inReach Enables Backpackers to Safely Evacuate Glacier National Park for Wildfire

September 29, 2015

Brent Lewis and his daughter were backpacking through Glacier National Park this July when they were forced to stop in their tracks. The Reynolds Creek Fire, first reported on July 21st, had been spreading through an area that the father-daughter duo had planned on traversing on days 3-5 of their trip.

When the fire first came into view, they decided to play it safe and set up camp at Gunsight Pass. From here they were able to keep an eye on the fast-spreading wildfire and figuring out the best course of action from the safe distance of six miles.


Using their inReach to communicate with a friend back in civilization, Brent and his daughter were able to receive weather and fire updates that enabled them to make safe, educated decisions on how to get out safely. Making their way down from Gunsight Pass, the pair eventually met National Park Service staff at Gunsight Lake on the evening of day four. Without definitive guidance from park staff, but armed with information received on their inReach, they began their trek to Jackson Glacier Overlook. On the way they met a crew of four NPS staff who were able to confirm that the shuttle was waiting to evacuate hikers.

Getting as close as 100 yards to the fire’s origin point, Brent and his daughter didn’t feel unsafe, thanks to the information they were able to receive through their inReach. “By knowing these conditions we were confident in our safety decisions,” said Brent. “Having that lifeline in those unexpected situations can make all the difference in the world.”


The Reynolds Fire was reported at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, July 21. It was located in the area approximately six miles east of Logan Pass, 4 miles west of St. Mary Visitor Center. Fire management priorities are firefighter and public safety, protection of property and values at risk, and containment of the fire.

The majority of Glacier National Park was unaffected by this wildfire. For specific visitor information for other Glacier National Park locations, please see official websites:;;; and

inReach-Assisted Rescues Climb to at Least One per Day During Summer Months

September 15, 2015

Award-winning satellite communicator with GPS helps save one life per day during peak recreation season of 2015

A record number of people relied on DeLorme inReach satellite communicators in emergency situations this past summer. An average of one inReach rescue per day occurred throughout the peak recreation season of May through August. The inReach subscribers, most of whom had emergencies which occurred in remote locations outside of cell phone range, were able to more efficiently and effectively receive assistance thanks to the use of the DeLorme device. Some subscribers used their inReach device to get help for other stranded or injured people they happened to encounter during a trip.

Bill Appleby, trail name “55 SOG,” an inReach subscriber and retired U.S. Army medic, used his inReach to trigger an SOS in August when he began experiencing severe abdominal pain while through-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Just over 200 miles from the trailhead at Katahdin, deep in the rugged Maine wilderness, Appleby’s condition deteriorated to the point that immediate medical attention was needed. Using his inReach to trigger an SOS and communicate back and forth with GEOS, DeLorme’s 24/7 global monitoring partner, Appleby was able to coordinate a rescue that saved his life.

A Blackhawk helicopter drops off rescue workers near the summit of Snowmass Mountain in Colorado. Credit: Steven Lane

A Blackhawk helicopter drops off rescue workers near the summit of Snowmass Mountain in Colorado. Credit: Steven Lane

“I owe my life to DeLorme, plain and simple. If it wasn’t for the inReach I carry on my pack I wouldn’t have been able to coordinate a rescue in that environment, and the responders wouldn’t have had the chance to save my life,” said Appleby. “I was able to give the dispatcher my exact location and symptoms, helping them plan their rescue even before they arrived on scene. Everyone going into the backcountry needs one of these devices. I’m a certified Wilderness EMT, and a former paramedic and medic for the U.S. Army, but none of that replaces a reliable lifeline for when things go wrong.”

inReach’s two-way communication and tracking capabilities gives users the ability to describe an emergency situation and exchange updates with GEOS, making it a must-have safety device for anyone who ventures beyond cell phone range. inReach uses the Iridium satellite network, providing truly global two-way satellite connections, high network reliability and low-latency data links (less than 60-second delivery of messages end-to-end) anywhere on Earth, with no gaps, fringe areas or weak signal areas.

