/ GPS trackers for DofE
I'm a DofE assessor and supervisor with the Scouts and my area has recently purchased two GPS trackers. Each gives their location via the internet and is equipped with two 'emergency' buttons, the first of which texts a pre-programmed number and the second calls the emergency services.
I am against this sort of technology because it removes the independence and self sufficiency of the expedition. Likewise, I know 15 year olds and if there's a gadget, they'll want to use it. Sure enough in one of the expeditions that have already used it, they pressed a button for an asthma attack. Now I don't know the details but my scouts have 'asthma attacks' every time we go up a hill. It's also much easier to quit if you can just press a button wherever you are. I don't think it adds a layer of safety because the group should be able to give a grid reference if necessary anyway. I think it will encourage unqualified leaders to rely on this technology, and provide a false sense of safety. I think parents will come to expect the technology and ultimately we'll all be forced to go out and buy the kit. It weighs 150g.
On the plus side, it makes supervising a lot easier. That's all I can think of.
Thoughts? Could you justify not using one to a judge if something awful did happen?
I'm in complete agreement expeditions should be self sufficient with minimum outside interferrence. All my groups only have 2 mobile phones swithched off and packed securly away just for emergency. I take all other electrical gagetery off them. I have only ever had 1 group open the emergency phones.
I am retiring from the D of E in July because most of the kids want it handed to them on a plate and the parents are a real pain in the perverbial
As my flying instructor used to say, "Technology is OK but there's no substitute for the Mark 1 eyeball"
> ... because most of the kids want it handed to them on a plate and the parents are a real pain in the perverbial
I find the continued reliance on map and compass as the "only" trustworthy navigation tools bewildering. The world moves on. It's called progress. Of course, objections that GPS devices are vulnerable to battery failure are perfectly valid. That's why I carry two spare batteries which can double up as spares for the torch in winter.
My son is doing his Gold DofE this summer and has had a number of practice outings. It appears to me that he has become so enslaved by the tyranny of bearing-taking that he doesn't take the trouble to read the features on the map, features which, properly interpreted, would save him the trouble of taking a bearing at all.
Compasses can be unreliable too, as mine proved on the (compass-diverting) Cuillin last week after I had started to descend overconfidently (without taking a bearing) down the wrong ridge last week. Fortunately I was reasonably quick to spot that the ridge was descending too far, yet the compass wouldn't settle to show what bearing I was on. In a thick clag, the only reliable means of pinpointing my position was the GPS which quickly confirmed my navigational error and accurate position and I was able to regain the main ridge with an apprecaition of my orientation and hence which way to proceed. Then, seeking the correct turnoff from the main ridge, which lacked cairns or other indentifier, the GPS was quick to precisely locate me at a point from which I could confidently turn off in the correct direction.
Now I know the Cuillin are a special case, but the speed and accuracy of the GPS as a pinpointing tool should not be lightly dismissed. I don't habitually feed whole routes into the GPS or navigate to a waymark. But there's nowt like it when you need to know where you are and the normal map based methods are unavailable or unreliable.
As you state, kids are quick to use a gadget. That's because they are better at adapting to them than you or I. GPS has been adopted on a massive scale for a number of applications and is here to stay. We should all embrace improvements, progress and the future and that includes the designers of the DofE scheme, though I think limitations to the application of GPS should be worked into the syllabus so that youngsters can learn still to rely on old school navigation as well.
> I'm in complete agreement expeditions should be self sufficient with minimum outside interferrence. All my groups only have 2 mobile phones swithched off and packed securly away just for emergency. I take all other electrical gagetery off them. I have only ever had 1 group open the emergency phones.
> I am retiring from the D of E in July because most of the kids want it handed to them on a plate and the parents are a real pain in the perverbial
I'm struggling to see why you think mobile phones are OK but this type of tracker isn't. I would understand your stance if you were againest mobiles being carried but why not use a device that is better suited to the job?
A very sensible thread....
I'm also a D of E assessor and I agree entirely with you on this. The good thing about D of E expeditions is that they absolutely demand that the kids take responsibility for themselves because they are put in a "real" situation where help is not immediately available. Mobile phones are bad enough (but have come to be expected - I imagine we would be branded irresponsible if we banned them now). The idea of GPS trackers appalls me; what's the point in getting lost if someone knows exactly where you are?
Thanks everyone (inc emails), I'll let the debate move on a bit more before I contribute again as I'm still unsure how I feel about this.
So while it may be a good aid, it should most definitely not be relied upon as a sole means of supervision, as supervising is not only about knowing where the group is, but also about their welfare.
> My son is doing his Gold DofE this summer and has had a number of practice outings. It appears to me that he has become so enslaved by the tyranny of bearing-taking that he doesn't take the trouble to read the features on the map, features which, properly interpreted, would save him the trouble of taking a bearing at all.
In that case he has been taught navigation badly -reading the map should always come before reliance on bearings (whicha are only ever necesary in poor visibility). And you think reliance on GPS would solve this problem? surely you're joking!
And getting out into the hills is a rare opportunity for kids to get away from their depressingly gadget dominated world and actually get in touch with their surroundings ratgher than stare at a screen, GPS or otherwise.
No, the DofE should resist the erosion of self reliance which is essential to the expedition experience. GPS is not therefore progress.
I disagree. The possibility of getting lost (in the sense that the supervisor does not know where you are) is essential to the experience of self reliance and responsibility.
I agree with Robert on this. Map reading is, and always will be,an essential skill. GPS is a useful technology, and another tool to have in the box, but the DoE should be teaching the essential basics. Once they have been mastered and assessed, "progress" can be made.
> I disagree. The possibility of getting lost (in the sense that the supervisor does not know where you are) is essential to the experience of self reliance and responsibility.
I agree, and hence not having the button to call for help. But as a tool for the assessor, I think it isn't a bad thing to have. Also, when the sh*t genuinely does hit the fan it may save Mountain Rescue been called, or help them with the rescue if they are.
Without the button I think the kids would forget about it and act as normal.
> Without the button I think the kids would forget about it and act as normal.
Possibly. I don't know.
I largely agree with you, I also am a DofE supervisor. I'd not be happy with a tracker that had all sorts of buttons and gadgets to tempt the kids into using it. But if such a thing existed (does it?) that only gave the leaders a location and no other function i would consider that a good thing, certainly if you've got a group out on a desolate featureless moorland and the clag is down, it'll be much easier for us to find them, should anything go wrong.
> In that case he has been taught navigation badly -reading the map should always come before reliance on bearings (whicha are only ever necesary in poor visibility). And you think reliance on GPS would solve this problem? surely you're joking!
> And getting out into the hills is a rare opportunity for kids to get away from their depressingly gadget dominated world and actually get in touch with their surroundings ratgher than stare at a screen, GPS or otherwise.
> No, the DofE should resist the erosion of self reliance which is essential to the expedition experience. GPS is not therefore progress.
I cannot see the difference in this context between a GPS and a compass. Why is one navigational tool acceptable and another not? One pinpoints location, the other measures direction (which a more sophisticated GPS will also perform). And both are useless without a map.
A GPS won't do the walking for you or keep you warm. It won't plan your route or automatically divert you around hazards. The logical extension of your argument would be to send them out naked with no navigational tools at all. Sparta reborn.
I don't disagree that the basic skills are valuable. Nor am I arguing for their rejection. I get a great deal of pleasure from using good old map and compass. The GPS stays in the inside pocket of the rucksac for occasional necessity.
It's the instinctive rejection of modern technology that is much in evidence here which sticks in my craw. I don't experience my inability to ride a horse as a hindrance when I come to drive my car. Do you?
They are ideologically very different. A GPS is directly reliant on a whole array of satellites. Everything else is carried in the rucksack or depends on natural phenomena such as the earth's magnetic field or one's eyes. A line in self reliance is crossed as soon as GPS is carried and it's use there fore feels to me very different.
They're equipped trained to navigate to a degree that's adequate for the terrain they're going into, right? If they *need* a GPS beacon then the problem is in the training, planning or subsequent supervision and questions would still need answering.
Presumably this uses GPRS anyway so is basically just a dumb, waterproof smart-phone and of as little use when out of signal. I'd certainly be tempted to resist its adoption as standard kit.
Yes, I think my response goes wider than the OP's original observations. But I was prompted by the anti-technology flavour of the replies to date. I'm not a gadget-freak myself but I think the merits of new technology deserve dispassionate consideration.
> I wouldn't know because I (honestly) was riding a horse before I learned to drive a car. :0)
In reply to mypyrex: And if your car broke down would you get it fixed or borrow a horse ;-)
If my GPS broke down, I wouldn't waste my money on a replacement, I'd carry on using my compass
And if you were doing a DofE expedition on horseback (I know someone who did) and the horse broke down, would you get it fixed or just walk?
> Presumably this uses GPRS anyway so is basically just a dumb, waterproof smart-phone and of as little use when out of signal. I'd certainly be tempted to resist its adoption as standard kit.
This is a good point I hadn't thought about. After careful consideration I have decided that they have no advantage over a mobile phone and therefore I won't be asking mine to carry them. A mobile phone being far more flexible.
Not sure on the signal strength though, if was in a bag.
Check the specs, I'm not certain the same legislation applies, they may have more transmit power than a phone but the basic issue is unchanged, they're unnecessary clutter for DofE.
My groups are sensible young adults (we are talking Gold here after all) and are instructed that only in the case of life threatening issues should the 'send a helicopter' button be pressed, it is not possible to press it accidentaly and they are informed that it would constitute a fail for the group.
They should have the training and gear to be able to deal with just about everything else, and in my experience do.
For Gold you can not have an 'Unqualified leader' ML or equivalent is the minimum.
In contrast I met a supervisor last year in the Lakes that had to follow her GOLD group and blow a whistle if they went off route. This was a requirement of the school and if I was assessing would have resulted in a fail.
My 17 year old son's DofE Gold training weekend (4 days!! - which royally fxcked up our ski holiday plans) involved three days hanging around Windermere and one self planned day out on the hills. To his credit he set out to do the Ill Bell Ridge from Kentmere returning over Red Screes (presumably via the Kirkstone Inn if he's the healthy young man I hope he's growing into). A grand day out.
But three days at sea level under supervision (albeit as a training session)!!? At that age I was spending up to 3 weeks at a time living alone above 2000ft with nothing but my revision notes for company.
And a compass, yes I admit ;-)
Different world nowadays, though. And we old gits should accept it, even if it does mean new tools....
However, like any other pieces of equipment they need to be used with the aim of enhancing the expedition experience rather than detracting from it. These days I would always prefer to have groups carry mobile phones so that I can be more relaxed about the level of supervision required. And as pointed out by timjones, if you are happy with mobile phones I don't see any point in being overly concerned with trackers with a communications facility.
The biggest issue with DofE that I see is schools trying to have 8-10 groups complete expeditions at the same time on the same/similar routes, with the same campsites which I feel completely dilutes the experience for individual groups. Compared to that, I feel GPS trackers are a fairly trivial issue.
Is it to walk a long distance and have a bit of fun, or is it to learn something about yourself?
When I was 14 my friend and I cycled to Wales from London over 3 days.
The first day we got a bit lost and didn't make the rendezvous. We camped next to a pub and ate some peanuts and drank a lager shandy each with the few quid we had. Slept the night and in the morning we called his mum and dad and told them we were setting off again.
