Forum Index > Trail Talk > When is it time to raise the alarm?
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Yana
Hater



Joined: 03 Jun 2004
Posts: 4009 | TRs
Location: Out Hating
Yana
Hater
PostTue May 29, 2007 7:22 pm 
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I know a lot (most?) of people give plans of their hiking/climbing/backpacking whatever trips to trusted friends/family so if they do not return as scheduled, those people can call the appropriate authorities and start a search.

In order to remove some of the guesswork, I've also started giving a "if I don't return by X o'clock, raise the alarm that I am missing."

I always wonder about when that time should be, though, and I feel like most of the time it's pretty arbitrary. Obviously, sometimes you might have a day or more of "padding" (on a longer trip).

But I feel undecided on how much extra time to give myself. If I get lost and have to spend an unexpected night somewhere, I would feel incredibly stupid and embarrassed if a search is in progress when I can simply walk out the next day (which would be what I want to do), not to mention that said search would be a total waste of resources, and my friends/family would be incredibly worried.

However, if I have an injury that prevents me from exiting on my own, wouldn't sooner be better?

Thoughts? Opinions? What do y'all do?

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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Dave Weyrick
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Joined: 16 Dec 2001
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Location: Poulsbo, WA
Dave Weyrick
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PostTue May 29, 2007 8:40 pm 
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Most of my trips are two night fishing excursions, many solo. I leave a TOPO! map copy with my wife on which I've indicated trailhead, trails used, off trail routes, and campsites. On the back I give general to specific trailhead location info for her to give to authorities if needed. I usually plan to be out by dark the third day, and ask her to wait to call S&R until I fail to return by dark the next day. That gives me a day to overcome minor difficulties such as getting lost, sprained ankle, car trouble, etc. I've told her I'll stay alive for a month as long as I can get to water, so don't give up looking early.  Fortunately we've never found out if she could actually wait that whole extra day before calling in the mounties.

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If I'd known ya was gonna use bait I wouldn't a brought ya!
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Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot



Joined: 29 Jan 2007
Posts: 4069 | TRs
Location: Shoreline
Matt
Tea, Earl Grey, Hot
PostTue May 29, 2007 10:13 pm 
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For overnight trips, I usually tell people to wait a full day.  I figure if we have overnight gear with us, we can afford to wait, and its better than calling our searchers unnecessarily.  I've had at least three trips where we returned a day late due either to bad weather or minor injuries.

Day trips are a harder call.  But if we haven't gotten back by midnight, I'd say a call to the local emergency authorities might be worthwhile.  If you're only a half-day out from the TH and haven't been able to send anyone back for help, then probably something's wrong.

One other VERY IMPORTANT LESSON I learned.  If you get out late from a trip, always call the local authorities and notify them that you're okay.  Otherwise they may already be starting to organize a search for you.  That happened to me once when there was a misunderstanding about being picked up from a hike, and we hitchhiked back to town.

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“As beacons mountains burned at evening.” J.R.R. Tolkien
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Allison
Feckless Swooner



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 12304 | TRs
Location: putting on my Nikes before the comet comes
Allison
Feckless Swooner
PostTue May 29, 2007 10:40 pm 
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It depends entirely on the trip, your limitations, and the length of the trip. It may seem like a no brainer to err on the side of caution, but once a search is underway, a whole bunch of people are inconvenienced and/or in danger themselves. Only you can make the call on when you want your 'designated' to make the phone call.

I generally leave that info with my dad, because he knows my limitations and will not get all hysterical if I'm a little late, that said, he also knows when it's time to call in SAR because I may be hurt or lost or whatever.

I tend to err way on the side of my experience though, and may end up spending a nasty night out on a day hike freezing my ass off. Still, SAR is not out looking for me for something stupid.*

*So far so good, and I haven't yet been out well past the time I should be back.

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follow me on Twitter! @AllisonLWoods
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Grannyhiker
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Joined: 29 Jul 2006
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Location: Gateway to the Columbia Gorge
Grannyhiker
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PostTue May 29, 2007 11:15 pm 
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I'm always prepared to stay out overnight (or an extra day for multi-day trips).  I therefore give my contact a time 24 hours after I plan to be out.
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Coasty
I like Salmon!



Joined: 02 Apr 2006
Posts: 763 | TRs
Location: Kodiak, AK
Coasty
I like Salmon!
PostWed May 30, 2007 4:20 am 
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This is a good topic!  For Dayhikes, usually solo, I give myself 2-3 extra hours.  For overnights, I usually give myself until Midnight of the night I am supposed to return.  I usually don't do serious off trails unless I am hiking with others, and then I have a more loose time frame.

I always leave my wife were I am going usually with a tab in a guidebook that describes the hike if possible.  In winter I carry enough stuff to make sure I can survive a night in the field.  In the summer I carry less stuff but still enough that I can survive a night in the field.

Jason B

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Opus
Wannabe



Joined: 04 Mar 2006
Posts: 3546 | TRs
Location: The big rock candy mountain
Opus
Wannabe
PostWed May 30, 2007 7:09 am 
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I always carry enough stuff to stay overnight if I get stuck somewhere.  An unpleasant night I'm sure, but better than nothing.  I usually say if they dont hear from me in the morning the next day then something's up.

