Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cell Phones, Survival, Halo 3 and Parking

Cell phones remain a useful tool for backcountry travelers. Many upper mountain rescues, and a few false alarms, have been phoned in via the devices. And as the NY Times points out, new technology can sometimes let Big Brother (or your parents, spouse, or significant-other) get a fix on your location too... But climbers and backcountry users should not rely on such devices around Mount Rainier, as triangulation and pin-pointing is challenging in remote places, and often there is no cell service.

Not everyone carries a cell phone, or more importantly, other key components of the 10 essentials. Case in point: a 20-something couple took off for Camp Muir during good weather last September. They packed light and enjoyed a night in the public shelter. The plan was to descend to Paradise the next day but the weather intervened and turned for the worse. Complicating the heavy fog and light rain was the fact that the boot track they had followed the day before was gone amidst the sea of hard, dirty ice that we call the Muir Snowfield. The result: the pair ended up lost and hypothermic near the chutes that descend to the Nisqually Glacier...

Thankfully, Canada came to the rescue in the person of Canadian climber Phill Michael. Phill was also descending from Camp Muir that day. He had separated from his climbing buddies near Moon Rocks and while making his way through the fog, heard distressed voices and wandered in their direction. Good thing too, because he found our lost couple cold, wet, and very confused as to what they should do to survive. What ensued were 2 nights and 3 days of Muir Snowfield camping and survival: camping for Phill, survival for the couple. Why? The couple didn't bring shelter and didn't have the navigation skills to get themselves out of the predicament. Thankfully Phill entered their soggy cold world with the equipment and abilities to pull them through the storm. You can learn more about this incident (and his summit climb) through Phill's podcast EPISODE 4: Mount Rainier (sounds like another edition to the Star Wars series).

And while we're geeking out on tech devices and Star Wars connections, maybe you'll decide to get lost in the video game universe of Halo 3. While there myself, I stumbled upon Mount Rainier! If you're a gamer (of the X-Box 360 persuasion) you may notice some familiar NW landmarks as you pummel, destroy, and generally kick alien butt around the galaxy. May the force be with you.

Of course no amount of "The Force," shield regenerators and futuristic space weapons will help against the ensuing parking lot pressures at Paradise this winter. With the ongoing construction project, there will be a pinch in the overnight parking situation. The current plan calls for a limit of 20 vehicles per night at Paradise. Between Sunday night and Saturday morning of most weeks, this limit won't be too big of a deal. However, on 3 day weekends or when the weather forecast is good, everyone should plan to carpool and STILL risk not getting a spot! This is a hot issue so stay tuned as the information evolves.