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bobandgeri
02-23-2009, 03:19 PM
Another successful search today. They do point out that although he was prepared, he was hiking solo and may not have been aware of the predicted snow storm.



MISSING MASSACHUSETTS HIKER LOCATED IN N.H.'S WHITE MOUNTAINS

CONCORD, N.H. -- A hiker missing since Sunday evening (February 22, 2009) was found about 2 p.m. this afternoon and is being escorted off Mt.Whiteface by N.H. Fish and Game Department Conservation Officers.*Brian McLaughlin, age 40, of Lowell, Massachusetts, had left Lowell on Saturday afternoon for New Hampshire, intending to hike the Ferncroft /Blueberry Ledge trails in the White Mountain National Forest.*He had planned to camp one night on the trail and complete the loop in time to get home by Sunday evening.*Apparently he was overcome by difficult weather conditions; the area was hit by more than a foot of snow and high winds late Sunday.*

When McLaughlin failed to return home as expected Sunday evening, his wife reported him missing to N.H. State Police.*N.H. Fish and Game was notified about 11 p.m.

McLaughlin's vehicle was located at 1 a.m. Monday, February 23, 2009, at the Ferncroft Trailhead, which is located in Wonalancet Village in Tamworth.*Early this morning, Fish and Game Conservation Officers began looking for McLaughlin in the vicinity of Mt. Passaconaway and Mt. Whiteface, searching Dicey's Mill Trail and the Blueberry Ledge Trail.

At 2 p.m. today, McLaughlin was located on the Blueberry Ledge Trail, about 2.7 miles from the trailhead.*He was able to walk out on his own, accompanied by two Conservation Officers, arriving at the trailhead at 3:42 p.m.

Fish and Game was assisted in the search effort by a N.H. Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter, as well as the Carroll County Sheriff's Office, N.H. State Police Troop E and local police.

"We'll know more when we can interview him fully, but it appears that McLaughlin was overcome by severe weather conditions. He was hiking in an area that is not heavily used, so there were not other hikers around to help, and the snow-covered trails were not packed down," said Fish and Game Conservation Officer Sergeant Jim Juneau.

McLaughlin was equipped with snowshoes, a tent and overnight gear, and he had let someone back home know his plans. However, he did not follow two basic tenets of the hikeSafe code: McLaughlin was hiking alone, and he either failed to inquire about or didn't adequately account for the incoming snow conditions.*

The hikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code (below) applies to all those enjoying New Hampshire's outdoors.*It says, you are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:

* With knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.
* To leave your plans. Tell someone where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you'll return and your emergency plans.
* To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.
* To turn back. Weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike. Know your limitations and when to postpone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.
* For emergencies. Even if you are headed out for just an hour, an injury, severe weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don't assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.
* To share the hiker code with others.

For further information on being safe while hiking or hunting, visit http://www.hikesafe.com.

bobandgeri
02-23-2009, 03:40 PM
Follow-up question for VFTT members from a luker who wrote to us wondering people thoughts on hiking alone.

The N.H. Fish and Game report seems to indicate an issue with hiking alone, but the Hiker Responsibility Code makes no mention to it. Thoughts?

cooperhill
02-23-2009, 04:07 PM
I noticed that as well. The only thing that comes somewhat close is "To stay together. When you start as a group, hike as a group, end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person. " I still don't think that says that you can't hike alone. I certainly hope that he wouldn't be fined based on that factor.

The-Green-Man
02-23-2009, 04:10 PM
Seems fishy to me! They are slowing adding more tenets to the hikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code! :eek:

This seems a little TOO much like the pigs in Animal Farm changing the rules under the cover of darkness...

rocket21
02-23-2009, 04:25 PM
The N.H. Fish and Game report seems to indicate an issue with hiking alone, but the Hiker Responsibility Code makes no mention to it. Thoughts?

Uh oh, I've hiked the Blueberry Ledges Trail alone 7 times in the last year and a half...lock me up!

