Today, I want to introduce a new product to make the hike up Half Dome a little safer. A company called Cairns has developed a very handy app you may be interested in helping to build – and use.
A continuing problem we have at Yosemite is finding cell coverage. On the Half Dome trail, my experience is that coverage is real spotty until when you reach the summit. Most services work on top – E.T. call home! The antenna is located behind the park museum and the beam is hidden in the shadow of Half Dome. Ever wonder if there will ever be cell coverage on the trail? As a general rule, you shouldn’t rely on your phone as the only tool in an emergency, but the fact is that most wilderness rescues are initiated by calls from cell phones.
If you get lost, the FREE Cairn app will guide you to the closest area where cell coverage can be expected. That’s very useful when you need to summon 911 or to tell loved ones back home that all is well.
You can also share trip plans with safety contacts. While on your outing, the app tracks a ping every few minutes from the user’s location and cell signal. The cell signals are visible to anyone using the app with Topo maps. If a user is overdue to a given point, then the Cairn server sends out a notification to designated contacts with all known locations. You can see what it looks for Verizon users at Tuolumne Meadows. All those little blue dots are where they got coverage.
Read what Outside Magazine had to say.
The Cairn community has already mapped cell coverage at over 600k points at popular trails, including the entire Pacific Coast Trail, Mt. Whitney, and others.
They want to expand their FREE offering to the Half Dome trail. Although there is always a line of people going up to Half Dome, help in an emergency may be far way if someone has to run down to get a ranger. People who wander off trail and get lost (it does happen) have no idea where cell access might be located in the forest. Maybe none – but maybe there will be.
Here’s what you could do if you have a permit and willing to be a trailblazer.
1. Download the free iPhone app. It runs fine on iOS; Android is still in development but you can get on the beta list.
2. Use Cairn on your hike (use as much or as little as you like). Cairn is optimized for battery conservation in the wilderness. You can use the tracking stats to get your distance traveled, elevation, ETA to summit, or to send an “I’m OK” message.
3. As you track, you’ll see green circles showing points you’ve logged. (If you don’t have coverage or enter a dead spot, Cairn will store the points on your device and attempt to transfer them once you have coverage or a WIFI signal after you are back.
4. First 10 trailblazers to map 10 points, email email@example.com with your mailing address and T-shirt size, Cairn will send you a cool T-shirt.
For questions or comments don’t hesitate to contact the Cairn team.
Unrelated thought worth quoting: “The biggest waste of 4 seconds: ”Hi, thank you for taking my call. I’m a long-time listener; first time caller.” – Any talk radio caller.
Read “One Best Hike: Yosemite’s Half Dome