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HH1
03-18-2016, 03:16 PM
Currently if you need a rescue while recreating in New Hampshire and are determined to be 'negligent' by the Fish and Game Department, you will be billed for it.

Rather than asking questions regarding the implications of equipment failure, here's a hypothetical scenario to set the scene:

I and a friend day hiking somewhere above tree line in the Presidential Range suddenly encounter near-whiteout conditions. In hastily grabbing my GPS to guide us along the now invisible trail, I drop it. Picking it up, I discover it is completely disabled. Having a pretty good idea where I am, I retrieve my compass from my backpack but to my horror, not having used it in ages I forget how to set a bearing that would allow my friend and I to escape to on-trail tree cover, intact. (He has no compass or any other navigation equipment/ability). Panicked, for a few minutes we mindlessly scramble in search of the trail until we become bogged down in stunted conifer. Making a quick decision, we decide to stay put, don all our layers and dig in to keep as warm as possible to await rescue, since I left a detailed plan with my wife who would contact SAR in the late afternoon if we didn't show back at home.

Seven hours later SAR locates us a hundred yards off trail. The storm is relenting but significant hypothermia prevents us from walking out. A chopper is called in and we are airlifted to a regional hospital where in a few weeks we completely recover.

Fish and Game could presumably rule in two ways on our incident:

- as the disabling of the GPS was a freak accident, and since we did everything else right - carried insulation, left a route and emergency plan with someone, stayed put when we were lost - it deems us not liable for rescue payment; not being able to use the compass properly is not considered an act of negligence for it is a superior, modern day equivalent of the compass; OR

- deeming that using the compass properly would have highly likely led us to the trail as it entered tree line, we are declared negligent and are ordered to pay a multi-thousand dollar invoice to compensate for SAR costs. The F&G decision is based on the our having broken the tacit contract of the backpack's "ten essentials" which, as listed by the vast majority of hiking clubs throughout North America, universally include map, compass and knowing how to use them. Some organizations include GPS as optional equipment but under the proviso one is competent in M&C use.

Here is the AMC's take on it:

"Navigation You need to know where you are and how to get where you’re going. Carry a physical map of your area, not just a battery-powered option on your phone. Supplement it with a compass; even a simple model can provide a general orientation. An altimeter, GPS unit, or other device enhances convenience and location accuracy, but all are vulnerable to failure.".

Sorry for the long run in!

Question: What is your opinion on how Fish and Game would rule? Are the inclusion of map and compass in the "ten essentials" lip service for the general public, that GPS is more than an equivalent substitute? Or do you think that having and being able to use M&C is absolutely mandatory if you don't want to pay a hefty bill, or for that matter lose limb or life?

Thanks for any or all comments!

Tim Horn
03-18-2016, 03:28 PM
NHF&G may or not fine you for rescue for relying only upon a GPS unit for navigation. I think it depends on the conditions that you went out in and how many of the other essential elements you were carrying. In my mind I would certainly expect to pay for the rescue if the cause of my being rescued was I failed to bring a map and know how to use it. Personally I would be happy to pay S&R if they have rescue me. Life is worth a lot more than $10,000. On the other hand you could lie and say you lost your map and your GPS and make the entire situation murky. And on the other other hand you could simply hole up until day light and then get your butt out on your own the next day. (if you had the other 9 essentials)
Kind of a troll thread but fun to think about.

jfb
03-18-2016, 04:21 PM
You went for a hike and couldn't find your way back, and you left word for your wife to call S&R if you were not back by a certain time, and you did not have enough emergency gear to spend the night safely. I hope you bought one of those "hike safe" cards. My guess is you are negligent, but not reckless.

sierra
03-18-2016, 04:30 PM
a GPS is a modern convenience that can do a lot of cool things, but to solely rely on a device that can be ineffective due to a number of reasons doesn't really cut it. Having a compass is essential and yes knowing how to use it goes without saying. I think for emergency purposes, people over think it's use. If your in Edmonds col for example, just following a north bearing will get you to the scrub, that would be my choice as a southern bearing would drop you in the Great Gulf ( still better then the col, but very steep and rough to descend). Another question that would come up is why you got caught in a whiteout anyway? Did you go up in a predicted weather event? Did you even know the forecast? And most importantly, if the weather was turning, why didn't you beeline for the woods? To be fair, you made some good decisions. Personally, if you had the clothes you needed why couldn't you keep moving down/ I would fight hard to get low. As with all senarios, my comments would require more detail to be 100% justified, but given the parameters of what I read, that's my take. Speed in decision making and in getting down is key up there. One more note. You got hypothermia in 6 hours, you clearly didn't have enough warm or appropriate gear. On that range my pack weighs 22 lbs, I have some dam warm gear in there.

bikehikeskifish
03-18-2016, 06:14 PM
NHF&G may or not fine you for rescue for relying only upon a GPS unit for navigation. I think it depends on the conditions that you went out in and how many of the other essential elements you were carrying. In my mind I would certainly expect to pay for the rescue if the cause of my being rescued was I failed to bring a map and know how to use it. Personally I would be happy to pay S&R if they have rescue me. Life is worth a lot more than $10,000. On the other hand you could lie and say you lost your map and your GPS and make the entire situation murky. And on the other other hand you could simply hole up until day light and then get your butt out on your own the next day. (if you had the other 9 essentials)
Kind of a troll thread but fun to think about.