Glad to hear he's okay...didn't know about this until you posted it, even though it's practically in my backyard! Had I known, I would have volunteered to join the search!

vegematic
02-23-2009, 04:29 PM
That concerned me as well but two read-throughs of the code and I couldn't find anything that could be interpreted as "thou shalt not hike solo". The journalist was trying to stir the pot a little, maybe?
-vegematic

DougPaul
02-23-2009, 04:57 PM
There is nothing in this report saying that this hiker was in trouble and/or in need of any help. It is quite possible that he was simply traveling slowly due to having to break the trail out. (It says
"He was able to walk out on his own, accompanied by two Conservation Officers", but does not say that he needed their help.)


Many officials/pontificators will try to tell you not to hike solo. I suspect that there is an inverse relation between the mountaineering competence of the official/pontificator and his tendency to give such advice...

Some officials also have a tendency to try to make a lesson out of any incident.

IMO, soloing is probably not a good idea for beginners, but is a reasonable option for the experienced.

IMO2: his biggest mistake might have been not bringing/using a cellphone to tell his wife that he was delayed. (Of course, it is possible that he had one but was unable to get a signal.) Seriously though, those waiting for hikers need to know that hikers can be delayed and there is no reason to call out the SAR folks when the hikers have not appeared at ETA + 1 minute.


Perhaps this conclusion will change with more information, but there is nothing in the report that leads me to conclude that this hiker did anything wrong or that he really needed any help.

Doug

rocket21
02-23-2009, 05:05 PM
IMO2: his biggest mistake might have been not bringing/using a cellphone to tell his wife that he was delayed. (Of course, it is possible that he had one but was unable to get a signal.)

My POS Verizon cellphone only gets a strong enough signal to get a time reading in the Bowl area (I believe I get reception on Blueberry above Wiggin though, but no dice on Dicey Mill), so it's quite possible the hiker was unable to dial out or receive calls.

B the Hiker
02-23-2009, 05:20 PM
>IMO, soloing is probably not a good idea for beginners, but is a reasonable option for the experienced.

One slip, a broken arm, can't set up a tent before the cold sets in... Thing about accidents is that (a) they happen; (b) when you don't want them to.

Are beginners more likely to have accidents? Yes. Will experienced people not have accidents? See (a) above.

The husband said he would be home at night. He wasn't. He didn't phone, we don't know why. His wife did the right thing by calling a rescue squad, because she didn't know why he didn't return home. If he fell at the base of the cliffs and was alive but in need of help, and she didn't phone, he could have died.

You hike with two people, and one falls, the other can provide care. You hike with three, and the third can go to get help.

I'm not saying people shouldn't hike alone, but we need to realistic that if someone gets in trouble, their ability to respond alone is far different than when with another person.

TrishandAlex
02-23-2009, 05:26 PM
Many officials/pontificators will try to tell you not to hike solo. I suspect that there is an inverse relation between the mountaineering competence of the official/pontificator and his tendency to give such advice...

Some officials also have a tendency to try to make a lesson out of any incident.

IMO, soloing is probably not a good idea for beginners, but is a reasonable option for the experienced.



Yes to the above.

I really like to solo, and will continue doing so. I think it's a fine idea. Love it.

I'm a beginner, and I'm fine solo-ing Tecumseh (or Cannon, or the Hancocks, or the Willey Range, etc. etc. etc.). I have the gear to stay warm while still for a day or two. I have yet to be on a hike in the winter where I didn't run into at least 5 other people anyway.

Above treeline, well, that's a different story. However, once I gain years of experience I might feel differently. But by then I will no longer be a beginner...

FWIW, I think hiking in a big group can pose just as much danger (or more) than hiking solo. One may feel pressured to stop less often than one personally should, one might go into uncomfortable territory because everyone else is, etc. And if there's a problem, there are a multitude of voices trying to figure out what to do and perhaps no one bold enough to decide NOW.

andrewb
02-23-2009, 05:39 PM
> One slip, a broken arm, can't set up a tent before the cold sets in... Thing about accidents is that (a) they happen; (b) when you don't want them to.

Are beginners more likely to have accidents? Yes. Will experienced people not have accidents? See (a) above.

....

You hike with two people, and one falls, the other can provide care. You hike with three, and the third can go to get help.

I'm not saying people shouldn't hike alone, but we need to realistic that if someone gets in trouble, their ability to respond alone is far different than when with another person.

