In 2015 I made over 200 trips (about half of them solo) into the mountain wilderness of Alberta ascending 190,225 vertical meters, tagging 133 summits, and covering 3,517km of back country mountain trail. My confidence was high heading into the 2016 season; I’ve been making these trips since 2012. Some of my training partners carry emergency SOS devices, but the thought to purchase one of my own didn’t even enter my mind.
Then, on February 6, 2016, I dislocated my shoulder when I nearly fell off a cliff (click here to read the news story). The pain of this injury was incredibly intense. I hiked down 800m of Mount Ishbel with a rolled ankle in 2015 no problem…but this level of pain was so severe that I had to call for help. By some miracle I had cell phone reception in a back-country area near Elbow Falls in Kananaskis Country that normally has no reception at all. Upon hearing the details of my predicament Search and Rescue responded immediately and about an hour later I was heli-slung off the side of Iyarhe Ipan Mountain suffering from mild shock due to the intense pain. This event had a profound effect on me psychologically. Every step I took down the mountain towards safety that day sent pain coursing through my entire torso. It was hell. If I had not been able to call for help the risk of further severe injury to my shoulder would have been very real and the suffering greatly prolonged.
In the ambulance on the way to the hospital all I could think about was what if I’d fallen off the other side of that cliff where surely there was no reception. What would have happened if I couldn’t walk or call for help?!
The search for an emergency SOS device began immediately. The decision really boils down to two options: inReach & SPOT. The features of the inReach, however, are so far superior to the SPOT that the decision really is a no brainier. With the inReach you can send and receive text messages and carry on meaningful conversations with loved ones in minutes, the spot only offers pre-programmed messages sent by pressing a series of buttons, and, having watched friends attempt to use this feature it quickly becomes apparent its basically useless. Really the only thing a SPOT is good for is hitting the SOS button and hoping for the best. The more technologically superior inReach device is the only way to go, it’s like having phone reception everywhere, you can even post your location to your Facebook wall instantly showing all your friends exactly where you are…with any message you want or need to include.
On August 11, 2016 I was about 900m up Mount Vaux when the sky clouded over and then darkened quickly. Normally this situation would have required a hasty retreat, but with the inReach I was able to text a loved one and asked them to double check the forecast and precipitation radar. They replied within minutes confirming my hopes that the chance of a storm or precipitation were not expected for at least 6 hours, plenty of time for me to tag the summit and safely descend. Even though I didn’t get the views, I still had a successful trip…but without the inReach the entire day and trip could have been a waste or possibly very dangerous.
The BVGT crew Friday morning at Helmet Falls after having run The Rockwall the night before. Ruchel Stevens, Emily Compton & Mike Ehredt covered a total of 132kms and 5,000m of gain on this epic. They started in Canmore Thursday morning, ran through Banff National Park, had a quick supper at Floe Lake trailhead and then continued on. They were accompanied by many of their amazing friends along the way and were thankful to have 3 @inreachcanada devices with them for this unbelievable journey! 📸 credit: Lyen Lau
On August 18, 2016 my girlfriend Ruchel ran 132kms from Canmore, AB to Paint Pots trailhead, BC with her friend Emily and an entourage of their trail running friends. The run lasted over 30 consecutive hours and required resupply drops at several key locations. I was charged with the task of running in 2lbs of food to meet them at Helmet Falls on the last leg…the only problem being there is no cell reception in this area whatsoever. Because they were running the Rockwall trail through the night they had no idea when they would arrive at the wardens cabin. Luckily they had another inReach device and I slept with mine next to my pillow. I awoke to their text at 3:30am on my inReach when they were 2 hours from the meetup location which allowed me to perfectly time the meet. When they encountered difficulties they texted me to let me know they were running late and instead of worrying I had a leisurely nap on the cabin deck. I cannot imagine this scenario without the convenience of the inReach, it was invaluable that day.
The inReach has proved itself an invaluable piece of gear time and again and I would not be able to solo mountains like Vaux, Northover, Smuts, Pilot, Bosworth, Burgess & Walcott and many others as confidently without it. Once you carry a device like the inReach SE you’ll wonder why and how you did without it before.