Anyway, we got into serious trouble for not calling the 'emergency' number we had been given. Well, it wasn't an emergency to us...
The dumming down is far more of a potential issue for the leaders, the kids seem to forget entirely that they have them. The danger is that the leaders risk assessments could come to depend more on the kit than the people or their skills. A few comments made on this thread about how the trackers could change leader responsibility or planning bears this out.
The technology is a long way from reliable and there are still problems with battery life. We try telling the kids to turn the unit off at night at camp and then back on in the mornong. They occasionally remember one, very rarely both!!!
In all those km's the info provided has only been of help once, and ironically it was a leader who called in for location confirmation in a foggy white out with a badly tiring youngster in the group. Without the help he would have relocated himself within another 15mins or so.
I know I might sound anti the technology. I am not. However losing sight of its limitations can be every bit as fatal an error as having a flawed operating or party management process or incompetent people supervising young people in the outdoors.
My two penneth:
5 years ago, Dartmoor. low cloud, poor vis.
During a challenge walk with three teenagers we encountered a semi-concious hypothermic casualty (I know a bit about this being in an MR team). No mobile signal. I asked the kids to go up the hilla little (but not out of sight) for a mobile signal. They returned - no chance of a signal.
Another passing team had a Spot. We pinged it. A helicopter arrived about 30 minutes later.
Useful - damned right! Essential - your choice.
Wait until you are in court answering why you didn't need cheaply available technology. I've given evidence in the Old Bailey on a different outdoor incident. Believe me, Smart Assed Barristers have to be endured to be believed.
I did say I'm not against the trackers they have their place. Just the same with any bit of kit, use it appropriately and it will help. They have their limitations thats all I am saying.
As much as you could be questioned about not using something like this if something went wrong, it would be just as much an issue if it were over relied upon, which was the point I was trying to make....so tell me mr wainers, do you think that sitting in a cafe in princetown looking at a laptop tracing a team on a map who were 12km from you in woresening weather was acceptable as the only means of remote supervision contained in your risk assessment....??? I think not and I am sure you wouldn't either.
I'm struggling to imagine what other means of remote supervision might be contained in a risk assessment!
> I'm struggling to imagine what other means of remote supervision might be contained in a risk assessment!
how about varying supervision remoteness according to conditions, how about good old line of sight (without them seeing you), maybe not truly remote but what about contact intervals, what about route shadowing or sweeping? Thats just a few I can think of as fast as I can type them but im sure there are more.
I was just passing on my experiences after a couple of thousand k using them.
Bottom line would I want a leader supervising my kids using one...yes....as PART of a safe system of supervision.
> How about varying supervision remoteness according to conditions, how about good old line of sight (without them seeing you), maybe not truly remote but what about contact intervals, what about route shadowing or sweeping?
Ok, fair enough, but I wouldn't have counted any of those as "remote". I'd only use any of them if there was a particular concern arisen.
Her school would of loved my gold expedition - i saw our assessor twice, half way through day one and at the end of day four. Admittedly wild camping on Dartmoor can keep you away from them quite well.
> Bottom line would I want a leader supervising my kids using one...yes....as PART of a safe system of supervision.
The kids can feel a very long way away in dense mist on a cold wet winters day when they havent turned up at the rendezvous (but are actually invisible in the fog only 100m away) on the other hand far too near when they appear 4k away in the sunshine about to disturb your peace!!!
> eactly - part of a system. Nothing beats good prep though.
Totally agree :)
Should have read 'exactly'.
This year's Ten tors teams had trackers. Meant we got to a team with a hypothermic cas quickly. We could then get back to manning river corssings quickly too.
10m vis, wind and rain. That is remote enough if you're 14! And no hope of helo cover in that weather. A tracker is plain good sense!
Or take a tagged chav in the team then the police will come looking anyhow!
TT was rather more of a challenge this year than some years! All the kit is just about dry now....
It depends entirely on your objective. If you are a soldier navigating rough terrain for the defence of your nation, you will (hopefully) use whatever technology you can. But if you are trying to teach young people self-reliance and foster a spirit of adventure, then you need to retain some element of challenge and uncertainty.
Otherwise why not confine DoE expeditions to pavements? Far better for walking on than muddy fields - it's called progress..
ps. Or there is this solution: I saw a bunch of DoE groups walking the Thames Path last week. That's right - it's a fully waymarked path along a river. (Btw I do sympathise with the assessors.)
Right I'm going to add my bit to this.
We use these trackers and a 3G iPad (or phone) to track all of our groups that go out (kids from 13/14 doing their training fist exped through to DofE Gold), since a very minor incident on Bronze DofE escalated with parents getting calls off lost kids and staff unable to find them having been given incorrect GRs by the group.
HOWEVER, the key to the strategy is that the group DO NOT KNOW they have a tracker. The tracker is switched on and hidden deep inside the group first aid kit that we issue to all groups going out with us. That way, their sense of "independence" isn't compromised, they are tempted to use it (as they don't know it exists) and everyone's a winner.
Obviously, as others have pointed out, it is no substitute for human remote supervision. However, it is useful for the following scenarios:
- double checking GRs given by groups that need attention (too many times we've gone on a wild goose chase following incorrect GRs to pick up/meet groups).
- keeping half an eye on the other groups when/whilst staff are busy dealing with a separate incident.
- running multiple expeditions. We've had a Gold DofE expedition running simultaneously to a novice training expedition down on Dartmoor - clearly the novices needed more attention, so were being supervised fairly carefully and closely by the staff team, whilst the Gold group could be monitored more remotely and met fewer times in the day.
A final note, I'm not an expert on all the available models out there, but the ones we use are very small, uses a phone SIM, plain looking, with an on/off switch and a red "panic button" (apparently designed for sufferers of Alzheimers). It is of no benefit to the group as such to use/look at it, as it has no screen/method of telling them where they are - just a means of letting the trackers know where they are.
As a former outdoor management trainer (many years ago) it'd be helpful for your support logistics to know where groups are and when/where they might turn up - less sitting in remote lay-bys for hours!
I give it to my group to use and it is under their control, it is not in tracking mode so battery life is not an issue, they are asked to press the OK button at each check point, sometimes I am at the checkpoint to meet them, mostly not, although I may be observing them. Mostly I try to leave the group alone as much as possible, it is their expedition - not mine.
I try to give my Gold groups an experience that is memorable and possibly life changing. To this end I encourage them to push themselves, going to the lakes and walking around the hills misses the point IMO!
For me, the Spot tracker is used to enhance my group's experience, not make my life easier. In fact it does make supervision easier, but that is not the point.
> HOWEVER, the key to the strategy is that the group DO NOT KNOW they have a tracker. The tracker is switched on and hidden deep inside the group first aid kit that we issue to all groups going out with us. That way, their sense of "independence" isn't compromised, they are tempted to use it (as they don't know it exists) and everyone's a winner.
Surely, this is self defeating if not potentially more dangerous? Now information is available that 'groups have hidden trackers', do you not think there will inevitably be an assumption by people in those groups that they are being tracked? Even when they are not? Consequences?
> Surely, this is self defeating if not potentially more dangerous? Now information is available that 'groups have hidden trackers', do you not think there will inevitably be an assumption by people in those groups that they are being tracked? Even when they are not? Consequences?
Yes, all this technology is a minefield. The hills are for getting away from this sort of stuff. I wish it didn't exist so that these sorts of dilemmas didn't either.
Yes the information is now available on the internet, if you search the right terms. However, this is the strategy adopted by one (unnamed) organization (out of how many in the country??), about a concept the kids would most likely not have considered. I'm not overly concerned.
My understanding of DoE (which I didn't do) is that the expedition is intended to foster self-sufficiency and self-reliance. I agree with those who say this detracts from that. But shouldn't it be for DoE itself to provide guidance on this, rather than relying on individual supervisors to come to their own conclusions, which as this thread indicates could vary considerably?
Surely any self respecting group of teenagers would be giving the group kit a thorough going over to locate it and give it a good poke? Or have they lost all interest in life these days?
When I was a teenager, there'd have been a bigger risk we'd have found it and re-hidden it somewhere else so we couldn't be tracked. Although, tbh, we were "supervised" from 50 miles away, supervisor missed our phone calls for 2 evenings in a row (and didn't find our answer phone messages) and no one batted an eyelid.....
My 17 year old daughter is doing her gold DofE expedition this August in the Cairngorms.I am relaxed about this whole issue, basically because from 11 years old, she has done quite a few expeditions with Scouts, and has built up good experience on her own.She is really looking forward to it.
Her teamwill have a tracker, as here assessor insists on it. To me in this day and age its crazy not to use technology like this.Especially when you consider the infamous Cairngorm tragedy from the 1970's.
Its like saying she should not be allowed a Goretex cagoule or a light weight tent, as compared with the old heavyweight Vango's and orange cags people used.
I did my DofE many, many moons ago and don't remember there being any daytime rendezvous during the expedition. When did this start? We had an evening rendezvous but other than that it was: "what's your intended route? OK, get on with it".
Of course some things never change and like those going out today we took far too much kit which didn't make the whole experience exactly pleasant - toiling up Lakeland hills in 25C (we had summers back then) with a rucksack that probably weighed 20 kilos, or felt like it, could have been enough to put us off the outdoors for life.
> Yes the information is now available on the internet, if you search the right terms. However, this is the strategy adopted by one (unnamed) organization (out of how many in the country??), about a concept the kids would most likely not have considered. I'm not overly concerned.
Security by obfuscation has never worked as a strategy. And I certainly wouldn't rely on it in a 'care-of-children' matter. Sooner or later some kids (or their parents) will think they have the security of being tracked when they are not. I can see a potentially serious problem there.
> Her teamwill have a tracker, as her assessor insists on it. To me in this day and age its crazy not to use technology like this.
> Its like saying she should not be allowed a Goretex cagoule or a light weight tent, as compared with the old heavyweight Vango's and orange cags people used.
No its not. That would be like saying she shouldn't have a lighter, more accurate compass or a more accurate map. There is a big difference between updated technology and completely new GPS based technology.
You're missing the point again. That "some day" when kids and parents expect to be GPS tracked will only happen if GPS tracking becomes widespread and/or implemented openly in policy (eg in the DofE's Expedition Guidelines, or like the Ten Tors event has done). By which point it would be negligent to not track groups in such fashion: a similar argument must have happened when mobile phones became readily and cheaply available - whilst now, kids and parents "expect" to be able to phone for help because mobile use is widespread and implemented in kit guidelines, to the extent that now it would be considered negligent to allow a group out without one.
The argument you're going for is "I know that a specific, yet unknown, cafe offers mango cheese cake with tea at 3pm on a Thursday, so I'm going to assume every and any cafe I go to will do the same" - it's a ridiculous argument, flawed logic and an utterly unreasonable expectation.
More to the point, the "care-of-children matter" that you raise is being taken seriously, which explains why the organization has implemented the use of GPS trackers in the first place. So, at this moment, whilst GPS tracking is not well known, widespread or the expected "norm", it should be up to individual leaders and organizations to make their own call - all I'm doing is sharing a way of implementing without it being blatant or known to the kids.
I've checked the D of E handbook and website. They don't discourage GPS as a secondary navigational tool for groups (ie no substitute for map and compass). They seem happy about trackers too.
