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Personal Locator Beacon Key To Mount Marcy Rescue

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  • Personal Locator Beacon Key To Mount Marcy Rescue

  • #2
    This is why, despite the relative ease of the mountain in terms of terrain, I'll never agree that Marcy is a "beginner friendly peak." It seems like every year someone loses the trail in a whiteout and has to get rescued by the rangers.

    Glad to hear that she was was able to keep her cool and made it off the mountain OK.


    • #3
      The amazing thing to me was that she was hiking with others who didn't notice she was missing until they got back to their camp at Lake Arnold. So much for safety in numbers.


      • #4
        Originally posted by Makwa View Post
        The amazing thing to me was that she was hiking with others who didn't notice she was missing until they got back to their camp at Lake Arnold. So much for safety in numbers.
        To be fair, there may have been an agreement between her and the group to separate. She may have told them "go on ahead, I'll meet you back in camp." Still probably not the best decision to make, but it would paint the group in at least a slightly better light. We don't know for sure how or why they got separated.

        This is also why, though, when I am leading a trip (and am therefore primarily responsible for the safety of the entire party), I always plant myself firmly at the back of the group. It's the easiest place to be to prevent anyone from falling behind and to keep tabs on how everyone is doing.
        Last edited by DSettahr; 02-23-2016, 02:41 AM.


        • #5
          I know Maria quite well and she is a very experienced winter backpacker, including many trips to the High Peaks. I believe she was the leader of the group and I doubt there was an agreement to separate. She is a member of this forum, so perhaps she will provide more details.
          We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige


          • #6
            Sorry it needed to be used, but very happy she had it when she needed it and that no one is questioning the reason she used it. Glad she is down safe.
            Last edited by gebby; 02-23-2016, 02:24 PM.


            • #7
              If you leave the trail head as a group, you stay together as a group. If you're not willing to wait or turn around for another member of your party, then you shouldn't be hiking together in the first place.

              I'm not sure why anyone would continue above treeline (a) alone (b) in whiteout conditions (c) without taking a compass bearing for backup navigation. It sounds like an obvious series of mistakes leading to this one.

              Glad it ended better than the rescue on Marcy from around this time last year.


              • moosebeware
                moosebeware commented
                Editing a comment
                I don't (a) alone, is as important as the rest of them. So says the solo winter hiker who has been on Algonquin and Marcy several times alone in winter.

              • ClimbLikeAGirl
                ClimbLikeAGirl commented
                Editing a comment
                I'm glad you're out hiking by yourself, but I meant those three as an AND statement, not an OR statement. My point is not that you shouldn't be out there alone in the winter --I do that plenty myself as well-- but my point is that you need to be extra cautions when going it alone rather than with a group to help backup your decisions.

            • #8
              Originally posted by debmonster View Post
              I know Maria quite well and she is a very experienced winter backpacker, including many trips to the High Peaks. I believe she was the leader of the group and I doubt there was an agreement to separate. She is a member of this forum, so perhaps she will provide more details.
              Would love to hear the real story. Often we (I) read about these rescues and jump to conclusions based on a short article. This situation was relatively benign given that she was unharmed and the rescue had a happy ending.


              • #9
                Greetings all...kind of dreading the day that the SAR report comes out this month, knowing that I was the one going to be on it!

                With that said, I am a member of these forums and value all of the content I read not to mention all the trip planning stuff - really great forum! I hope my story helps others and serves to remind us how important and valued the service of our Rangers are - so the next time you walk by one - say hello and smile!

                This was a very humbling experience. As Debbie mentioned, I am a fairly well experienced 4 season backpacker and the group I was with was also in the same category. I'm giving my account of what happened to share with this forum that I respect and hopefully help others in some way.

                Read on...I made a few decisions that day that were not good. First mistake, getting to tree line and gearing up - seeing the conditions and weighing risks - should have turned everyone around! I'm really not sure why I didn't - perhaps I was falsely secure by the sum total of our experience, summit stupidity or perhaps the weather report that said "snow showers" because Marcy was clearly making her own weather that day.

