I had the privilege this past weekend of witnessing our local SAR groups cooperate in “mutual aid” to help a solo skier, Greg Berry, who went missing in our local mountains. After a day and many man-hours, just as the search groups were debriefing and discussing search plans for the next day, much joy was expressed when the radio call came in: “subject is ok, repeat ok, is hitch hiking from the west, got lost and spent night out…” Within volunteer rescue groups that all too often witness tragedy firsthand, a “live one” is to be celebrated.
Apparently Greg became disoriented and did the ol’ “went west, should have gone east” routine. Doing so bought him an epic trek out of the mountains that many of us who know the routes were amazed he accomplished — especially considering he spent the night out with no overnight gear. Tough guy, for sure. Though “lost” he did the smart thing in getting himself out as a “self rescue.” Hugging a tree and waiting for help would probably have resulted in death by exposure.
I don’t know Greg personally, but am nonetheless delighted that he’s OK.
As to blog fodder in this, speaking to all of us who end up solo in the backcountry now and then (including myself), please consider carrying a two-way communication device such as an inReach or full blown satphone. The volunteer rescue teams are a beautiful thing, they’re joyfully willing to help. But the number of person-hours expended on ground searches is astounding, and easily mitigated by the use of communications devices.
It’s not a bad idea for any group to have at least one emergency comms device. But in the case of going solo I’d consider it as mandatory as your ski boots, both in the sense of general social responsibility but also care for your friends and loved ones, not to mention self.
Addendum: I’m writing this from Colorado, where backcountry rescue is usually done free of charge by volunteers. That’s a beautiful tradition I’ve come to appreciate — having been on both sides of the equation. Despite the volunteer hours, rescues cost money. Colorado has a solution for that as well. If you purchase a hunting, fishing or ATV license you pay a small fee that signs you and your immediate family up for what we call CORSAR, a fund the state maintains to reimburse rescue providers for costs incurred. This is not insurance, but functions in a similar way. If you or your family members are rescued, you’ll usually be asked at some point if you do have something that incurs CORSAR, or if not, perhaps you purchased the CORSAR card, which also enables the reimbursement system? If you use the Colorado backcountry, and do not have default CORSAR due to hunting, fishing, or ATV licensing, you can purchase a CORSAR card here. Please, if you backcountry recreate in Colorado, do so with CORSAR.
Your thoughts, dear readers? Am I too preachy here? Is inReach what most of you are using? Or do you solo without any comms?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.