Another thought on trackers: as a supervisor I'm sitting warm and dry in a big comfy chair with a whisky in my hand in the control centre in front a screen and I see the little red dot go a bit off route. At what point do I do something about it? Getting a bit lost and sorting it out is all part of the game, but how lost? Obviously a matter of judgement, but I suspect the tendency would inevitably be towards intervention (what if I did nothing and something bad happened, the police came for my hard drive ......). I suspect the trend would be towards erosion of self responsibility and adventure.
> Should have read 'exactly'.
> This year's Ten tors teams had trackers. Meant we got to a team with a hypothermic cas quickly. We could then get back to manning river corssings quickly too.
> 10m vis, wind and rain. That is remote enough if you're 14! And no hope of helo cover in that weather. A tracker is plain good sense!
> Or take a tagged chav in the team then the police will come looking anyhow!
So groups of 14 year olds were sent out on to Dartmoor in 10m visibility, wind and rain? Might prevention have been better than cure?
The school I assess for issued these trackers too.
They aren't used indiscriminately, the children don't fiddle with them, and the one time it has been pressed it was used correctly.
They also get given a GPS, which never seems to get used either. Seems a map is easier.
We all wear goretex, use skinny ropes, light karabiners etc etc.
The worst thing about them is the £1.50 toy clip they come with. Guaranteed to lose it.
We occasionally use trackers,we however do not access to them on foot and they are only there as an emergency location aid.
The kids are told not to press any buttons, any they never have done. I have never needed to ever look at the tracker footage or location of a group as i supervise in a traditional manner.
There is nothing that wrong with introducing trackers as a safety back up but when they are used inappropriatly issues will arise.
If it is not safe for a group to go without trackers then they shouldnt be where they are.
Like me. I remember plodding round the lakes in thick mist for 4 days, leaving notes in a plastic bag at checkpoints, so that the assessor knew we had gone through.
Looking back it was a terribly uninspring experience, fortunatley I had learnt a love of the hills before then.
I do not understand your logic in using/not using the latest technology irrespective of whether its kit or not.
Its like asking young adults to step back in time just for the sake of " well we did it this way 30 years ago and we got away with it".
We shall have to agree to disagree.
> I do not understand your logic.....
I just think your analogy of GPS with goretex or lightweight tents is a poor and unhelpful one and doesn't further your case.
I don't know what you mean by that.
> You're missing the point again.
No, I think you are - and that may be my fault in not being clear. I have no particular opinion on whether you should or shouldn't use tracking. I just believe that a safety strategy based on the kids not knowing that they are carrying a tracker is fundamentally flawed. Either give them a tracker and tell them they have it or don't give them one. And then base your safety procedures and decisions on that common understanding.
Ask the British Army, they sent 2400 of them out there on Ten Tors!
> So groups of 14 year olds were sent out on to Dartmoor in 10m visibility, wind and rain? Might prevention have been better than cure?
You are not alone with that idea
> You are not alone with that idea
Not alone maybe but fortunately pretty lonely!
The event is one of the most valuable of its type in the UK and provides 2400 young people with an opportunity for self reliance and development that people holding your type of view would deny everyone. Be clear the Army did not send them anywhere, their parents and leaders prepared them properly, considered the conditions and ran the event, very successfully as it happens. Experience of what the youngsters gain through this sort of event, d of e and the like would only ever convince you of its value, and the lengths that are gone to in managing risk are all worth it. Go along and see
> Bottom line would I want a leader supervising my kids using one...yes....as PART of a safe system of supervision.
You can easily Google incidents and deaths of kids on DofE, Some interesting views on here, and here is what one of our princes thinks ....
I'm firmly in the camp of safety where kids are concerned under adult supervision. I cannot think of how I would feel if a kid died because I decided it would do them good not to have a bit of kit that might ave made a life and death difference, and tried to explain that decision to their parents. When they are adult, it s up to them, they can make their own life and death decisions. others disagree, I have no idea who is right or wrong.
so, we agree! Cool
I remember those comments - quite controversail I seem to remember.
Mind you the tracker...or not is one of loads of decisions you make as a leader everytime you become responsible for others safety, be they adults, kids (your own or other peoples). Some are up for that responsibility, others aren't. Each to their own.
I am glad that the adults who looked after my kids on various trips and events were happy to do it.... even after they met my kids ;)
Thanks for the lesson. However, I am directly involved so speaking from experience. Enough said on open forum.
Ok I see - I think we've got an arguable point.
To clarify, the safety strategy is not based solely or primarily on the GPS tracker; it is merely another tool to use, much in the same way that I carry a GPS unit in my first aid kit in winter - it is not the primary source of navigation/safety.
As others have said in this thread, there is no substitute for proper on-the-ground supervising/monitoring/tracking at the appropriate level for the group. However, the GPS tracker may be used in the event of a problem/incident to help with (re)location of the group by the staff. The group has no way of getting data off it, so essentially it is of immediate irrelevance from their point of view whether they have it or not.
The reasoning behind the group not knowing is that without knowledge of its existence they have no mental "safety net" to fall back on, and it promotes the sense of independence and self-sufficiency. If they get lost, (in their minds) they have no option but to try relocate and try sort themselves out the old way (whether it is by resection, retracing steps, walking to the nearest road/village or whatever other method is relevant to the level of their expedition) - it promotes a necessity for good navigational skills and awareness, and not a reliance on technology.
The incident that lead to their introduction was a lost group, unable to relocate, then subsequently having a medical incident requiring staff assistance. Following this, it was decided that not having trackers was not an option (the medical incident could feasibly have been much more serious), and that they were required as a backup tool to the safety procedures already in place (the technology is available; why not use it??)
For these reasons, the best compromise was decided seemed to be to use the trackers without the knowledge of the kids, and they still follow a safety procedure that assumes they are not GPS tracked, whilst the staff are able to use the PS trackers either in anger to double check incident location GRs/relocate a group with an incident, or for convenience.
> Thanks for the lesson. However, I am directly involved so speaking from experience. Enough said on open forum.
Dont mention it. Same here, but clearly from different experiences so we will leave it there as you suggest.
In reply to Wainers44:
> Not alone maybe but fortunately pretty lonely!
> The event is one of the most valuable of its type in the UK and provides 2400 young people with an opportunity for self reliance and development that people holding your type of view would deny everyone. Be clear the Army did not send them anywhere, their parents and leaders prepared them properly, considered the conditions and ran the event, very successfully as it happens.
I am reluctant to enter into much of a debate about this. You might have a look at my profile for the reasons. 'Be clear' that I am NOT opposed to young people experiencing adventure (though watching my kids lead unprotected routes does give me the collywobbles). I AM unclear about your comment that 'the army didn't send them anywhere'? I don't think I made any accusations against the army? I don't know anything about the organisation of this 'Event'.
I am not suggesting cancelling the Ten Tors event as you seem to infer (though I AM concerned about your obsession with 'an event').
The thinking behind my comment was: given the weather forecast and the conditions on the ground, what sort of person/people 'sends' 2400 young people out on to Dartmoor? Is that sensible? Is that COMPETENT?
How about postponing for a week or two for better conditions? How about looking for alternative routes? Isn't that what a sensible/competent person would do?
The idea, when working in any form of adventurous education, that 'this is the plan - this is what we must do' is one that cannot be justified. Someone above in this thread referred to the Cairngorms Tragedy. I didn't agree with their use of that event to make a point about technology that didn't exist then, but don't you think that it DOES have some lessons for us on the need for flexibility and reactive planning.
I will reiterate that the use of technology to assist the evacuation of a hypothermic casualty is great. But WHY they were out there getting hypothermic in those condition is, surely, the issue to be discussed?
> We do agree, but if course if you look further from the 'gaff' that was apparently made by the prince's comments, there was actually an increase in kids wanting to do DofE and they specifically said that it was because of the publicity of the risk of death quote.
But arguably an adult supervisor's job is to save kids from themselves, and provide as safe an environment as possible for them to learn the skills they need to be self reliant. They are learning on DofE not yet competent.
That is not to say that you have to make it appear safe to the kids, it is a bit like a fairground ride, you can still make it thrilling, and feel dangerous, but still be 'safe' at the same time.
Anyway my daughter has corrected me. They do not use trackers on Gold, because there is a high risk batteries run out- even with back ups -- over 4 days...its for silver/bronze. On gold they just have radio's/ mobiles as back up.
I couldn't agree more with your sentiment Eric. This sort of rubbish really annoys me. Completely unnecessary and erodes the capacity adventure.
As it goes a number of plans were changed due to the conditions showing the flexibility needed. Just as a comment though, one luxury of flexibilty not open to the army is postponement, if felt appropriate they will (and have) cancelled/stopped it if was felt necessary. Rearranging on another day wont happen and I am sure that if they felt cancellation was needed due to safety they absolutley would cancel without hesitation.
I would hope if you do find a few mins to read my other posts you might see that I do get the need for changing plans etc and have not time for reckless risk taking just because the plan says you should.
also love the idea that people think the introduction of a tracker means all the assesors give up supervising and meet in a pub and get drunk as now all the kids are safe.
As a matter of interest; has the Ten Tors ever been cancelled?
Yes, in 2007 after a torrential day's rain and very very high rivers which were pretty impassable. The only time it has been cancelled. All teams were evacuated by helo or via roadheads.
I'm pretty sure the Army say it was only cancelled once. In 1996 it did snow (I was there then too!) but some teams did finish and it was only later in the day it was called off for all remaining teams.
It never happened in 2002 because of foot and mouth too.
PS: it was snowing on the moor on tuesday this week.
It might be in the south but it isn't a softy!!
> Should have read 'exactly'.
> This year's Ten tors teams had trackers....
They were advised to carry Gps or tracker.
From Ten Tors Rules:-
"Actions in the Event of an Emergency
During training on moorland, Team Managers are advised that each team should carry at least one mobile phone incorporating a GPS or a standalone GPS, sealed in an opaque bag if required by the team manager or a Tracker emergency beacon. Team members should be made aware of the action to be taken should an emergency arise, including the circumstances in which it will be appropriate to use the Tracker emergency beacon facility."
Organisers are also obliged to have 2 million £ in insurance. That s he way f the world these days.
> They were advised to carry Gps or tracker.
> I'm pretty sure the Army say it was only cancelled once. In 1996 it did snow (I was there then too!) but some teams did finish and it was only later in the day it was called off for all remaining teams.
> It never happened in 2002 because of foot and mouth too.
That will be 2001.
> Ask the British Army, they sent 2400 of them out there on Ten Tors!
Sorry. Missed that post. So the army sends 2,400 kids out?
OK. I'm getting confused now....
This is an 'army event' involving civilians or not?
It is flexible or not? (i.e. if the weather is death on a stick does it go ahead anyway - the kids go out out no matter what, or not?)
The few occasions when it has been cancelled have been a reaction to dire conditions during the event rather than a reaction to forecast conditions?
> What you copied refers to training not the event. On the event they MUST carry trackers and the trackers were to be put outside on the pack so it could be seen that they were being carried.
Ok thanks for that clarification, so Ten Tors it is even more regulated than I thought.
