When should you set off your PLB (Personal Locator Beacon)?
What do you do if you’re lost while hiking?
Should you turn off your beacon once you are “not lost”?
In this post, Talie, a wonderfully adventurous lady we have been communicating with for a while, tells us about the time she was “lost” in the Frenchman’s Cap area in Tasmania.
Talie generally bushwalks solo and, from reading her different hiking trip reports from around the world, is very safety conscious and careful. In this trip last year, she became “geographically challenged” and spent a night out in the bush.
Here is her story:
I was hiking the Frenchman’s Cap track. I had camped by the second bridge next to the Loddon River. I put most of my gear in the bottom of my pack, having removed the top and the hip belt, and hung it in a tree (along with my food bag). The “day pack” that I took the next morning (which was made up from the backpack top and the hip belt) had in it: Rain jacket, dry shirt, lunch food, water, bug repellent, map, and sun screen.
Later I was very upset with myself for omitting what I call my “emergency bag”. It was still in my pack at the campsite! What I had left behind was a compass, candle, lighter, small torch (headlamp) and basic first aid. Bummer!
I hiked up to Lake Vera and the hut up there – then turned around and headed back. Since I was “light” I was traveling rather fast (probably another error). The “Sodden Lodden” area which is very muddy, has lots of “side” tracks getting around the mud. I took one of those and before I realized it I had gone pretty far away from the track. (At that point I really should have just retraced my steps.) But I figured, I had my map and I could just go down to the river and follow the river to my campsite – bad choice in Tasmania I was soon to find out! Anyway, I kept digging my self deeper and deeper in to the bush – I guess there are times that I am way too hardheaded.
Somewhere my watch got pulled off my arm, and I didn’t even realize it. And then at one point I slipped at the edge of the river and there went my reading glasses (things were going from bad to worse!). Finally I realized that I was going to be there overnight – so I got up out of the river bed (unfortunately my feet were still very wet) onto the side of a hill where there was a little less brush.
As it got dark, I put on my dry shirt (I had a light weight fleece and my rain gear on my top) and placed my damp shirt around my legs, which actually did keep them a bit warmer. I was very glad of the bug repellant since the mosquitos were hungry! It was a long night and very dark! A possum came by, I could hear him moving in the bush, and scolded me for about 20 minutes (I guess). There wasn’t much I could do – since I couldn’t see him.
The next morning, when it got light – I followed the creek a little while longer, and then realized that that was fruitless. So I came out of the woods, to realize that I had really gone in a circle – classic lost person stuff! I wandered out into the button grass (my legs wouldn’t take any more bush-bashing). I knew that the weather was supposed to change the next day, and the clouds were coming in pretty fast.
That was when I decided that I needed to “pull the plug” and activated the EPRB/ PLB (I really wish I had given it another hour!). After staying in one spot for about 2 hours – I was going slightly hypothermic, I knew I needed to move. So I headed out following the button grass – figuring that between me and the far ridge, the trail had to be there. Sure enough, after about 1/2 hour, I saw some heads bobbing on the track – and was happy to become “unlost”.
I decided to de-activate the beacon hoping that the “troups” weren’t on their way. I got to my camp in about an hour and a half, gathered up my gear, and started heading out. I was partway up the hill when I heard the helicopter come into the valley. Bummer! I didn’t know how to contact him (they told me later that I should have left the beacon on) – so I continued to hike out, planning on contacting them when I reached the trailhead.
As I came up into the carpark, the helicopter landed right there and we had a long discussion about how the whole experience had unfolded. There were very professional, caring and efficient – and I have since sent a donation to the Tasmanian Air Rescue Service!
Many thanks to Talie for sharing her story. Talie is very much a “died in the wool” solo backpacker. Three days after her Frenchman’s Cap adventure, she soloed the Overland Track (and loved it!). (And the week before she soloed the Walls of Jerusalem.) She then headed off to New Zealand, still soloing and getting off the beaten track here (but not too far off the “track”!
You can read all of Talie’s adventures at her blog: TalieM’s Weblog.. She is a very busy woman!
This is the link to her Tasmanian hikes
Have you ever been “geographically challenged” while hiking?
Have you had to set of a PLB / EPIRB?
We would love to read about your experiences. Leave us a comment below if you would like to share.