                Second bad decision - separating from my group! Someone in our group had yet to change to crampons as we followed the large cairns up the side to the summit - I waited with that person to change and secure their gear. The wind was really picking up and the summit was becoming more socked in with clouds. I've summited Marcy in the winter before and I just looked up and was like - not today, I just didn't feel good about it. I told the person, I wasn't going to summit and I would wait below tree line. I turned around and started following the cairns back down. By this time, and this is NO exaggeration - it was such a white out that I could no longer see the cairn behind me or more than a few feet in front. I looked down to find tracks but my tracks were covered in wind blown snow...Then as a I came to the "cobble" area I veered right instead of left! I changed into my snowshoes as the snow was more powdery and then started getting jammed up in spruce taps to my chest - I'm small at 5ft 1 inch! So that was really draining...I was blowing the crap out of my whistle because I knew the others were not too far off and were coming back down soon. Obviously, they didn't hear me because the wind was a whippin'.

                I knew I need to regroup and get out the map and compass. I am not an expert at map and compass...before this trip I brushed up on my skills and took a bearing from camp to marcy - that's another mistake - should have taken a bearing from tree line to summit and then when I was I could have taken a back bearing. Note to self...keep taking map and compass class! Anyway, I found a large rock to regroup by - had a drink, snack and layered up. As I sat there for a few minutes, I was hoping there would be a clearing in the sky so I could hope to figure out where I was exactly. No luck there and just couldn't reorient myself.

                I looked at the time and as it was approaching 1pm, I knew I was in trouble. It was going to be dark in 3 and 1/2 hours and this storm is not moving. That's when I realized I need to hit the SOS button my SPOT device...I just couldn't believe I was in this situation and I was praying that the others were safe, that I had not failed my buddies and put them at risk. While I was at this rock, I knew getting more wind block would be a good idea, so I took my snowshoes off and used them to dig a bit of a ditch to get out of the wind. I figured, I would keep warm and if the poop really hit the fan I could dig out a snow cave and hope not to lose my toes to frostbite!

                After a few minutes of digging and warming up, I decided to look at my phone and see if I had service. It was spotty and kept going in and out. by this time a ranger had texted me, telling me my locater beacon went off and did I need help. While I was waiting for the Ranger, the other Ranger, Joe, was texting me to now move and directing me to move a bit more southeast to hopefully get closer to the approaching ranger. And so the story goes....Katie Tyler - my awesome Ranger - found me around 4:30-5pm. I have never been so happy to see another person in my life!

                We walked back to the Lake colden outpost and the next day I met up with my group and hiked out.

                That's the story folks...very humbling lesson! Not one that I really wanted to share at first - I felt a bit embarrassed, getting lost however I have learned a lot from this experience. First, above tree line summits are risky - better to be conservative and come back another day. Second, really need to improve navigation skills. Third, looking back I should have taken pause at tree line and turned around - a mountain in clouds is a mountain to summit another day!

                Lastly, some things to be grateful I got right...I had a SPOT, I stopped and stayed put in time without making the situation worse; I had proper gear to stay warm and healthy until I got help. And most important, I didn't let my ego and pride keep me from asking for help!

                I know there will be those that will have a lot to say - I've read these forums! But go ahead, its cool. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. My thoughts in writing this is to put the story out there, own my bad decisions and learn from it. And hopefully help someone else avoid these same mistakes.
                Hike on....
                check out my backpacking blog...
                answering the call of the trail


                • Commissionpoint
                  Commissionpoint commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Thank you for giving us your first hand account. I think it's important to share our failures. It takes courage to do that, and I have a lot of respect for you in doing so. Hopefully this can help provide useful information for someone else on some other day. You should be proud of your level headed reaction to the circumstances. You did very well in the situation you were in, and used the tools and equipment that you had in a terrific fashion to get yourself out of trouble. I'm glad that you got out safe and unharmed.

                  I'm sure that there will be those that are critical. So what. They might not have the appreciation of lessons learned. I agree without question that separation from the group was the catalyst behind the incident. You know that. I know that. Many others have made the same observation. Let's not beat a dead horse though. I think it's safe to say that you won't be doing that again.

                  Glad you are safe. Thanks for sharing. Get back out there soon.

