After a major October 4 snowstorm, I set out to climb Mt Dana in Yosemite the next day. Solo. With Highway 120 (Tioga Pass Road) closed, I was the only climber, indeed the only person even to head that way, as the snow confirmed upon my return.
Not being completely crazy, I took my SPOT beacon. It’s the save-your-ass device that everyone going solo should absolutely, positively have, especially under winter conditions as I encountered here on Mt Dana (9° F leaving the Tioga Pass entrance station). Your smart move even with a group is to have one along.
Operation of SPOT is simple. You set it up in advance, along with your email contacts to receive email when you press the OK button. If you are in serious trouble, you press the 911 button, and hopefully some nice folks show up before things get really ugly. If you bang your head on a rock, be sure to press the 911 button before doing so.
Below is what an “all OK” email looks like, as resulted from pressing the OK button at the summit of Mt Dana. The email includes a link you can click to view in Google Maps.
Latitude:37.89979 Longitude:-119.22114 GPS location Date/Time:10/05/2009 12:25:53 PDT Click the link below to see where I am located. https://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en& geocode=&q=37.89979,-119.22114&ll=37.89979,-119.22114&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1 Message:All OK.
SPOT requires both the device and a subscription, and also offers an inexpensive insurance plan for paying the costly search and rescue fees. My father, age 71, goes solo hiking, climbing, etc, but he’s always concerned about spending money on himself, so I might have to get him one.
UPDATE: there apparently is some controversy @AMAZON over the reliability of the SPOT service. For life and death situations, perhaps a time-proven PLB (personal locator beacon) might be a safer choice. However, every single “OK” message I’ve sent has gone through on the two trips I used it on (I got it in June). I’ll be using it more, and I suppose only years of experience can yield a fair assessment.