I think I found the section you allude to:-
"Each Team carries a 'dongle', unique to them, which the Team leader offers to a reader at the Tor checkpoints. This reader sends an SMS message containing the Team's ID plus a timestamp directly back to the MIS system, which continues to monitor each Team's progress. Each Team also carries a GPS tracker, which sends a regular set of timed co-ordinates back to a separate monitoring system - should Event Control staff need to check at any time on a Team's location they have direct access to this information, making any required search of the Moor a somewhat more focused operation.
Finally, if a Team hits an emergency, their tracker device includes a panic button which will immediately send an alert to Control staff with the time and location information. "
I think that there is also technology that can triangulate approximate positions of normal phones, something that parents can afford to subscribe to.( But I am not sure what that is called- or even if the kids themselves are allowed phones?)
You have a good evening
Oh dear. You are both missing one of the main and, in my opinion, most important points of D of E expeditions and (perhaps more worryingly)you are kidding/deluding yourself that they can be made safe anyway (without scrapping them completely). The great beauty of a D of E expedition is that it is not completely safe. It is crucially not like fairground ride; there is a very real element of risk involved, the kids are (or should be) aware of this and, having been suitably trained, take some real responsibilty for managing this risk. Obviously the risk management is shared by supervisors and the extent to which it is shared is what this debate is about. But it is shared. Trackers might arguably be reasonable, routinely shadowing them with a whistle would completely miss the point and largely destroy the experience.
If D of E expeditions were invented today, in today's cotton wool health and safety culture, I don't think they would make it past an initial risk assessment (same goes for kids playing rugby probably). I suspect they are only allowed to go on because they have "always" been there and so can be quietly slipped under the net. They are a brilliant thing and we should be careful about shouting too loud about health and safety because there are people out there who, if they heard, would happily see them banned or at least have them watered down beyond recognition.
Yes, I worry whenever I have a group out that something might go badly wrong and, yes, there are more things I could do to mitigate the potential consequences (trackers, routine shadowing etc), but I don't because I trust the kids; I think the experience is worth the limited risk and the kids are lucky to be able to play their part in managing that risk themselves. If the risk element were effectively removed (and I wouldn't be surprised if it were within say ten years) I would want no further part in the whole thing.
Yes, the Prince's comments were controversial and probably ill advised and insensitive in the circumstances (see what I posted above about not shouting too lous about health and safety). But I do agree with the sentiment. Perhaps if he had replaced the word "death" with just "risk" (injury/death being therefore implied), he could heve put across the same message without courting controversy.
> Oh dear. You are both missing one of the main and, in my opinion, most important points of D of E expeditions and (perhaps more worryingly)you are kidding/deluding yourself that they can be made safe anyway (without scrapping them completely). The great beauty of a D of E expedition is that it is not completely safe.
My son is just starting out along the D of E path doing his bronze award. I agree with most of what you say, although I am a bit on the fence regarding the trackers. If you undertake and activity which has associated risks, at some point there will probably be an accident. However, provided reasonable steps have been taken to avoid/deal with accidents that shouldn't prevent the activity taking place. No one is compelled to go on a D of E expedition, if you choose to go you should accept the risk.
My children have all been climbing and backpacking with me from an early age. I would be happy with their ability to look after themselves. After all they have had plenty of practice getting lost with me!
The expedition is carrying camping equipment and food, so should be able to cope with unexpected bad weather, or a member of the party becoming exhausted. If they get completely lost and stray on dangerous ground they should be able to retrace their steps to somewhere safer, set up camp and wait for help. I think the thing I would be worried about is someone trying to cross a stream after a torrential downpour.
It's worrying that there are people who think like this. Mainly out of laziness I suppose. The H&S executive reconise that there are activities like this. The idea is to manage risk, not eliminate it. Otherwise there would be no outdoor activities, no one would drive anywhere etc...
> I think the thing I would be worried about is someone trying to cross a stream after a torrential downpour.
Absolutely. The last thing I always say to a departing group is that if they have any doubt whatsoever about a river crossing, then don't do it, and the few times I have secretly shadowed a group have been because of concerns about river crossings after heavy rain.
> It's worrying that there are people who think like this.
Think like Robert or think like the H+S enthusiasts he was mentioning?
Mainly out of laziness I suppose. The H&S executive reconise that there are activities like this. The idea is to manage risk, not eliminate it.
I very much doubt the DoE expedition would be created in anything like the same for as it currently exists if it was being started from scratch today, partly due to H+S considerations.
> Think like Robert or think like the H+S enthusiasts he was mentioning?
I am wondering that as well!
> I am wondering that as well!
I suspect the same might be true of staircases!
If people wish to rely on them thats their prerogative.
All that being said, I've owned one for several years and haven't yet used it.
Personally, having an "emergency button" is a bit far. I don't know what the harm is of having a GPS tracker on their person. Specifically in the Bronze groups where the kids are of the age of usually 13-16. If they are sitting around for too long then the assessor/supervisor can always get off their bums and have a quick look.
Those saying "It removes the ability to be self sufficient". I say no. It really doesn't. These are kids, they're not prodigious explorers. They're there to learn. If you truly want them to be self sufficient then why give them a kit list, have check points or even help them organise any of it at all? It wont effect what they are learning to have this tracker in their "emergency kit".
As for using GPS, I think they should be encouraged to carry and use one when on their Gold D of E. As many of us are aware, timely and correct use of a GPS can save lives of experienced mountaineers; never mind kids. I'm not for one minute suggesting that they should use them all of the Journey, but learning how and when to use a GPS is just as much of a skill as how and when to take bearings etc. It's a skill that should be learned as a compliment to, not a replacement of, map reading.
I'd also like to see some stats of death/serious injury before use and after using these devices. My bet is they won't change a darn thing as a properly assessed/supervised D of E expedition is so safe and so watered down that it makes an event most unlikely.
One thing this thread highlights is that the degree of supervision varies immensely from, as someone said, having a supervisor walking a hundred meteres behind the group ready to blow a whistle if they take a wrong turning, to what my groups do - walk all day through some of the wildest bits of Scotland with pathless sections on their own, very likely mostly out of mobile reception and with no GPS or tracker and with someone visiting their campsite in the evening and going out again next morning or possibly during the night to look for them if they havn't turned up. One experience is watered down, the other isn't. If your "properly assessed/supervised D of E expedition" is the watered down version then I want out of the whole virtually pontless business.
As far as I can see the only time a GPS might be useful is if you've screwed up and are already lost/don't know where you are and want it to tell you where you are so that you can get back to using map and compass. Hardly a skill on a par with competent use of map and compass. But I've never used one so maybe I'm missing something.
As many of us are aware, timely and correct use of a GPS can save lives of experienced mountaineers; never mind kids.
I though about this and couldn't think of an example of where an experienced mountaineer (i.e., has and knows how to use a map/compass) has been saved by his having a GPS. Can you provide references? I still can't help treating a GPS as a navigational 'convenience' (no, I don't mean that!) rather than as a 'need'.
> One thing this thread highlights is that the degree of supervision varies immensely from, as someone said, having a supervisor walking a hundred meteres behind the group ready to blow a whistle if they take a wrong turning, to what my groups do - walk all day through some of the wildest bits of Scotland with pathless sections on their own, very likely mostly out of mobile reception and with no GPS or tracker and with someone visiting their campsite in the evening and going out again next morning or possibly during the night to look for them if they havn't turned up. One experience is watered down, the other isn't. If your "properly assessed/supervised D of E expedition" is the watered down version then I want out of the whole virtually pontless business.
Couldn't agree more.
> Think like Robert or think like the H+S enthusiasts he was mentioning?
> Mainly out of laziness I suppose. The H&S executive reconise that there are activities like this. The idea is to manage risk, not eliminate it.
> I very much doubt the DoE expedition would be created in anything like the same for as it currently exists if it was being started from scratch today, partly due to H+S considerations.
Neither. Like the newspapers want you to think that H+S has some sort of strangle hold over the country.
I think it is condescending to our teenagers that we think they can't cope with this sort of activity and that there is death on every mountain and open moorland just waiting to steal them away.
The biggest and foremost Health and Safety precaution in all fields, activities, jobs, whatever is TRAINING. Equipment is secondary. if they don't have the skills and you're not confident they have those skills, they shouldn't be doing those activities.
As mentioned earlier, they should have already spent numerous days on the hills leading parties with an experienced person present to asses their ability before being let out on their own.
I always thought that Dof E was rather tame and reading through this thread, that impression is only reinforced !
I didn't do it myself, for that very reason. At 16 I was already leading multi-pitch rock-climbs and had done a number of solo back-packing trips, one of which, to Ardnamurchan will always remain engraved in my imagination as my first taste wilderness. I just din't fit into the usual scheme of things and my parents had no choice but to accept it !
I know there is more to D of E than the expeditions but I simply didn't need it. To be honest, I don't think I could have found the time !
As to the question of GPS - why not ! I don't think the youngsters concerned are ever really exposed to extreme conditions, so being able to pin-point their exact location could save a lot of fiddling around if the need arose.
The DoE isn't supposed to be an adventure for experienced climbers/hillwalkers/adventurers/mountaineers. It's there to give an opportunity for kids who wouldn't normally get to experience the outdoors, hiking, camping, etc for whatever reason. For many "deprived, inner city kids" (sweeping generalisation, but I'm allowing myself one today) the DoE won't be tame, it will be an adventure, and it may be the first step on the ladder to greater things in the outoodrs in the future.
Perhaps by the Gold expedition the use of GPS could be included. They will have already worked through and proven their skills with a map and compass during Bronze and Silver, so perhaps the introduction of GPS at this level might be an option.
In this respect, I was lucky ! I started hill-walking with my mum when I was 12 ( see photo in my gallery "How We Used To Walk).
Apologies for hi-jacking the OP's thread, but it would be interesting to hear from anyone involved in D of E who actually participates in the scheme. I find it difficult to believe that kids from deprived inner-city estates would be sufficiently motivated to embark on the scheme, let alone stay the course and achieve gold.
As far as I am aware almost everyone who participates does so via their school. It would be interesting to find out how many schools in deprived areas participate. I can feel a Freedom of Information request coming on:)
Unfortunately, the Supervisor is responsible for the safety of the participants. So, since technology is available to track a team's progress, a court may expect that such technology should be used to improve that safety, and may take a dim view if it hasn't been, and somethign goes wrong.
Over the last week or so, I've been carefully reading the latest Expedition Guide (Issue 13), and I'd recommend anyone volunteering with the DofE do that same (shame it's not available as a download for registered volunteers...). And, all in all, I've found it to be pretty good. It has fairly comprehensive sections on the use, misuse and pros & cons of GPS, GPS trackers, mobile phones and personal electronic devices, and I think most of the advice is a sensible compromise between encouraging self-reliance and ensuring safety.
It also points out that a GPS tracker allows more efficient use of supervisor/helper time, since the position of the teams can be monitored, and thus there's less waiting about.
My only minor disagreement is the statement that GPS/GPRS trackers shouldn't be used, which leaves things like SPOT trackers. SPOT satellites can be out of view, just as mobile phone coverage is incomplete.
The guide also stresses that trackers and mobile phones should not be used as a substitute for proper supervision (with real, physical meetings). So the earlier comments about teams not being met would be violating the DofE's conditions.
The guide also suggests that teams that have gone wrong should be left to sort themselves out; supervisors should not interfere (within reason...). But the ability to know where a team is can prevent mistakes turning into tragedies.
