New Hiker Alert Helps Trekkers Keep in Touch
There’s a new app on the market that you might want to check out if you’re planning a trek in Nepal. Hiker Alert is a web application that provides web based check-ins and emergency alerts; and acts as a sort of cyber ranger station for hikers, runners, and outdoor athletes.
Here’s how it works – You sign-up online for $4.99 per year. Then each time you go off for a run, hike, trek or bike ride you put in your expected time and place of check-in. If you do not check-in at the designated time, Hiker Alert notifies your designated emergency contacts. Hiker Alerts text messaging system (SMS) is available in over 150 countries, including Nepal. So, it’s perfect for those Himalayan trekkers who want to adventure out with little or no support*
Here’s why it’s important for Nepal – Each year trekkers go missing in the Himalaya. Some are lost in avalanches, some are victims of violent crime, some just vanish. In 2010, American Aubrey Sacco was one of those trekkers who, sadly, has not been found. Aubrey was due to check in with her family at the end of April 2010 when she finished the Langtang trek in Nepal. Several weeks went by, and her family in the USA did not hear from Aubrey. Finally, after contacting the USA Embassy in Kathmandu and the Nepal Police and still receiving no information, the family flew to Nepal to conduct their own search. By the time they arrived, Aubrey had been missing for over a month. She is still missing and there is no trace of exactly where, when or how she disappeared.
Similarly in 2012, at least five different trekkers were lost while trekking in Nepal. Lost Japanese trekker Makiko Iwafuchi wandered for two weeks in the Himalaya surviving on Bamboo leaves before she was found. But others were not so lucky. British bagpacker Zisimos Alexander Souflas’ family did not realize he was missing until he did not get off the plane in England where they were waiting to pick him up. Like Aubrey Sacco, Zisimos Alexander Souflas has still not been found.
In both of these cases, had someone known these trekkers were missing, authorities could have been alerted early. In cases of missing persons, the first 24 hours is the most crucial. A device like Hiker Alert could work in conjunction with your TIMS card in Nepal, to help keep trekkers informed of each other ‘s posted check-ins, as well as give peace of mind to family back home.
The freedom of the trail is a choice. Everyone has a different level of comfort when it comes to trekking in the Himalaya and the opportunity for self-sufficiency and self-discovery, but it’s good to know there are options like Hiker Alert to help us journey more safely.
*TAAN passed a rule on September 1, 2012 that solo trekking was no longer permitted in Nepal, however, as of this post the Nepal Ministry of Tourism has not enforced this rule.