scouts-l Mail Archive for November of 1999: Re: How Safe Is Philmont?
Dave Bregar (dbregar@COMPUSERVE.COM
Mon Nov 08 1999 - 16:21:47 CST
A quick answer to your question is that Philmont is as safe as BSA can make
it, while still offering the crews as close to a real "Wilderness"
experience as possible. When there are over 1500 Scouts and Scouters in
the backcountry each day during the normal season at Philmont, the fact
that there are as few serious injuries is a real credit to Philmont and
You received an answer from Jack, and he mentioned using ham radio to
supplement the existing radio system at Philmont. As a ham radio operator
(KA5LHQ) who has spent a LOT of time in and around the mountains near
Philmont, let me address this.
Jack said that in TN they "can't get out of range of some ham repeater".
Ham "handi-talkies" are VHF or UHF. As such they are "line-of-sight". In
the area of Philmont, there are several ham repeaters, but you can only
"hit" those repeaters if you are in line-of-sight. Most areas at Philmont
are NOT in sight of these, or any other repeater. That is why Philmont has
had to install their own radio network and repeaters. Even at this, there
are MANY locations at Philmont that cannot be reached by radio due to
terrain. If you've never been to Philmont, you just cannot believe how
rugged the 215 square miles are! Countless canyons, heavy trees, and high
mountains make for a tough environment for radio usage. Most of the
Staffed camps have radio communications with base camp, but If the network
is busy, it still may be some time before a staff member can reach the
health lodge. Can you image what would happen if each crew was issued a
radio? Major log jam! By the way, rangers that I've worked with have not
carried radios. I believe that only staffed camps and staff in vehicles
have radio contact.
Getting back to your question, the best advice I can give you to insure
your Scouts will be as safe as possible is to train, Train, TRAIN! Make
sure that your Scouts and adult Advisors know how to handle an emergency if
one comes up. Make sure everyone on the crew is in the best shape
possible! As I've told my guys on the two treks I've trained them for,
"The only way to get in shape to carry heavy loads up steep hills at high
altitudes, is to carry heavy loads up steep trails at high altitudes!"
Start training NOW for your 2000 trek! If you live at low altitudes, make
sure you spend as least 3-4 days at high altitudes just before your trek to
acclimate. Have your crew train with heavier packs then you think you will
carry on the trail. Make sure everyone knows how to use every piece of
equipment that you take. Work as a team, and be prepared!
Of course, you can't tell your concerned parents that their sons will be
100 percent safe while at Philmont. But if you prepare for the worst case,
and are in the best shape possible, then your crew will have a much better
chance of getting through your trek at Philmont without any serious
problems. When you stop to think about it, you stand a much better chance
of getting hit by a speeding beer truck back home than at Philmont. There
just aren't that many beer trucks in the backcountry! :-)
Advisor, Crew 705-H - 1999
District Advancement Chair, Sandia District
Great Southwest Council (Home Council of Philmont!)