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Drivers stranded on winter forest roads, led by GPS "fastest way" settings

GPS strands couple in So. Oregon snow for 3 days
by JEFF BARNARD, Associated Press Writer
December 28, 2009

A Nevada couple letting their SUV’s navigation system guide them through the high desert of Eastern Oregon got stuck in snow for three days when the GPS unit sent them down a remote forest road.

On Sunday, atmospheric conditions apparently changed enough for their GPS-enabled cell phone to get a weak signal and relay coordinates to a dispatcher, Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger said.

“GPS almost did ‘em in and GPS saved ‘em,” Evinger said. “It will give you options to pick the shortest route. You certainly get the shortest route. But it may not be a safe route.”

Evinger said a Lake County deputy found the couple in the Winema-Fremont National Forest outside the small town of Silver Lake on Sunday afternoon and pulled their four-wheel-drive Toyota Sequoia out of the snow with a winch.

John Rhoads, 65, and his wife, Starry Bush-Rhoads, 67, made it home safely to Reno, Nev., Evinger said.

The couple was well-equipped for winter travel, carrying food, water and warm clothes, the sheriff said.

“Their statement was, being prepared saved their life,” he said.

The couple had been in Portland and followed their GPS as it directed them south on U.S. Highway 97 to Oregon Highway 31, which goes through Silver Lake and Lakeview before connecting with U.S. Highway 395 to Reno, Evinger said.

In the town of Silver Lake, the unit told them to turn right on Forest Service Road 28, and they followed that and some spur roads nearly 35 miles before getting stuck in about 1 1/2 feet of snow near Thompson Reservoir, the sheriff said.

“For some reason they finally got a weak signal after 2 1/2 days,” Evinger said. “They called in. They alternated between two different cell phone numbers.”

A GPS-enabled phone is able to send its coordinates to 911, and eventually one of the couple’s phones sent its location to the dispatcher’s console, the sheriff said.


GPS-led travel goes amiss; 3 Oregon parties rescued
By Tim Fought / The Associated Press
January 02. 2010

In a holiday hurry, Jeramie Griffin piled his family into the car and asked his new GPS for the quickest way from his home in the Willamette Valley across the Cascade Range.

It said he could shave 40 minutes off the time of the roundabout route he usually takes to his future in-laws’ place.

Following the directions, he and his fiancée headed east on Christmas Eve and into the mountains, turning off a state highway onto local roads and finally getting stuck in the snow.

They had no cell phone service and ran short on formula for their 11-month-old daughter. After taking exploratory hikes, trying to dig out and spending the night in their car, the distraught couple filmed a goodbye video.

Like two other parties of holiday travelers who followed GPS directions smack into Oregon snow banks, Griffin and family were eventually rescued. But their peril left law enforcement officers and travel advisers perplexed about drivers who occasionally set aside common sense when their GPS systems suggest a shortcut.

“Did everybody just get these for Christmas?” asked Klamath County Sheriff Tim Evinger, leader of one rescue effort.

In Griffin’s case, in fact, the GPS device was a Christmas gift, from his parents. He used it for the first time to plan the trip to Central Oregon.

It’s one he’d made many times before, following a route travelers have found reliable since at least the days of the Oregon Trail. But, he said, a shortcut the GPS device suggested was attractive.

“We were in such a hurry to get over there, we programmed it in the driveway and went ahead,” he said.

In hindsight, he said, he should have double checked the route against a paper map — and packed extra formula for the baby. “We would be better prepared for the unknown,” he said.

AAA and the National Association for Search and Rescue say they don’t sense a surge in trips that go amiss because of a blind reliance on GPS directions, but they hear about them from time to time.

“It’s usually about every other month,” said Christie Hyde of the national travel association AAA. It’s a small number compared with the millions of GPS units in service, she said.

She’s heard, she said, of one driver who made a right turn as directed and had to be towed off railroad tracks, and another party led near the edge of a cliff.

In Oregon, GPS systems can direct drivers to thousands of miles of Forest Service logging roads that lace the state’s mountain ranges. In the winter, they are often plugged with snow.