B the Hiker: great, great points! Trish, I also think you have a good point about big groups: I don't like being in them. I personally prefer 3 people in a group but feel 2 is also a good number. I have never yet even considered soloing in winter or on a bushwhack, but feel fine when I do solo otherwise.

bikehikeskifish
02-23-2009, 05:59 PM
I think hiking in a big group can pose just as much danger (or more) than hiking solo. One may feel pressured to stop less often than one personally should
Or MORE often than one ordinarily would. The larger the group, the more frequent the stops. In winter, I dress for my hiking rhythm and I find myself quite uncomfortable when I have to wait 10 or 12 times in 3 hours... so I tend to avoid big groups.


he did not follow two basic tenets of the hikeSafe code: McLaughlin was hiking alone,

The hikeSafe Hiker Responsibility Code (below) applies to all those enjoying New Hampshire's outdoors.*It says, you are responsible for yourself, so be prepared:

* With knowledge and gear. Become self-reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and your equipment before you start.


The very first point says "Become self-reliant". That implies, does it not, that one should be able to hike alone, and that doing so is not against the code. It never says "Do no hike alone." I mean what if you're hiking in a group of 2 and need to go get help? Do you not do it because you're now a group of 1?!?

For large groups, I have no problem breaking up into smaller groups based on speed, or goals. Leaving in a group of 12 doesn't mean you must stay a group of 12. I realize you, the reader, may have a different opinion than me on this matter. I have been on trips where this was acceptable and mutually agreed upon, and then I have been on trips where it was "problematic." It helps to know who you're going with and if you're compatible.

Tim

The Hikers
02-23-2009, 06:04 PM
There certainly are a lot of factors to weigh as to the wisdom of solo hiking.
I personally think that when you add in Winter sub freezing temperatures which could make all the difference in survival after an accidental fall, then the case for solo hiking doesn't seem as positive.

TrishandAlex
02-23-2009, 06:06 PM
There certainly are a lot of factors to weigh as to the wisdom of solo hiking.
I personally think that when you add in Winter sub freezing temperatures which could make all the difference in survival after an accidental fall, then the case for solo hiking doesn't seem as positive.

That's why those who solo may want to carry a heck of a lot more than those who travel in groups. I know I can stay warm, dry and fed if I find myself in a position where I cannot move. The only way I would not be able to keep myself warm is if I was knocked unconscious. I feel the probability of that happening is very, very, very low.

Mike P.
02-23-2009, 06:16 PM
Do I feel better solo hiking or perhaps bringing a 3 season hiker out for their first winter hike? (plently of spare gear)

I don't know what Brian's experience level is. Personally, I've done over 1/2 of my winter hikes solo & more than that in the other three seasons. Pierce, Ike, Madison & South Twin, I'd feel fine doing solo. (other than Madison, I did do them solo) for the middle Presidentials, Bonds & Franconia's I'd be real sure about the weather.

TrishandAlex
02-23-2009, 06:31 PM
Also, if one wants to solo and yet feel not completely isolated, that's fairly easy. There are at least three meet-up groups who regularly hike the Whites. There are AMC groups who regularly hike the Whites. VFTT-ers and Rocks folks often post their hiking plans. One can easily discover in advance which trails are going to have a bunch of people on them and hike those trails that day, knowing that if something happened chances are very good someone is going to come along at some point. Not saying one should be any less careful out there, of course.

Waumbek
02-23-2009, 06:33 PM
Criticizing solo hiking on VFTT is usually incendiary, like proposing gun control to the NRA, and there have been many, many threads that take the route of this one and make the same arguments in favor of soloing. Do a search.

To me the more pertinent question, the elephant in the room, that this search raises is weather conditions. Would you (did you) rethink your plans, solo or otherwise, based on the weather forecast? And should one do so? Or are forecasts simply educated guesses that shouldn't factor in to individual responsibility?

Grayjay
02-23-2009, 06:33 PM
I think what happened is that he made one mistake and then inexperienced journalist have added others from their hike safe arsenal. His mistake as a solo hiker was not to be conscious of the upcoming weather. He may have decided to camp out a second night because of that, but obviously with someone waiting for him, that would get the rescue ball rolling. Heading out solo, you have a resonsibility to those who await your return, another reason to weigh all the necessary elements.

pks4000
02-23-2009, 06:35 PM
Soloing can be very safe if you know your own ability,have studied the route and are reasonably self sufficient.

Aways file a trip plan including route and a drop dead call in time.

