Mountain Rescue

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Janus

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Just recently there was another rescue attempt of climbers trapped on Mt Hood, here in OR. The story ended well, due in a great part to the fact that the climbers were carrrying mountain locator units (MLUs), which meant the rescue teams knew just where they were on the mountain.

This has triggered new debate on the use of MLUs, to the point where one of our state legislators has drafted legislation to make it mandatory to carry a MLU if one climbed above a certain elevation on Mt Hood.

Now the thing that gets me is that some mountain climbers are arguing against the law, claiming that the requirement would take away from the experience of climbing the mountain.

Now the purpose of the MLU is aide the rescue teams in finding you if you get in trouble (They won't keep you from getting in trouble). So the only experience that would be lessened is the element of risk of dying on the mountain if something did go wrong.

So the question is, do these mountain climbers wish to be rescued off the mountain or not? If so, why do they think they have the right to dictate the terms of the rescue. Isn't this a bit like saying that you want to be rescued by the Coast Guard if something happens to you at sea, but you don't want them to be able to use helicopters to do so?

If not, then they should make this known before they attempt the ascent, in order to save the rescue teams the time and effort of trying to save someone who doesn't want their help.

After all the MLUs simply make the job easier for the rescuers. It reduces the time, effort and risk by cutting out much of the search part of the rescue. Why should they risk their lives for someone who couldn't go to the trouble of meeting them at least part way to the extent of renting a MLU for $5?

So here's my compromise. Change the law to make the use of MLUs voluntary, with the stipulation that failure to use one automatically becomes the equivalent of signing a "Do Not Rescue" order. Meaning that if you do not come back down off the mountain on your own, no attempt at rescue will be made.

That way, those who wish it can enjoy the "full experience" of mountain climbing, and the rescue teams can focus all their efforts on those who actually want their services.
 

arildno

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They probably don't want to drag a lot of gadgets with them.
Essentially, they are seeking a free-space from technology, even an electrical toothpicker would seem unbearable to them to carry along.

Just my thoughts, though.
 

Evo

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I agree 100% with Janus. Refusing to take an MLU is STUPID. Mountain climbers take along gear, an MLU is a tiny device, if you're too stupid to take one, you don't deserve to be rescued. The only thing it will prevent the climber from experiencing is a slow death.
 

FredGarvin

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Now the thing that gets me is that some mountain climbers are arguing against the law, claiming that the requirement would take away from the experience of climbing the mountain.
This seriously can't be thier only argument against them. Really? When I was stationed at Ft. Lewis, my unit used to do high altitude SAR on Mt. Reinier in WA and it amazes me just how much open area there is to be lost in. It boggles my mind to hear that idiotic argument.

I agree to the idea of a DNR if they don't take one along. That way the money spent spinning wheels trying to hunt them down would not be wasted in vain.
 

BobG

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They probably don't want to drag a lot of gadgets with them.
Essentially, they are seeking a free-space from technology, even an electrical toothpicker would seem unbearable to them to carry along.

Just my thoughts, though.
Just the guys that eschew carabiners, gortex, and nylon rope. Preferred methods mirror those of http://www.americanalpineclub.org/pdfs/fixedhist.pdf [Broken], who became the first person to scale Mt Inaccessible (in 1492) using ropes, grappling hooks, and ladders by copying castle siege techniques.

In other words, while I can understand their attitude to a point, their boundary line is a little arbitrary. They would never turn down better technology in cold weather gear or climbing gear.
 
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brewnog

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It's definitely against the spirit of alpinism, but it seems daft to break the law to do it. The DNR sounds like a good idea.
 

Chi Meson

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It's definitely against the spirit of alpinism, but it seems daft to break the law to do it. The DNR sounds like a good idea.
That's pretty much it. In my former life as a mountaineer (now I'm a dad, the "mountaineer" is gone) I climbed Mt. Hood more than 4 times, once during the winter. There are many "old school" alpinists who feel that part of the experience is to just "go" : as light as possible, without "asking permission," without registering, and come what may. In this manner, the experience becomes more "real."

The locator units have been around for more than 20 years now. Most climbers had one well before they even had a cell phone. I think only a small, vocal minority is against it.
 

russ_watters

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Janus, do you have any links to their arguments? I believe you (people are dumb...), but I'd be curious to know how they present the argument.

Anyway, EPIRBs are required in boats - I see no reason why locator beacons shouldn't be required for climbers.
 

brewnog

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It's this small vocal majority who are trying to keep to true alpine-style principles as far as possible.