              • #10
                As DSettahr said, there may be more to the story, and I hope Marie will chime in to clarify things.

                In general, when I look at the SAR reports I get from the DEC, perhaps the #2 reason why people get lost is separation from their group. In this case, where the visibility conditions are very poor and where group cohesion becomes very important (regardless of skill level of any member of the group), something went wrong in the decision-making such that one person was left behind and the others only found out later on she was missing. No idea who's fault that is, and I'm not blaming Marie based on lack of info, but as the ranger said at the end of the article, "the only thing that the group didnít do right was stay together and act in an organized fashion. The group actually didnít realize Nobles was missing until they arrived back at camp at Lake Arnold and she didnít show up."
                We are closer now than we were five minutes ago


                • #11
                  Wow. Well now this makes total sense. They didn't realize you were missing because you didn't summit with them. I assume they assumed that you were safely back below the treeline and would be back at camp when they got there even though you said you would wait there.

                  Thanks so much for sharing. Definitely an example of how a few little things going wrong, or a turn in the weather can put you in a bad situation quickly. Lots to be learned from reading your story.

                  Don't feel too embarrassed. I once shared a story on the forum how I got lost in the middle of a marked trail on Gore Mountain after my mind got foggy from heat and mild dehydration. No white out conditions to blame in the middle of the summer!


                  • #12
                    hilltackler (Marie), thank you for shedding much light on what happened in regards to the decision-making that went on. I am glad you came out of this scary situation OK. I'm glad you had the courage to write about what happened and reflect on the issues of the day, and that this is a learning experience. Such experiences can be, and we have all had some sort of nerve-wracking situation which we've learned from.

                    Regarding navigation/orienteering skills, I am going to PM you on something that may interest you...
                    We are closer now than we were five minutes ago


                    • #13
                      Thank you for sharing Hilltackler. We all make mistakes and talking about them in a non-judgmental way is the best way for us all to learn.

                      One aspect of this that I find interesting was the decision to use the SPOT relatively early in the day. On one hand some might argue that more attempt should be made at self rescue. But on the other hand, using the Spot when you did allowed this to be a pretty simple rescue and certainly much less dangerous for all than the nighttime Marcy rescues we usually read about. Not sure if I would have done that before reading your story. At what point does not asking for help go from being responsible to being hubris?

                      Kudos to the Rangers for a job well done!
                      "...he went because he felt the call of the wilderness, a call ever irresistible to him in whose veins flows the blood of the explorer." Warren W. Hart


                      • hilltackler
                        hilltackler commented
                        Editing a comment
                        good my thinking given weather was a disaster, wind and the fact that I was chest deep in spuce traps plus darkness comes early in winter and with wind chill temps and snow that day...I gave in and made the call. Had a waited longer or kept moving I think it would have been worse.

                      • JohnGS
                        JohnGS commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I think you made the right call. If you hadn't, we would probably be arguing about why you didn't use the Spot sooner : ) I'm glad you that everything ended well.

                    • #14
                      Maria - Thanks for having the courage to share your experience. I'm happy that there was a good outcome and I'm sure others will benefit. Aside from the decisions that led to your predicament it sounds like you handled the situation well. Also good to hear that your SPOT worked as it should. I would be interested to know if you remember what the temperature was as I have had a few days this winter when my SPOT failed due to cold.


                      • hilltackler
                        hilltackler commented
                        Editing a comment
                        I can't say for sure what temperature it actually was but if I had to guess I would say low teens with the wind. It's really lucky it worked because I think the battery light started flashing red which means low battery power but the indicator at the top of the device said the message went thru. I had spare batteries to change if I needed to but the text from the ranger a while later confirmed the message was sent successfully. The lithium batteries hold up better in this kind of cold. the other option which I would have tried is keeping it in my armpit to warm up if needed. At one point my phone died due to cold but I kept rubbing the back of it with a hand warmer while I needed to use it and then just stuck it in my armpit between messages so it wouldn't die.

                    • #15
                      Reading a first hand account adds so much more than those DEC reports. I could feel the fear and intensity of the situation! Good on you for keeping a level head!