Just like any other aspect of DofE, it's a matter of training and developing trust in the participants; they need to be encouraged to remain self-reliant, and not keep calling for help, or pressing the emergency button on their tracker at the slightest incident, but to use it as a tool to assist in genuine emergencies. Which needs training to help them know just what a real emergency is, and be confident to deal with the non-emergencies themselves. So, for the asthma call mentioned earlier, the team should have been told about the asthma of one of their team, and how it affected them, and how to treat it, and the conditions in which made an asthma attack an emergency (which it can be).
They haven't necessarily done bronze/silver first, have they? It's a good 10 years since I had much to do with it, but an increasing number of organisations seemed to be getting groups leap straight in at Gold to get a qualification to stick on CV. Mind you, I quite like a GPS with mapping as my primary navigation tool - but it's only really great if you're slick with map interpretation, it's not as though it does away with the need to be able to read a map.
Personally, I don't think a well prepared group with a competent and fit supervisor necessarily needs a tracker (but neither do I think it'd detract greatly from the experience). But having come across plenty of poorly prepared groups with supervisors who have no clue what kind of terrain they're sending the kids into, I can see its merits. Although clearly better to solve the underlying issue....
According to 2012 D of E Annual Review, of 10 thousand-odd D of E centres, only 37% are secondary schools (state, private or PRU's). Biggest proportion of centres (46%) are "voluntary & community organisations" (presumably Scouts, Guides, Air Cadets, etc).
Getting back on topic, my view is that, when assessing, GPS trackers make it a lot easier for me to locate multiple D of E groups. I don't even inform the youngsters of the SOS functionality. As captain paranoia says, the D of E Expedition Guide gives good, well-balanced advice on the topic.
> Unfortunately, the Supervisor is responsible for the safety of the participants. So,since technology is available to track a team's progress, a court may expect that such technology should be used to improve that safety, and may take a dim view if it hasn't been, and something goes wrong.
But there's nothing special about technology to increase safety. A court might equally take a dim view if a group hasn't been shadowed - this is an option also available which I choose not to take except in exceptional circumstances. I'm actually amazed that D of E expeditions in their present form are allowed to go on at all!
I wonder if any of this has actually been tested in court. If a group were banned from carrying mobile phones would a court find that unacceptable? How easily available or ubiquitous does a safety measure have to be before a court would find its non-use unacceptable? Might there come a day when satellite phones become expected?
> According to 2012 D of E Annual Review, of 10 thousand-odd D of E centres, only 37% are secondary schools (state, private or PRU's). Biggest proportion of centres (46%) are "voluntary & community organisations" (presumably Scouts, Guides, Air Cadets, etc).
Thanks for that. It's encouraging that it's not a primarily school thing.
In a white out on top of The Ben in Winter. You're pretty sure you're at point A, but really you're about 10-15 meters away. This 10-15 meters is enough to kill people. It takes skill and experience to know when is the right time to get out the GPS and just double check.
Scottish MR Teams get called out on a VERY regular basis for people that have come down from the top, knackered and gone just that little bit too far down 5 finger. A lot of these people die. Some of these guys have just climbed grade 4/5 winter routes and have been doing so for a number of years, in my opinion fairly experienced mountaineers, and died all because they didn't have a 2 minute check of a GPS.
Thats just one.
Cuillin Ridge, rocks contain ferrous material so compasses aren't 100% accurate. You wouldn't know that without experience. GPS can help you here.
Just because your personal opinion is along the lines of "wimps" use it; does not mean that others share the same view as yourself. Some of the best and most experienced mountaineers I've ever met take them on the hill with them "Just in case".
It's a complete non-issue. If you can't see past your own opinion and nose then that's fine. But most people on here (the silent majority) and on the hills would take one, given the choice.
With regard to the supervision part; you're trying to be far too black and white. The first thing I'd like to get off my chest is that I don't believe you that this is what you do with 13 year old kids on a Bronze D of E.
Secondly, what I meant by "watered down" was that the young people are very rarely put into a situation where injury or worse is a possibility. The most danger I was ever put into was electric fences, barbed wire and slippery styles.
This is what the HSE say: http://www.hse.gov.uk/aala/guidance/513-supervision-doe-award.htm
I agree with what they have said. It's not just giving someone a Map and Compass and telling them to just go and get on with it, you have to be present. Not following them 100 yards behind, but within a few miles of the agreed path.
> As far as I can see the only time a GPS might be useful is if you've screwed up and are already lost/don't know where you are and want it to tell you where you are so that you can get back to using map and compass. Hardly a skill on a par with competent use of map and compass. But I've never used one so maybe I'm missing something.
I'm not sure I agree., but it s up to you.
I always put a route on my GPS when I am out in winter, just in case.
if I get caught in a whiteout, I have another option. I can navigate normally ( for that situation) but in difficult terrain that can be risky if you go even a little off track, I can use my shelter, but I can get cold, and I am not moving anywhere, and I usually want to get down quickly in those occasions, or I can use the route on the GPS, and it lets me keep moving safely, and at a reasonable pace.
I bought my first GPS through an MRT friend. If it was good enough for them, then why not me?
And of course if you do have an accident, and you can phone for help, it will save the MRT guys time, and is less risky for them too,to know exactly where you are, (not where you think you might be- I guess even you are falable )
> In a white out on top of The Ben in Winter. You're pretty sure you're at point A, but really you're about 10-15 meters away. This 10-15 meters is enough to kill people. It takes skill and experience to know when is the right time to get out the GPS and just double check.
> Scottish MR Teams get called out on a VERY regular basis for people that have come down from the top, knackered and gone just that little bit too far down 5 finger. A lot of these people die. Some of these guys have just climbed grade 4/5 winter routes and have been doing so for a number of years, in my opinion fairly experienced mountaineers, and died all because they didn't have a 2 minute check of a GPS.
At he risk of being seen as a pedant; those people who get sucked into 5 Finger Gully do NOT do that because they have not spent 2 minutes checking their GPS. And the grade of the route they have climbed is irrelevant.
It happens because they do not not know where they are and don't know in which direction to travel. GPS might have helped but its lack is not a causal factor.
And 10-15 meters is actually bugger all. Unless you're walking over a cornice....
> It happens because they do not not know where they are and don't know in which direction to travel. GPS might have helped but its lack is not a causal factor.
> And 10-15 meters is actually bugger all. Unless you're walking over a cornice....
.....in which case you would be giving it a wide berth to allow for error anyway. Thanks for sparing me the trouble of responding to that bit of his absurd rant anyway.
The most danger I was ever put into was electric fences, barbed wire and slippery styles.
Isn't that 'extreme rendition' as practised by the CIA and outlawed by the Geneva Convention rather than what the Duke of Edinburgh suggests as good practice.
Oh. Mind you......
There are many reasons why people have gone down five finger. Not turning early enough and carrying on with what starts off as an ok decent are chief among which. People get tired, miscount pacings, get blown off course. All sorts of reasons. Including the ones you mentioned.
Grade of climb is relevant. Especially when you factor in what else I said in that sentence, which you conveniently left out, the part about has been doing so for numerous years. You very rarely get a winter first timer smashing a grade 5 in crap weather.
I do know that. Nothing wrong with knowledge and experience.
I did not say they were "wimps". It is their personal choice. My personal choice on aesthetic/ideological grounds is not to carry a GPS.
> It's a complete non-issue.
> If you can't see past your own opinion and nose then that's fine.
And you accuse me of not seeing past my own opinion! Hilarious! And it's not even an opinion, just personal choice.
Maybe. Maybe not. Not sure what your point is.
And I didn't say I did. I was referrring to Silver and Gold groups.
> Secondly, what I meant by "watered down" was that the young people are very rarely put into a situation where injury or worse is a possibility.
If you don't think that injury or death is a possibility (however small)in the hills then you are dangerously naive. The first step towards avoiding accidents is to be aware of the risks.
And, back on topic, I would never send a D of E group somewhere where, by your examples, GPS would be an appropriate or necessary means of navigation.
No I'm not. I just object to your ill informed and personal rant(and it is one) in which you take the liberty of ascribing opinions to me which I have not stated or hold.
Ah, so now you get it. Or are you just confused?
> I agree with what they have said. It's not just giving someone a Map and Compass and telling them to just go and get on with it, you have to be present. Not following them 100 yards behind, but within a few miles of the agreed path.
Nowhere does it say they have to be followed at any distance.
I thought my wee story might interest you, though, as an example of when the pen-pusher gets hold of our world.
A Local Authority beaurocrat phoned a DofE leader the day before he was to use a virtually sea-level route around a prepared path beside a reservoir to cancel the Leader's accompanied training for a group as 'fog was forecast'. The purpose of the training.....yes, you guessed it: 'navigation'! The sort of technology discussed here is just the sort of 'extra' demands the eejit I refer to would demand.
> I thought my wee story might interest you, though, as an example of when the pen-pusher gets hold of our world.
> A Local Authority beaurocrat phoned a DofE leader the day before he was to use a virtually sea-level route around a prepared path beside a reservoir to cancel the Leader's accompanied training for a group as 'fog was forecast'. The purpose of the training.....yes, you guessed it: 'navigation'! The sort of technology discussed here is just the sort of 'extra' demands the eejit I refer to would demand.
It's not limited to office people. I was supporting a competition hike in the Chilterns for 11-15 year old scouts. They chose their own 20mile route based on checkpoints. No outside assistance is allowed. At one checkpoint another leader (not part of the organising team, hence giving outside assistance) was directing all the teams along a road round the woods as 'they might get lost taking the direct path through the woods'. I told my team to ignore her, they were capable, but not only that, had used the footpath during training.
Some people manage to get into positions of authority with no experience of the very things they are responsible for.
This is the best and most informed comment I have read on this topic so far.
Thank you for agreeing with me that it is a personal choice. If you want to take that decision based on "aesthetic/ideological" grounds that's fine. But personally, I'd swallow my pride and I really couldn't care less what other people think about me; I'd much rather stay alive.
Again, thanks for agreeing with me. As for the hilarity you have found, I'm glad you've lightened up a little bit. Now stop trying to poo poo everyones opinion that doesn't agree with your own. I'm not the first. Whereas I give my opinion and state the reasons why, you seem intent on attacking others, not conceding any areas where others could be right. Well, until I suggested it was a personal choice anyway.
My point was that you're defending something so fervently yet you're in a minority. Surely it'd be a better position to simply give your opinion and leave it as that, as most others have done. There is no competition, you're not trying to win a vote at the end of it. It's not a crime that others disagree with your opinion, so just leave them to have one.
Equally, you didn't say that you were referring to Silver and Gold groups. Only Gold groups must complete their expedition in "wild" country.
Let me quote my original message, again, you appear to have missed out one very key word. "young people are very rarely put into a situation where injury or worse is a possibility". The key word is very rarely. I'm pretty comfortable with my knowledge on risk and danger in the hills thank you.
Again, it's really not. I offered my opinion on the OP post. You responded to it, attacking it in a point by point post. Taking my opinion as a personal attack on your own is your problem and one you need address. My opinion stands.
As for the ill informed, you have no or very little idea of my knowledge and experience on the subject, to call me ill informed is again, a personal rant on your behalf. I've not once said anything about you or your experience.
I'm confused as to why you're arguing yes. Like I've said since the start, it's a personal opinion, we're all entitled to have one. Just because mine doesn't marry up with yours does not make it any less of an opinion.