Locators aren't the only pieces of equipment these guys leave behind. They'll only take the very bare minimum required to complete the assault of the mountain. Food, gas, clothing and equipment are all kept to a bare minimum. It's tradition, and for many climbers, it's the only real way of conquering a peak. Minimum kit; maximum skill. Anyone can conquer Everest these days if they throw enough money at it. If you look at it this way, there is an inkling of sense; dozens of people have died on the mountains from either exhausting themselves carrying too much kit, or taking excessive risks after thinking they've got 'enough' kit to cope. If you're skilled and experienced enough to know the terrain, the routes, and the weather, you should be pretty safe. However, this is rarely the case.

I'm not saying it's right (and while I've done my fair share of mountaineering, the idea of true alpine-style expeditions scare the poo out of me, particularly after having met Joe Simpson), but these are the reasons you'll get from pure alpinists.
 
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Evo

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It's this small vocal majority who are trying to keep to true alpine-style principles as far as possible.

Locators aren't the only pieces of equipment these guys leave behind. They'll only take the very bare minimum required to complete the assault of the mountain. Food, gas, clothing and equipment are all kept to a bare minimum. It's tradition, and for many climbers, it's the only real way of conquering a peak. Minimum kit; maximum skill. Anyone can conquer Everest these days if they throw enough money at it.

I'm not saying it's right (and while I've done my fair share of mountaineering, the idea of true alpine-style expeditions scare the poo out of me, particularly after having met Joe Simpson), but these are the reasons you'll get from pure alpinists.
Obviously a rescue requires high tech equipment, hellicopters, small aircraft, etc... So, they wouldn't want a rescue to spoil their experience. Cleans out the gene pool at the same time. :biggrin:

The device doesn't give them an advantage in using their skills to climb the mountain, it can't help them in any way except to provide a locator beacon in the event they can't make it down on their own. Can they not get that through their thick skulls? Who it helps is the rescuers in finding them.
 

Chi Meson

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It's this small vocal majority who are trying to keep to true alpine-style principles as far as possible.
Small majority?
 

brewnog

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The device doesn't give them an advantage in using their skills to climb the mountain, it can't help them in any way except to provide a locator beacon in the event they can't make it down on their own. Can they not get that through their thick skulls? Who it helps is the rescuers in finding them.
I know that. I don't think they're thick as such, just have a different outlook on life to, um, "normal" people. They understand the risks, and accept them. They know that if they get stuck on the mountain in closing weather with a broken leg and no food, they're as good as dead. Any rescuers are inconsequential; if they were planning on getting rescued they'd have registered where they're going, their route, their contingency, and expected time of return.

Small majority?
I reckon that these pure alpinists (who wouldn't carry a locator) are a minor majority of the mountaineering community. No figures behind this though, anyone got any more insight?

Edit: I've just realised I should have said "small minority"! Oops.

Incidentally, for anyone who doesn't actually understand the mentality of these guys, have a read of "Touching The Void" by Joe Simpson.
 
Incidentally, for anyone who doesn't actually understand the mentality of these guys, have a read of "Touching The Void" by Joe Simpson.
Or watch the film, it's amazing how they both survived,it was an absolutely incredible story of determination, I think few people would have that willpower or courage.

It was gripping, and heart warming, but does anyone really have to go through that? Well I guess it's their choice.:bugeye: A simple locator though?

Let's just say I'd personally of chosen life: not living on that edge where if things go wrong your pretty much dead(probably got me a system where even the local coastguard knew where I was in case I fell of the mountain into a river and drifted out to sea, but whatever floats your boat.:smile:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Touching_the_Void

A spoiler for the film/book.

Although previously attempted, Yates and Simpson were the first people to ascend to the summit of Siula Grande via the almost vertical west face. Disaster struck, however, on the descent. Simpson slipped down an ice cliff and landed awkwardly, smashing his tibia into his knee joint and breaking it. The pair, whose trip had already taken longer than they intended due to bad weather on the ascent, had run out of water and gas (which could have been used to melt ice and snow) and needed to descend quickly to their base camp, about 3,000 feet below.

They proceeded by tying two one hundred and fifty foot long ropes together and then tying themselves to each end. Yates dug himself into a hole in the snow and lowered Simpson down the mountain on the 300 feet of rope. A second disaster struck however when Simpson was lowered over a 100 foot overhanging cliff and left dangling in mid-air. Yates could not see Simpson, but felt all his weight on the rope, very slowly pulling Yates down the mountain. He held on for about an hour but was eventually forced to cut the rope, dropping Simpson into a crevasse.

