got caught out after sunset without a flashlight or headlamp, and lost the trail without light to navigate by.
                Last edited by DSettahr; 11-16-2015, 06:52 PM.

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                • #23
                  Originally posted by Neil View Post
                  Would be interesting to speculate as to possible reasons for this. Could it be that a High Peak hike is seen as more serious business than a non HP hike and therefore less experienced people self-select themselves out of the population? Or, are there more hikers outside of the HP than in?

                  Maybe it's the excellent signage.
                  If forced to choose, on gut feeling, I'd say due to less experienced hikers on lower peaks.

                  And on the subject of SAR - how about this from the 2014 report (available for download) "The largest search-and-rescue event in 2014 was the response to the devastating snowfall in Buffalo in November. Forty rangers were assigned to the response, which included helping stranded motorists, welfare checks of shut-ins and prepositioning airboats for possible flood recovery." That's 40/134 total Regular Rangers, Lieutenants, Captains and Directors. Numbers from the report.

                  Don

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                  • #24
                    Originally posted by MtnManJohn View Post

                    I think so, as I have seen more than my share of DEC SAR reports about people losing their way (esp stragglers in group hikes) and going onto herdpaths which they thought were trails. I remember EMS used to hold a map+compass, free of charge, years ago (I took it 4 yrs ago), but don't think they do it anymore - at least the ones near me don't. I'm curious if LL Bean provides a map+compass class. I gather many hikers frequent these stores, so perhaps it would help some if such places offered a basic day-course in orienteering. A thought ...
                    I took a map & compass course at REI in North Jersey within last 2 years. They offer it quite often, but it wasn't free. I think my wife and I payed $30 each...... Maybe $20, can't remember
                    Catskills: 39/39, 35W/35W
                    ADK: 46/46

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                    • #25
                      DS, I understand you; but I respectfully disagree, and I stand by what I said. We have to look at what might be "reasonable" and then at reality. Sure it's reasonable to expect people entering a wilderness area to have the right skills. But they don't, by and large. 90% of the hiker population (my guesstimate) are "trail hikers, with no idea how to navigate other than by signs and markers. If you dropped them 100' from the trail, they would be completely lost. And that's a lot of the Ranger workload. (Remember, Taras, that "Overdue" usually ends up meaning "Lost.")

                      I would also suggest that 90% of the hikers don't know, or care, whether the area they are entering is classified as Wilderness, Wild Forest, or a Town Park on some map in Albany. They are taking a trail into the woods, and they expect (I would say count on) that trail to be a clear path, and to be their navigational tool.

                      Now there is a very small proportion of hikers, (and we are over-represented in this discussion) who have decades of bushwhacking experience, are seriously careful and skilled navigators, and who know how to use the tools. We enjoy bushwhacking, know where we are, and where we're going. But it's easy to get into projection, and imagine that those of us here on the forum, in this discussion, are representative of the population. Of course we are very much not representative.

                      And regarding the resource, please remember that over 99% of the woods is trail-less. So I am not worried about trails modifying the resource. And if we want more areas that are trail-less, I am fine with closing and brushing out trails in an area - then it becomes a bushwhacking area.

                      So while it's a nice idea to be able to offer a spectrum of trails, the reality is that 90% of the hikers count on the trail to be a clear path, and to be well marked as their only navigational tool. And the rest of us (speaking at least for me) enjoy bushwhacking. So while there may be some sliver of people who are capable navigators, but want a poorly maintained poorly marked trail rather than a bushwhack, I think that's a very small group. And if for some reason we want to create an area with that kind of trail, I think it would do more harm in terms of the lost 90% who were counting on a solid trail, than it would do good providing that "poor trail" resource for that thin sliver of people. And at the least, if we are going to have poor trails, that should be clearly advertised with obvious signage (not the usual fine print, and certainly not by expecting the average user to have memorized the Wilderness act before setting out).

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                      • #26
                        DS & TCD both make valid points and arguments. And it has certainly been my observation that despite many efforts to warn, educate or regulate traffic continues to increase and less and less are prepared according to the standards of the experienced hiker.
                        It is evident and some what telling and to me slightly amusing how the uninformed/ unprepared are willing to park upwards of 2 miles away when the HPIC lot is full and how many don't park down Meadows lane because they don't have a map that shows the trailhead there. Instead they do the road walk all the way to the Loj.
                        My questions are along the lines of what was brought up earlier. Is it reasonable to assume that the strict definition of wilderness classification in regards to the '46 are already compromised? If so do we accept the premise that despite the best efforts to this point people will continue to come unprepared for backcountry navigation and conditions in the effort to become a neo 46er, that being a person who considers the accomplishment an athletic event a la a triathlon than a broader nature experience.
                        Current methods of enforcement and education seem lacking. Would providing more ASF's , Backcountry Stewards and a conservation and protection campaign be an effective solution.
                        "Climbing is about freedom. There's no prize money; there are no gold medals. The mountains are all about going there to do what you want to do. That's why I'll never tell anyone else how to climb. All I can say is, This is how I prefer to do it."
                        Ed Viesturs

                        Comment


                        • #27
                          No need to speculate when the data is available. Based on 2015's data, very few "Lost Hiker" incidents occur in the High Peaks area and "Overdue" incidents are delays caused by conditions and don't typically result in "Lost Hiker" situations.