In August, Chris Bouck and his son used their inReach to save the life of a severely injured climber while summiting the western face of Snowmass Mountain in the Elk Range of Colorado. The climbers heard a rockslide and screams from above them, and Chris’ son climbed up to the location of the incident to assess the situation and administer first aid. Chris remained at 13,800 feet and sent messages to coordinate with the search and rescue monitoring center after pressing the SOS button.

Rescue workers lower equipment down to the injured climber near the summit of Snowmass Mountain in Colorado.

Rescue workers lower equipment down to the injured climber near the summit of Snowmass Mountain in Colorado. Credit: Steven Lane

“I bought an inReach for my own safety and convenience. I knew that if I was ever in a situation I couldn’t get myself out of, I could press that SOS button and call for help. What I didn’t realize when I bought it is that I could potentially save someone else’s life. I pressed the SOS around noon that day, and by 4:30 PM the victim was evacuated in a Blackhawk helicopter, from the top of a 14,000-foot mountain. That is an amazing response time and probably saved the injured victim from spending a night at 14,000 feet and quite possibly saved her life,” said Chris Bouck.

In June, author Michael Hurley departed South Carolina in his 34-foot sailboat for Ireland. After just 1,200 miles, the experienced sailor found himself in a life-threatening situation as his boat started taking on water. Hurley brought a DeLorme inReach to communicate with his family and friends, and post to Facebook throughout the journey, but the device played a major role in coordinating a rescue when the conditions were too rough to continue. Hurley was rescued by the State of Maine, a training vessel owned by Maine Maritime Academy, about 500 miles south of Newfoundland.

“I had been using my inReach to post updates to social media and send messages back to shore. It really makes you feel connected and confident when you are off the grid. The same device that enabled me to text back and forth with my friends and post to Facebook also coordinated the rescue when I needed help,” said Hurley. “I’ll certainly be taking one with me whenever I go off the grid.”

inReach helps responders to locate the people involved faster and more accurately because detailed information about the nature and location of the rescue can be confirmed. Even when the user is unable to respond due to injuries, GEOS is able to ping the device’s last active location and relay it to responders to help with locating the user. Unlike other safety communication devices on the market, the rugged inReach shows send confirmations and allows recipients to respond directly to the inReach, giving users peace of mind that their messages have been received, and making it possible to receive updates from home.

“Peace of mind, for both the user and their family and friends back home, continues to be a major motivator for purchasing an inReach. It’s not just the person going out on an adventure that makes the decision, often times it is their family members or friends who want a lifeline in case an emergency happens. People continue to seriously overestimate the strength and reliability of cellular networks in remote areas, thinking they can check-in with their smartphones when they find a signal. The reality is that the connection often times isn’t there; but if you have an inReach and can see the sky, you have a connection,” said Jim Skillings, vice president of commercial products for DeLorme. “It also helps search and rescue workers more efficiently triage the situation and execute their operation, sometimes shaving hours off of response times. When you are out there waiting to be rescued, knowing what time help will arrive makes all the difference in the world.”

The most robust inReach model — inReach Explorer – also helps reduce the number of people getting lost in the wilderness by integrating navigation features, including a high detail breadcrumb trail showing the way back, as well as route planning, waypoint creation, and a digital compass. With the ability to send and receive text messages, 100% global coverage, GPS tracking, SOS alerting, and access to DeLorme’s map data with the companion mobile device app, Earthmate, both the inReach Explorer and SE models are ideal for any outdoor enthusiast, hunter, international traveller, recreational pilot or boater.

Suggested retail price for inReach SE is $299 and inReach Explorer is $379, with a choice of annual satellite subscriptions or no-contract Freedom Plans with only a minimum 30-day commitment. Freedom Plans start at $14.95 per month for the safety service and go up to $99.95 per month for the highest service level. Perfectly suited for the year-round user or for consistent peace of mind, the company’s standard annual contract plans offer a lower monthly cost ranging from $11.95 to $79.95 per month.

Providing Disaster Aid in Nepal: One Trail Ambassador’s Experience

September 10, 2015

Heather Knight, aka Renegade Pilgrim, traveled to Nepal in the wake of the devastating earthquake in April to deliver aid to the hardest-hit regions. She recently submitted the following blog entry to recount her experience. We would like to thank Heather and the thousands of people who delivered relief to the people of Nepal. 