The next morning Yates descended the mountain alone, and found the cliff. He realised what must have happened to Simpson and to his horror saw the crevasse below. He was certain that Simpson must have died in the crevasse and descended the rest of the mountain alone, which is itself a dangerous feat.

In fact, Simpson had survived, despite a 100 foot fall and broken leg. When he took in the rope, he discovered the end was cut. He eventually abseiled from his landing spot on an ice bridge (which broke his fall and therefore presumably saved his life) to the bottom of the crevasse, and crawled out back onto the glacier via a side opening. From there, he spent three days, without food and only splashes of water from melting ice, crawling and hopping five miles back to the base camp. Almost completely delusional, he reached the base camp a few hours before Yates intended to leave the camp to return to civilization.

Simpson's survival is widely regarded by mountaineers as amongst the most amazing pieces of mountaineering lore in history.
 
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brewnog

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A locator wouldn't have saved Simpson. But it's a good example of how isolated and far from civilisation mountaineers can be.
 

Ivan Seeking

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The trouble is, people won't tolerate allowing others to die without making an effort. I would prefer to see the no rescue option applied to those not using transponders, but after the first deaths, the law suits would be flying.

They tried the "pay for rescue" bit, I think in California, but that motivated the victims to delay calls for help until the situation was desperate.

One partial solution that I have suggested is to implement a risk tax for all related equiment sales. This tax pays for rescue efforts.

I also think there is a matter of judgement as to when the situation is too dangerous to risk other lives. If a person chooses not to carry a transponder, then it is too risky to allow dozens or even hundreds of others to be put at risk in a general search.
 

Janus

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Janus, do you have any links to their arguments? I believe you (people are dumb...), but I'd be curious to know how they present the argument.

Anyway, EPIRBs are required in boats - I see no reason why locator beacons shouldn't be required for climbers.
The article I read was in the local paper, and I can't find it on the web. Here is an article from another paper where some of the arguments are quoted.

http://www.jacksonholestartrib.com/articles/2007/02/20/news/regional/194a63af1d24e56a872572860027a296.txt

Here's some quotes from the article:

"It's a very dangerous undertaking, but that's part of the beauty of it,"

"if you try to legislate so much safety, you lose the adventure."

"If you take all of the risk out of life, you lose a lot. You're removing a personal liberty from somebody who wants to go and explore without having a safety net,"

As of late though, they have been pushing the "It would lead to lead to a sense of false security" argument. But that doesn't make sense, as the units are already available for use, and the ones you would expect to suffer from this sense of false security are those who already choose to carry them. Also, since the units have been available for over 20 yrs, we should have seen a statistical rise in mountain rescues by now if the argument had merit.
 

Chi Meson

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Moonbear

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I just don't understand the mentality that carrying one of these lessens the sense of adventure or would take out the risk. It doesn't, you can still die before rescuers can get to you. It's not going to reach out and grab the ledge as you slide off a cliff, or magically prevent an avalanche, it just means that after that happens, someone can find the body or give you a chance of survival if they can speed up the rescue effort.

So, yeah, I'd have to agree that if you refuse to carry one, we should just assume that means you have decided you don't want people to waste their time looking for you should something happen. The search for your corpse can begin after spring thaw.

Maybe what we need is some sort of permit system for mountain climbing. A small fee for each climber would help offset the cost of rescue efforts when needed, and at the time you apply for the permit, you can check off a box and sign a waiver if you don't want to be rescued (like a DNR order). If you do want to be rescued, you need to carry a MLU with you.
 

Dr Transport

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An MLU is about the same size as a GPS or cell phone, I'd carry one. Matter a fact this weekend camping I plan on having both my call and GPS.
 

Ivan Seeking

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Problems with the "no MLU, no rescue" approach:
I forgot to bring it
It was damaged in the fall
It got wet
It was defective
The batteries went dead
I didn't know that I had to carry one
Now, only rich people can climb mountains
 
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Integral

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Guess someone needs to point out to these idiots that the locator will not cusion their landing after a 300m fall. It will however allow us to keep the mountian side free of decaying remains.
 

brewnog

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Integral, these 'idiots' are fully aware that the locator will do nothing to protect them from a fall, from the weather, from avalanche etc.

Anyone who can't even empathise with pure alpinists should read the book! In fact, I think everyone should anyway!
 

