The best number to kick start a rescue is 911. They might not know the area or even what to do but they have a list of contacts to start calling that can then spider web out and get you the resources going to help you. 911 is how most of the rescues I have been a part of started. But that being said, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- although cell service in and around the whites is improving, there are still many areas that get no service so just because you carry a phone doesn't mean you will be able to use it.
- Even if you get 911 and help on its way, remember that rescues take time. Just cause you call it in doesn't mean a snow cat, helicopter, or team will be there in minutes. It could be hours or days. SAR's aim for the "magic 24 hours" instead of the "magic hour" in the back country.
- know and stick to the trails you originally set out to do as much as possible and make note of trail junctions so you know that last place you passed prior to getting lost.
- hike with a buddy or more. If you get lost or injured, more people is helpful not only in getting you down but they can run up/down to get help either by phone where service is available or by reaching the aid of someone working at the top/bottom. Plus if you both have cells, that is twice the battery life and since cold drains battery life, the more the better.
- but most importantly, know when to turn around before getting yourself in a situation that requires 911. The state has passed reckless hiker laws and fines in this economic downturn are up to offset costs of some rescues. I have feelings for an against charging people but that is a seperate issue.
I am sure there are more points but these stick out for me. Out west, we used to say "Hike like a horse not an ass" meaning most horses will go where they feel it is safe to go, if not they buck you off. Mules on the flip side will go anywhere without thinking or become stubborn and won't move in the right direction no matter what you do.
Staff Meteorologist/Night Observer, KMWN (Mt Washington Obs., NH)