At what cost?
December 16, 2006 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Rescuers plan biggest search yet, using helicopters, a C-130 aircraft, infrared equipment, and scores of volunteers to search for 3 climbers trapped on Mt. Hood. But at what cost in dollars and lives? A 1998 rescue of two climbers on Mt. McKinley cost $221,818. And Mt. Hood is no stranger to climbing accidents: in 2002, an Air Force helicopter crashed [youtube] while trying to rescue nine climbers swept into a crevasse. Is it time to revisit the debate over who should pay for dangerous, high-profile mountain rescues? [More inside]
posted by googly (204 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
On one hand, some argue that "reckless" adventurers should be charged for the cost of rescue. Does this include the Ht. Hood three who, though by all accounts experienced, competent climbers, have been chided by one rescuer as "just asking for it"?

On the other hand, an American Alpine Club review of rescue operations in Denali National Park argued that “climbers are not the largest beneficiary of SAR services in the National Park Service nor are they the most costly recreational users to rescue.” In 1998, the National Park Service recorded ten times as many search-and-rescue (SAR) incidents for swimmers as for climbers [p. 15], and the per-visitor cost of SAR operations in national parks was 1.5 cents.
posted by googly at 9:07 AM on December 16, 2006


Experienced, non-experienced, first-timers, last-timers, swimmers, whatever.. they should all pay for their goddamn rescues. Period. Unless they start paying me for, say, my dentist bills.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:17 AM on December 16, 2006


why would anyone even attempt to climb Mt Hood in december? aren't conditions likely to be harsh, even severe, this time of year.
posted by brandz at 9:18 AM on December 16, 2006


Experienced, non-experienced, first-timers, last-timers, swimmers, whatever.. they should all pay for their goddamn rescues. Period. Unless they start paying me for, say, my dentist bills.

And when you require emergency care, you should be required to present an insurance card or credit card before they can begin treatment. After all, aren't uninsured people the single biggest drain on health care costs?

You don't have money, you do anything risky, you don't deserve to live.

(This is sarcasm.)
posted by dw at 9:20 AM on December 16, 2006


What happens if they find them having a cup of chocolate in a diner and then hand them a huge bill?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:22 AM on December 16, 2006


Following up on what brandz said, why not establish a Stupidity Index that gives a higher rating to things like climbing Mt. Hood in December. Use it as a multiplier against the cost of the rescue. While it may function as a barrier to entry for some, which may not be bad, the rich and the dedicated will still be allowed to do what the want.
posted by tommasz at 9:24 AM on December 16, 2006


If you start charging people for expensive rescues, eventually the question will come up of who pays for the rescue if it fails.
posted by chrominance at 9:26 AM on December 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


But dw, nobody is suggesting that we don't rescue people in these situations, just that they are charged for the expense of the search when they are found. I don't necessarily think that's a good idea either, but it certainly isn't the same as denying someone medical care.
posted by Doug at 9:30 AM on December 16, 2006


These three are highly experienced and were prepared. We've been getting regular updates on the search and, while I wouldn't have gone hiking in December in the conditions they did, it shouldn't be held against them that they did try it.

It would be nice if this search came to a happy conclusion.

I think John McCain is going to introduce the Bill the Rescued Bill just after his attempt to destroy the blogosphere passes.
posted by fenriq at 9:33 AM on December 16, 2006


why would anyone even attempt to climb Mt Hood in december? aren't conditions likely to be harsh, even severe, this time of year.

People climb Hood and Rainier in winter conditions all the time. You rarely hear about the need to rescue climbers; it usually hikers or skiiers that get into trouble.

And keep in mind that we've just gone through a storm of historic proportions out here. Early Friday morning Sea-Tac had its highest wind gust ever reported -- 69mph. Westport, Oregon had a 114mph gust. There are still over 1 million people without power between Vancouver Island and central Oregon. Pretty much all of Seattle south of I-90 is still without power. The Cascades received upwards of two feet of snow (with 100mph straight winds) in this last storm.

And this was on top of Wednesday's storm that the climbers got stuck in. Even the most expert climbers can get caught out by storms like this.
posted by dw at 9:37 AM on December 16, 2006


Isn't it standard procedure to charge for rescues?

When I hiked the Grand Canyon in 2000, my companion broke her ankle on the descent. She was airlifted via helicopter from the relatively remote location, and the Park Service sent her a bill for a few thousand (I think; memory is fuzzy on the exact amount), which was then paid for by her health insurance.

Being charged didn't come as a surprise to us as the Park Service had warnings in multiple locations that rescues weren't free.
posted by pandaharma at 9:46 AM on December 16, 2006


But dw, nobody is suggesting that we don't rescue people in these situations, just that they are charged for the expense of the search when they are found.