Janus

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Problems with the "no MLU, no rescue" approach:
Most of the following miss the point. We don't call off rescue just because we don't receive a MLU signal, only if they never intended to carry one. Most MLUs are rented. At the point of rental a record is made in data base. If on the other hand, we have someone you chose to purchase his own, such a person would be the type to register his climb, and at that point his use of a MLU will be recorded in the same data base. If someone is repeorted missing on the Mountain, This data base can be used to determine whether or not a rescue mission is mounted.

I forgot to bring it
If you reented one or registered your own, and then left it in the car when you started out on your climb, aren't you a little forgetful to be climbing a mountain? I mean, what else did you forget? But the fact that you are registered in the data base as having a MLU will mean a search and rescue mission will be mounted. It will just be assumed that something prevented you from activating it. (Like one of the next three points)
It was damaged in the fall
They're pretty rugged, but see above.
It got wet
Considering that they are designed to be used in snowy/wet conditions (particularly here in the NW in Winter), I'm pretty sure they are designed to be waterproof, but again, see above.
It was defective
The batteries went dead
Again, see above. If it was a rental, the rental company should have made certain of its condition before they gave it to you. If it failed due to neglect on their part, they could be liable. If it is your own, any good mountaineer checks out his equipment before setting out.
I didn't know that I had to carry one
Adequate signage and postings at all trail heads should help. Besides, if Oregon were to pass such a "No MLU, no rescue law", news of it would travel quickly among the moutaineering community.
Then there is the old adage "Ignorance of the law is no excuse".
Now, only rich people can climb mountains
They rent for $5!
If you can't afford $5, maybe you shouldn't have spent the money for the gas it took to drive up to the mountain.
 

Moonbear

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Most of the following miss the point. We don't call off rescue just because we don't receive a MLU signal, only if they never intended to carry one. Most MLUs are rented. At the point of rental a record is made in data base. If on the other hand, we have someone you chose to purchase his own, such a person would be the type to register his climb, and at that point his use of a MLU will be recorded in the same data base. If someone is repeorted missing on the Mountain, This data base can be used to determine whether or not a rescue mission is mounted.

If you reented one or registered your own, and then left it in the car when you started out on your climb, aren't you a little forgetful to be climbing a mountain? I mean, what else did you forget? But the fact that you are registered in the data base as having a MLU will mean a search and rescue mission will be mounted. It will just be assumed that something prevented you from activating it. (Like one of the next three points)They're pretty rugged, but see above.Considering that they are designed to be used in snowy/wet conditions (particularly here in the NW in Winter), I'm pretty sure they are designed to be waterproof, but again, see above.Again, see above. If it was a rental, the rental company should have made certain of its condition before they gave it to you. If it failed due to neglect on their part, they could be liable. If it is your own, any good mountaineer checks out his equipment before setting out. Adequate signage and postings at all trail heads should help. Besides, if Oregon were to pass such a "No MLU, no rescue law", news of it would travel quickly among the moutaineering community.
Then there is the old adage "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". They rent for $5!
If you can't afford $5, maybe you shouldn't have spent the money for the gas it took to drive up to the mountain.
You summarized my views on it rather well. Especially the "only the rich will be able to mountain climb" argument. I didn't know how much the things cost, or that they could be cheaply rented, but no, mountain climbing isn't an inexpensive hobby to pursue...it's already an activity for people who are relatively wealthy and can afford all the specialized equipment, time off work, etc.

All the other excuses would be addressed by a permit/waiver form. When you register for the permit, simply add a serial number from your transmitter on it to show you have one. The permit process I envision isn't the sort of thing where someone is saying, "No, you can't do that," but just a way of registering who is on the mountain, and whether they wish to be rescued if they get in trouble, as well as when they are due back so if they prefer not to take any other form of communication with them (a cell phone or radio/walkie talkie...I can appreciate wanting to leave behind cell phones if you want a quiet escape away from civilization) someone knows when they are overdue and it's time to mount a search. Registering a serial number off the MLU also means if it does get dropped or left behind somewhere, then someone finding it knows who it belongs to and who they should be looking for and which next of kin they should be notifying.
 

russ_watters

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Problems with the "no MLU, no rescue" approach:
I forgot to bring it
It was damaged in the fall
It got wet
It was defective
The batteries went dead
I didn't know that I had to carry one
Now, only rich people can climb mountains
If it is a requirement for climbing the mountain, those who waive it would simply need to be required to sign a release at the visitor's center of the park. Those who don't would have to show that they have it on them. Then, even if no signal is detected, the park will know who to search for and who not to (after someone calls to report someone missing).

That is, assuming all climbers are required to check in at the visitors' center (which they should).

[edit: I should really read an entire thread before posting....]
 

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