On April 25, 2015, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked the small country of Nepal. The next morning I arrived at work to learn about it and immediately began planning to go help. Last October, I spent three and a half weeks trekking on the Manaslu Circuit and the Tsum Valley. During that experience, Nepal captured my heart. I had to go.

Luckily, my firefighter sister had the same idea and we joined a small group of three firefighters and a translator to deliver aid to Nepal. We left on May 5th, with heavy hearts but optimistic we would be able to help.

After almost 48 hours of travel we arrived in Kathmandu late on May 7th, unsure of what we would see and how the city had changed. After a restless few hours of sleep, we woke up on the morning of May 8th and started our journey. The first thing we did was drive around Kathmandu and stocked up on rice, lentils, spices and other items for the village.

Having watched the news a lot before I left, I was expecting a lot of destruction and chaos. This could not have been further from the truth. Kathmandu was back to normal, with a lot less traffic.  There were a few buildings here and there with damage, people were camping outside in some places and we did go by Durbar Square, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that suffered quite a bit of damage. Other than that, we didn’t see a whole lot of what the news was showing.

After a few hours of stocking up on supplies, we topped off our gas tank and began the journey to the Sindhupalchowk region, and to the village of Chaku, 10km south of the Nepal/Tibet border. It took us the better part of the day, arriving in the early afternoon.

Heather Knight gives her MapShare page to her followers so they can track her location and read messages sent from Nepal.

Upon arrival, we were greeted by the aid organization and shown around. The town of Chaku had about five houses that were still standing and inhabitable. The other 70-80 buildings in the village had either been destroyed or were not safe to inhabit. Many of the villagers had left as soon as the landslide had been cleared earlier in the week.

Our team wasn’t sure what we could do, since it didn’t seem like there were any medical needs and most villagers had already left.  We spent the afternoon setting up our camp on a terrace, and trying to find things to do. We distributed some Sawyer water bucket water kits.  The villagers had been pulling water from the river since their spring water source had been compromised in a landslide.

Later on in the evening, after struggling with finding exactly what there was for us to do, we had a heart-to-heart with the aid organization and diplomatically told them this was not going to work for us. They admitted they weren’t 100% sure what they were going to do with us anyway, so we decided to leave and use our local contacts to find something to do using our medical skills.

The next day we headed back to Kathmandu, regrouped and made some phone calls. After a night of rest, we headed towards Pokhara to meet with our local connections who knew where the needs for aid were not being met. On our way, we were told to divert to Gorkha as this was the base for most aid efforts in the region.

We arrived in Gorkha and luck was in our favor. We bumped into the head of WHO for the region, Dr. Joshi. He welcomed us, gave us an assignment, a letter of introduction and helped us charter a bus to take us to our assignment. We loaded up all of our gear and set off to Gankhu, a village of 2,800 people and about two hours away from Gorkha.

A Facebook update sent from a field in Nepal.

Knight informs her Facebook followers of a nighttime tremor using her inReach SE.

On arrival in Gankhu, we were told we would be in charge of rebuilding a health outpost that had been destroyed during the first earthquake.  We would be treating patients not willing to walk the 20 minutes up the hill to the temporary outpost the health worker had set up.

Nepali culture is not one that moves quickly and it often has a lot of formalities and discussion to make decisions. In what would have normally taken three days to complete, it took us five. The villagers made it very clear they wanted a say in how the building would be constructed and where, so we provided the funding and some sweat equity in the completion of the project. Ultimately, there were about 20 villagers who helped to complete the project.

I ran the temporary clinic while the majority of our group worked on the building of the clinic. We saw 45 patients over three days, many of them with chronic issues, but we did have some patients that were injured in the earthquake, including an electrocution and a nasty forehead laceration.

At the end of our time, we had an official unveiling of the clinic. The local villagers came out to honor us with flower leis and tika, a Hindu blessing, which resulted in our foreheads being covered in red powder.

I am very thankful to have had the experience of going to deliver aid in Nepal. The transition from being a tourist to an aid worker was natural for me, having worked in emergency medicine for 14 years. I know our group had hoped to do more, but based on the amount of time it took to get anywhere and the politics of disaster relief, I feel pretty happy with what we did.  We funded the building of a temporary medical clinic.  We treated over 45 patients. And we made lasting connections.

