Should People Be Allowed to Climb Mt. Hood In Winter?

I was wondering what the local community thinks about the loss of the two climbers on Mt. Hood?
As I understand it, these people were adults, who chose to climb a mountain, knowing that a winter storm was forcasted.
Now, to people are missing and presumed dead. I don’t know how much has been spent on the rescue attempts, but it is probably not a trivial amount.
Should this kind of foolish behavior be allowed?


I apologize for my abrupt answer but the question is pretty silly on the face of it. Winter mountaineering is a well established activity with known risks. There are ways of mitigating those risks and regulating them, but outright bans are silly and unenforceable.

Besides, Mt Hood has a frigging ski area on it. People are up there all the time, all winter long.

Sure - don’t allow people to climb mountains during crappy weather, don’t allow them to smoke, cause that’s bad for you, don’t allow people to drink or do drugs. For that matter, don’t allow people to drive - look at how many people die driving or in cars!

People have the right to do stupid things that take them out of the gene pool.

I think a better question would be whether they have to pay for their own rescue, but I think that thread was already done.


Although the question can become a little more difficult than just the financial costs of the rescue because the rescuers sometimes have to put themselves at risk. When I lived in Ithaca, there were substantial penalties for going into gorges in the state parks when they were closed for the winter and this was apparently because there was a case where someone had gone in and gotten into trouble and then in the rescue of that person, one of the rescuers had died.

Of course, one alternative is to post signs that say that if you get into trouble, no rescuer attempt will be made, although that may be hard to enforce in practice when there will be great pressure from family members and the public for rescuers to make an attempt.

Thanks for the replies. The real question is: these people KNEW that a fairly bad storm was forcast-yet they went up.
I understand, winter climbing is pretty safe-if you are well-prepared. But climbing in a storm? I don’t get the logic of such a decision.

That’s a fair question. A lot of times it relates to how much vacation or how far people have traveled to get to the mountain. If you have an artificial deadline it can seem to limit your options, but the mountain will always be there. The other important thing is that weather reports are often wrong. If I canceled all my trips when the forecast was bad I’d never get anywhere. You sometimes have to go to the trailhead and start up before you really know what the weather is going to be like.

You could ask the same question of why people are out driving in a bad storm. They do it all the time and we don’t charge anything additional for their rescue.

I’d let people do it, with two stipulations:

  1. No rescue attempts will be made with public funds.

  2. Prior to starting, each climber must pose for a mugshot to be used in the write up for their Darwin Award nomination. If they make it down the mountain, they can tear up the picture.

Concur with letting them climb, but also letting it be publicly known that they will be on their own if they get stuck.

That’s nonsense. We rescue people, charge them if appropriate, but do it after when they are safe. I have no problem with rescuers staying safe and not going when conditions don’t allow (this happens now) but to draw a line and say “this activity is too dangerous, you’re on your own” goes against what the climbing, S&R, and medical community wants.

I’d prefer not paying for rescue calls for people who get in car accidents on snowy roads if they don’t have snowtires, or to pay for treatment for people who ride motorcycles without helmets, but that’s not the way society works.

Regarding the costs of S&R, we seem to have this same question every time there’s a news story about someone getting hurt on a mountain.

As was pointed out in a previous thread a lot of the S&R work is done by groups that are required to put in a certain number of hours per year training (military, National Guard, etc) and these rescues are actually done under their training budget - so we the taxpayers are not shelling out extra money for it, it’s already budgeted for - they’re just doing it “live” instead of searching for mannequins.

I know some “civilian” S&R folks and they do this work because they love it. Getting up at 3am to hunt for a lost hiker in a blinding snowstorm on some desolate mountainside? No problem.

As to the more general question, should certain wilderness areas be closed part of the year because they’re too hazardous? I’m leaning towards no - keep them open. However make it very clear to people that they are primarily responsible for their own safety. There’s no practical way to prevent people from entering any given area and “hazardous” is relative to your experience and preparation.

I can see certain exceptions for things like unsafe construction (if there’s a footbridge and it’s falling apart, block it off) but that’s manmade stuff, especially where it’s targeted at the casual visitor/tourist crowd. The Great Outdoors, however, should not be closed off.

Why should I give a shit about their safety? More importantly, why should I have to pay for it. If they want to be morons and climb mountains for no reason, then let them be accountable for thir own safety. If they don’t make it back, that’s just natural selection, which is a good thing.

You can not protect people from themselves, no matter hard hard you try, no matter how badly you want to, no matter anything. The best you can do is try to warn them, try to dissuade them.

Human nature is what it is. Some people think they are lucky, or indestructible, or superhuman, or that bad things only happen to someone else.

Because we try to rescue people when possible…often going to almost absurd lengths to do so. We all want to know someone will try and save our bacon if at all possible.

That said for things like mountain climbing (where a person makes a conscious choice to engage in a pursuit that carries substantial risk) I have no problem handing the rescued person a bill for the cost of their rescue.

What about the dangers posed to the rescuers?

Seems to me that is their job and one they choose to do. Certainly there is a risk to them but it is their choice to face that risk.

Why are tow trucks and cops out on the icy snowy streets, risking their lives, when people get into accidents?

The S&R people (most of whom are volunteers and climbers themselves) know what they’re doing and can make the call not to go out in conditions that are too risky. It’s something that we all make judgment calls on, and something that all hikers should consider before venturing into the wild. But it only differs from the risks we all take on a daily basis by degree. Statistically, the most dangerous part of any hike is the drive to the trailhead.

Comparing it to car accidents is ridiculous. People don’t have any control over getting into car accidents. People who climb mountains in storms are just being reckless and irresponsible, they’re not victims of mishaps. I’d say it’s akin to driving drunk. It’s stupid and dangerous in the same way, but since they aren’t putting anyone else in any danger, there’s no reason to pay any attention to them, and that includes rescuing them.

It seems inconsistent to me to talk about personal freedom to make these kinds of reckless choices on the one hand, but then still want the mommy state to rescue you if you get stuck.

Let the organization in charge of any rescue determine what risk it is willing to assume in a rescue attempt. If they don’t think it’s safe to attempt a rescue, they shouldn’t be forced to try.