Saturday, July 23, 2011

GPS: The Holy Grail or A Good Way to Get Lost

Just get the waypoints, look at another screen, and reach the peak. Forget about comman sense, reading or a sense of adventure, just follow the GPS. Boy if I could only install a video game on the GPS and play it while I hike to the peak. What did I see along the way? My GPS screen. What else would I look at?

GPS is Not the Holy Grail

Norman Clyde, the man with more first ascents in the Sierra than anyone, did not have a GPS. In fact I would guess over 90% of first ascents were made without the use of a GPS. This proves that a GPS is not mandatory to find your way to the summit. Even Mr. X (some will know who I am writing about) who at one time owned eight GPS units is now saying that they are not mandatory and prone to user error. Why would you blindly put your faith in a GPS unit and abandon common sense?

User Error

Too many hikers have told me they followed their GPS and did not make the peak. Why? Mainly user error and GPS errors. I had one hiker show me her track from her GPS. It showed she traversed the face of Rainbow Peak. Yeah, right. Obviously her GPS track was incorrect and she didn't even realize it.

People are looking for the easy way and not taking the time to learn and understand how a GPS works. This might come from the fact they use a GPS in their cars with good results. Navigating streets and highways are easier than mountains!

Why Do I Supply GPS Waypoints in My Hike Descriptions?
To be honest, money. It's a selling point. Every company that produces a product markets the selling points of their product and that's what I am doing. Most hikers don't use a GPS unit, even if they own one. But they think they will use it if the hike description has waypoints. So, I supply waypoints.

Bottom Line:
Use common sense and don't solely rely on a GPS. I love the episode of the Office where Micheal Scott blindly follows the GPS directions and drives his car into a lake. Hmmm... guess those writers weren't big fans of GPS units :)