Rescuing stranded mountain climbers: WHY????????

So here it is on the news today: an Oregon National Guard helicopter crashed on Mt. Hood in an attempt to rescue some stranded mountain climbers.

One of the crew members is believed to be in critical condition.

What an enormous waste of lives and tax payer money.

MEMO TO MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS: If you climb a dangerous mountain, THERE IS A CHANCE YOU WILL F’N DIE. Don’t you know that?

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s a quote from the article:

In the past 100 years, experts say there have been 130 deaths on Mount Hood. In the last 10 years in the United States, there have been an average of 30 climbing fatalities per year, said Jed Williamson, who edits the Accidents in North American Mountaineering publication for the American Alpine Club.

Here we are, fighting a war against terrorists and what are we wasting our national defense budget on? Idiots who decide to climb mountains, for no better reason than to say they did it.

Or I’ve heard “because it’s there”. You know what? “There” is a JOB. “There” are handicapped children that need your help. “There” are starving children in Africa. Wouldn’t your time be better spent helping others, or at least yourself, than trying to dodge avalanches?

I hear mountain climbers also like to get to the summit for the view. Why? Haven’t you ever heard of an airplane? Will get you up to 30,000 feet in like, 10 minutes, tops. And trust me the odds of survival are a lot higher- but won’t be if we have to keep sending our troops to pluck your sorry assess off some peak!

Look, go climb your stupid mountains but if I were Governor of Oregon, here’s my simple rule: climb all the mountains you want, but you have to post a $25,000 bond or we don’t rescue you!

I hope there are survivors. I’m not saying kill all mountain climbers. And I do feel bad for the ones that died and their families.

But I sure as hell hope that they get charged by the government for this mess they caused!

Because it’s the right thing to do?

(And I believe the climbers get fined for the expenses they incur)

From a 1996 article in Climbing magazine:

I agree it’s a terrible thing when accidents like these claim lives, and it’s especially tragic when some of those lives belong to would-be rescuers. But let’s not get carried away by dramatic high-profile tragedies into thinking that this represents “an enormous waste of taxpayer money” in general.

Is mountain climbing dangerous? Absolutely, and all competent climbers know that. Is mountain climbing significantly more dangerous or costly for non-participants than other outdoor sports? Not really.

(And if it’s a question of efficient allocation of our national defense budget, I can definitely think of quite a few things in that category that are far more wasteful than the occasional rescue of a stranded climber!)

No cite, but I’m pretty sure civilians who need rescuing because they were engaged in a dangerous leisure activity do get “billed” for their use of any publicly funded services. I’m not sure if there is some sort of standard fee, or if these folks are going to be getting invoiced for a Blackhawk.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the rescue effort will not be fully covered by taxpayers.
Oh, and I’m with ** rjung** on the “it’s the right thing to do” aspect.

I wonder what your responce would be if some 7-11 clerk called the police to let them know he’s being robbed, and one of the robbers shoots a police officer when they respond. Bill the clerk for it? They probably will have some sort of payment they have to make (Same as if you get a ride in an ambulance or the like), but charging them for a Pave Hawk is more than a little excessive.

Second, it isn’t the National Guard, it’s the Air Force Reserve’s 304th Rescue Squadron (The article you linked to even said so). A unit dedicated to search and rescue. How is this a big drain on the “war on terror”? Though by the sound of the OP, you don’t seem to think such a unit should exist.

And to top it all off, a single helicoptor is hardly a significant drain on the US millitary. It gives good training experience. And when the air force was conducting its bombing in Afghanistan, it was dropping so many bombs you could probably buy several of those helicoptors each day for the same cost (MH-60 costs $10 million, roughly the same as 10 JASM or 20 SLAM-ER – And those are single-shot munitions).

I am firmly of the opinion that if you undertake some sort of wilderness activity, be it climbing, sailing, hunting, biking, diving, etc… that the government should not be under any obligation to come and rescue you when it gets ugly.

I have no cite to back this up, but I have a feeling that there are many people who are now attempting this kind of trek who would not be doing so if they did not know that they have a cell phone or EPIRB to call for help.

I don’t care what peoples’ reasons for climbing mountains are, it isn’t my thing. I don’t think we need to ban it and I don’t think it is “stupid” or that mountain climbers, in general, are “idiots.” Nor do I think people should have to spend their free time helping “the starving children in Africa” :rolleyes: Frankly, I couldn’t care less how people spend their free time, or any other time for that matter. My thought is, you got yourself into this problem, you get youyrself out.

Ugh… I worded that wrong. Crashing doesn’t give good experience (Well, gives experience, but I think there are better ways of doing it). Performing a rescue mission does.

Isn’t the difference here though that these people are taking undo risks? I am trying to think of an analogy here, its almost like setting off fireworks in your own house and setting the house on fire and then expecting the fire department to come and put it out. Yes, it is the fire department’s job, yes the fire department needs training, no it isn’t that expensive to put out the fire, yes the trucks are allready paid for, but on the other hand if you weren’t setting your house on fire then none of those fire fighters would have to take those extra risks. I know it is a weak analogy, but that is the way I see it.