A Facebook post sent from Knight's inReach SE.

A Facebook post sent from Knight’s inReach SE.

It’s not over for me. I am planning to go back to Nepal in the coming year. My hope is to connect with locals in the Tsum Valley and along the Manaslu Circuit to find out the needs of the villages and to fundraise money to purchase supplies so the locals can rebuild. I cannot wait to return.

In the meantime, if you’d like to support the people of Nepal, start making plans to visit. The tourism industry is suffering badly right now and there are areas like the Annapurna Circuit that have been completely unaffected and are ready to welcome you. Plan a trip to go trekking. If you do, I heartily recommend our guide Kamala Pun (, she has experience leading trekkers for over 10 years.  If you need any trekking tips, you can also contact me via my website:

For more photos and to view my vlog, please visit Renegade Pilgrim on Facebook.

inReach Plays Pivotal Role in Saving Novelist’s Life on Turbulent Seas

July 22, 2015

Through two-way communication 1,200 miles at sea, an acclaimed writer texts his way to safety

Michael Hurley departed South Carolina in his 30-foot sailboat for a 3,400-mile solo journey to Ireland. After just 1,200 miles, the experienced sailor found himself in a life-threatening situation as his sailboat started taking on water. Hurley brought a DeLorme inReach to communicate with his family and friends, and post to Facebook throughout the journey, but the device played a major role in coordinating a rescue when the conditions were too rough to continue.

Hurley’s journey began on May 25, 2015 when he left Charleston, South Carolina for Ireland. The goal for his daring adventure was to find inspiration for his upcoming novel “The Passage,” a story about a man who discovers a stowaway on his boat while sailing from Charleston to Ireland.

After two weeks of near-ideal weather, Hurley sailed northeast along his planned route towards Newfoundland. It was along this route, a few hundred miles off the coast of the eastern United States, that Hurley ran into his first major obstacles of the journey – two back-to-back storms that relentlessly battered the novelist’s beloved ketch.

Michael Hurley on board The Prodigal.

Michael Hurley on board The Prodigal.

The first of the storms brought a potential problem to Hurley’s attention. A leak had developed where the hull and deck joined together, allowing water to enter into the boat. At first, the leak was not a major issue – Hurley had a bilge pump powered by one of his two on-board batteries that could keep up with the water, and a solar panel to keep the battery charged. It wasn’t until the battery died from a lack of sun that Hurley began to worry.

“At that point I was pumping the water out by hand, and I just couldn’t keep up,” said Hurley. “I had been using my inReach to post updates to Facebook and send messages back to shore, but by then I also needed it as a way to receive weather updates. I just wasn’t sure how long my boat would last in those conditions.”

A Facebook post stating that his boat had started taking on water was enough to cause great concern among Hurley’s following on Facebook. A member of the US Coast Guard in Boston saw his post and emailed Hurley to see if he was in need of assistance.

“I couldn’t believe that they had reached out to me, instead of the other way around,” said Hurley. “I was tired, but I didn’t think I needed to be rescued at that point. So I continued pumping and hoped that the weather would change.”

The weather did change, but unfortunately not for the better. Hurley was caught with too much sail out when the winds began to pick up, causing the boat to be tossed back-and-forth in the high seas. Water began entering the boat at an alarming rate, and Hurley began to lose confidence in his ability to finish the journey.

On June 10, just 16 days and 1,200 miles into his adventure, Hurley sent out a distress text to the U.S. Coast Guard in Boston through his DeLorme inReach. The Coast Guard relayed the message to all vessels in the area, and the State of Maine, a Maine Maritime Academy training vessel, received the distress signal. All messages sent through the inReach contain information about the user’s location, including their exact coordinates and bearing. The State of Maine was only about 29 miles away from Hurley when the alert was received, and immediately began their response procedure.

According to Hurley, the State of Maine reached him and his battered ketch, The Prodigal, between one and two hours after the signal was sent out. While the training vessel had previously responded to similar emergencies, this marked the first time a rescue was conducted by the Academy’s students.