I like to leave my destination with my friends who hike rather than my parents.  My friends know the trail locations better, possible bail-out points, and are more likely to keep a level head about my being late than my parents, who dont hike, would be.
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Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore



Joined: 15 May 2003
Posts: 14139 | TRs

Quark
Niece of Alvy Moore
PostWed May 30, 2007 8:20 am 
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I usually tell folks noon the day after I'm expected back.  That way, if I'm not injured but only had to stay out an extra night, I'll be within calling range by noon the following day.  In summer it's daylight by 4 AM; if I start hiking then I oughta be able to contact someone by noon.  If I am unable to at least make contact by noon, I'm probably injured or lost.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Magellan
Brutally Handsome



Joined: 26 Jul 2006
Posts: 13109 | TRs
Location: Inexorable descent
Magellan
Brutally Handsome
PostWed May 30, 2007 4:21 pm 
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My bride always knows where I'm going and when I should be back.  Last summer I hadn't even called her by the time I was supposed to be home.  She can be a worrier, so she was calling around, and was probably an hour from calling in the mounties.

Fortunately she wasn't mad, only concerned.  The only way I could solve this problem is to pad the time. When I get home 'early' it's a bonus.

Seriously looking foward to a satelite phone!dizzy.gif
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jimmymac
Zip Lock Bagger



Joined: 14 Nov 2003
Posts: 3683 | TRs
Location: Lake Wittenmyer, WA
jimmymac
Zip Lock Bagger
PostWed May 30, 2007 5:15 pm 
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I don't use the method of giving a return time and a secondary panic button time. That just creates unnecessary worry when I'm somewhat late. It also could promote hesitancy in calling for help. Returning "later than expected" becomes a matter of degrees. I could be a day overdue on an overnight trip, but that might not be much later than "that time I came back really, really late."

Instead, I build in a reasonable schedule cushion, based on:
- the specific itinerary
- hazards involved
- remoteness of the area
- expected backcountry traffic given the days of the week involved

For any trip, I provide a single time, at which the county sheriff's office should be called. That's it.

There's no reason to anguish or worry over when to call for help. There's no expectation that I should show up or call home anytime prior to the designated 911 time. If I'm late getting back to the car, nobody's sweating it - including me. It does mean that I have to be a slave to my published Call-for-help time.

In actual practice, I always call in or show up before I am "overdue." Sometimes I'm earlier than others. By never being "later than expected," if I ever do fail to check in, it's instantly significant.

It means that something has detained or delayed me enough to have consumed all my schedule cushion. At that point, it's good to be concerned and there's no reason not to sound the alarm.

I have a description of this strategy in print and electronic form. It's part of the package to be provided to those who would come looking for me. It also includes a picture the tent I'm using and an inked boot print.

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"Profound serenity is the product of unfaltering Trust and heightened vulnerability."
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Kathleen
Member
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Joined: 14 Feb 2007
Posts: 219 | TRs
Location: Tacoma, Washington
Kathleen
Member
PostWed May 30, 2007 5:47 pm 
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I always tell my parents where I am going.  Some weeks it's a specific trail and others it's a general area but I always let them know.  smile.gif
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forest gnome
Forest nut...



Joined: 24 Apr 2003
Posts: 3176 | TRs
Location: north cascades!!
forest gnome
Forest nut...
PostWed May 30, 2007 7:46 pm 
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generally if I am to be back say tuesday.....I may want another night or more so don't call till thursday  pm...late evening!!


and the photocopy of a map should go to someone on harder and remote hikes.....so basically I want 1.5 extra days to get out.....
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LittleHikerMom
Mom to a little girl



Joined: 08 Jul 2004
Posts: 1855 | TRs
Location: Everett, WA
LittleHikerMom
Mom to a little girl
PostWed May 30, 2007 9:16 pm 
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Dave Weyrick wrote:
Most of my trips are two night fishing excursions, many solo. I leave a TOPO! map copy with my wife on which I've indicated trailhead, trails used, off trail routes, and campsites.

up.gif  up.gif  I like that idea!
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jenjen
Moderatrix



Joined: 30 Jun 2003
Posts: 7621 | TRs
Location: Sierra stylin
jenjen
Moderatrix
PostWed May 30, 2007 9:52 pm 
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Hubby, or a trusted friend, gets a copy of the maps I'm using, with my intended route marked on them.  I include likely camp spots, or places I intend to camp.

Written in the margins of that map are what tent I'm using.  What color jacket I have.  Whether I'm leaving a car at the trailhead or getting dropped off for a thru-hike.  I also write down on the map itself my "panic time" and the phone number of the appropriate sheriff's office.

I leave a one-day cushion for day hikes.  ie If I haven't contacted you by 6 pm the following day, call.  For backpacks I build in more of a cushion.  I have the gear necessary to stay out.  I pack extra food - even tho those extra meals get kind of "interesting".

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If life gives you melons - you might be dyslexic
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Allison
Feckless Swooner



Joined: 16 Dec 2001
Posts: 12304 | TRs
Location: putting on my Nikes before the comet comes
Allison
Feckless Swooner
PostWed May 30, 2007 11:15 pm 
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I was the 'designated' a few years back for a friend who was climbing Stuart. He was pretty late, and I called the Cle Elum RS office right near closing time to see what I should do. The first thing they wanted was vehicle info, so I learned then that the first thing they do in an SAR is go try to locate the car. If it's not at the TH, they are not on the trail. Seems obvious, but it wasn't to me until then. The vehicle info for the driver is critical info.

The other thing they told me is that once a search has been called, it's ON, so make sure you are ready to initiate that before making that call. They gave me the number and encouraged me to wait a little longer.

I got a phone call from someone who got a cell phone call from someone in the party a couple of hours later. They had taken Fred Beckey's times as gospel (don't do that) and were bivying just below the summit, where they had cell service.

That was a good learning experience, and that's why I have my dad as my designated, he will not jump the gun and knows both the terrain and my abilities pretty well.

Just something else to think about.

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www.allisonoutside.com

follow me on Twitter! @AllisonLWoods
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