Health and Safety is one that is down to interpretation, as anyone that has ever had to assess any risk will agree, what I regard as a risk is completely different to what you do. Equally when I read HSE documentation, what I interpret from this may be different to what you do. I'll try my best to explain where I'm coming from.
The following is taken directly from the HSE "Supervision" Section on the D of E:
Be familiar with the aim of the Expeditions Section and with the conditions and requirements which the participants have to fulfil;
Be sufficiently experienced, competent in the mode of travel and the skills of navigation to be able to provide safe and effective supervision;
Ensure that the parents/carers/guardians have been informed of the unaccompanied and self-reliant nature of Award expeditions and the level of supervision taking place;
Be present in the area of the expedition for those in normal, rural or open country;
Be based in the area of expeditions which take place in Wild Country or on water;
Not be involved in other activities or work, or have responsibilities which would prevent them from rendering urgent and effective assistance to the participants during the expedition.”
The last three bullet points are the most relevant to this discussion.
By being in the area I interpret that as; Within 5-10 miles of where the participants are walking.
The second to last point I interpret as; When in wild country or on water, greater supervision is required.
As for the last one I think this reinforces the other points I have made. You must be able to provide "urgent and effective assistance", as in you must be close enough to provide the assistance should it be required. I'm not for one moment suggesting following them around 100 meters behind them, but I am suggesting being able to see them every so often.
Again, this is my opinion and interpretation, if you disagree then that's fine. But DON'T try to tell me I'm wrong.
> Again, it's really not. I offered my opinion on the OP post. You responded to it, attacking it in a point by point post. Taking my opinion as a personal attack on your own is your problem and one you need address. My opinion stands.
For Goodness sake. Nobody made a personal attack on anyone in this thread until for some bizarre reason you started taking my stated personal choices and opinions on GPS as a personal attack on you and making up fiction about what I had posted. If you can't take part in an excellent discussion without descending to this puerile level you would be better off staying out of it.
And yes, it has been an excellent discussion. I am still of the opinion that GPS is out of place in a D of E context but, though I don't think I shall be adopting them anytime soon, it has been interesting to hear peoples' arguments in favour of trackers and I see why they arguably might have a valid role in D of E (allowing other forms of suoervision to have a "lighter touch"). My gut feeling is still against though!
In my experience 'good quality' outdoor adventures need to:
1. Take people to places, emotional and physical, that they have not been to before
2. Encourage them to make decisions and deal wtih te consequences of these decisions
3. Put them in a position of feeling in danger without being in danger (a principle of O Ed promoted by Colin Mortlock over 25 years ago)
4. Give people the skills and confidence to continue with friends for pleasure, possibly 'life changing' or at least life style changing
5. Engage with the environment they are within
Does a GPS stop this? No.
Does a tracker stop this? No.
Having an 'epic' may well put people off for life - this isn't really anyone's aim is it?
Some people love map and compass work, some don't. In the alps the waymarking is so good it allows people to take part in trekking without complex maths all day long. So more people take part, so more people are healthy. Simples!
> 1. Take people to places, emotional and physical, that they have not been to before
Disagree. Not at all necesarily (obviously) with personal adventures and even (in my opinion) with regards to "managed adventures" such as D of E.
Can't argue with that
Absolutely, and this relates to my personal aesthetic/ideological objection to using GPS. The earth's magnetic field is part of the natural environment, a network of satellites is not.
> Does a GPS stop this? No.
> Does a tracker stop this? No.
No, but they could debatably compromise it (this is what this thread has been about. Is is debatable - otherwise we wouldn't have been debating it!)
There is a fine line between completely eliminating the possibility of an epic and inadvertently eliminating the opportunity for adventure.
So would you advocate the waymarking of all routes up all mountains in the UK and (why not stop there?) the bolting up of all rock climbs just so that more people can take part without acquiring the previously required skill level? I think your idea of "complex maths" might be a bit different from mine.
> In the alps the waymarking is so good it allows people to take part in trekking without complex maths all day long.
Anyway, I can't see why anyone would need a compass (let alone even simple maths) to follow unwaymarked paths. Just very basic map reading skills such as those needed for 99% of the time on most D of E expeditions.
Oh, dear, why do people always have to take an idea and run it to a completely extreme conclusion?
Waymarking is something we ought to explore in a mature, intelligent way with some evidence based conclusions. Old beardies and map maestros rule the UK when it comes to looking at ways to help people enjoy the National Parks etc that they pay to maintain through taxation. It works in many countries but we have never explored the idea in any way I'm aware of.
Following pretty unobtrusive dashes on rocks etc ought to be an optino n some routes, if this then encourages these people to walk more is that a bad thing? The French, Swiss, Austrian, Italian, Spanish, German, Slovenians don't seem to think so.
Why not try it on a few popular routes, monitor uptake, question these people to learn about their experience and wishes and, maybe, improve a good few people's lives?
By the way, read Mortlock's books if you'd like to learn more about risk and danger and how they interact with developing young people's confidence and motivation, well worth the read. It would explain the 'danger' vs 'adventure' aspect of learning outdoors.
PS: I'm pretty good at Nav Maths too, I often end up doing it in very poor vis, at 3am on a featureless Dartmoor to find missing groups.
Doesn't mean everyone should need to do it to go for a walk though.
The compas was invented once too, and I have a feeling that, had you been around then , you would have been advising against it's use to those thinking of using such a new dangled device rather than being self reliant on using the stars etc.
If you are happy to use a compass , you have to accept that a compass is a technology too, and people can rely on it, and it too can go wrong.
> Oh, dear, why do people always have to take an idea and run it to a completely extreme conclusion?
Partly to provoke a response- sorry!
In principle that might be a reasonable thing to do - though not in my back yard please! Actually there now seem to be quite a lot of waymarked paths around, though mostly at relatively low levels in forests rater than on the open hills. Maybe this is the best place for them. A bit like waymarks in Switzerland tend to be up to "hut level" (above that they just use bolts!)
I might do so. So is "adventure" possible without at least some degree of danger? Even if, as on a D of E expedition, that might just be the danger of carelessly tripping on a path or not stopping early to put on layers of clothing when the weather changes or setting fire to a tent with a cooker: all of these could potentially put a group in serious danger which could rapidly escalate if the situation is not dealt with sensibly (unless a supervisor is 100m away with a whistle....). To me the best thing about D of E expeditions is that the suchlike are real risks. They could happen. Groups should be aware of this and therefore do their best to avoid them and, if they do happen, deal with them. In my experience one reason kids generally respond so positively to the D of E experience and get so much out of it is because the risks are real, they know it and they treat them as such.
He expands upon it in depth but in a nutshell:
For maximum benefit participants ought to feel a degree of danger, enough to put them on edge for a time. But not enough for them to withdraw into a 'survival mode' whereby learning ceases to happen and is replaced with 'just get me out if this'.
I guess a simple analogy would be at the top of a first rock climb, half way up - participant feels very much in danger for a bit but quickly realises he/she can do this and grows in confidence as a result. Next time they are willing to give something bigger/harder a go.Result - personal growth.
Whereas - first climb - very cold, long multipitch route, leader is struggling. Participant feels constantly in danger and comes away thinking, 'that was awful, I never want to do that again. I will not risk my life lke this. I will stay at home!'
Similar with walks/treks - 'survival' is not really part of the challenge - it ought to be enhancing and challenging people to go beyond their norms, not to their limit! They can stretch to the limits later in life with more skills and experience.
It is about perception of risk - participants ought to feel 'at risk' but not be really at risk. This is when maximum benefit takes palce.
That's it in a nutshell (I haven't read it for a long time though!)
> I'm struggling to imagine what other means of remote supervision might be contained in a risk assessment!
That just about sums up what I hope the 70+ kids I am putting through Silver training and assessment D of E expeditions next month will get out of it. Though inevitably some will be nearer the edge of their comfort zone than others.
This is the bit I take issue with. There are risks which ought not and anyway cannot be eliminated unless the expedition is effectively accompanied (the shadowing with a whistle situation). I think think it is worryingly naive to think they can be eliminated. An analogy might be when a parent first lets a child walk to school on their own. There are dangers but the child should have been made aware of them and accordingly act sensibly. They are no longer having their hand held and the parent will be a bit worried at first, but there is a safety net built in if they fail to arrive at school or back home.
> The compass was invented once too, and I have a feeling that, had you been around then, you would have been advising against it's use to those thinking of using such a new dangled device rather than being self reliant on using the stars etc.
No, I don't think so. As I have already pointed out I consider GPS as crossing a red line away from self reliance which makes it fundamentally different from using the natural phenomena of the stars or the earth's magnetic field.
I was a bit rushed on Friday. Here's a slightly longer reply...
Poor training. The team should have been instructed in the effects and treatment of asthma, and how to recognise a genuine emergency.
Indeed; both are to be treated as unreliable emergency equipment, and procedures should allow for their not working. A mobile phone used to call up help from a group able to locate themselves is little different to a group using a GPS/GPRS tracker to call for help. The only difference is that the position may be more reliable.
To find yourself again? There's no real difference to knowing that, if you got lost, someone would come looking for you. Nothing has changed, except that the searchers might know where you are.
That's not due to the teams having SPOT, but to poor supervision. Remote supervision still requires supervisors to meet the team. The Guide stresses that you cannot determine the morale or physical state of a team by mobile phone or SPOT reports.
A tracker has no screen to look at. The Guide points out strongly that personal electronic devices, and being engrossed in a screen is contrary to the ethos of DofE.
>The possibility of getting lost (in the sense that the supervisor does not know where you are) is essential to the experience of self reliance and responsibility.
With a GPS tracker, that is still entirely possible; there is no guarantee that you can a) get a fix or b) be able to communicate that position, and that concept must be stressed to EVERYONE involved. The sense of unknown is still present.
I suspect you might change your mind if they had to use it in an emergency. But I agree that the tracker should not be seen as a gadget to be played with.
Bronze and Silver shouldn't held in 'wild country'; only Gold is. Also, even for Gold, it is 'through wild country, not over it; solitude, not altitude'. Height gain should be less than 500m per day.
Most trackers will SMS the location to one or more numbers. These numbers could be control base and supervisors, and need not be 999. So you can do your filtering, if necessary; you ring the team's phone and find out what's wrong and tell them they're not going to die.
Then I'd suggest you might benefit from a little revision of what 'remote supervision' means...
The Guide says clearly that routes should not follow National Trails except to use short sections to link other, quieter paths. Failure of route checking by supervisor and assessor. Unless it was a practice walk...
That's because the Guide doesn't mandate the use of either GPS receivers or GPS trackers; in fact, it tries to discourage their use on a number of grounds.
That 'some day' is already here; GPS use is practically ubiquitous, and people already rely on it. If there's a problem, people WILL ask "why weren't you using GPS tracking?". That's real life, and you'd better get used to it.
The Guide is quite clear that, as a Supervisor, you should not be sitting on your arse, but out in the field, supervising. You may choose to use an exercise controller at a base, relaying information.
Exactly. Our groups accused us of using the trackers to spy on them. We explained that, actually, we'd just been following their chatting, laughing and singing, and hadn't used the trackers at all. To contribute my anecdotal evidence, none of our groups used or abused their trackers. Some weren't even turned on...