Then why don't you just add the charge to the backcountry permits? 98-99% of all NPS/NF users have no incidents. If the "1.5 cents" is to be believed, you could add $5 to every permit fee and be able to install Starbucks franchises on the rescue copters and put memory foam on the backboards.
posted by dw at 9:49 AM on December 16, 2006


Rescues (and other contingencies) should be paid for by a surge tax on news ratings. Products are being sold while people tune into disasters.
posted by Brian B. at 10:07 AM on December 16, 2006 [12 favorites]


I guess the problem for me is what happens when someone can't pay the fee. Do you want to drive some lower-class family out in the street because they were caught in a surprise squall, got lost, but can't afford the rescue? And if you don't, wouldn't it be better to leave them to die? If you engage a rescue and find the person dead, do you show up with the bill before or after the funeral?

Mountaineering and backcountry use is already an upper-middle to upper class sport. When you start asking whether people can afford to pay or not before you engage a rescue, you make it that much more elitist. And then, you start running the risk of having the lower and middle classes so disconnected from nature and disdainful of how the rich use it that they're more than happy to approve a clear-cut and a strip mine in a wilderness area. Show them richies.
posted by dw at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2006


AZ, as mentioned above, has some pretty clear rules on this topic. Example, if you go into the back country to hike and you do not pull a specific permit, and in some cases report your entrance you will charged up the wazoo for your rescue, for sure. If you DO pull a permit and need rescue, the chances of paying are still there, but less so.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2006


*highfives Brian B*
posted by phaedon at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2006


Also, I should mention the "stupid driver" fee for rescue implemented in the desert southwest for drivers dumb enough to enter flooded washes. It happens all the time, but is, I imagine unique to this area.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 10:19 AM on December 16, 2006


BrodieShadeTree, you would imagine wrong. It happens all over the place. Sometimes the water is actually snow though.

Brian B, that is actually a pretty excellent idea.
posted by fenriq at 10:23 AM on December 16, 2006


I don't much like the idea of making people pay for their rescues, but I also see the need to have money generated to keep rescue operations possible.

So how about this: If you put yourself into a position where you require rescuing, once saved, you have to do PSAs explaining what you did wrong and how you were helped. Make the people who get rescued go on TV and solicit charitable contributions for the teams that saved their lives.

Also, if the harrowing tale of you doomed expedition gets picked up as a book or movie, a percentage of the earnings go to teams as well.
posted by quin at 10:35 AM on December 16, 2006


Rescues (and other contingencies) should be paid for by a surge tax on news ratings. Products are being sold while people tune into disasters.

Can we extend that to missing persons searches? Then add an additional surcharge if the missing person is a blonde girl who did something stupid while visiting a vacation island/resort?
posted by dw at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2006


Isn't freezing to death on a mountainside just nature's way of telling you that you're not a good enough mountain climber?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:52 AM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I think dw is on the right track.

I don't think that people should necessarily have to pay for the full cost of their rescue, I mean, should I have to pay for the Fire Department to come into my house?

As libertarian as my inclinations may be, I'm no market fetishist.

Add a "rescue insurance surcharge" to the permits. They know that they're taking part in a risky behavior, and an extra few bucks per climber into the emergency services pot would defray the cost nicely.

However, to make the situation clear and unambiguous, there would have to be hard criteria known to the climber in advance of the conditions under which a rescue operation would be undertaken, so that every stubbed toe won't end in a lawsuit of "You should've come and got me, I paid my insurance!"
posted by chimaera at 10:58 AM on December 16, 2006


As long as we're handing out bills to people involved in narcissistic unwise decisions I'd like to hand the $350 billion Iraq invoice to everybody who voted for Bush the last time round.
posted by alizarin at 11:05 AM on December 16, 2006


I am a bit perplexed at this call out for those who get stuck in bad situations. I didn't see any moral outrage about who should pay when the guy from CNET and his family got lost on backroads. Things happen to people, no matter how prepared or experienced they are.
posted by bluesky43 at 11:07 AM on December 16, 2006


but I also see the need to have money generated to keep rescue operations possible.

It's called taxes. America burns through billions without blinking, we can chip in a few thousand to rescue people, even foolhardy or stupid ones.

and what about the Kim family that was lost for nine days and the father died trying to save them? Should we hand them a bill too? If no, what's different in their situation? Who gets to chose who pays for rescue or not? and can I nominate me first?

There are people going bankrupt in America from medical bills. Let's spo'em a rescue, ok?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:08 AM on December 16, 2006


Listen. There's no reason to give up yet. I say we put more climbers on the mountain to assure it gets climbed.
posted by dhartung at 11:08 AM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Good discussion -- I like the proposal to encourage (not force) people who are rescued to make a few PSAs about what happened, etc.