If you change the route call it in to your contact person No cell signal? see below

My Golden Rule: Carry what you will need to survive in conditions one can reasonably expect for 24 hours."
Reason: You have to make it overnight as SAR most likely wont come out til daybreaks.

From my wilderness wandering daughter in Colorado:
"Daddy.
If there is no cell signal or weak one, dont try to call repeadtedly send a text message which requires little sustained signal strenth and may hook up as you walk about particularly up higher.

Cell signals have 35 mile "line of sight" acquisition capabilty in most good atmospheric conditions.

There is a good Verizon signal on Passaconaway Whitface.

Maybe this solist was hiding from watching the Oscars with his wife?

rocket21
02-23-2009, 06:47 PM
Cell signals have 35 mile "line of sight" acquisition capabilty in most good atmospheric conditions.

There is a good Verizon signal on Passaconaway Whitface.


Go figure! I tried starting on Dicey two weeks ago in good weather, halfway between the near-summit view point and the Rollins junction, and then continuing down from there to the water crossing, and I believe one more time when I neared the roadwalk. I'd get two bars, but they'd go away the minute I'd try to dial. I don't know where that emo guy and all of his friends were, but they certainly weren't hanging out with me.

pks4000
02-23-2009, 06:52 PM
He he Rocket
Technology is frustratin' ain't it?

I know the feelin'

DougPaul
02-23-2009, 07:18 PM
Cell signals have 35 mile "line of sight" acquisition capabilty in most good atmospheric conditions.

I believe this depends upon the protocol. I have seen a reasonably reliable report that GSM is limited to somewhere around 15 mi by the time delays in the signal transmission.

High points can also have the problem that the phone can exchange signals with too many towers or towers that are too far apart. In such cases, you may do better partway down the mountain where some of the towers are blocked. (This is why it is illegal to use a cellphone in an airborne aircraft.)

If you want reliable telephone service in the BC, get a satphone. In a number of places (including the Whites) 2M Ham Radio handheld radios are reported to be pretty effective. (cue SAR-EMT40...) (There have also been past threads on 2M Ham radios in the Whites.)


Technology is frustratin' ain't it?
Take your choice: clear summits or a tower on most of the higher summits to give you your connectivity everywhere...

Doug

OldMan
02-23-2009, 07:25 PM
I really like to solo, and will continue doing so. I think it's a fine idea. Love it.

I too solo a lot and really enjoy it. Sure a larger/heavier pack is required to carry extra gear in case you have to spend the night but I'm prepared to if necessary. I also always take my GPS with me and in the winter I make sure I have a recorded track to follow incase the trail isn't obvious. The GPS track provides a level of security for me that I'm not wandering off my planned route.

--M.
02-23-2009, 07:29 PM
I solo more than half the time, because that's how it is. It reins in my itinerary and shrinks the envelope, but I do get out there.

My guess is that the negligence law will be built case by case, and solo, or gps, or tighty-whities will be tested each time. But I'd be surprised if fining-for-solo stood up against public opinion. It's New Hampshire, fer cripes' sake!

When I go out in NH (as opposed to NY), I tell my wife when I expect to call, and also when she should call me in. For example, "I expect to call by sun-down, but don't call me in missing until the next 9am." Both times are chosen based on context, but allow for contingencies.

Tuggy
02-23-2009, 07:37 PM
I don't see anything wrong with a prepared person hiking alone. Factoring in the weather report and the weather you find is part of being prepared. It seems this guy was coming out on his own and was prepared. He just wasn't able to let his wife know he was ok. As for accidents, it doesn't make sense to me to quit doing things I like because an accident may happen. I like hiking by myself.

AndyF
02-23-2009, 07:53 PM
When this guy realized that his pace was slower than expected he should have been able to determine he wasn't go to make his expected return time. His choices then should have been to reach his contact to update his return time or if that is not possible turn around at a point where he could return on time.

Ironically I often solo hike on longer more difficult hikes and restrict group hikes to smaller easier hikes. This is because I know my own speed and ability and can predict my time more accurately than a group hike. Being off by 20% on a small hike is less of a detriment than on a large hike.

Also between a day with good weather where I have to go solo verses a day where others are available but weather is not good I "feel" safer solo.

