I carry the Rino 520 hcx
Of course our adventure at MacLaren last year (spring 09) comes to mind as well. We were on the Denali Hwy in white out conditions and all worked out OK, but I hate to image what might have happened if we weren't on the hwy in those conditions with no GPS..... Besides my Rino 520, I've purchased a Rino 120 for both the wife and Grandson since I don't expect them to use it as much and the 120's have communication capability to my 520.by Dwayne Brandly
I’m always looking for good helpful stories about the best uses for a GPS. I came across the following two stories from Casey Blanchard of Edmonton, Alberta, and asked him for the details, which he kindly provided. Here are Casey’s stories:
Several years ago I would have been the first to say there is a lot of stuff I need in my back pack when I go sledding, but a GPS was not one of them. I started carrying a GPS six years ago, after I got lost in Keystone, North of Revelstoke on Columbia Lake. It was our annual Christmas trip and there were four of us; Nick, Allan, Colin and myself. The trip started off nicely. Two of the four of us had GPS’s, but of course I didn’t. At the time I didn’t think I needed one. I became a new daddy three weeks prior, so I did not want to spend the money on one because there was always something else to get.
I was up on Keystone having a great time until I got stuck late in the day. There were many tracks from us and the other sledders—I was following one of my friends. He turned out and went back up the hill but I went a little farther down the hill just over a ridge. My friend did not know I was following him. I went over, dropped about 50 feet down and got stuck. Now this is near the end of the day and we had all rode hard, I was tired. I stopped and waited a bit to catch my breath, and hoped someone would come help me dig this thing out.
Making an escape
After about 10 minutes I decided to start digging. It took me about an hour to get that sled free so I could jump on and ride. It was probably near 3:30 pm and the sun was just about down for the day when I got stuck. While I was digging, my friends were trying to find me. I could hear them come to the ridge but they couldn’t see me. They searched until it was almost dark. Then they thought maybe I had an emergency and went to the truck. One of our rules is that if we lose someone we go back to the last place we saw them, so we know where to start looking. The guys went back to the truck in hopes of finding me. Everyone was low on fuel so they couldn’t keep searching. When they got there, they realize I hadn’t made it back. They were more scared for me than I was. They were thinking I may have been hurt or buried. They dumped all the fuel they could into one sled and one guy came back up to have another look for me.
While they were gone I tried to find my way out, but I could not remember the way in with the sun down and there were too many tracks to choose from. I got up as high as I could in hopes that I could see another headlight. I started to circle and flash my lights, so someone might see it. Al and Colin were getting ready to contact Search and Rescue and Nick headed back up the hill. Nick was about 5 kilometres away when he saw the headlight from the trail, and was heading my way. At least he was praying it was me. I knew my friends would not leave me because I would not leave them. I also knew that I had a greater chance of being seen at night because of my headlight as long as I didn’t run out of fuel. After that event I bought my first GPS, it was the Rino 120 because that was what my friends were using.
A necessary gadget
My first GPS was the Rino 120. It was good but the thing would go through too many batteries. A couple of years ago I bought the Rino 520hcx. It has a rechargeable battery that will last about 15 hours in cold weather before recharging. It has a coloured screen and a more options over the Rino 120. The coloured screen is nice because with the right software loaded up you can make better sense of the terrain. Another great feature in my opinion is the polling option with the Rinos. If I had the Rino when I was lost on Keystone my friends would have found me even if I was hurt and not able to contact them. I think a GPS with a built-in two-way radio is the only way to go. It gets carried in my jacket pocket so if I get separated from the machine I can be found. I don’t mount it on the sled because I’m afraid I may catch it on a branch and knock it off and not notice it’s missing. With the GPS in my front upper pocket I can hear it if it beeps at me. If the volume is turned all the way up I can hear it over the noise of the engine.
The next time I was grateful to have a GPS was on another trip, two seasons ago, to Boulder Mountain. for the first ride of the year. Steve Hewitt and I were having a good day. It was cloudy and the light was flat but it didn’t matter, we were sledding. At around 3:00 pm we were close to calling it a day. We were up behind the cabin on Boulder when a bad snow storm suddenly blew in. Steve and I were close to the main trail and were playing in a safe area, but as soon as that storm hit we were instantly lost. We didn’t know which direction we were pointing. We sat for a few minutes hoping it would just blow through, but no such luck. When we realized it was a bad snow storm we checked the GPS. It said we had to head east from where we were. There were a lot of tracks on the GPS, so I had to zoom out to get a bearing on where the cabin was because I had it marked.
Not being able to see farther than the tips of your skis makes for a scary ride. Steve and I basically crawled back to the main trail with our sleds, at maybe 5 kilometres per hour. We were only a few hundred feet from the trail but it seemed to take forever to get there.
When we got on the trail I checked the GPS again to make sure we were still headed in the right direction. We now had to start heading southeast. The storm broke for a few seconds and we saw a few guys just sitting there. They were lost, with no GPS, and had no clue where to go. We talked with them and told them to follow us. We all started heading out in a single line, bumper to bumper.
Making their way to safety
The snow was so bad that if we were more than three feet apart you couldn’t see the guy in front of you. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was drifting off the trail. We were still in a safe area but I was following a trail I made earlier. I was still leading and just when I thought it couldn’t snow any harder, it did. I came to a full stop because I could not see the front bumper of my sled. We waited a bit and the snow let up a little for a short period.
I told everyone to stay put. We were near a ridge and I needed to check it out to make sure we were still heading in the right direction. Two of us went over the ridge. We started to go downhill. We rode a few hundred feet and got back to the main trail again. On the trail were more guys lost and not carrying GPS’s. This was the first time for these guys on Boulder. I told them to stay put and that we had to go back and get our friends. I informed them that they were right where they needed to be, it was the main trail back to the cabin and then down to the trucks. I started my sled and so did the guy who followed me. I rode maybe 50 feet and looked back to make sure he was coming and I saw 5 to 6 guys following him.
They were so worried about being left behind, they weren’t taking any chances. It’s funny now but not at the time. Again I said, “We’ll be right back when we get the others,” so they waited. We got the rest of our group, then went back to the main trail and took a little break. Everyone was grateful I had a GPS that day. Out of 12 to 13 guys I was the only one with a GPS. Without it the results would have been quite different. I won’t ride without one ever again.