Also, on a positive note: while costly, this is invaluable training for the people involved in the search & rescue.
posted by davidmsc at 11:15 AM on December 16, 2006


Fran Sharp, President of the National Mountain Rescue Association discussing on NPR's Talk of the Nation about the very same subject.

Mentioned was the fact that almost everyone in such a search party is volunteering. Also mentioned is the fact the military uses such searches as training missions.

I happen to think that emergency services such as these are a right granted to all US citizens, and all people for that matter. Compensation should not be mandatory, of course if I were rescued from a life threatening situation such as this, I'd throw one helluva party for the rescuers.
posted by _aa_ at 11:33 AM on December 16, 2006


I just have to wonder if any of the people arguing that the rescued should pay for the rescuing actually go hiking or climb mountains themselves. I mean, what if it were you in that position? For all the money the federal government wastes on things like war and national defense, I find it difficult to be outraged at a much more minor expense that saves lives instead of killing people.
posted by banished at 11:41 AM on December 16, 2006


I hope they're okay.
posted by thirteenkiller at 11:42 AM on December 16, 2006


Mentioned was the fact that almost everyone in such a search party is volunteering.

So it was with a friend of mine that died while trying to rescue someone.

.
posted by fluffycreature at 11:45 AM on December 16, 2006


quin's PSA idea rocks - where I live skiers or hikers require rescuing after going out of bounds, past very clearly marked signs, on a semi-regular basis. Not infrequently local news will be on the scene when they come outta the woods and sometimes one of 'em will offer a one-fingered salute to the camera. Apparently they feel the world is inappropriately intruding on a private moment. Rescue good, responsibility not so good. So yeah, money's hardly the point, PSA sounds perfect. Responsible people like Mr Kim or the mature experienced guys lost right now would be very happy to do it and the weekend-warrior goofballs would get a chance to grow up a little.
posted by scheptech at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2006


Tier One: -- Rescue the people. Bad luck shouldn't be a death sentence, if anyone can help. That's why it is our instinct to live in groups. That's what society evolved to do.

Tier Two:-- Rescue the people. We don't want stupidity to be a death sentence. Out of our instinct to live in groups grows the instinct to protect the less able members of the group. It lessens us as human beings if we are selfish, and whether we admit it or not, we feel bad. Besides, you may not be stupid now, but as you get old you will be. Now you look after yourself, but when you need it we as a society will take care of you, just as we did when you were a child.

Tier Three:-- Screw them. If you need to blaze your own trail and pursue your snowflake destiny, rock on. Be happy. But whatever the consequences are, suck it up. Why would you deliberately endanger your life, knowing that you are compelling other people to risk their lives -- even give their lives -- to save you? Because you are a selfish ass, and if you can't take care of yourself, that should be a death sentence.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:04 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


A whole country agrees.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:07 PM on December 16, 2006


Make people pay for their rescue? Great -- that'll discourage the poor from straying from the coop. There's really no reason for them to go to parks, mountains, the sea, etc; that can be left to us, the rich and educated, who can really appreciate these things. Frankly, they're better off in the safety of the city, where they can easily get to their menial jobs - who else is going to do those, after all? Us? Sorry, we're climbing!

And if any of them are stupid and selfish enough to go and get themselves in trouble, they'll surely learn their lesson when they're bankgrupt on the streets - who's gonna rescue you then! Us? Sorry, yacht trip!
posted by Drexen at 12:17 PM on December 16, 2006


So.. who pays the cost when the Coast Guard rescues crab fishermen? Why should they not have to pay for their rescue as well?
posted by meddeviceengineer at 12:24 PM on December 16, 2006


Hey, more lost hikers & stuff = more SAR experience for me. Sounds great!
posted by drstein at 12:27 PM on December 16, 2006


This thread is an obvious call for a case by case evaluation.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 12:32 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


So.. who pays the cost when the Coast Guard rescues crab fishermen? Why should they not have to pay for their rescue as well?