There are two aspects to safe hiking, avoiding trouble and getting out of trouble. Solo hiking can lessen your chance of getting out of trouble but may decrease your chance of getting into trouble. Similarly for carrying lots fo emergency gear. It is an individual decision on what each person feels comfortable with. One size does not fit all.

bikehikeskifish
02-24-2009, 05:47 AM
...I often solo hike on longer more difficult hikes ... This is because I know my own speed and ability and can predict my time more accurately than a group hike. Being off by 20% on a small hike is less of a detriment than on a large hike.


Ditto.

Tim

Whiteman
02-24-2009, 06:20 AM
Who are the pollmeisters? I wonder what the votes would be.

I love hiking alone and am also happy in groups, which are usually just one or two people. The risk ratio is low enough for me. I've never had a serious injury alone or with others, though I suppose I'm just a beginner with a mere 100-200 mountains under my belt.

The downside of traveling alone is all that extra gear which bulks up fast enough for winter adventures. It's nice when you can share first aid/repair and other common gear over a few different packs.

I've learned the basic first aid, and can reduce a dislocated shoulder by myself (yep, been there, done that three times now, but once the joint is torn up it's pretty easy to get it back in).

I feel "up to code" when I'm out there alone. And the first thing I check is the weather. That's too easy.

Wolfgang
02-24-2009, 06:25 AM
Follow-up question for VFTT members from a luker who wrote to us wondering people thoughts on hiking alone.

The N.H. Fish and Game report seems to indicate an issue with hiking alone, but the Hiker Responsibility Code makes no mention to it. Thoughts?

I've hiked all the winters solo and I'm always aware of the dangers of doing this. I move a lot slower and more deliberate in winter, trying to be especially careful of foot placement. I think the biggest caution for solo hikers are the impending weather conditions. I usually won't attempt something too difficult if the forecast is iffy. If I had to wait for groups to form, I probably wouldn't hike as much as I do. One has to decide if the risks are worth it.

Wolfgang

Wolfgang
02-24-2009, 07:23 AM
Follow-up question for VFTT members from a luker who wrote to us wondering people thoughts on hiking alone.

The N.H. Fish and Game report seems to indicate an issue with hiking alone, but the Hiker Responsibility Code makes no mention to it. Thoughts?

Here's another thought. Hiking solo has some advantages, in that, one has more flexibility over a group hike and can pick and choose at the last minute to proceed or wait for a better day for the hike. Whereas, a group, having determined beforehand to meet and hike, may proceed simply because they're there, so let's do it, and this may not be the wisest choice. I think it all comes down to conditions, conditions, conditions. Enough said.

Wolfgang

rocket21
02-24-2009, 07:39 AM
Here's another thought. Hiking solo has some advantages, in that, one has more flexibility over a group hike and can pick and choose at the last minute to proceed or wait for a better day for the hike. Whereas, a group, having determined beforehand to meet and hike, may proceed simply because they're there, so let's do it, and this may not be the wisest choice. I think it all comes down to conditions, conditions, conditions. Enough said.


I also believe in the value of out and back hikes in winter - you generally know what you're getting yourself into. Doing a traverse or loop, on the other hand, can increase the chances of running into some sort of unexpected obstacle while trying to get out.

Bob Kittredge
02-24-2009, 07:46 AM
While I often solo hike in summer, I'm more cautious in winter. I try to plan my solitary winter hikes on days and trails that I'm confident will have other hikers around. One lovely January Saturday I "soloed" Washington; I was probably never out of sight of other hikers for the entire time I was above treeline.

AndyF
02-24-2009, 07:52 AM
The downside of traveling alone is all that extra gear which bulks up fast enough for winter adventures. It's nice when you can share first aid/repair and other common gear over a few different packs.

I don't carry any less when in a group. I always want to be able to take care of myself and not rely on anyone else. Maybe that is because I'm an only child. Sometimes I actually carry more in a group as a precaution against what the others don't have enough of.

MadRiver
02-24-2009, 07:57 AM
I don't carry any less when in a group. I always want to be able to take care of myself and not rely on anyone else. Maybe that is because I'm an only child. Sometimes I actually carry more in a group as a precaution against what the others don't have enough of.

What Andy said, except for the only child part.

