Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

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Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Hikin_Jim » Sun Sep 25, 2022 3:58 pm

This is a gear post. No, really!

Now, I'm going to relay the story of a certain individual, her interaction with SAR, and a certain summit hut, but please note:
Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. Names have been changed to protect the, um, "innocent." :wink:

On to the gear post (below). You have to click on the link for the story.

In 2013, I bought my first emergency satellite device, an ACR ResQlink PLB. This is a true PLB (as opposed to a satellite communication device like an InReach, SPOT, Zoleo, Bivy Stick, etc.).
IMG_2254[1].JPG
A ResQlink PLB from ACR, model number PLB-375


Six years later, the battery expired. I had been told that battery replacement had to be done at the factory and that it was nearly the cost of a new unit to replace the battery.
IMG_2272[1].JPG
My expired battery pack


Later, though, through OtherHand on Reddit, I learned that's not absolutely true. A new battery can be had for $40 (price varies by brand and model of course), and you can do it yourself. Note that if you do it yourself, you are going against the manufacturer's recommendations. I suppose there's some risk, but it's really pretty straightforward -- and a lot more affordable. Whatever the level of risk, just be aware that you assume that risk if you do it yourself.
IMG_E2278[1].JPG
The rather stern warning on the back of the battery pack


On my exceedingly lovely (ahem) blog, I have written about the following:
  • What is a PLB?
  • How is a PLB different from a satellite communication device?
  • Why did I get a PLB? Here's where the story fits in.
  • What is the procedure to change the battery? (with multiple photos)
  • What use are the old batteries? (They're actually good for something)

Here's the link for those who are interested: http://hikinjim.blogspot.com/2022/09/to-change-plb-battery.html

IMG_2285[1].JPG
What the heck!? These things are still good!


HJ
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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby phydeux » Mon Sep 26, 2022 7:28 am

More impressive is that you have a Radio Shack battery tester is still working. :shock:

FWIW: I still have some Radio Shack multimeter and a few other pieces of electronic test equipment that work perfectly fine.
3 of the 5 voices in my head are telling me to "Go for it!"
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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Hikin_Jim » Mon Sep 26, 2022 10:05 am

Yeah, I've had that Radio Shack battery tester is at least 25 years. It's still going. I love that thing! :D It's so nice to know that my batteries are good to go before a trip.

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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Ed » Tue Sep 27, 2022 2:00 pm

I bought a PLB, a McMurdo FastFind. After a while, I switched to a SPOT, for the OK message. You don't want to trigger an SAR operation simply because you are running late!

The PLB went into a drawer. Last summer I was collecting electronics to dispose of prior to a move. The PLB was past its battery replacement time, I half-believed the nonsense about factory-only replacement, and I was not using it anyway. I think it was also past the re-registration date. So it went into a bag of stuff I took to Best Buy for recycling. A month or so later I received a call from the Fresno County Sheriff's Department. Puzzling, since I had not been in Fresno County for quite a few years. Seems my PLB had called for rescue. They tracked it down and found it somewhere in the city of Fresno. Seems that Best Buy gives or sells recycling drop offs to the types of businesses who can make a few dollars here or there from that kind of stuff. Someone who did not know what it was probably pressed the button. I should have known better.

Lots of complaints about SPOT. Customer service sucks, they make it difficult for you to cancel or not renew. Some people report that some of their OK messages are not received. I may have had that experience once, certainly not more than that. I do think having the OK message is important.
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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Hikin_Jim » Tue Sep 27, 2022 3:43 pm

Yeah, the two way thing is a major attraction for me. I have three preset messages, in essence:
  • Here's where I am right now (with GPS coordinates)
  • I'm starting or ending a hike
  • I'm running late, but it's not an emergency

I don't use the third one much, but a couple of times it has come in really handy. There was a SAR call out because of me in 2009 :oops: simply because I was running late. There was no cell service. I eventually got high enough where I could call and told them to stand down, but I'm sure they had already alerted people and that team members had already left work or home,and were on the way or were assembling at a staging area. If I had had an InReach back then, that would not have happened.

Mostly, I just use the first one. That actually has paid off too. I parked my car on a rural road and went out for three days. My car was reported as abandoned. The police came knocking on our door. My wife was able to show them my GPS coordinates and the fact that I had already sent several "pings" that day. The police were satisfied that all was well and went on their way. Had my wife not had the reassuring pings, can you imagine how she would feel when the police came asking about her missing husband? :shock:

I've been super happy with my InReach, but there have been times where I haven't been able to get a message out for over half a day, typically in canyon bottoms. The one thing a PLB does have is a stronger signal, 5 watts, than a SPOT which transmits at 1.2 watts as I recall. The newer SPOT Gen 3 supposedly transmits at 2.2 watts, but none of the commercial offerings has over 2.2 watts, so a PLB is still twice as strong.