The thinking is, the crab guys are attempting to earn money, make a living, a more or less non-optional activity - whereas the hikers are creating the risk simply in pursuit of their own entertainent or 'self-actualization', a clearly optional activity.

quin has it anyway though, not about money, the PSA idea works
posted by scheptech at 12:33 PM on December 16, 2006


Methylviolet, your reasoning assumes that fate is choice itself. I won't go into the problems with this mindset, but it makes far more sense to the courageous mind to assume that when people take risks they should be honored with lifelines. Fatalists, or those who think that people always get what they deserve, will never understand this.
posted by Brian B. at 12:34 PM on December 16, 2006


So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?
posted by Methylviolet at 12:36 PM on December 16, 2006


Look, nobody told these people to live in states or counties where they'd have to pay for all these rescues. It's their choice, let them live with it.
posted by dhartung at 12:45 PM on December 16, 2006


Derail: I strongly nominate this for post of the month. Not for content, although that's pretty good, but for execution. Controversial subject, although not Iraq or Israel or abortion or any other of the usual suspects. It's not preaching, nor is it even biased. On the contrary, it's informed and informative on both sides. A clearly pre-composed "more inside", and a compelling cliffhanger (pun not intended) drawing the reader inside.

Thank you, googly. This is excellent.

posted by Plutor at 12:47 PM on December 16, 2006


What the hell, people? I'd gladly pay an additional 1.5 cents on my park admission fee if it meant insurance against being bankrupted by a freak accident. Why the hell do we band together as a society, if not for the common good? Maintaining a state of readiness for emergencies is merely one of the things that society our, over the last few hundred years, has decided is a generally beneficial thing to do for everyone. (I'm in a mood-- I put out a burning car with my extinguisher yesterday, and it didn't occur to me to ask the driver to pay for the recharge. His gratitude was enough.)
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:48 PM on December 16, 2006


I've always been of the opinion that anyone undertaking dangerous activities such as this should have to pay for thier rescue.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:53 PM on December 16, 2006


I have been a rock-climber for 25 years, mostly in California. I've helped with rescues, but never needed one.
As I recall, The American Alpine Club offers rescue insurance with membership. Why the AAC makes it so difficult to join (tons of paperwork) is a mystery to me, but if I were an ice-climber, I'd get it. I'd also carry a personal rescue transceiver like it was my life...cuz it would be.
The thing non-climbers don't understand is that we watch out for each other. That's why a lot of the rescuers are up there. That's why climbers are generally the ones on the beach giving CPR or pulling kids out of wells. It's just an impulse.
I'm not a peakbagger, but I know that a winter ascent is seen as a greater challenge.
posted by tristanshout at 12:54 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?

I'd donate a towel for your head.
posted by thirteenkiller at 1:01 PM on December 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


No, but I won't charge your family for it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:04 PM on December 16, 2006


I do think a mandatory rescue insurance would be good idea for these parks, restricted to certain activities. Hell, even charging $20, making clear that it might not cover all costs, and letting it go at that might solve the underfunding.
(Though insurance tends to make people take more risks...)
posted by klangklangston at 1:06 PM on December 16, 2006


You do realize that you used to have to pay dues to a firefighting brigade / company in your town. And there were competing companies. If your house was on fire, but the only brigade available wasn't the one you had the medallion on your house for, they would drive right past it and let it burn. Maybe go in and save some people, but the house was toast.

I know in seattle / king county that the ambulances are part of the fire department, and your ride to the hospital is paid for by your taxes (however, if you want a ride *home* you have to pay for it yourself).

As for who to bill for the SAR operations? I think we should tax the broadcast news companies that cover the events, hey, if they want they can buy better access on the rescue choppers / split the cost of the fuel for the right to stick a camera on a chopper (they can control the camera remotely, the can't dictate where the chopper goes). Also, the AZ plan makes sense too. The less you inform the park of your wereabouts, the more you have to pay.

Of course, no one is mentioning the Kim's in this, because while the Kim's were also on vacation, they happened to get into danger doing something every can relate too: driving home from vacation, and getting lost. These climbers happen to be on a vacation that not everyone relates too, so its foreign and strange, and shouldn't be done in the winter time, etc.
posted by mrzarquon at 1:12 PM on December 16, 2006


So, those of you who think the climbers should pay for their rescue: remember Dr. Jerri Nielsen? She was the doctor who discovered she had breast cancer while stationed at the South Pole. The USAF performed an emergency cargo drop in July (remember, it's the South Pole, so July is the middle of winter down there, with temperatures 100 degrees below zero) to ensure her survival until conditions permitted her rescue several months later, when she was picked up in an equally dangerous mid-October landing in a specially-equipped C130. Should we have billed her for that?
posted by fandango_matt at 1:13 PM on December 16, 2006


This crops up in the UK from time to time, since it's usually the military that provide the helicopters and SAR aircraft for these kind of searches. Some MP or other will harrumph about the cost and announce that they're investigating charging people for the cost of being rescued.

Shortly afterwards they usually go quiet again after it's pointed out to them that the military SAR teams tend to view these things as great way to hone their skills and experience & if there weren't any [unfortunate|dumb] [climbers|sailers|etc] to go rescue, they'd be having to run regular exercises that would cost just as much if not more.