                          I've collected all published DEC SAR reports for 2015, to date, and combined them into one file. I had to massage the categories to ensure uniformity. The result is 38 unique categories classifying 190 SAR incidents. The top seven categories are:
                          1. Injured Hiker, 54
                          2. Lost Hiker, 48
                          3. Distressed Hiker, 29
                          4. Overdue Hiker, 8
                          5. Injured Snowmobiler, 6
                          6. Lost Hunter, 4
                          7. Stranded Hiker, 3

                          The remaining categories have fewer than 3 incidents per category, typically only one.

                          The top four categories are all hiker-related and represent 73% of all reported incidents (139/190).

                          Here's the breakdown of incidents reported for the High Peaks area only (I'm including Dix/Giant/Whiteface areas in there).
                          1. Injured Hiker, 61% (33/54)
                          2. Distressed Hiker, 55% (16/29)
                          3. Lost Hiker, 19% (9/48)
                          4. Overdue, 75% (6/8)



                          Of the eight reported cases of "Overdue Hikers", only one was effectively a lost-hiker situation.
                          • February 15: Exit delayed by snow conditions.
                          • March 16: Exit delayed by snow conditions.
                          • April 13: Man walked out on his own.
                          • May 3: Hiker stayed extra night due to conditions.
                          • June 27: Hiker was lost.
                          • August 9: Delayed by navigational error.
                          • August 20: Delayed by underestimating the challenge.
                          • October 10: No explanation other than hikers exited.



                          Last edited by Trail Boss; 11-17-2015, 03:55 PM. Reason: Broke out data for High Peaks.
                          Looking for Views!

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                          • #28
                            Kind of a strong case for the hunters and snowmobiles out there when it comes to the resources spent on rescue in their sports. However the when a snowmobile hits a tree at 60mph or something goes wrong hunting more likely that it will be a recovery than SAR. Not to mention the impact from the machines and the resources required to regulate hunting, stock ponds etc.
                            So what these stats seem to indicate is that there are a significant number of people who are injured, lost or distressed ( wonder how or if that is different from the first two categories).
                            Actually "significant" may be to broad a term when taking into consideration the volume of hikers that come and go without incident.
                            It would be interesting to break this down by season and conditions. It could help to determine if additional manpower would have a cost effective result in reducing the number of rescues
                            "Climbing is about freedom. There's no prize money; there are no gold medals. The mountains are all about going there to do what you want to do. That's why I'll never tell anyone else how to climb. All I can say is, This is how I prefer to do it."
                            Ed Viesturs

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                            • bfinan0
                              bfinan0 commented
                              Editing a comment
                              I think a case like my rescue last year would count as "distressed" - I was completely stuck, but uninjured, 33 feet up a cliff on the side of Iroquois, and knew exactly where I was, GPS coordinates and all, only needed someone to bring a harness and rope to rappel out of the situation. Perhaps people who are aware of their location but caught by darkness would also count as distressed? We saw quite a few of those after the time change.

                            • Trail Boss
                              Trail Boss commented
                              Editing a comment
                              Based on the incidents I've read, "Distress" is when someone cannot continue because of exhaustion, dehydration, or hazardous conditions as opposed to physical injury. Examples include, exhausted after post-holing, stuck at the base of falls or atop a ledge, overwhelmed/exhausted by snow-melt conditions, benighted while descending, etc. Medical conditions like arrhythmia, hypoglycemia, etc would also fall under this category.

                          • #29
                            Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post
                            I've collected all published DEC SAR reports for 2015, to date, and combined them into one file. I had to massage the categories to ensure uniformity. The result is 38 unique categories classifying 190 SAR incidents. The top seven categories are:
                            1. Injured Hiker, 54
                            2. Lost Hiker, 48
                            3. Distressed Hiker, 29
                            4. Overdue Hiker, 8
                            5. Injured Snowmobiler, 6
                            6. Lost Hunter, 4
                            7. Stranded Hiker, 3



                            Thanks, Taras, for the details. This looks more like what I expected. In your earlier post, I got the impression that the data indicated:

                            Injury.
                            Distress.
                            Overdue.
                            Lost Hiker.

                            In that order. That didn't seem right to me, having read most of the reports.

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                            • #30
                              Originally posted by tcd View Post
                              ...
                              Injury.
                              Distress.
                              Overdue.
                              Lost Hiker.

                              In that order. That didn't seem right to me, having read most of the reports.
                              Originally I posted the order of categories for the High Peaks based on five months of data. Using almost 11 months of data, the High Peaks data looks like this:
                              1. Injured Hiker, 33
                              2. Distressed Hiker, 16
                              3. Lost Hiker, 9
                              4. Overdue, 6

                              "Lost Hiker" isn't quite last but remains a small fraction of the whole. Injuries and Distress comprise three-quarters of all incidents to date.

                              Looking for Views!

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