And here we have more anecdotal evidence supporting the use of trackers.
This is exactly as mandated in the Guide.
Participants must be 14, even for practice expeditions.
I phrased that badly, rushing to post before being thrown out of work. We cannot ensure safety; we can only manage risk. GPS trackers and mobile phones are one of many measures we can employ to manage risk.
I think it highlights that knowledge of, and adherence to, DofE guidance is worringly variable...
I was not intending to imply that it was solely down to SPOT, just that some supervisor see SPOT and other trackers as an alternative to being able to see and interact with the groups, and as you say, these people may well benefit from updating their training. In my opinion (and I believe many others) there is no alternative to being able to interact with groups, or being able to see their route.
I think that's a bit unfair. An asthma attack can be scary, can recur, can be vary serious indeed. If anything, better that kids over react.
Excuse my ignorance (having never used this stuff), but I assumed GPS would always work. And is GPRS different in that it uses mobile rather than satellite technology and is therefore no more reliable (ie pretty unreliable) in the hills than a mobile phone?
I have and I now know that it need not necessarily mean "remote" in the generally excepted use of the word. Of coure being ignorant of a definition does not mean ignorance of the concept!
My brief check seemed to suggest it does. Or maybe that's GPRS.
Indeed. It's almost certainly already the case with mobiles. As technology becomes more ubiquitous it will almost certainly become expected. For this reason I suspect I'm not alone in, in some ways, wishing. the technology didn't exist!
> Participants must be 14, even for practice expeditions.
"You can do a Bronze DofE programme once you’re 14 (or nearly 14, which sometimes happens when you and your friends decide to start your adventure together. However, your Leader must get permission from their Licensed Organisation first - see p27 of The Handbook for DofE Leaders.)"
It appears you don't HAVE to be 14. I know a vast number of young people that have completed their Bronze expedition at 13 under the above ruling. But I agree the normal is 14.
Apart from this I agree with everything you've said.
As for GPS not using any form of natural science. What about gravity? We've harnessed the gravitational pull of earth to put these satellites up in space, the difference between a compass and GPS is that our grasp of science and technology has grown exponentially. It's still interaction with these "phenomenon", it's just in a more technologically advanced way. When the compass was invented there will have been neigh sayers saying exactly the same thing as you, but the world has moved on. Just as explorers learned how to harness the stars, then moved on to harness the compass, I'd say easily a good 90% of modern day explorers will have some for of GPS with them.
> I think that's a bit unfair. An asthma attack can be scary, can recur, can be vary serious indeed. If anything, better that kids over react.
Agree. But then if it's that scary and serious surely you'd much rather be able to attend the incident with a degree of accuracy on where you're headed over some panicked garble - and we both know it will be - telling you that they're in a wood somewhere near "xxyy" (insert 4 figure grid ref).
> Excuse my ignorance (having never used this stuff), but I assumed GPS would always work. And is GPRS different in that it uses mobile rather than satellite technology and is therefore no more reliable (ie pretty unreliable) in the hills than a mobile phone?
You're correct in what you're saying. GPRS is a cellular data network, GPS is using satellites. GPRS will be effected by signal loss/black spots, whereas GPS, so long as you have line of sight to the sky, will be reliable. GPS requires 3 satellites to work out where you are as it uses the same idea as a resection. The GPRS part is there to transmit data of your location. Without having the GPRS connection you may as well be carrying a stone, because with a tracker it gives the holder no information. GPS units on the other hand receive this information from the satellites and transpose it into useful information on screen.
> My brief check seemed to suggest it does. Or maybe that's GPRS.
You are correct. GPS is actually allowed now a days so long as you follow the guidelines and recommendations set out in the D of E expedition guide. This is an excerpt from it:
"Use of GPS by DofE Participants
Although GPS does not conflict with the self-reliant nature of expeditions to the same extent as the
misuse of mobiles phones, where GPS is carried by the participants, the DofE insists that the
following procedures should be followed:
There must be no reduction in the syllabus or quality of the navigational training of the team. The
Gold level syllabus must be completed in full and the participants must be able to navigate as
effectively as a team not using GPS.
Extra tuition must be provided so that some, if not all, the potential of GPS can be used effectively.
This extra tuition will include:
• Extended coverage of the national grid system, use of ten/eight figure grid references and the map indexing of 1:50 000 and 1:25 000 maps. For example, it is necessary to key in the sheet index letters before a six-figure reference.
• The ability to plot positions, bearings and routes provided by GPS on the relevant maps, and the ability to choose the most suitable routes, alternative routes and escape routes which pose the least hazard.
• Practice in using the instrument’s ability to store a series of way points so as to reduce the amount of map work in extreme weather conditions.
• For those involved in expeditions abroad, the ability to establish their location using latitude and longitude, plot positions, bearings and routes on foreign maps of the appropriate scale and to communicate such information to supervisors and assessors.
• An understanding of the terminology of GPS and the ability to utilise quickly and accurately all the information and data which the instrument is capable of supplying.
• Carrying an ample supply of spare batteries and conserving battery life by judicious use of the instrument.
• Taking care to ensure that the use of GPS does not give rise to a false sense of security. The team must not be dependent on this technology, but must be skilled in the traditional methods of map and compass for sophisticated systems are rarely, if ever, a substitute for ‘know-how’ and practical experience.
• Assessors and supervisors ensuring that teams carrying GPS are thoroughly
checked on the navigational syllabus as set out in the Common Training Syllabus. either at the local pre-expedition check or at the initial meeting, immediately prior to departure on their expedition."
> Indeed. It's almost certainly already the case with mobiles. As technology becomes more ubiquitous it will almost certainly become expected. For this reason I suspect I'm not alone in, in some ways, wishing. the technology didn't exist!
You're most certainly not alone. However there are a lot more people glad of it's existence and some are fortunate to be alive as a direct result of it. Don't forget that the map and compass is technology, albeit one from an older generation.
Maps these days are drawn using VERY sophisticated technologies, GPS being one of the oldest. I take it all of the maps you are using are from the early 80s? Haha.
I assume this was aimed at me.
My point is not that GPS harnesses natural phenomena (obviously it does), but that map and compass harnesses no man made technology other than that which I can carry on my person and is in that sense compatible with my ethic of self-reliance in a way that GPS is not.
> Agree. But then if it's that scary and serious surely you'd much rather be able to attend the incident with a degree of accuracy on where you're headed over some panicked garble.
As I have already conceded, I can see the arguments in favour of trackers.
No! See my last post.
> I assume this was aimed at me.
> My point is not that GPS harnesses natural phenomena (obviously it does), but that map and compass harnesses no man made technology other than that which I can carry on my person and is in that sense compatible with my ethic of self-reliance in a way that GPS is not.
I thought there where others saying the same thing so it was aimed as a response to everyone.
Either way, I can see your point I guess. I just don't see any reason to not carry a GPS as a back-up other than "other people may see me use it, then question my abilities as a mountaineer". Like I said earlier, I couldn't give a stuff what other people think - I'd rather be alive.
It costs more. It's generally faffy. It is somehow more instrusive than a map. I have no real use for it. Mostly subjective but I don't think self-image comes in to it much, certainly not for me - I am happy to use a altimeter for example in the alps.
Like I said earlier, I couldn't give a stuff what other people think - I'd rather be alive.
I am sure you could find odd examples but I think the occasions when a GPS is truly life-saving in the UK must be essentially non-existent.
> It costs more. It's generally faffy. It is somehow more instrusive than a map. I have no real use for it. Mostly subjective but I don't think self-image comes in to it much, certainly not for me - I am happy to use a altimeter for example in the alps.
Are you not happy to use an Altimeter in the UK? How is it faffy? You turn it on and it pops up with either a map or a Grid Reference, providing you've played with the device suitably before you go out it takes literally seconds and is easily less "faffy" than a map and compass in bad weather. Don't really understand the point about it being intrusive, however I do get that it is nice to get the hell away from any form of screened device for a weekend.
> I am sure you could find odd examples but I think the occasions when a GPS is truly life-saving in the UK must be essentially non-existent.
You'd be surprised. How many people each year walk off the edge of The Ben, Fall through Cornices, Get stuck down five finger; and that's just one mountain. GPS without doubt can help with this.
> Are you not happy to use an Altimeter in the UK?
Yes but find I don't generally need one.
How is it faffy? You turn it on and it pops up with either a map or a Grid Reference, providing you've played with the device suitably before you go out it takes literally seconds and is easily less "faffy" than a map and compass in bad weather.
Well I admit I have only ever tried the one on my phone, which was a pain. Doubtless dedicated ones are better but assuming I will still have a map and compass (which are themselves a bit of a pain), I think another "thing" however well-designed would add to the faff.
Don't really understand the point about it being intrusive, however I do get that it is nice to get the hell away from any form of screened device for a weekend.
> You'd be surprised. How many people each year walk off the edge of The Ben, Fall through Cornices, Get stuck down five finger; and that's just one mountain. GPS without doubt can help with this.
I doubt GPS would help with cornices and very few in FFG die. As I say, I am sure you could find the odd case, but very rare.
Go on then, how many? And how many of them thought they knew where they were anyway so wouldn't have bothered looking at a gps? In fact, how many had a gps in their rucksack and still came to grief?
> I just don't see any reason to not carry a GPS as a back-up other than "other people may see me use it, then question my abilities as a mountaineer".
No. It's an entirely personal thing.
Having said that, I bet that the general ability to read a map (as in the being able to look at a map and immediately have a mental 3-d image of the landscape) will decline with the increasing reliance on GPS. And I love maps - GPS just seems so crude!
I do have an altimeter watch which I wear on the hills - like a compass it only harnesses a natural phenomenon (atmospheric pressure), the technology side of it being on my person, so I put it in the same aesthetic bracket as a compass as far as self reliance is concerned.
I would have no personal ethical objection to it and so might consider its use. However I can't really see any use for it in the UK or other countries with good mapping. Greenland? Maybe! Hard to see how it wouldn't remain hypothetical though.
:-D Hahaha. You know what I mean.
As for numbers I have none to hand. Although I've been told stories where it has been around 5 call outs per year around there and that was from one of the teams that get called out less.
But you are quite right in what you are saying, a number could already have GPS and just be too lazy to get them out. Which is where what I was saying earlier about having the experience and skill of knowing when to get them out to double check comes into play.
> However I can't really see any use for it in the UK or other countries with good mapping.
Can I read a map quite competently, look at a map and see the 3d landscape, use a compass correctly, etc - yes. Can I sometimes be a bit of a nerd who, like you Robert, enjoys looking at maps - yes. Have I been stuck on the side of a featureless mountain in a total whiteout with visibility at a couple of metres, spending 20 mins looking for the hut that I knew was there, probably less than a few 100m from the hut the whole time, in the freezing cold, wishing I had a GPS in my pocket - yes. Have I been at the top of said mountain in similar conditions, totally unable to locate the safe route down and very grateful for the GPS in my bag saving me a cold, unpleasant bivy - yes. Would I go into the backcountry without a map and compass - no way. I take the map and compass, and the GPS and use one, the other, or both, depending on the situation. I don't understand those that have such an ardent refusal to make use of them, but each to their own.
As for the OP regarding the trackers for DofE, I think those that have used them with students have found that all of the fears expressed were unfounded. Times change, technology moves forward, whether we like it or not.