On Christmas Day, a Nevada couple took one such road in Evinger’s county and spent three days stuck. They were rescued when a break in atmospheric conditions allowed them to signal their coordinates to 911.

Three Portlanders and their small dog got into trouble Monday when their vehicle slid off a forest road as they were using GPS directions to a hot springs in the southern Willamette Valley. Lane County officials said the three and the dog were exhausted and mildly hypothermic after walking 17 miles without survival gear to get into cell phone range and call 911.

Griffin’s family was rescued when friends and relatives used a GPS like Griffin’s and duplicated the route they assumed the family had plotted. That led them straight to the family. The three had been stuck about 24 hours.

Evinger recalled that within the past year in his county a hunter in a pickup followed GPS instructions along a powerline road and got stuck in a marsh, and travelers in a car got stuck in snow when they turned onto a Forest Service road that had been closed and converted to use for snowmobiles.

Law enforcement officials and travel experts have a variety of recommendations for people who use GPS in the winter or in strange territory:

Use an old-fashioned paper map as a backup. Pack a survival kit for the winter. Configure your GPS for “highways only,” or a similar setting, so that you don’t get directed to byways in the winter. Top off your gasoline tank, and charge your cell phone batteries before going into remote areas. Pay attention to the weather.

“Our devices don’t know what the weather is,” said Jessica Myers, a spokeswoman for GPS manufacturer Garmin. “It’s the responsibility of the driver to exercise common sense.”


What can regular folks learn from Traditional Mountaineers?

1. Practice the Four Basic Responsibilities of the Backcountry Traveler.  Basic

2. Carry the new Ten Essential Systems, sized for the forecast weather and the adventure in a light day pack (in your car). This includes a map, compass and GPS and the skills to use them. In the winter, this includes enough extra insulation and waterproof clothing (easy to do in a car - add sleeping bags too) to keep you dry and warm if you become stranded. In snow, you must have a shovel and insulating pad and the skills to make a shelter (stay in your car) in the snow to avoid hypothermia and frost bite damage.  Essentials

3. Carry a fully charged digital cell phone and periodically check where it can communicate with any cell towers to assist authorities to triangulate your position from cell tower pings. (Most cell providers do not use cell phone GPS signals to locate customers under FCC E911 regulations - they use triangulation). Cold disables batteries. If the weather is cold, carry the cell phone in a pants pocket near the femoral artery. Report your UTM NAD27 coordinates, your condition, the conditions where you are and discuss your plans with SAR.  Cell Phones  If you may be out of cell tower range, carry a SPOT.  SPOT Satellite Messenger

4. Always stay found on your map and by being aware of major land features such as Mt. Bachelor. (You are on a road in your car!) If visibility starts to wane, reconfirm your bearings with your map, compass and GPS and quickly return to a known location (Cascade Lakes Highway, Mt. Bachelor, a Nordic Shelter, etc.) A GPS is the only practical way for a trained individual to navigate in a whiteout or blowing snow.  Lost Mt Hood Climbers


A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to plan for the unexpected.  Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged cell phone and inexpensive walkie-talkie radios. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essentials Systems" in a day pack sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or move around your marked location to stay warm. Do not try to find your way until you become exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
Gear grist, an article written for The Mountaineer, the monthly newsletter of The Mountaineers
Robert Speik writes: "Use your digital cell in the backcountry" for The Mountaineer
Snowboarder lost overnight near Mount Bachelor, rescued by SAR 
Woman leaves car stuck in snow near Klamath Falls, dies from exposure
Man rescued from crevasse just off South Sister climber's trail
Climbing South Sister: A Prospectus and a Labor Day near disaster
Trail runner survives fall on ice with cell phone call
Once again, hypothermia kills stranded Oregon driver
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
Lessons learned from the latest lost Christmas tree hunters
FREE Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why are "Snow Caves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury 

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone 
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Longacre Expeditions teen group rescued from the snowdrifts above Todd Lake
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"