This may not apply to the US of course (and it doesn't apply to every rescue service in the UK; the lifeboat service is run entirely on a combination of charitable donations and volunteer services, and the ground-level mountain rescue is also entirely volunteer run).
posted by pharm at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2006


There are a lot of people taking a lot of risks in day to day society that we're paying for unknowingly; they're not as easily pointed out as this but I doubt that per capita it's causing anyone a whole lot of strain on anyone.
posted by dflemingdotorg at 1:19 PM on December 16, 2006


I believe Dr. Nielsen was working for the government when that happened, fandango_matt. You can't just take off for a pleasure expedition at the South Pole. But anyone who does should be prepared to pay for their extraction, don't you think?

The obvious answer, which no one seems to have mentioned, is to require mountaineers and other extreme/adventure sports practitioners to carry rescue insurance. Duh.
posted by spitbull at 1:24 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Should we have billed her [Dr. Jerri Nielsen] for that?

Was she in the Antarctica on an extreme sports pleasure trip?
posted by MegoSteve at 1:25 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Screw them

That's not a good attitude for society to have, even if people are being stupid.

It can be argued that people who stayed in New Orleans for Katrina were deliberately endanging their lives and you could say the same trailer park dwellers in tornado alley or flood plains or what have you.

Society can NOT say screw you to it's citizens, and refuse to recuse them when it has to the resourcs to do so.

Now, if you wanna ban those Mt Hood climbers from climbing it EVER again, that's fine with me. But you can't leave them out there to die.

As for the whole "See Japan is smart about this" crack, god forbid someone actually defy a goverment advisory and travel to Iraq to help street kids or cover the story on depleted uranium and then get taken as hostages. Yes, lets listen to the government on everything and not go against anything it advises.

America rolled a half trillion dollar joint in Iraq alone (so far). We can cough a bit for some dumb ass rock climbers with small dicks.

So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?

No, but I'd volunteer to help get you off Mt. Hood.

and you know those two things are different.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:29 PM on December 16, 2006


Timely post, the 100 mph winds really got to me, if these guys survive there'll be a film. I've been thinking about this subject all day. Human capacity for understanding drama, empathy, has no end, but our resources definitely tap out.

Right now I'm on the 'non-extra-ordinary-disasters-that also-cost-a-shit-load' mystery. I'd love to get a return on the misery caused by the amped-up trucker on hour 23 who jack-knifes on the San Diego Freeway at 4 on a thursday.
posted by toma at 1:30 PM on December 16, 2006


But you can't leave them out there to die.

The question raised is who should pay, post-rescue, which hopefully will be the case.
posted by scheptech at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2006


Isn't there such a thing as expedition insurance? If there isn't then there should be. Those that opt not to get it and need a rescue would be required to pony up some of the cost of saving them.

Of course, this wouldn't apply in the case of the Kim's but it would certainly work for these mountaineers.

Oops, spitbull said it first.

Toma, if they are holed up in a snow cave or a digloo then the winds really won't matter too much. If they are actively trying to get out on their own then the winds are extremely dangerous. My guess is that these guys are holed up and waiting out the storm as best they can. And choosing straws to decide who gets eaten first.
posted by fenriq at 1:38 PM on December 16, 2006


The question raised is who should pay, post-rescue, which hopefully will be the case.

Yeah, but the post I was replying to was advocating "screw'em.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2006


posted by spitbull I believe Dr. Nielsen was working for the government when that happened

posted by MegoSteve Was she in the Antarctica on an extreme sports pleasure trip?


Doesn't matter. She wasn't in the military or ordered to go there; she voluntarily took the job and was there of her own volition. The logic for billing people for their rescue seems to be if you choose to engage in activity from which you need to be rescued, you ought to pay for that rescue. By that logic, Dr. Jerri Nielsen, and people caught at sea in storms, or plucked from mountains or deserts or whatever, should be obligated to pay for the cost of their rescue.

The same question of Aron Ralston. Remember him? There was a massive search for him, too.

posted by spitbull You can't just take off for a pleasure expedition at the South Pole.

I believe you can.

posted by spitbull But anyone who does should be prepared to pay for their extraction, don't you think?

No, because those expenses are--to the best of my understanding--covered by the taxes we pay.

posted by spitbull The obvious answer, which no one seems to have mentioned, is to require mountaineers and other extreme/adventure sports practitioners to carry rescue insurance.