It's not a fine. You did not violate any statute. It is a fee for service.

Tim

Trail Boss
03-18-2016, 07:34 PM
... Question: What is your opinion on how Fish and Game would rule?
Instead of opinions, you can get the actual ruling by contacting NH F&G.
http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/about/contact.html

However, if you just want opinions: if you remembered to buy a Hikesafe card you're likely to pay $0 for SAR because you did nothing explicitly reckless. No card? Possibly negligent. Probability increases if you freely admit to not knowing how to use a M&C.

This isn't such a hypothetical situation; there was a real SAR on Marcy a few weeks ago (above treeline; lousy visibility; veered away from the cairned trail; walked into spruce traps). The individual used a cellphone and SPOT to get help. They later revealed to have a M&C but skills were "rusty". Much later it was revealed the person is a volunteer backpacking leader for the AMC. New York state; no SAR charge. DEC Ranger congratulated person for doing the right thing.

Stan
03-19-2016, 08:21 AM
I don't think you'd be penalized for being rusty on map and compass. Under white out conditions it would have limited use aside from finding a good bailout option. Even then, finding the next cairn would probably be the first order of business and that might require being tethered to your partner and locating them one by one. A keen eye for the trail, or what could be identifiable as such, is helpful and gps, map and compass will be of little help for that; that skill depends on your sense of observation during normal conditions. Still no argument for a fine in my opinion unless being up there in conditions forecast to pose a serious hazard even to the prepared were considered reckless.

Sematary
03-19-2016, 02:53 PM
I don't think you'll get charged. Although, you didn't really say if you had checked the weather ahead of time.

CaptCaper
03-19-2016, 03:51 PM
This is a really stupid question and post.. One my wife will bring up as she notices stupid posts from some of these posters.. Maybe someone has too much time on their hands ... I dunno.
I'm not subscribing to notifications here really.

Disagreement is fine. If you want to insult people, find another place to do it.

Raven
03-20-2016, 07:42 AM
For the record, membership in the American Alpine Club entitles one to $5,000 reimbursement for the cost of domestic rescue. I believe they match that for international as well. The devil is likely in the details.

grog
03-20-2016, 08:02 AM
This is a really stupid question and post.. One my wife will bring up as she notices stupid posts from some of these posters.. Maybe someone has too much time on their hands ... I dunno.
I'm not subscribing to notifications here really.

You and your wife are wasting your time being haters. Maybe you have too much time on your hands.:p

grog

Peakbagr
03-20-2016, 10:28 AM
"This is a really stupid question and post.. One my wife will bring up as she notices stupid posts from some of these posters.. Maybe someone has too much time on their hands ... I dunno. I'm not subscribing to notifications here really."

Disagreement is fine. If you want to insult people, find another place to do it.

sierra
03-20-2016, 12:52 PM
"This is a really stupid question and post.. One my wife will bring up as she notices stupid posts from some of these posters.. Maybe someone has too much time on their hands ... I dunno. I'm not subscribing to notifications here really."

Disagreement is fine. If you want to insult people, find another place to do it.

It was all I could do to leave that post alone. One thing that keeps me here on this site is the lack of insults and the wealth of knowledge. Considering how confusing the Hike safe card and the guidelines for charging for a rescue, I thought is was a legitimate question.

Mike P.
03-20-2016, 02:13 PM
Are you negligent planning on hiking a couple of miles or more above treeline when the weather is brutal? Define brutal or horrific? Making all the right decisions to execute a planned doomed to fail is negligence because the plan itself is flawed.

Some of us can do a 30-45 mile day hike, currently, if I planned one, I'd be negligent if I tried it. (in good conditioning, 30 up & down was about my limit - a rail trail would be okay but the boredom would be brutal)

We did something like this some time ago, what conditions would keep you off Adams, Jefferson or Washington in late winter? What's the temp & wind break point? Zero with a 40 MPH wind too hard? Is it -10 and 50 MPH? In summer it's different, with some gear you might do 45 degrees with a gusty 65 -75 MPH?

Conversely what would the late winter points be to keep you off Tecumseh? Are they the same?

Add to this that most of us would be considered the choir, some of us have done these peaks so often & in conditions that people unfamiliar with the area probably should avoid & since we've done them several times, why go on a bad day?

hikerbrian
03-21-2016, 09:01 AM
Good topic. First of all, I think NH F&G's position on this matter is evolving. So it is really, really hard to predict accurately what the outcome would be. It's probably more realistic to evaluate the evidence that would support billing vs. not billing and then recognize that in these grey area cases F&G may weigh things differently than any of us. Second, it's interesting to note that you phrased the question as, "Would I get billed if...?" vs. "Would I survive if...?" I think the latter is more important to think about than the former, but similar metrics apply, so we can talk about both.