In addition, a PLB works off a government sponsored network of satellites which are more numerous than the commercial networks and cover just about every corner of the earth whereas the commercial networks have serious coverage gaps in places like Alaska. Mainland US has pretty good coverage with commercial satellites though.

All that to say that I think there's still a place for PLB's and am happy that when my daughter and I hike together, we can both have devices, devices that complement one another. If I can't get a message out on the InReach, out comes the more powerful PLB -- which in addition has a homing beacon that SAR can do direction finding on.

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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Ed » Wed Sep 28, 2022 10:49 am

Interesting stories, HJ. Yes, a PLB plus a commercial system device is ideal, if you are willing to bear the cost and carry two devices. Especially if you go poking around cross-country in deep canyons, as you do.

The only time I called for rescue, or had one called on me, was when someone collapsed on me on Skyline, which I reported on here under Unrescued Trekking Poles. I had a SPOT, but knew I could call 911 from where we were, on the well-named Never Ending Ridge, not far short of Florian's (no longer by then, I believe) Water Cache. Decided to call 911 rather than use the SPOT, so I could talk to SAR. Being ignorant of mobile phones, I called 911 on my clamshell, rather than the subject's smart phone, not knowing it would have a GPS chip, whereas mine relied on triangulation from cell towers. It was a nightmare talking to the 911 operator, who kept asking for the nearest cross-street. Even after I was talking to SAR, they seemed to have a tough time finding us, despite the fact that I was able to describe where we were quite accurately to anybody familiar with the trail. That was one of the two things that caused me to give up my beloved clamshell for a smart phone, the other was GPS navigation, on a larger screen than my Garmin had.
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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Hikin_Jim » Wed Sep 28, 2022 3:20 pm

Ed wrote:Yes, a PLB plus a commercial system device is ideal, if you are willing to bear the cost and carry two devices.

Well, I might not have bought the InReach had I known that PLB battery replacement were so affordable and easy. I like you thought cost would be prohibitive, so I bought a new unit (an InReach).

As for carrying two devices, my daughter gets one, and I get the other. I don't plan on carrying both myself, although, maybe. Maybe if I were doing something in deep canyon (Zion or something) or something really sketchy. Maybe.

Ed wrote:It was a nightmare talking to the 911 operator, who kept asking for the nearest cross-street.
Yeah, I had that experience once when reporting a fire when I was a teenager. Cross street? No I can't give you a cross street, it's where this named wash is... I finally hung up in frustration. The fire was highly visible, and there were a lot of other people around.

I suspect that their system requires them to enter cross streets or an address. I suspect a 911 operator probably isn't set up to take GPS coordinates.

I hope the guy you dialed 911 for made it.

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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Ed » Thu Sep 29, 2022 8:29 am

Hikin_Jim wrote:I hope the guy you dialed 911 for made it.HJ


Turned out OK.

http://perryscanlon.com/MSJinfo_phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=5821&hilit=Unrescued+Trekking+Poles&sid=caf6777b03a3b6bde0504242494c4f10

Everything is a learning experience. I learned (1) get a smart phone, (2) put on a shell parka before they hoist you, and (3) don't reach for the skids.
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Re: Summit Huts, (In)famous people, and... Batteries?

Postby Hikin_Jim » Thu Sep 29, 2022 1:08 pm

Interesting points, all. I didn't catch the temperature at the time , but it was December, so it could have been chilly, particularly if you've been sitting for a while -- and even more so in a helicopter downdraft. Wearing a shell makes sense.

I'm glad it turned out well and that Ward was OK -- and that you got your trekking poles back.

I probably would have wrestled with staying with the person. Some days, if you stay out on Skyline, it could be inviting heat stroke and maybe even a possible death sentence. One can only carry so much water, and sitting still for potentially multiple hours on Skyline isn't something most people would plan for. Also, often it just gets hotter and hotter as the day progresses. I suppose one could request water be brought by the rescuers, a not unreasonable request given that one is staying with the victim.

Re the chopper missing you multiple times: I typically carry a small signal mirror (3" x 5"). It's made out of polycarbonate, I think. It's certainly not glass which would be quite heavy. We all have headlamps that would aid rescuers by night, but I think the difficulty of being found from the air during the day is underestimated. "I can see the chopper just fine, why can't they see me?" Well, the person on the ground is looking for a typically dark object (the chopper) against a featureless, light background (the sky). The chopper on the other hand is looking down at a very complex ground scene with all kinds of colors, textures, gullies, ridges, etc. Color not withstanding, identifying things from the air can be difficult. If it ever comes to it, I'm hoping a signal mirror will make a difference.

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