Re: [John Muir Trail] Half Dome Issues
- This one has to be the ultimate mis-use of a SPOT device. It is a couple years old and we might have talked about it on the Board at the time, but this drives home the point we have been discussing. The highlight quote: "When asked what they would have done without the SPOT device, the leader said,'We would have never attempted this hike'." At least he got cited.
On the evening of September 23rd, 2009, Grand Canyon Park rangers began a search for hikers on the remote Royal Arch Loop, who activated their rented SPOT satellite tracking device. The GEOS Emergency Response Center in Houston reported that someone in the group of four - two men and their two teenage sons - had pressed the SPOT's "Help" button.
Due to darkness and the remoteness of the location indicated by the SPOT coordinates, rangers were unable to reach them by helicopter until the next morning. When the hikers were located, they'd moved about a mile and a half to a water source. They declined rescue, since they'd activated the device due to their lack of water.
Later that same evening, the same SPOT device was activated, this time using the "911" button. The coordinates placed them less than a quarter mile from the location where the searchers had found them that morning. But again, darkness prevented a response by a Park helicopter, so an Arizona DPS helicopter whose crew used night vision goggles was brought in. When the group was found, they said they were concerned about possible dehydration because the water they'd found tasted salty. The helicopter crew turned down the group's request for a night evacuation but did give them water before they left.
The next morning, another SPOT "help" activation came in from the same group. This third time, they were flown out by Park helicopter, and all four refused medical assessment or treatment.
Apparently, the group's leader had hiked once before in Grand Canyon, but the other adult had no Grand Canyon hiking experience and very little backpacking experience in general. When asked what they would have done without the SPOT device, the leader said,"We would have never attempted this hike."
The group leader was issued a citation by the Park for creating a hazardous condition.