TrishandAlex
02-24-2009, 08:05 AM
I don't carry any less when in a group. I always want to be able to take care of myself and not rely on anyone else. Maybe that is because I'm an only child. Sometimes I actually carry more in a group as a precaution against what the others don't have enough of.

I'm the same way. Actually, I think everyone should probably carry just as much as the solo winter hiker....if everyone happened to get stuck out for a night, how would one determine how to spread the emergency gear around? If I'm the only one who brought a sleeping bag and bivy...um, sorry, but I'll be the one using it....I can fit one other person in with me but the rest of the group has to figure something else out....:o

I'd do what I could to help out, but bottom line is that perhaps each person should be prepared to take care of themselves for a night out, even if they're traveling with 6 other people. Not saying anyone should abandon or neglect anyone in their party of course.....but I know I certainly can't squeeze in more than one other person into my bag and bivy.....so what happens to the rest of the group if no one else came prepared (because they assumed they'd be safe in a group)..?

MadRiver
02-24-2009, 08:13 AM
A quick side note on why I carry my own gear. Five or six years ago I was doing a Pemi loop and someone in the party talked me into not taking my stove to save weight and said I could use hers. When we got to Liberty Springs I asked to use the stove to make my dinner and she refused saying she wanted to wait awhile. I ended up using another personís stove and shared my dinner with him. Lesson learned.

WhiteMTHike
02-24-2009, 08:28 AM
I almost always hike alone. For me to not do so would defeat one of the reasons why I hike, and that is to get away from the real world. This individual may have been hiking alone but he was well prepared. His only mistake appears to be not checking the forecast more thoroughly or checking more than one weather source.

Kudos to S&R; glad things turned out well.

DougPaul
02-24-2009, 08:43 AM
I don't carry any less when in a group. I always want to be able to take care of myself and not rely on anyone else. Maybe that is because I'm an only child. Sometimes I actually carry more in a group as a precaution against what the others don't have enough of.
Same here. (But I'm not an only child.)

FWIW, when I had my BC XC skiing accident (broken leg), I had everything needed in my pack (~23 lbs) to stabilize me until evacuation.

Doug

Maddy
02-24-2009, 08:47 AM
. If I had to wait for groups to form, I probably wouldn't hike as much as I do. One has to decide if the risks are worth it.

Wolfgang

When people were astounded and/or dismayed that I "solo" hiked most of the time, my response for years has been
If I had to wait for people to hike with, I would surely grow old in my rocking chair."

I love to hike solo.The risk have always been worth it. This has been reinforced to me recently because I have a friend who is making a half hearted attempt to hike. It is far more challenging keeping an eye out on her than keeping an eye on the dog. :eek:
I am extra cautious hiking alone not only for myself but for the fur kids.
I would not be aversive to paying for a rescue if it was deemed that I was reckless and would not have gotten into the situation if I had been hiking with others.
However, I think I would most definitely be charged for being reckless if I brought this "friend" to the Whites.
:D:eek::D
That being said, I do carry emergency gear because if for any reason I am ever benighted, I hate being cold.
I learned my lesson in MN. Freezing just isn't a whole lot of fun and I found it to be totally incapacitating. Not a good thing if one is solo.
"No argument here, Lt. Borgadus!!! Your check will be forthcoming.Many thanks for saving my bacon.!"

wardsgirl
02-24-2009, 08:52 AM
There are some great points being made here by Trish, MadRiver, and others. Good grief, let's not vilify solo hiking! I am usually the slowest hiker in the bunch, so I have always shunned group trips, in favor of enjoying the woods alone (until I had a child, at least!). If I had to wait for others to be available to hike, I never would have begun enjoying hiking or backpacking as a sport in the first place. Certainly almost all of the patrol work for the trail maintenence in the Whites that I have done has been performed solo- READ: "Aw, Mom, do I have to go to (fill in the blank: West Bond/Isolation/Twin Brook Trail/Dry River Cutoff) again?"

If solo hiking is outside of your comfort level, don't do it, but don't discourage others from enjoying the woods alone. When I first started hiking, I took a wilderness medicine course. The instructor, Bill Aughton, made the good point that solo hikers are usually more careful than those traveling in a group because they need to be prepared to take care of themselves in case of an emergency. In my travels, I have found this to be true when evaluating the experience level of hikers. The more experienced hiker tends to carry more useful gear, hikes more competently, and makes better decisions with respect to conditions.

