Monday, December 21, 2009

A Rant--Your Responsibility to Be Prepared

I was watching with disappointment and some annoyance at the rescue mission on Mt Hood to save three climbers over the past couple of weeks. One was found dead and the other two remain missing and presumably dead. This reminded me of a very similar situation a few years back when I was on a microscopic South Pacific island which received exactly one news station via satellite. For more than a week, the top story was the search for three missing climbers on Mt Hood. Everyone was glued to the news reports and it was the main topic of conversation for over a week. Eventually, one climber was found dead and the other two were never found.

In both of these cases and many more that have been splashed across the media, I get very frustrated that these people wouldn't take simple precautions to spare rescuers and their loved ones the misery of their dangerous rescues or, more often, the recovery of their bodies. A very simple tool--an avalanche rescue beacon that rents for $5--may have saved their lives and they didn't take this simple precaution. I know it's not polite to blame the victim but politeness goes out the window when people behave stupidly. Which leads to the purpose of this post...

No matter who you are or how good you are or how invincible you think you are, you have a responsibility to take reasonable precautions in all of the activities that you do. Your loss or death doesn't begin and end with you. Whether it is becoming lost in an avalanche because you didn't rent an avalanche beacon, riding a motorcycle without a helmet, or wandering off for a day hike without the ten essentials, these choices don't just affect you. Putting yourself in harms way when there are precautions that can be taken to save your skin is irresponsible and affects not just your outcome but the physical and psychological bearing of your rescuers, your friends, your family, and everyone else even distantly related to you.

You have a responsibility to be prepared. Whether it is declining to drink because there is a possibility that you will have to drive later, or saying no to a technical climb that is way beyond your abilities, taking care of your life is of the utmost importance because there are people who rely on you, people who will mourn your death, and people who will risk their lives to save you no matter how stupidly you have behaved to get yourself into a particular situation.

I'll hop off my soapbox now...


  1. It just boggles the mind - I know fisherman who spend weeks at a time in the middle of the ocean, who don't know how to swim. Nor can they be bothered to learn.

    Evolution must be a cruel joke...

  2. It is harsh on those climbers but they knew the risks and have to remain responsible.

  3. Down here we regularly watch idiots being hoisted out of the water after their teeny boat gets capsized when a storm front passes through. One genius died when he and a few of his fellow mental giants got swept off the jetties at Packery Channel, during the Hurricane Ike storm surge no less... Then we have the morons who head offshore, in conditions that should tell you "stay home", who have no clue how to operate a small boat in heavy weather. We have the ones who head offshore in antiquated pieces of junk, the ones who neglect to bring along sufficient fuel (we're at half a tank, DUH, turn around...), the ones with no VHF radio..... The examples of human stupidity are not too hard to find. Maybe we should stop rescuing them and let Darwin's theory do it's work...

  4. The reason this stuff irritates us all is that the media shoves it in our face. While this was going on, at least five sea kayakers disappeared and died in separate incidents, and the media barely noticed. Only climbers make the news, especially on Hood, because of the helicopter crash footage from 2003. Ever since the papers and TV got a taste of that media crack, they've been sucking on the pipe every time a mountaineer goes missing. And commenters follow along. Just sayin'.

  5. Mt. Hood is, I believe the most climbed mountain in the U.S. And the dangers of a bad trip up or down the mountain have been well publicized. (May 1986 when seven students and two faculty of the Oregon Episcopal School froze to death, with 4 others in serious condition). Being one of the most popular climbs, so closely located to a large population center, it really comes down to a matter of numbers as to why you see so many get into trouble on its slopes.

    As far a climbers/hikers etc and searchers, its kinda a symbiotic relationship. Both really do need each other. There is a reason the Air Search Wing is located at PDX and is as good as it is.