I'd agree that's a great idea in principle, but it raises the question about what happens to rescuing people without rescue insurance, and you're back to the question of whether they should be billed for the cost of their rescue.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:46 PM on December 16, 2006


When I hiked the Grand Canyon in 2000, my companion broke her ankle on the descent. She was airlifted via helicopter from the relatively remote location, and the Park Service sent her a bill for a few thousand

The thing I often wonder with things like this is why it's a few thousand. As little as 6 years ago, helicopter rides into and out of Havasupai cost $100. I understand there may be further costs associated with additional hazards and insurance, but thousands extra?

I'm not really entirely against having people pay fees for rescues, but I'm also not comfortable with reasoning that basically goes back to "de-incentivizing" the need to be rescued. Exposure and dehydration and the uncertainty of ever seeing home again aren't fun at all, and a good number of the highly publicized searches around here in Utah end in the recovery of bodies (or no recovery at all). There's plenty of incentive to avoid that, and people who are still careless in the face of it either are simply unaware or unlikely to change (if the potential loss of life and limb doesn't deter you, why would thousands of dollars?).

That said, if fees help contribute to effective rescue operations, then it doesn't seem that wrong to ask beneficiaries to contribute something. The PSA is a good idea. Perhaps also an obligation to either participate in a rescue later or a reasonable fee that's spread out over a long period of time so the fee itself doesn't become as traumatic as the situation that led to the rescue.
posted by weston at 1:49 PM on December 16, 2006


So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?

It doesn't follow. However, if you were playing Russian roulette and the bullet didn't kill you, I would support your right to receive expensive healthcare for your injuries. If you tried to die, I would respect that right too. I was never a cheerleader of those dorky Darwin awards. Besides mocking Darwin, they blame victims as the herding response of those who justify their paranoia and take least risk.
posted by Brian B. at 1:59 PM on December 16, 2006


Isn't there such a thing as expedition insurance?

Yes ... available from commercial brokers or through organizations such as the Royal Geographic Society.
posted by ericb at 2:03 PM on December 16, 2006


So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?
No, but I'd volunteer to help get you off Mt. Hood. and you know those two things are different.


Oh no, I don't. How are they different? Voluntarily and deliberately risking your life for no reason but giggles and other people have to risk their lives to save you? Other people who are the best we have, the most noble and responsible members of society? No. Paying the entire cost of the rescue is not nearly enough. What if, as is not unlikely, one of the rescuers dies? How much money would make up his loss to his family -- and to us?

To clarify, I do not advocate billing the climbers for the cost of the rescue. I advocate locating them, telling them they're bastards, and flying away and leaving them to die.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:07 PM on December 16, 2006


Doesn't matter. She wasn't in the military or ordered to go there; she voluntarily took the job and was there of her own volition.

Of course it matters. There is a vast difference between someone who, for pleasure or vision quest or a jones for xtreme adventure, chooses to undertake a dangerous activity and someone who, on the course of doing their government job, is required to live in a dangerous place. It's a little silly to try to equate the two.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:08 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


Methylv: Can't we just rent a billboard in heaven?
posted by toma at 2:09 PM on December 16, 2006



posted by MegoSteve Was she in the Antarctica on an extreme sports pleasure trip?
Doesn't matter.


Matters because she was doing something to everyone's benefit, conducting research, helping solve problems, supporting herself financially. She's following a profession, providing a service, fulfilling a role designed by others.

Hikers aren't. They're doing something nobody asked them to do in the first place.

The question isn't who should get rescued, or who's a good person, it's just who should pay when things go wrong. Again though, quin has the answer: not money, PSA.
posted by scheptech at 2:11 PM on December 16, 2006


Doesn't matter.

Dr. Nielsen, I believe, was working on a government-sponsored research project. You're seriously saying it isn't her employer's responsibility to rescue her if she is injured in the course of doing her job? Wouldn't want to work for you, mate.

These yahoos tried to climb Mt. Hood, in December. The risks entailed are obviously serious ones. We have insurance in order to socialize the costs of such risks among the appropriate pool of beneficiaries, and to calculate actual risks, and to incentivize limited risk-taking. They are entitled to a rescue, and the rescuers are entitled to reimbursement.
posted by spitbull at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2006


posted by MegoSteve Of course it matters. There is a vast difference between someone who, for pleasure or vision quest or a jones for xtreme adventure, chooses to undertake a dangerous activity and someone who, on the course of doing their government job, is required to live in a dangerous place. It's a little silly to try to equate the two.

In this case, there isn't. As I said, Dr. Nielsen was under no orders to live at the South Pole. She could have refused, she could have quit, in fact, I distinctly remember this question being asked of her and her response was, for lack of an exact quote, "I chose to be there."

Dr. Nielsen decided, of her own free will, to live in a part of the world from which rescue was all but impossible six months out of the year, where temperatures drop 100 degrees below zero. I'd say that falls under the definition of dangerous activity and "xtreme adventure."