A case very similar to this one was recently determined to be 'negligent' and a bill was levied. The young man headed up into the Presi's solo (not that different from having a single companion who relies on you completely for navigation and decision making), encountered poor snow conditions (not a white out, but similar situation) and couldn't continue the trek. He tried to get down a different way than he came up and was stopped by difficult trail conditions (high water). He actually was quite capable of navigating, and brought the right gear so that he was able to keep himself alive for 4 days before walking out himself. He was billed something like $25k for the helicopters that searched for him over that time period. Many in the hiking community saw this as a 'test case' to determine whether F&G could basically make whatever decision they wanted, and that the person billed would have to live with the consequences. Many did not think the boy's actions were negligent (though many did, too). To the best of my knowledge, it is not known if F&G was successful in extracting that sum of money from the boy's family, but most think not. So I'm not sure F&G would persue the same strategy if the same case happenned again. As I said, I think their policy is evolving. So for the hypothetical case you present, it's anyone's guess. [All: please feel free to correct any actual history I got wrong - though I don't want to reopen that debate, I'm just trying to think of relevant case history].

For the case you present, the piece that sticks in my mind is that after 7 hrs you were so far disabled you needed a helicopter to extract you. This would suggest severe hypothermia and frost bite, which would mean you did not bring the proper clothing and/or gear. It would also mean you were close to death, as even moderate cases of hypothermia can usually be reversed in the field with proper insulation and nutrition. If a single unfortunate event (dropping GPS) brings you very close to death, then you did not have the right gear and/or knowledge to be where you were. You should have greater redundency in your system.

I've said many times on this forum that the ability to navigate is the single most important skill to take with you into the mountains, and that a majority of rescues could be avoided if the hikers were proficient navigators. If you're not a particularly good navigator with at least one backup method of finding your way, you better be prepared to be out for the long haul while a rescue crew comes to get you. In your hypothetical scenario, you did not have appropriate backup navigation methods, and then were not prepared for the consequences of a single mishap. F&G would be justified in billing you, but more importantly, you were riding very close to the line of life and death just by embarking on your itinerary without a critical skillset. That is not the place we want to operate.

You would be MUCH safer (and much less likely to get billed if):

You had a reliable backup means of navigation (map and compass and expert ability to use them, or a second GPS)
You were not in critical condition when rescuers finally found you (additional insulation, at least one appropriately rated sleeping bag per 2 people (rated for survival not comfort), a small stove and pot, real shelter) so that they could simply walk you out

Things you did correctly included:

Leaving an itinerary and a clear 'when to call for help' time. This made finding you easier, but did not prevent a critical rescue.
Stopping and digging in before you were completely worn out and/or injured. Though I myself probably would have pushed on for a long time to try and get as low as possible if I thought holing up for the night might very well kill me


In very general terms, I think F&G is going to bill you if they find you and say to themselves, Wow, you are lucky we're here, you almost got yourself killed. On the other hand, if you're in a reasonably stable situation and aren't close to death as a result of things you could control, they're probably not going to bill you.

jfb
03-21-2016, 09:33 AM
Wasn't there a hiker who was billed for a rescue after calling the AMC for directions from the summit of Mt. Jackson because she couldn't find the trail down? She was told to stay put and a group of rescuers hiked up and led her down?

jrbren
03-21-2016, 09:59 AM
I have no clue how fish & game would rule. I just wanted to post that I would never consider an electronic gadget like a gps to be an adequate substitute for map & compass. I have been clocked running over 35mph and climbed to over 5500' on Vermont's Camel's Hump according to my gps. gps is a toy, nothing more. I also strongly disagree with the concept of the "Hike Safe" card giving anyone a green light to be foolish in the back country, or automatically charging someone who does not have one (or the "hike safe" card having any bearing whatsoever).

dug
03-21-2016, 11:40 AM
Wasn't there a hiker who was billed for a rescue after calling the AMC for directions from the summit of Mt. Jackson because she couldn't find the trail down? She was told to stay put and a group of rescuers hiked up and led her down?

She's a member here.

I'll get some of the nuances incorrect, but the short details were that she did get turned around as the snow had covered up any sings of the trail, and it was getting late. I believe she called to the Highland Center looking for guidance, who called in the F&G. I don't remember if they went out then, or waited for the morning, as she was in a good place and while it was a very cold night, she was prepared. She was met walking out the next morning.

Remix
03-21-2016, 06:54 PM
I have no clue how fish & game would rule. I just wanted to post that I would never consider an electronic gadget like a gps to be an adequate substitute for map & compass. I have been clocked running over 35mph and climbed to over 5500' on Vermont's Camel's Hump according to my gps. gps is a toy, nothing more. I also strongly disagree with the concept of the "Hike Safe" card giving anyone a green light to be foolish in the back country, or automatically charging someone who does not have one (or the "hike safe" card having any bearing whatsoever).

Alot of bait on this hook.....