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Belgian hikers use SPOT for helicopter rescue in Lapland wilderness

July 2017

In July 2017, Jeroen and Laura were on a multi-day hike in the remote wilderness of Lapland when Laura fell seriously ill.

Jeroen is experienced at hiking in the Swedish mountains and has completed many unsupported solo hikes across far-flung expanses, both in -40°C winter conditions and wet summers. He tries to visit the region from his home in Belgium at least twice a year.

As he regularly goes to remote areas, Jeroen bought a SPOT Gen3 to use in case of an emergency as well as to send check-in/ok messages to friends and family at home.

"Our family really appreciate that they can track our progress and get check-in/ok messages from us. They follow us non-stop when we are out in the wilderness. They know if they don't receive a message every 24 hours, then they need to send help to our last known location," Jeroen said.

"I especially like SPOT Gen3's impressive battery life, even with the tracking mode on. I also like the way it is built. It's very rugged," he added.

To prepare for their X-day hiking trip to the Lapland wilderness in Northern Sweden, Jeroen and Laura bought high quality equipment and undertook training including a summer hiking trip to central Sweden.

Jeroen and Laura set out from Kvikkjokk on Friday afternoon and spent the first night camping above the tree line. On day two they hiked further into a high valley.

At this point Laura started feeling unwell. Her condition wasn't yet serious so they didn't feel the need to turn back but decided to camp at the first possible opportunity. It took hours to find somewhere that could work in the rocky terrain.

Meanwhile the weather had turned ugly with thunderstorms, rain and high winds but the camp was safe overnight.

That night Laura became very ill and Jeroen wanted to get her down to somewhere less exposed so she could recover. The next morning he set off to figure out the easiest path down the mountain.

Returning to Kvikkjokk wasn't an option as it was 20km away as the crow flies, with no trails and a large mountain between them and the town.

At noon they started hiking with Jeroen carrying both backpacks. However Laura was soon exhausted and couldn't continue. They were at 1000m altitude and Laura was getting hypothermia. Jeroen wrapped her in both sleeping bags and decided to get help.

First, Jeroen tried to use his mobile phone but there was no signal. So he pressed the SOS button on his SPOT Gen3.

With some smart thinking, Jeroen spread a yellow tent fly sheet on the ground to make them more visible for any rescue.

A police helicopter found them and picked them up in less than an hour. Laura was soon seen by a medical team in Kvikkjokk and within days was well enough to travel back home.

"We had considered all options but an evacuation by air was our only safe option. The GEOS International Emergency Response Centre (IERCC) in Houston, Texas received our SOS. notification and then coordinated search and rescue with JRCC Guttenberg, who organised for a police helicopter to pick us up. Thanks to SPOT sending our accurate GPS location and the yellow sheet, they said it was really easy to find us. We pressed the SOS button on SPOT at 14h12 and they landed at 15h11, a very fast response time for such a remote location," said Jeroen.

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