So by your logic, Dr. Nielsen chose to undertake a dangerous activity, just as the climbers on Mount Hood chose to undertake a dangerous activity. Their motivations for doing so are irrelevant.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:22 PM on December 16, 2006


Methylviolet is trolling, right?
posted by thirteenkiller at 2:30 PM on December 16, 2006


You can't understand the difference between work and play, Matt?
posted by MegoSteve at 2:37 PM on December 16, 2006


posted by scheptech Matters because she was doing something to everyone's benefit, conducting research, helping solve problems, supporting herself financially. She's following a profession, providing a service, fulfilling a role designed by others. Hikers aren't. They're doing something nobody asked them to do in the first place.

Irrelevant. Both parties (Dr. Nielsen and the Mount Hood hikers), undertook activities of own choosing from which they needed expensive rescue due to circumstances beyond their control.

posted by spitbull Dr. Nielsen, I believe, was working on a government-sponsored research project. You're seriously saying it isn't her employer's responsibility to rescue her if she is injured in the course of doing her job? Wouldn't want to work for you, mate.

Had you read what I wrote, you'd understand that's not at all what I'm saying. I'm saying exactly the opposite: the reason Dr. Nielsen shouldn't be billed for her rescue is the same reason the Mt. Hood hikers, the Kims, and other people who find themselves in need of rescue shouldn't be billed for the services for which our taxes pay.

posted by spitbull These yahoos tried to climb Mt. Hood, in December. The risks entailed are obviously serious ones. We have insurance in order to socialize the costs of such risks among the appropriate pool of beneficiaries, and to calculate actual risks, and to incentivize limited risk-taking. They are entitled to a rescue, and the rescuers are entitled to reimbursement.

We pay that insurance in the form of taxes which go toward things like the fire department, police, coast guard, and the military/national guard, all of which are meant to be used in emergency situations in which people are in need of rescue.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:38 PM on December 16, 2006


"...I'd also carry a personal rescue transceiver like it was my life...cuz it would be. ..."
posted by tristanshout at 3:54 PM EST on December 16

tristanshout makes a salient point, upon which much of this discussion should turn, IMHO.

Today, not carrying a PLB into elective backcountry situations is beyond stupid, it's positively reckless. A search of the kind now being mounted puts potentially hundreds of additional rescue worker's lives in danger, and makes the effort orders of magnitude more costly. And make no mistake; the progenitors of this little drama were not so poor as to make getting a PLB any burden, financially or physically. They were just thoughtless, and maybe figured "it couldn't happen to them." So, because they couldn't be bothered to take along an 8 ounce piece of survival electronics, and spend an hour setting up a notification plan with friends and family, many other lives and a lot of equipment are being put at risk.

If they are found alive, I'd bill 'em 2x the cost of the total search as a stupidity tax, unless a dead PLB is found in their possession at the time of pickup. If they are found dead, I'd bill their families cost of recovery operations, with the same exception, as a body claim fee.

Sure, that's harsh. But if the kind of outrage publicity doing this would generate is what it would take to make PLBs standard equipment for all hikers into backcountry, it would be worth it.
posted by paulsc at 2:40 PM on December 16, 2006


incidents for swimmers as for climbers [p. 15], and the per-visitor cost of SAR operations in national parks was 1.5 cents.

So... force everyone to pay rescue insurance (a whole penny and a half!) before they go in. Problem solved.

Thank me later.
posted by delmoi at 2:40 PM on December 16, 2006


Actually, I wonder. Is there any evidence that these people didn't pay some sort of rescue surcharge or insurance, or that they won't get billed, or whatever? If people think the surcharge/insurance. is such a good idea, maybe it's already been implemented.

For all we know, googly's framing may be entirely inappropriate.
posted by delmoi at 2:46 PM on December 16, 2006


the Mt. Hood hikers, the Kims, and other people who find themselves in need of rescue shouldn't be billed for the services for which our taxes pay.

Agree, no one should be paying for rescue, there's too many problems with it such as creating a barrier to entry for less well-off people and punitively adding pain to pain. Community service, in cases as determined by a judge based on individual circumstance, would be less problematical and also more likely to actually reduce occurances.
posted by scheptech at 2:47 PM on December 16, 2006


paulsc, PLBs are something like $500. For people intentionally engaging in wintertime mountain sports they still make sense because the danger of avalanches or exposure is so high. For people who day-hike or even backpack in the summers it's a bit harder to justify, and a $500 price of entry for the mountains is a problem.
posted by weston at 2:51 PM on December 16, 2006


And for those of you that are planning some future weekend hikes into the wilderness, remember that a PLB can be rented by the week, in the U.S., at a cost of about $50 to $60. Go ahead sports, spend the $60 for the better unit that sends your location coordinates via GPS, and save everybody on the rescue team a load of grief.
posted by paulsc at 2:51 PM on December 16, 2006


I'd index Delmoi's rescue insurance premium by week # (cold-weather weeks more expensive than summer I would expect).
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 2:57 PM on December 16, 2006


if we taxed trolling and snarking, we could pay for a lot of things, not just rescues ...