I have always carried enough gear to spend the night and take care of myself. When I finished the W48 the first time, I had hiked 36 of the peaks solo. Back in the day, it was very uncommon to run into other hikers on a winter trip and I planned accordingly.

Trainwreck
02-24-2009, 11:29 AM
Interestng discussion. I didn't think that the hikers code required us to be in groups..
Like Wardsgirl, I am the slowest hiker in any group, and since I do not want to have everyone go at my slow pace, I just go by myself.
I like the solitude.
I actually am overprepared for emergencies, always have a first aid kit AND a bivi sack.
I AM an only child.
I do however, check the weather before I hit the trail.
Sandy

Stash
02-24-2009, 11:54 AM
It would appear from a re-read that neither the HikeSafe code nor the ranger are quoted as being counter a solo. The statement isn't within the paragraph quoting the ranger or in the list of rules cut/pasted from the web site. It's apparent (to me anyway) that it's the writer of the story who has the opinion.. And I guess every is entitled to theirs, although wording in the form of an opinion might have made the story more in line with proper journalism?

McLaughlin was equipped with snowshoes, a tent and overnight gear, and he had let someone back home know his plans. However, he did not follow two basic tenets of the hikeSafe code: McLaughlin was hiking alone, and he either failed to inquire about or didn't adequately account for the incoming snow conditions.*

sardog1
02-24-2009, 12:35 PM
I think what happened is that he made one mistake and then inexperienced journalist have added others from their hike safe arsenal. His mistake as a solo hiker was not to be conscious of the upcoming weather. He may have decided to camp out a second night because of that, but obviously with someone waiting for him, that would get the rescue ball rolling. Heading out solo, you have a resonsibility to those who await your return, another reason to weigh all the necessary elements.


It would appear from a re-read that neither the HikeSafe code nor the ranger are quoted as being counter a solo. The statement isn't within the paragraph quoting the ranger or in the list of rules cut/pasted from the web site. It's apparent (to me anyway) that it's the writer of the story who has the opinion.. And I guess every is entitled to theirs, although wording in the form of an opinion might have made the story more in line with proper journalism?

McLaughlin was equipped with snowshoes, a tent and overnight gear, and he had let someone back home know his plans. However, he did not follow two basic tenets of the hikeSafe code: McLaughlin was hiking alone, and he either failed to inquire about or didn't adequately account for the incoming snow conditions.*

I am compelled (reluctantly, as a constantly-solo excursionist) to clarify that the entire article is a press release from Fish & Game (http://wildlife.state.nh.us/Newsroom/News_2009/News_2009_Q1/search_Mass_hiker_located_022309.html), not the embellishment of someone else outside the Department.

Stash
02-24-2009, 01:05 PM
I am compelled (reluctantly, as a constantly-solo excursionist) to clarify that the entire article is a press release from Fish & Game (http://wildlife.state.nh.us/Newsroom/News_2009/News_2009_Q1/search_Mass_hiker_located_022309.html), not the embellishment of someone else outside the Department.

...then that is truely unfortunate.:confused::(

Little Rickie
02-24-2009, 01:28 PM
There is nothing in this report saying that this hiker was in trouble and/or in need of any help. It is quite possible that he was simply traveling slowly due to having to break the trail out.

Perhaps this conclusion will change with more information, but there is nothing in the report that leads me to conclude that this hiker did anything wrong or that he really needed any help.

Doug

I would be embarrassed, if I took extra time or a day and was perfectly fine, to have a press release imply I was "rescued", but then again I don't think my wife would panic and call in saying I'm missing.

McRat
02-24-2009, 02:12 PM
I love these articles and the collective naval gazing it provokes in the online hiking community.

There is often safety in numbers, and this point gets belabored, debated, and discussed to death nearly every time there is incident in the woods.

Almost everyone sees some level of risk every day and they manage it as well as their ability and knowledge allow. When certain risks are limited to a small sector of people (hikers) society at large likes to deem these less-common risk factors as recklessness.

If you take the scene out of the woods it gets ridiculous - Imagine people blaming a mugging victim for walking alone in the city, or debating the extra effort and expense his victimhood cost.

Sh!t happens, so I do my best to be as prepared as possible. I am very grateful for all the rescue personel and do my best to not burden them.

