Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ban Cell Phones in the Backcountry?

Talking shop from the backcountry - love it or hate it?The cellular telephone - a marvel of modern technology. Cell phones have gone from a novelty to a necessity for most and even to a nuisance for some. They've saved lives, and in a recent case it helped Portland Mountain Rescue to give coordinates to some lost climbers on Mount Hood so that the climbers could self rescue.

When I go backcountry skiing in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah, (my backyard) I often carry a cell phone as I know that I will have cell coverage. Yes, the Wasatch is a "wild place", but also a wired one too. My wife and I have an unwritten agreement that I call once I'm back to the car but often times I'll give her a call from the top of a peak or a line that I'm skiing just to say hi or to tell her I'm headed down. Is this a nuisance to others around me? Should I just leave the phone in the car?

I had been thinking about this when I saw an article that KE Adventure Travel published in their monthly newsletter which was a follow up to the question they asked the previous month:
Should cell phones be banned from adventure travel?
66% of their US clients who responded favored a ban on cell phones during adventure travel trips. 61% of the UK clients felt the same. This discussion and question from KE Adventure Travel and others was no doubt spurred by the successful first cellular phone call made from the summit of Mount Everest this past spring. I relish times when I find myself in areas without cell coverage. It's nice to just turn it off or leave it home. One of the comments from their newsletter posed question was this:
If you can’t get away from routine business, you should stay home. I am always amazed that as the CEO of a company with almost 900 staff I can leave for 3 weeks and life goes on quite well without me
KE no doubt is asking this of clients who might be looking to get into the wild and leave behind the wireless. Imagine the moment when you're deep in the bush and the Joey next you flips out his phone and says, "Sweet, I've got 3 bars" and proceeds to dial up the office he has spent the last couple of days talking about how glad he was to leave behind. Meh.

So, should cell phones be banned from adventure travel or other locations in the backcountry? Or is resistance futile when it comes to the almighty cellular telephone?

Chime in with your 2 cents by commenting and check out the results on KE Adventure Travel's website.



Blogger climbingrocks said...

turn it on when you need it, turn it off the rest of the time.

7/19/2007 11:14 AM

Blogger peter said...

KE thanks you for the great post about our Cell Phone debate. When we asked the question we never anticpated the intensity of the responses.

When you think about the question, let's make sure we don't confuse emergency communication with simple cell phone use. KE and all responsible adventure travel companies make sure its groups are in touch for emergencies, whether it's a sat phone, cell phone or just knowing where a land line is in each village we trek through. That's our job.

I want to recommend a great book that addresses the "diochotomy of adventure travel in a wired world." Its "Out There" by Ted Kerasote.

While KE will not be banning sat or cell phones from our trips, we will be establishing rules of conduct about their use. A bit sad but necessary.

One thing is certain, with the proliferation of cell phone towers and sat phones, this debate is not going away.

Peter Rudy
KE Adventure Travel

7/19/2007 1:35 PM

Blogger Stevo said...

I believe cell phones have their place in the backcountry. Although using a phone for business or just blabbing defeats the purpose of getting outdoors and away from everything.

I don't use mine for personal calls, only emergencies I have or the family has that requires when my daughter had to go to the hospital.

7/19/2007 4:20 PM

Blogger climbinskier said...

I think my view will be the same as many. I think an outright ban of cell phone usage in the backcountry is unnecessary and not feasible. Cell phones have their place (emergencies). I think it only makes good sense to take one with you.

Being married there is definitely comfort brought to the spouse at home knowing that they can be reached in the case of an emergency.

I really don't think a ban could ever be enforced (caveat: In the case of KE, or any other guide company, they could ban them on their trips). The proliferation of cell phone coverage is only going to increase. With this proliferation how will we be able moderate "unnecessary" cell phone usage?

I think the only way will be for each individual to be cognizant of others around them. If there are others in the group or others around don't make a call to chit chat.

If no one is around what does it matter if you make a call? "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around..."

7/20/2007 12:07 PM

Blogger ALM said...

Why should we concern ourselves with what others are bringing outside? Unless we are talking about fire, who cares?

If someone cannot disconnect themselves from the office while enjoying the great outdoors we should feel sorry for them, not chastise them.

Great topic!

7/20/2007 4:20 PM

Blogger patagoniacommunity said...

Great topic. I think an "emergencies only" rule is reasonable. The "adventure" in Adventure Travel is presumably referring to the surroundings and the activities in which one engages those surroundings, not to the "adventure" of seeing if you get a signal on your cell phone. I want to hear BIRDS chirping out there, not a Motorola Razr.

7/24/2007 11:16 PM

Blogger powstash said...

Thanks for the great comments all and especially thanks to Peter for joining the conversation. Seems like there's a common theme amongst those that have commented.

While talking about this topic with a friend he asked me what I pose to you - If you purposefully or by accident left your cell phone on in the backcountry and it rings, do you answer it?

I seldom if ever answer it and most of the time will turn it off after it has rung. The piercing looks of my climbing/skiing/trekking partners are enough to remind me that I won't make that mistake again.

7/25/2007 11:33 AM

Blogger Jim McIntosh said...

I think the question has more to do with people who don't know how to put down the crackberry and less to do with any sort of impact a cell phone would have to the backcountry experience.

I take my phone with me on every bike ride, every hike, and every ski tour. I do this not necessarily for me but just in case I can help someone else.

I also think that article was just trying to get people all fired up. I haven't posed a comment in more than a year and it got me to write in.

7/31/2007 2:32 PM

Blogger T said...

What phones are you using to be certain you can call out for emergency situations? Satelite phones or standard cell phones?

8/03/2007 11:06 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What type of phone do you suggest using? Standard cell phone or satelite phone?

8/03/2007 11:07 PM

Anonymous Peter Rudy said...

Sorry I have not paid attention to the comments -- a great discussion. Yes, KE asked the question to get people thinking about the issue. The issue goes much farther than cell phones -- it goes to the responsibility each person has to respect others in the group.

On a recent trip biking in Vietnam, we had a client call his daughter on his cell phone every day for 10 minutes. The conversations were about nothing critical. And he made the cells during meals or when we were gathered together. His actions were an unnecessary distraction and simply a lack of respect for others.

10/12/2007 2:56 PM


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