While Hurley never used the SOS button to summon a rescue, he noted that the device played a critical role in keeping him safe when the situation turned dangerous.

“It really makes you feel connected and confident when you are off the grid. The same device that enabled me to text back and forth with my friends and post to Facebook also coordinated the rescue when I needed help,” said Hurley. “I’ll certainly be taking one with me whenever I go off the grid.”

Hurley plans to travel to Ireland this summer, this time by airplane, to continue his adventure while finishing “The Passage.”

inReach Plays Critical Role in Locating Injured Hiker in West Virginia Wilderness

June 25, 2015

301 I Me on Bridge

Roger Munsey is an experienced hiker and backpacker with hundreds of hours in the backcountry. Last year he set out on a solo, multi-day trek in the Roaring Plains area of Monongahela National Forest in eastern West Virginia. Munsey was confident he packed everything needed to make the journey, including a handheld GPS containing his route, and a DeLorme inReach, which would later prove to be an invaluable tool in saving his life.

“I felt like I was completely prepared for my hike, mentally, physically and with the proper equipment,” said Munsey. “I had been on this route before in the spring of 2013 with a group from Ohio who were familiar with the route.”

Nobody could have predicted that he would be leaving the national forest in an ambulance on the second day of his trip.

The journey started off without a hitch. Munsey followed a marked trail into the wilderness, where he would eventually set up his base camp and spend the night. On the second day, things began to unravel quickly. After experiencing an equipment malfunction with his handheld GPS that rendered his route data useless, Munsey found himself navigating by map and compass to locate the unmarked trails he had planned on using that day. After completing only six miles of the planned eleven-mile day hike in seven hours, he finally found the marked trail and settled down for lunch.

A quick gear check revealed that Munsey had left his headlamp in his tent back at base camp, and the small emergency light on his neck cord did not provide enough illumination to navigate safely in the dark.

“I have to admit this made me panic a bit,” revealed Munsey. “So I packed up and quickened the pace, needing to find my base camp before dark.”

It was at 4:30 p.m., still five miles from base camp, when Munsey’s foot became wedged in some rocks and momentum carried his body forward, dislocating the subtalar joint in his foot. After spending 30 minutes of trying to splint his badly damaged foot and walk or crawl to safety, he felt a wave of shock coming on and decided that pressing the SOS button on his inReach SE was the best option.

“I assumed my ankle was broken since it was at such a strange angle,” recalled Munsey. “I was solo, it was mid-week, and I had not seen another soul since I arrived.”

Munsey received a near-instant confirmation message from the GEOS 24/7 emergency response coordination center, which, as he recalled later, was very assuring that things would be okay. Any bit of hope at that point was much needed, especially as Munsey found himself warding off a curious black bear while waiting for help to arrive.

“Even though I couldn’t stand up and ‘look large’, I waved my hands over my head, shouted, and barked like a dog. This has always worked for me in the Smoky Mountains, and it worked here,” said Munsey.

Three hours after sending the SOS signal, a US Forest Ranger located Munsey on the trail using a handheld GPS and the coordinates sent from the injured hiker’s inReach. Not expecting a rescue to be successful that night, Munsey was prepared to spend the night alone in the backcountry with no tent, sleeping bag or medical supplies, and what he presumed was a broken ankle.

“Trying to keep my mind occupied, I had been preparing a fire as a way to keep warm for the night, so a rescue before dark was too good to be true,” said Munsey about being located. “While we waited for additional help, the Ranger told me I was the most prepared hiker he had encountered and was very interested in my DeLorme device, and wondered out loud why he hadn’t been issued one.”

When the local rescue team, comprised of volunteer fire and EMS workers in the area, arrived at the remote location they took turns carrying Munsey down the path towards the trailhead. Once out of the woods, an ambulance transported the injured hiker to Davis Memorial Hospital in Elkins, West Virginia – a 90-minute ride that provided ample time for the adrenaline to wear off and the pain to increase, as Munsey’s foot turned blue.

The ride also allowed Munsey to recount where all of his gear and possessions were located as he quickly travelled farther from his camp. “My truck was parked on a forest road that no taxi cab would take me to. My tent and a load of expensive gear were still at my base camp, about two miles from my truck,” said Munsey.