Should I ever be incapable of self rescue, I'm glad that there are experienced and well-trained folks out there - some of whom got their experience from responding to incidents like these.

In order to enjoy freedom, whether it be in the hills or streets - we need to take responsibility - for both ourselves and others.

I'm just glad everyone is OK. The system worked.

DougPaul
02-24-2009, 03:57 PM
I would be embarrassed, if I took extra time or a day and was perfectly fine, to have a press release imply I was "rescued", but then again I don't think my wife would panic and call in saying I'm missing.
When to send the searchers out after an overdue hiker is always a difficult decision. If they go out immediately, there is a high probability that the hiker is simply a bit behind schedule. If wait wait a long time (say a month for a dayhiker or week-end-hiker), the hiker could easily be dead (or has run away).

In this case, the searchers went in fairly quickly and found a functioning hiker. The report does not say whether the hiker would have made it out without help or whether he was too exhausted to make it out without help breaking trail.

It can be easy to second guess the search controllers after the fact when the state of the hiker is known, but in practice the decision of when to go in must often be made without knowledge of the hiker's condition or location.


Hopefully, any press releases would be accurate. (But in practice, they often contain errors.)

Doug

BlackBuffalo
02-24-2009, 04:36 PM
Glad to hear I'm not the only person that solos and often prefers it.

Mike P.
02-24-2009, 05:01 PM
To Waumbek's point:

Weather should play a role in you planning. I dislike seeing the rain/snow cancels on many AMC trips. I understand it, if hiking with strangers who's ability I only know from a 5 minute phone call, I wouldn't be in any hurry to find out if they embellished their experience. (personally when I've coordinated a hike, I 'd rather hear about the times people turned back, not that you have done all the 4k.s That could just mean you went out a lot one summer & early fall because you had lots of spare time that year)

When I solo, often times I have two or three places I am thinking about, especially in winter. A calm warm day will send me someplace above treeline.

A more typical day may send me someplace with a brief stop on a bare summit like Pierce, Garfield or Liberty (places I've also been to at least 5x and at least twice in snow & less than fair conditions)

On a miserable, I'd still go but places like Field, Willard, Tom & Waumbek would be more likely options. (6 or so miles RT or less again, places I've been too several times. Like I said, I disliek the rain/snow cancels message - it should alter the trip though)

My camping skills are next to nil so that weather forecast would have kept me from this type of trip. Personally, based on my experience & my comfort level while I know that area a little bit, I don't know it as well as others. The idea a fairly big snowfall was happening & navigation was going to be iffy & slow - at least following a broken out trail - I'd have looked at something else.

If I'd had been on these trail 10X & was a veteran winter camper, I'd had probably been right next to him.

Dave Bear
02-24-2009, 07:16 PM
A heartfelt thanks to Search and Rescue for all they do. More than just being inconvenienced but actual true risk that they volunteer to go out in extreme conditions. Hopefully the individual understands the impact on other lives of not having met his seemingly over optimistic deadline. This lately has been playing a big role in speculation about limits on the freedom of our pasttime and new ways of defining reckless or negligent behaviour. Many of my hikes have been solo, often multiday in winter or winter like conditions with changing weather. If I leave on any hike the plans are clear where I'm going and when I'll be out. Along with this are discussions about possible bail outs if conditions change or I get to sore from pushing my limits.
Although there is safety in numbers, hiking with a group to me is more for the comradery. Hiking solo and winter (or other season) backpacking rewards you with experience and independence. I hate to think that someone who has never tried to hone these skills could curtail the freedom to head out in the night on solid trails, free of the masses, and set up camp deep in the woods. For centuries and longer man has been able to venture into the woods on a quest free of electronics and other "human ball and chain devices" in order to experience what they are capable of. We envy the beauty and remoteness of the home of the beasts where they manage to live comfortably and in harmony. Sad to think we may have to enjoy it someday leashed by what becomes society's perception of what is admissable!

RoySwkr
02-24-2009, 07:18 PM
The N.H. Fish and Game report seems to indicate an issue with hiking alone, but the Hiker Responsibility Code makes no mention to it. Thoughts?
Most F&G employees patrol alone, which I'll mention if they try to fine me for hiking solo :-)

Of course they carry radios, check with dispatch, etc.