A little over eight years ago, two Pennsylvania hikers went down in the state’s search-and-rescue annals as being the first equipped with a cell phone and a global positioning system who requested help in finding their way off a mountain.
The pair did not have a map and could not tell searchers where they were, beyond latitude and longitude coordinates. A team eventually met up with the pair and got them safely off Mount Tripyramid.
In the years that have followed, and as hiking has gone high-tech, there have been similar stories. However, the Internet, satellite technology and cellular telephones are still no replacement for common sense.
“It still gives people a false sense of security. They rely too much on technology, and we’d like to bring them back to the basics,” Fish and Game Lt. Todd Bogardus. “They need to get out of situations without technology.”
In addition to coordinating searches in the western White Mountains, Bogardus also maintains the http://HikeSafe.com
Web site, a collaborative effort between Fish and Game and the U.S. Forest Service to provide information for those planning a hike.
As technology has advanced, searchers have tried to keep up. When those Pennsylvania hikers asked for help, conservation officers had only trained with the GPS four days previous.
Last month, Bogardus used a laptop computer to coordinate the search on Mount Osceola for two Massachusetts teens who went off the trail with no gear, maps or compasses.
Teams had GPS units and when they completed their searches, Bogardus was able to download that data and know precisely where searchers had been and where to send subsequent teams.
That information, as the search entered its second night, allowed Bogardus to see that one area had not been thoroughly covered. A team went up to Breadtray ridge and found the boys.
Techniques continue to evolve.
“Technology is slightly ahead of us right now,” Bogardus said.
The latest gadget is the Personal Locator Beacon, which works much like the locators used to find downed aircraft. Right now, there are procedures in place to respond to a PLB signal through various channels, but this month, Bogardus will spend several days with U.S. Air Force personnel to learn how to use equipment. It will allow searchers to respond immediately to a signal, rather than having information relayed to them from a third party, such as the Air Force.
“New Hampshire will be one of the first states to have that technology,” he said.