After borrowing a cell phone from a member of the EMS team to call his family and alert them to the situation, a member of the Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department agreed to locate Munsey’s truck and drive it to the hospital. Later, Munsey learned that the volunteer fireman had also hiked to the base camp, packed up all of his gear, and brought it back to the firehouse for safe keeping.

Once at Davis Memorial Hospital doctors took a series of X-rays and performed a very painful attempt to reset the dislocated joint, which ultimately was not successful. Munsey then learned he had to be transported to another hospital before more damage occurred. When the hospital proposed a helicopter ride that would likely cost thousands of dollars, members of the Randolph County EMS, Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department, and Harman Fire Department got together and decided to drive the injured hiker to Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia themselves.

Doctors at Ruby Memorial were able to successfully reset the dislocated joint and, according to Munsey, the excruciating pain he had been experiencing all night had dissipated almost immediately. After a hard cast was put on his injured foot and he was given a set of crutches, Munsey was finally out of the hospital.

While dislocated subtalar joints are gruesome, painful and very hard to completely recover from, Munsey progressed incredibly well and has already returned to the trails. In April of 2015 he completed his first backpacking trip since the injury.

“Clint Eastwood said, ‘a man’s got to know his limitations,’ and I would add, carry a DeLorme inReach SE for when things go wrong,” said Munsey.

inReach Helps Save Lives of Three Climbers Stranded on Alaskan Glacier for almost Seven Days

June 3, 2015

Satellite Communicator was Only Communication Channel with Rescue Team in Blizzard Conditions

DSCF0484Cahoon, Varney, and Still in the plane on their way to Mt. Marcus Baker.

When Conor McManamin dropped off his three friends for a weekend to climb Mt. Marcus Baker on a beautiful spring Friday, none of them could have imagined that they would be coming off the mountain seven days later in a rescue helicopter. What should have been a weekend climb turned into a week of trying to survive in a ferocious winter storm, which eventually dumped about 15 to 20 feet of snow on the experienced climbers.

McManamin, himself an experienced outdoorsman and pilot, gave his three friends – Sean Cahoon, Danielle Varney, and Ben Still — his DeLorme inReach satellite communicator as they were getting out of the plane on the 13,176-foot mountain, which is the tallest peak in the Chugach Range.

“The weather was actually really nice when I dropped them off. Everything looked good. They didn’t bring any way to communicate, so I gave them my inReach and told them we could stay in touch about the weather because there is no real good way of telling what the conditions are from town,” said McManamin. “It turned out to be worth its weight in gold for sure. They are all in agreement that if they hadn’t had the inReach they wouldn’t be here anymore.”

Cahoon, Varney and Still explained that they had wanted to do a “smash and grab attempt” on the mountain by setting up basecamp on Friday, climbing all day Saturday and then coming back down for pickup on Sunday. “A lot of people have done this, and we had researched it a lot. We knew we had packed the right gear and, just in case, had a few extra days of supplies. The forecast was great for the trip, but we did know that a storm was headed in on Monday,” said Cahoon.

Saturday morning, the weather turned dramatically on the mountain with zero visibility. Mt. Marcus Baker is heavily glaciated, making for very technical travel under good conditions, so the three climbers were forced to wait it out in base camp at about 8,400 feet.

“By Saturday night we began to realize the severity of the storm, so we began rationing food. Given our experience, we were not fearful – just resolved to wait it out,” Varney said. “So we started building up our snow walls since we had nothing to do at that point.”

As the winds picked up Saturday night and the snow piled up into Sunday morning, they texted McManamin with the inReach and told him that he wouldn’t be able to pick them up as planned.

Although the trio had built snow walls around their tent to keep it from getting shredded in the high winds, by Tuesday, more than 10 feet of snow had fallen and the winds had increased to about 75 to 100 mph. In the stress of the wind and weight of the snow, the tent was destroyed and they built a snow cave out of one of the existing snow walls to survive. The trio was using the inReach several times a day to send McManamin updates as the conditions worsened.