And ambulances shouldn’t roll on car accidents that involve people who are driving for leisure based reasons. We all know that car driving is a fairly risky pursuit, so anyone who does it for non-practical reasons should just take their medicine. Also, anyone OD’ing on drugs or developing diseases through the use of tobacco should be denied related medical treatment. Hey, they took risks and they should now pay the price.

I don’t have any desire to go climb mountains, but I understand that some folks do. Though it may not be written down anywhere, I operate under the assumption that, should I get in some sort of trouble, society will usually make reasonable efforts to assist me, without first judging my wisdom at allowing myself to enter the situation.

I think it’s completely reasonable to say after the fact - “hey, you acted in a risky fashion - here’s the bill for us pulling your ass out of it.” I don’t think it’s reasonable at all to say - “Well, if you had acted more circumspect, you wouldn’t be in this situation. Sorry and good luck getting out.”

I’m just looking at the “Control” and “Z” on my keyboard and debating if the government will help me if I injure myself while taking an “undo” risk.

It seems to me that it is almost an impossible task to come up with a standard for “undo risk”. YOu could certainly argue that working at a convenince store is an unduly risky alternative, and that even if the clerk’s descion to work is justified by his need to eat, the multimillionare who owns the gas stations in town certainly dosen’t need the slight extra income he gets from being open all night–something he couldn’t do if he didn’t know the the police would protect him.

Besides, these mountain climbers are tax payers too, you know?

Hey, maybe I shouldn’t take a walk, because I may get mugged or hit by a car, and then your tax dollars are wasted on the police/ambulance service?


Yeah yeah yeah, eating, typing, talking on the phone, not spelling very well. Undue, there you go, happy now? Glad I was able to give you the opp"e"rtunity. :slight_smile:

Right, but there was actually a point in there too.

I don’t really climb mountains, but I do hike in some pretty remote areas by myself. Up in these parts, a hiker got lost and disappeared for 9 days last October before he was finally rescued. I’d like to think that if something like that happened to me, someone besides my family and friends would be out looking for me.

Is hiking alone in remote areas too risky? Maybe I’ll just walk along the paved trail that goes along the river. What if I slipped off the edge of an embankment into the Mississippi? I’d like to think that I wouldn’t just be left to drift down to the next dam.

Is walking on paved trails in a city undue risk? Maybe I’ll just go for a nice drive. Damn, I slipped on some ice and rolled the friggin car over. I’d like to think that someone will be along with the jaws of life to get me out, and maybe even give me a lift to the hospital.

Oh well.

I’ve climbed extensively in North America, some in South America, and have summited two 8,000-meter peaks in Asia (and failed on a third due to dangerous weather conditions). So I think I have enough experience under my belt to say that competent climbers understand the risks and try to avoid exposing themselves to undue objective risk.

In the final analysis, however, climbing IS about risk. But so is skateboarding, motorcycling, biking, swimming, SCUBA, sailing, surfing, marathoning, NASCAR watching, boxing, skiing, commuting on two-lane highways, drinking alcohol, eating red meat, having multiple sex partners, and perhaps a hundred other activities. Where should the line be drawn? Do hikers get to be rescued but climbers not? Do you really want the government to adopt a do-or-die attitude regarding people who miscalculate the odds?

The personnel on the rescue chopper had the authority to scratch the flight. Apparently, they exercised bad judgment and paid a big price for it. On the other side of the ledger, I agree that many climbers are incompetent and needlessly expose others to danger because of their inexperience.

In Asia especially, I knew that a sloppy miscalculation would cost me my life or my good health. That was a risk I was willing to take. I’ve come to other climbers’ rescue on several occasions. By your logic, should I leave them to die? I understand your anger about would-be Samaritans getting hurt or dying, but do you really want a society where people merely shrug when an adventurer is imperiled? If so, please do not become an emergency room physician.

To those of you that feel we should rescue these people:
You seem to think that the government owes an obligation to help, do you think that the climbers don’t have an obligation to the government? Isn’t it fair to say that people should not take undue risks with their lives and then expect others to risk their own lives in return? It all seems incredibly selfish to me.

Yes, I too can say, “But what about walking down the street? Isn’t that an undue risk? I could be attacked by a stray cat and left stranded to bleed to death.” I don’t see the slippery slope here that some do. How does it follow that if high-risk rescues for mountain climbers are stopped that the police will stop responding to car crashes?

Forget the money. It isn’t about the money. How much is an Air Force pilot worth to her family? Is it fair for the climber to put that pilot at risk because they want to climb a mountain?

Really? I am quite the opposite. I honestly wouldn’t want anyone to come looking for me, especially if it meant putting their lives at risk.

…Why does everyone keep falling back on the “it’s a waste of the taxpayer’s money” argument? If you were trapped somewhere, on the verge of death, I doubt you’d be complaining about where the tax money was going. (Hell, most people would probably say “I’m a taxpayer! Why aren’t they rescuing me?”)

You’re probably right. Why don’t you post the list of what is and what is not “undue” risk, so I’ll know what I can safely do.

You’re right, that’s selfish. And those people who put firefighters lives at risk because they want to work in an office building? They suck.

The search and rescue team members choose their risk just as surely as the mountain climbers. They know what they could possibly face. And I’m sure at least some of them even enjoy their job and its risks.

I don’t think planning on, or considering the possibility of, being rescued ought to figure into what you consider to be safe. If you follow that rule I think you will be able to make your own list.