> I doubt GPS would help with cornices and very few in FFG die. As I say, I am sure you could find the odd case, but very rare.
Back in the 80's when I did Glovers Chimney we arrived at the top of Tower Ridge in the dark in a storm. I had written down the bearing to the summit and number of paces in my guidebook. We were unable to locate the summit, or find the top of Tower Ridge again by walking back using a back bearing.. We did manage to get down eventually, but a GPS to give us an exact grid ref would have been very useful! Someone I knew had been killed by an avalanche the previous week by straying into 5 Finger in similar conditions.
It's not D of E, but a clear case where having a GPS would have made the situation a whole lot safer.
> I take the map and compass, and the GPS and use one, the other, or both, depending on the situation. I don't understand those that have such an ardent refusal to make use of them, but each to their own.
Indeed (each to their own that is)
> As for the OP regarding the trackers for DofE...... Times change, technology moves forward, whether we like it or not.
Rushed again last night, and missed this.
That's a good point, and one that has bothered me; the supervisor is responsible for participants' safety, but at the same time, not supposed to be in close supervision. There's certainly some conflict between those statements...
I wasn't trying to belittle the threat of asthma; it's quite high on my risk assessment. I was trying to counter the argument that having a GPS will mean lots of frivolous uses for 'asthma' (i.e. a bit puffed out). I was trying to point out how a team with a genuine asthma sufferer should be trained to respond properly.
Whilst there are potential problems with satellite visibility (canyon, tree cover, etc), you will usually get a position fix, but it's not guaranteed.
Yes; that's the main problem. GPRS = mobile phone, and mobile coverage still has patches of non-availability, especially in rural areas. So, whilst the GPS tracker might be able to get a fix, it may not be able to communicate that position. And if the tracker cannot communicate, a mobile phone is unlikely to be much use either.
GPS trackers that use satellite comms are also vulnerable, since the satellites may not be visible; geostationary satellites on the equator may be obscured by mountains, for instance.
> It's not D of E, but a clear case where having a GPS would have made the situation a whole lot safer.
And they are also great for finding where you stashed your bike in an unfamiliar area, when it was daylight, and you are now in the dark looking for it.
(Not a life saver, but can save you a lot of time and energy searching. )
In the winter I always switch it on just to let it gather tracks, so that I can retrace my steps (if I ever have to.)
1 /100 times perhaps that you have an emergency and you need it, but if you carry it why have it switched off, when it can be on doing something useful.
No one if forcing people to look even at it, and no one is saying you should not have other good navigation skills, people can navigate by the stars if they like, it is just a backup.
> Yes; that's the main problem. GPRS = mobile phone, and mobile coverage still has patches of non-availability, especially in rural areas.
Patches of availability rather than non-availability in most hill areas! And especially in valleys which D of E routes will tend to follow. The advice to gain height to try to get a mobile signal does ometime worry me.
My experience with GPS/GPRS trackers with D of E expedition groups in various upland areas of England & Wales is that GPRS coverage (ie availability of live updates) when using a single network SIM varies from 50% to 100%. It should be noted that the trackers require minimal GPRS signal strength (like sending an sms message) to communicate.
> My experience with GPS/GPRS trackers with D of E expedition groups in various upland areas of England & Wales is that GPRS coverage (ie availability of live updates) when using a single network SIM varies from 50% to 100%.
Ok, coverage might be much better in England and Wales (I don't often go there, so yes, in that sense ignorant) than the areas I am used to operating in in Scotland.
As a d of e leader I cant say Ive ever found it that dificult to keep track of my groups that I'd need a gps tracking device!
I'd expect any d of e leader to be sufficiently organized and skilled to be able to keep track of his or her groups.
I suppose if I stashed tracking devices on them, I could spend the whole weekend with my feet up, watching them on a laptop, but that would be a bit boring wouldnt it.
Besides, who posts on a climbers forum, aimed at people that love being outdoors, because they love sitting indoors. I'm only on it so much at the moment because I'm at work and I get to see lovely pictures of the outdoors! :D
I sometimes wonder if some people who post here have ever stepped outside their front door, let alone gone into the hills or touched a real rock outside a garden centre.
It is indeed open to interpretation! The HSE document which someone gave a link to is even more open to interpretation. In the end that is probably a good thing - the degree of supervision will in the end depend on the route, the group, how well the supervisor knows the route, how well the supervisor know the group, the weather etc; a competent supervisor will weigh everything up and supervise accordingly to give a sensible balance between self-reliance and risk reduction. A tracker may or may not be part of that.
The guide also discusses the need to match expedition to the abilities of the participants, some of whom may have additional needs. So, yes, the level and manner of supervision is likely to be different, depending on many factors.
ps. I don't think Richiehill meant 'condone'...
pps. apparently the DofE are looking for a new Programme and Quality Manager:
> ......a competent supervisor will weigh everything up and supervise accordingly to give a sensible balance between self-reliance and risk reduction. A tracker may or may not be part of that.
Fianlly! That, Robert, is the most sensible comment made on this thread!!!
> ps. I don't think Richiehill meant 'condone'...
Agreed, I used the wrong word. I don't think the D of E had any reluctance to agree to their use.
> Fianlly! That, Robert, is the most sensible comment made on this thread!!!
I agree with what Robert said too, but the whole discussion and argument was based on the fact that he and others, were saying that there was no place for them and completely ruins the self sufficient nature of the D of E earlier in the thread.
This was the point I and others were argued. It takes skill and experience to judge when GPS is necessary. If the school/club/cadet force can afford them then there really isn't a negative reason why they can't just be stuck in the top of a rucksack and left there until required.
It'd be much better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
> but the whole discussion and argument was based on the fact that he and others, were saying that there was no place for them and completely ......
> It'd be much better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
I know! That's why I was surprised but his last comment!!
> I agree with what Robert said too, but the whole discussion and argument was based on the fact that he and others, were saying that there was no place for them and completely ruins the self sufficient nature of the D of E earlier in the thread.
I have been persuaded by this thread that there is an argument in favour of trackers (that they might allow shadowing/other remote supervision to be less close and intrusive - ie the lesser of two evils), but I still have my own strong reservations about them (erosion of self reliance) and my own gut feeling is against all this sort of technology.
If we are talking about GPS navigation by groups I strongly feel that it is unnecessary and inappropriate (using a sledgehammer to crack a nut) in the sort of terrain and on the routes that any D of E expedition will be using.
> I have been persuaded by this thread that there is an argument in favour of trackers (that they might allow shadowing/other remote supervision to be less close and intrusive - ie the lesser of two evils), but I still have my own strong reservations about them (erosion of self reliance) and my own gut feeling is against all this sort of technology.
Agreed in the most part. Like I said, I don't like the idea of a "Panic Button" but I have no issues with the rest. If anything, it can help you stay more remote and less intrusive than before.
> If we are talking about GPS navigation by groups I strongly feel that it is unnecessary and inappropriate (using a sledgehammer to crack a nut) in the sort of terrain and on the routes that any D of E expedition will be using.
I agree with the above, which is kind of what I meant by:
"... a properly assessed/supervised D of E expedition is so safe and so watered down that it makes an event most unlikely."
I realise that I was talking about trackers at the time but I meant GPS in general. Perhaps I just didn't express what I was trying to say properly.
Having said that, I still feel once on Gold D of E participants should be encouraged to at least have a go at using a GPS nav unit. Whilst I completely understand why you want to have a break from a screen and electronics for a while; they do have a place and can be invaluable.
I was encouraged into mountaineering because I'd completed my D of E. The expedition was my favourite part and so I wanted to learn more and take it further. I'm sure there are also a lot of others out there that have been introduced to mountaineering via this avenue. This is why I feel that GPS Nav should be introduced at Gold level; teach people how to use them, when to use them and then you'll get less people going and buying them, not understanding them and thinking that's all that matters.
I've only one point to raise : GPS devices are very small and could easily be hidden amongst the contents of a large-sack. They might not be allowed, but this isn't going to stop kids taking them along, even if their use would lead to disqualification.
We have never had to use GPS tracking devises to ensure the safety of the groups as we supervise discretely ( we are out on the hills watching with binoculars, not standing with our arms crossed waiting for the groups at a convenient road crossing ) and ensure that the groups are trained to navigate in poor conditions and that they are fully briefed in emergency procedures.
In my ( humble, which means its not ) opinion GPS tracking devises detract from the feeling of isolation and any of the learnings from knowing you are on your own and responsible for your own decisions/abilities. If a group knows that they will be rescued if they make a wrong decision then they relax and just wait to be sorted out.
As with all things it all comes down to how they are used and how people are trained. Trackers can be a fantastic aid to effective remote supervision, but they can equally give a false sense of security and can undermine the sense of remoteness and self-reliance of the young people. There's no right or wrong answer but, for the DofE, it’s map and compass first and up to the expedition Supervisor to decide how best to ensure the safety of the young people they are responsible for. I think this quote from page 176 ofThe DofE Expedition Guide sums up the approach regards mobile phones etc - 'Increasingly a DofE expedition is one of the very few times that young people will experience isolation away from mass media and instant communication, working only their a team of their peers. This must be embraced as one of the core principles of the Expedition section.'
As a supervisor and assessor we should be working to uphold the core principles of the dofe and not letting someones skewed sense of legal responsibilities influence this.
When we see other expeditions being undertaken that do not meet the core principles we should bring it to the attention of the local panel and Windsor if necessary.
I dont like em and wont use em but then my groups are appropriately trained and briefed and if they cannot demonstrate their ability they are not let lose. If I felt so uncertain about them that I needed to track them 24/7 they would not be out there in the first place
If they did have them and activated them for no real reason they would not pass the award.
But I have high standards which is why we are a very busy company.
Chris Horobin Wildcountry consultants Ltd
Bloody hell; that's got to be a first for UKC...
Someone actually persuaded by discussion on a thread?
They know that anyway; they know that we're not just going to go "Oh, group x hasn't made it to the camp. Never mind, I'm sure they're fine".
If they do as you suggest, they fail the expedition, since they've not met the 20 conditions. If there's a real emergency, and they use the equipment appropriately, then there's still a chance they may not fail, even if the expedition is aborted; good decision-making is one of the other main tenets of the DofE (which is why it is stressed that the appropriate use of of alternative routes in poor weather will not be penalised).
As discussed earlier, the groups need to know that the trackers cannot be relied upon (because it's true). That uncertainty helps to maintain the sense of isolation and self-reliance. I'm not saying there's no erosion, but, if handled properly, shouldn't impact it greatly.
And the track logs can provide interesting training opportunities, since they can see where they went wrong, and maybe learn why (especially when the tracks are used with something like GoogleEarth or WheresThePath).
For all my pro-tracker argument, I wouldn't be unhappy if the group I help with didn't use them; it wouldn't substantially change how we operate. But they do have them, and they do make managing supervision a little easier, and they do provide an element of increased safety. I guess that's why the DofE allow them to be used as safety supportive equipment, with sensible caveats, but don't mandate their use.
> <trumpet fanfare>
> Bloody hell; that's got to be a first for UKC...
> Someone actually persuaded by discussion on a thread?
Careful. I am persuaded that there is an argument for trackers, but not necessarily that it outweighs the argument against.
Phew, that's a relief... Faith in UKC debate is restored...
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