Solo Hiking and satellite Trackers

27 Nov 2019 07:50 #75490 by wookie
Over the last 30 years I have done a reasonable amount of solo hikes in the berg and to date never had an indecent.
I have however always played it safe when out alone and err'd on the side of caution both from a security as well as safety perspective.

I know the official policy has always been a minimum party size of 3 pax and the last few years it has has been enforced more and more when getting permits.
Having been a member of the MCSA SAR I am not a great fan of buying multiple permits to hide the fact that I am going solo. This only creates  stress in trying to identify how many missing hikers you are actually looking for in the advent of a search.

Does anyone know if carrying a satellite tracker / SOS beacon like Garmin Inreach or Spot satisfy the park officials as a viable alternative to having a 3 pax party?
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02 Dec 2019 08:47 #75506 by vivo101
@Wookie I recently completed a solo ships-grays fastpack trip. Had a SPOT Gen 3 tracker with me. I filled in the hiking register and payed for my permit, at the forest station in Monks Cowl, without anyone even raising the topic that I'm hiking solo.

Returned and signed the register, and once again nothing was said. It could be that the 3 Pax rule is more regularly enforced at the other permit offices. An experienced hiker with a satellite tracker is better off than 3 highly inexperienced hikers, in my opinion. 

"To those who are enthralled by mountains, their wonder is beyond all dispute. To those who are not, their allure is a kind of madness." - Mountain

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02 Dec 2019 10:44 #75508 by wookie
Thanks Vivo,

I think it is highly dependant on who is manning the desk when getting the permits as to what rules get enforced.
It could also possibly be the time of year. I only really get down to the berg for any sort of extended period during the December silly season, so that could also have something to do with being more forceful on the 3 pax rule.

"An experienced hiker with a satellite tracker is better off than 3 highly inexperienced hikers, in my opinion".... Definitely!

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05 Dec 2019 10:14 #75524 by Pyro
I always carry a tracker as my wife is paranoid. I have used the Delorme inreach SE for a few years and worked great. My wife had piece that if I got in trouble, I could send an alert, and If I couldnt send, at least they new where to start looking for me. I have recently upgraded to the new Garmin Mini and the Delorme is now for sale.

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05 Dec 2019 18:12 #75526 by AndrewP
I have done plenty of solo hikes in the last few years.  Mostly with a satellite tracker, which gives my family a warmer and fuzzier feeling about it.

I find it depends on where you go and who is around at the time. Most of my hikes are "day" hikes from a base camp, so it is easy to register in the camp as a single person, and then fill out the register when nobody is looking :-)

One place comes to mind out course where they are real sticklers and have put the register inside the reception area.  I get around that by starting at the adjoining region and doing a really long day

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07 Dec 2019 07:14 #75530 by Papa Dragon
Solo hiking, and not related to trackers..

I did a solo at Giant's Castle a couple of months ago, was meant to be 2 nights out but I only was out for 1..
Anyway, the receptionist teller asked how many people, and I said one,, she replied that one is not allowed to hike alone.. I said I have hiked solo on a few occasions in other areas, and had travelled far, alone, to come on this hike..

I then stood around in front of her for a couple of minutes, looking puzzled and dejected.. after a while she said if I was prepared to take the risk, I could go alone..

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09 Dec 2019 08:09 #75531 by wookie
For the most part I am not really worried about carrying a tracker nor do I have much need for 90% of it's functionality.
Having it in an emergency situation (either for myself or someone else) would be a big plus for sure.
Being a hermit,  needing to keep the outside world appraised of my current position is not really a big necessity.

What I am most interested in is circumventing the situation Pappa D described - these I have had quite a few of.
I can't blame the person issuing the permits as they have rules to abide by. They might not suite me but are there for a reason and have more than likely saved a few people from having a disastrous epic or hundreds of man hours of searching for a lost hiker.

" Most of my hikes are "day" hikes from a base camp, so it is easy to register in the camp as a single person, and then fill out the register
when nobody is looking" - This has been my modus operandi for the last few years. Works well so far....

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09 Dec 2019 11:00 #75534 by Serious tribe
I was in two minds about commenting here, as I am aware of the potential danger, and don't want to be seen to be endorsing this.  However I have done a few solo hikes, and will do a few more I am sure, usually about three of four days in duration, but not to the summit, and I usually hike to a spot and stay in that area for the entire time and do photography.  Again, I choose spots on the contour path that wont get a lot of traffic down the passes (security) and I also prefer to be in mobile coverage.  This is for my wife's sake and her peace of mind, and for potential access to rescue should that be required.  The summit would have plenty of coverage, but security then becomes a potential problem.

So, I usually try to get there before the office opens and fill MR in and pay when i get back, that way there is no discussion, and i get an early start to the hike.  It is not ideal, but needs must when weather and photography collide, and not everyone can get away when i need to go, however I would caution that if you are not self sufficient ito taking care of yourself out there not to try this.  In addition when you  are by yourself I think you need to ramp up your level of care and awareness to reduce inattention while hiking and doing other things, ie, reduce the clumsy factor.  Certainly long time experience can help, but still does not mitigate accidents happening, break a leg, twist an ankle, slip by the river and crack your head (my friend did this once) and snakebite are things you don't plan for.  Being in mobile coverage can hep with this to some degree.  Anyhow some practical things to consider if you are going to go out alone.
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09 Dec 2019 12:28 #75536 by wookie
Thanks for the comment Serious Tribe.

"......however I would caution that if you are not self sufficient ito taking care of yourself out there not to try this.  In addition when you  are
by yourself I think you need to ramp up your level of care and awareness
to reduce inattention while hiking and doing other things, ie, reduce
the clumsy factor.  Certainly long time experience can help, but still
does not mitigate accidents happening, break a leg, twist an ankle, slip
by the river and crack your head (my friend did this once) and
snakebite are things you don't plan for.  Being in mobile coverage can
hep with this to some degree.  Anyhow some practical things to consider
if you are going to go out alone."

Absolutely.  I think my risk tolerance is is down at least 30 - 50% depending on mental state and physical condition when I am out alone and that not just Hiking in the berg.

I have done the  dodge-the-sytem approach but can't say I am to happy about it I would rather find an amenable way if I can.

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09 Dec 2019 15:37 #75537 by Sterkhorn
I concur with Serious Tribe's comments and usually follow the same modis operandi.

Earlier this year however I arrived at Drakensberg Gardens after the office had opened. The lady in the office was adament that she was not allowed to let me hike on my own. After I had explained a number of times that I had hiked numerous times on my own, she eventually told me, "OK, don't pay now, you can pay when you return". Obviously she was not happy to take the responsibility of letting me hike on my own.

I understand their concern and have observed some risky situations with clueless lone hikers, so some control is in order, but their also needs to be some leeway for more experieced hikers who understand the risk and mitigate it as far as possible.

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