“By Tuesday night they were very tired and not able to sleep much. It was horrendous. They had to dig out every three hours to keep from getting buried alive. Late that night the tone of their texts changed and they told me that they thought they needed a rescue and would not be able to wait it out any more,” McManamin said. “I asked them if they were serious and when it was clear they were, I told them to trigger that SOS button. We could see exactly where they were with the coordinates from the inReach.”

“We dug a cave into one of the side walls and abandoned the tent to move into the cave around 11 that night. We had a group pow-wow, feeling good about the snow cave, but not about the worsening conditions. So we did as Conor suggested and declared an SOS with the inReach,” said Cahoon.

Once the SOS was triggered, the GEOS 24/7 monitoring center contacted local search and rescue. At the same time, McManamin knew people in the Alaska Air National Guard, and began relaying messages back and forth to the trio from the rescue team.

“RCC (Guard’s Rescue Coordination Center) launched a helicopter almost immediately in the middle of the night, but the chopper turned around at 3,000 feet up the glacier because it was a total whiteout. So then it became a lot of sitting and waiting and letting them know that the rescue was underway. (The climbers) had only planned on three to five days of supplies, so they were rapidly running out,” he continued.

Wednesday morning McManamin went to the Alaska Air National Guard base for the duration of the rescue to help coordinate with the RCC. They were turning off the inReach for several hours at a time to conserve battery life. “We were surprised, but it lasted all week. When I gave it to them it was 87 percent charged and when I got it back, it was around 19 percent,” he said.

From Tuesday night to Friday morning the rescue helicopter went out every two hours, trying to determine if the conditions had changed enough to permit a rescue. When it became clear that it was going to take a while for the weather to change, the Alaska Air National Guard also made four attempts to drop in gear and supplies to the climbers from C-130 planes. Impressed with the features of the inReach McManamin was using, a member of the Guard went out and purchased more devices at their local REI store and strapped them onto each of the gear drops to monitor exactly where the cases landed. Due to the winds, they were never able to get the gear close enough to the climbers to be retrievable.

“Our cave was getting smaller and smaller, and the entrance was getting longer and longer,” said Still. “So one of us had to be continually shoveling around the clock in half hour shifts. We kept getting wetter and wetter because it would warm up to about 33 degrees inside the cave and the snow would start melting. So we had to shovel in wet jackets and get plastered in a coat of snow at the entrance due to the high winds.”

As the feet of snow piled up outside the cave, more would blow inside. “It was really scary. We would dig and it would just fall back in again. And you couldn’t venture more than a foot from the mouth of the cave because your eyelids would freeze shut and the visibility was zero anyway. We felt so desperate to maintain the small air hole and we were losing the battle, and that was the part that was so horrifying,” said Varney.

Alaska Glacier Rescue4“Because our breathing hole was so far away from us, it got really hard to breathe in there as the oxygen was depleted,” Cahoon added.

Still bore the brunt of the air hole maintenance during the last two days of the ordeal, digging at first every several hours and as few as thirty minutes in the last 12 hours before rescue. “Because the air way was so far away we could not light the stove and melt snow for drinking water. We had to quit using the stove because we would get headaches from the carbon monoxide. So we collected water from the roof of the cave as best we could,” he said.

By Wednesday evening, the texts coming from the climbers had become dire when they were unable to reach the latest supply drop. McManamin and the rescuers were alarmed to get additional details from them about their lack of gear, the majority of which had been buried in the storm.

“They only had two pairs of waterproof bibs and they were sharing it as they took turns shoveling. The hours when they didn’t text me were nerve-wracking. But I kept telling them everything that was happening so they knew how hard the rescue team was trying to get there — anything to help them mentally get through it,” McManamin said.

Team decision-making and mutual encouragement kept the group going through the ordeal. “Everything just felt so desperate, no decision was taken unilaterally. Everything we did, from turning on the inReach to sharing a Gu packet, the decision was made together. We pulled together as a team and encouraged each other through it,” said Cahoon.

By Friday morning, the team knew that the window for finding the team alive was closing rapidly. When the helicopter set out that morning, the weather was still precarious but the team determined there was a small chance of success.

