Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Human Sacrifice

It is almost a pagan ritual this taking of human life by The Mountain. Only three years ago Mt. Hood took the lives of three climbers, and today…of the latest trio that started out last Friday…one is found dead and two are missing and possibly injured. Theories abound. One member of the deceased climber’s family believes there was an earlier accident up above 9,000 feet and that Luke, the most accomplished mountaineer, was on the way down to get help. He died of hypothermia with no sign of fall or injury. Some equipment belonging to the lone woman climber including an undamaged climbing harness was found near his body. It is customary, in an emergency, for the runner sent for help to mark his trail by dropping pieces of equipment along the way. In this case, nothing was found at higher elevations.

Searchers on the ground and in the air have found no sign of the missing members of the team. No scattered equipment, no climbing rope, no ice axes, no footprints, no excavation that might indicate a snow cave. Nothing. It is like the climbers vanished into thin air. Danger of avalanche and the current whiteout conditions have stalled the effort which is still being called a “Search & Rescue” mission. After four nights on the mountain in the most debilitating conditions, it is doubtful anyone could survive. Soon it will be called “Search & Recover.” The families wait at Timberline Lodge along with the media.

Here is what you need to know. These climbers were apparently “purists” and did not carry a mountain locator beacon. Such a device would have provided assistance to the search team and aided in pinpointing the search area. This is a hot topic, controversial among the climbing community, and the benefits/risks are subject to debate.

Here is what Portland Mountain Rescue has to say “Though locating beacons (MLUs) can potentially make searching for lost or overdue climbers less difficult and result in a faster rescue, we strongly oppose mandating that beacons be carried because of potential unintended consequences. Contrary to what might seem common sense, we believe that mandating beacons actually increases risks for both climbers and the rescuers.”

It has been documented that people engaging in potentially dangerous sports exercise less caution if they believe that they will be rescued or that their equipment will “save them.” Those who disdain the safety net available to them, voluntarily take the risk inherent in their actions.

What do you think? Should MLUs be mandated by law? Would you carry one?


Blogger monica said...

It is an interesting debate. As a mother, I am for mandating the beacon in certain situations that can be prescribed and agreed upon. These climbers are not without family and friends who love them and taking the beacon would be for those who wait and worry. That is not too much to ask, is it?

7:20 PM  

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