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Old 04-28-2004, 03:06 PM   #1
adk-46r
IT'S GRACE & CARSON PEAKS
 
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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cell phones in the peaks

04/28/04
Hikers said to need more than cell phones
By MICHAEL VIRTANEN, Associated Press Writer

NORTH ELBA — When rangers hiked up New York’s highest mountain on a recent rescue, they were answering a cell-phone call from the peak.

A Virginia man and his 12-year-old son were crossing Mount Marcy on a camping trip in late March.

While the trail over the mountaintop is marked by cairns, they got lost in the blanketing mist and sleet and then followed a bad compass reading. The man phoned 911 at midnight.

He was told about when to expect two rangers, who went up the next morning. They heard him blowing a whistle and helped the lost pair get back to the trail and down.

"In general, while hiking in the Adirondacks, a cell phone should not be depended on in the event of an emergency," said Maureen Wren, spokeswoman for the State Department of Environmental Conservation.

"The department advises hikers to come well prepared not only for their hike but also for what’s called self-rescue."

Not everybody takes that advice.

In the High Peaks region, state forest rangers made 25 rescues in 2003 among the 93,000 hikers who registered at trailheads, according to DEC. That compares to 34 rescues among 111,000 hikers a year earlier, and 17 rescues among 117,000 hikers a decade before.

Preparing to save yourself in the wilderness, according to DEC, includes the ability to read a map and use a compass and packing them, as well as first-aid gear, extra clothing and food, plus knowing the weather forecast and telling someone at home where you’re going and when you’ll return.

Retired Ranger Pete Fish said a flashlight is handy, too. He recalled collecting a string of lightless hikers one evening along a trail where they got stopped by darkness.

While you can telephone from some mountaintops, rangers say there are many backcountry blackout areas, including valleys and mountainsides blocked from the relatively few cell towers in the region.

The Adirondack Park Agency governs land use in the 6 million-acre preserve and authorized 52 permanent cell-phone towers between 1977 and 2000.

Since then, about a dozen existing towers added equipment, agency spokesman Keith McKeever said, and a half-dozen applications for new towers are pending.

Last year included what rangers believe was a technological first in the lower 48 states — the rescue of a man who activated his personal locator beacon on Nov. 14, sending a satellite distress signal.

After a search, Carl Sklak, 55, of Cleveland was found at his campsite along the middle branch of the Oswegatchie River in the Town of Webb, according to DEC. He was taken out by helicopter.

About three weeks later, on Dec. 2, Sklak set off his locator beacon again while hiking, and for the second time searchers found him in good health.

Wren said that the next day, he was charged with two counts of third-degree falsely reporting an incident.
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