The pilot made an initial pass and found a place to land slightly above the basecamp. Two crewmembers skied down to the camp to check for injuries and make preparations with the trio to get them evacuated. While this process was happening, a cloud suddenly popped up on the mountain and instantly reduced the visibility, prompting the helicopter to take off momentarily and wait for a clearing again. In addition to the weather concerns, the pilot had previously dumped about a thousand pounds of fuel because he had been concerned about weight. But now, he became more worried about running out of fuel due to the unexpected weather delays. At that point, the rescue team had to make a quick decision to abandon the attempt or immediately execute it. The pilot landed again just below the camp and the team decided to proceed with the rescue.

“They had put snowshoes on us to make it easier for us to get to the helicopter. We were so psyched to get in that helicopter. We had no idea at the time how difficult the rescue had been. We thought it was routine and the conditions were so much better than they were. It’s probably a good thing we didn’t know at the time,” said Cahoon.

Several of the RCC crewmembers told McManamin that it was one of the most difficult pick-ups they had ever done. “I’ve flown a lot of people to the mountains, but it’s never ended this way. We are all tightly bonded now. The first week back, I talked to each of them everyday. If it weren’t for the remarkable technology of inReach, this story would likely have a very different ending. The ability to send and receive texts in severe conditions kept the trio in constant contact with rescuers to facilitate their safe extraction,” McManamin said. “We also threw the Guard guys a thank you party for all that they did – we all felt so close after the rescue. One of the veteran helicopter pilots said, ‘I’ve been doing this 27 years and no one has ever thrown us a thank you party’.”

Looking back on the whole rescue, the trio was so impressed with the performance and battery life of the inReach in the extreme conditions, they all went out and bought devices immediately. “Just having the ability to communicate with Conor when everything went wrong literally kept us sane. Every time we turned on the inReach and learned about all they were doing to try to help us, it kept us a heck of a lot more positive,” Varney said.

Following a brief stint in the hospital, the group was all discharged with very minor injuries, including sleep deprivation, dehydration and slight frostbite. Together, they lost almost 40 pounds in the seven-day ordeal.

“We pulled together so tightly and rationed everything. So after we were rescued, we were sitting on the floor of the helicopter, and they threw a whole bunch of bags of food to us. Candy bars, energy bars, and water bottles were just piled all around us. And even during that moment, we would open a candy bar, break it into thirds and pass it around. One of the crewmembers just laughed at us and said, ‘what are you doing? Just eat it!’” said Cahoon.

Four Kite Surfers Rescued in Antigua Thanks to inReach

February 26, 2015

Jeff Brock copy

Jeff Brock and three friends set out to complete a 170 km endurance kite trip at 7am on Friday, December 12th. The journey began on the island of Antigua and finished on St. Maarten. Two members of the team kite surfed, while the other two followed in a support boat. An inReach SE was used to track the team’s progress and send updates to Facebook periodically.

The run went well without a hitch, setting a record in just over 6 hours concluding a successful mission. However, no one anticipated equipment failure during the return boat trip to Antigua. At 9 p.m. the four men deployed their life raft when the boat suddenly capsized after taking on water. Huddling in a raft the size of a kiddie pool, as Jeff described it, they pulled out their inReach and sent an SOS distress signal. Within two minutes, they received delivery confirmation and began interacting with GEOS search and rescue monitoring center.

Director Jonathan Cornelius, with Antigua & Barbuda Search and Rescue (ABSAR) received notification from GEOS of the distressed boaters and dispatched a rescue team. While waiting for ABSAR to arrive, Jeff used his inReach to communicate details of the situation to the rescue team, and message his family. “It was incredible to do this [communicate via inReach] sitting at sea level basically under water in an uncovered raft full of water in the dark,” Jeff explained. “The device saved us, or at least got us rescued in record time. We were picked up in three hours and back on land in six hours.

At 1 a.m., the ABSAR rescue team reached the men floating next to their capsized boat. After all four men were on board the rescue vessel they immediately sent a message from their own inReach device the team carries to notify their headquarters, “4 survivors rescued.”

4 rescued

inReach tracking, messaging, SOS, and recovery… It has been the most handy device I have ever used.” – Jeff Brock

Video courtesy of Jonathan Cornelius, ABSAR Director.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 148 other followers