I advocate locating them, telling them they're bastards, and flying away and leaving them to die.

i see ... it's only like russian roulette if you're trying to accomplish something useful by it, like rescuing them ... but if you're just calling them a bastard in person, it's not as dangerous ... well, no ... it's, um, justifiable to risk your life to take a shit on someone, but not to save them, um ... well ...

hey, can someone around here help me understand what the fuck methyviolent is trying to say here? ... i don't speak tweaker real well ...
posted by pyramid termite at 3:01 PM on December 16, 2006


shorter methylviolet: "moral hazard, beetches!"
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:04 PM on December 16, 2006


How are they different?

One is more fun.

Voluntarily and deliberately risking your life for no reason but giggles and other people have to risk their lives to save you?

If things go bad, yes others risk their life for you, even if you're doing reckless stuff. It's called society.

Other people who are the best we have, the most noble and responsible members of society?

They're just people, who for one reason or another have chosen a job that puts their life at risk. By your reasoning, we shouldn't give a hoot about them either.

No. Paying the entire cost of the rescue is not nearly enough. What if, as is not unlikely, one of the rescuers dies?

Then he/she dies in a tragic accident doing a noble thing and get a hero's funeral. They knew the risk when they signed up.

How much money would make up his loss to his family -- and to us?

Money wouldn't make up for it, of course.

Nobody gets left to die. Nobody gets billed for having their life saved. Life is too important to start putting a dollar amount on it.


To clarify, I do not advocate billing the climbers for the cost of the rescue. I advocate locating them, telling them they're bastards, and flying away and leaving them to die.


I encourage you to relay this sentiment to their families. Right about now would be a really good time.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:05 PM on December 16, 2006


Use of PLBs is a good point. I don't recall any "major" backcountry rescue up here in the last few years where a PLB was involved. That is, most cases where PLBs are used the rescue and extraction is straightforward.

To clarify, I do not advocate billing the climbers for the cost of the rescue. I advocate locating them, telling them they're bastards, and flying away and leaving them to die.

Compassion fatigue, much?
posted by dw at 3:05 PM on December 16, 2006


So, what are "extreme sports"? And what is the "backcountry"? Because a few weeks ago, a couple here in the Bay Area went for a hike - not a backcountry thing, just a short hike - in a state park near Los Gatos. They got lost. Really lost, like five days' worth of lost. They made mistakes - didn't tell anyone where they were going, left cell phones in the car, didn't take water or extra clothing with them - but they weren't planning on a backcountry expedition. (They obviously underestimated the ruggedness of the Santa Cruz mountains.) They were searched for and rescued. Should they have purchased expedition insurance? The next time I plan a day hike in Tilden Park, should I buy expedition insurance?
posted by rtha at 3:11 PM on December 16, 2006


cold-weather weeks more expensive than summer I would expect

On Mt. Washington -- and elsewhere in the Presidential Range, New Hampshire -- there can be quick snow squalls and blizzards in the spring and fall, as well as plummeting temperatures all year round.

"135 fatalities have occurred on and around Mount Washington since 1849."*

Checking out the list of deaths, one finds instances where someone has died (due to hypothermia) in most every month of the year. Many were amateur/casual hikers who found themselves in unexpected and unanticipated circumstances.
posted by ericb at 3:14 PM on December 16, 2006


In a civilized country people work together to help someone in trouble, even if that person was a bit (or a lot) stupid.

In a non-civilized country, they just let them die.

So the question becomes, which are we?

I've been hoping for civilized. But lately, I'm not so sure.
posted by flug at 3:17 PM on December 16, 2006


Searchers retreat down Mount Hood -- Expanded effort yields no sign of missing climbers, but will continue.
posted by ericb at 3:17 PM on December 16, 2006


I agree with Mviolet on personal responsibility, let them freeze.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 3:20 PM on December 16, 2006


So -- if I play Russian roulette, you'll take the bullet for me?
No, but I'd volunteer to help get you off Mt. Hood. and you know those two things are different.

Oh no, I don't. How are they different?

Seriously? You don't see that (among other differences) the first situation is practically a %100 chance of death, while the other is, um, not? You can't grasp at least that simple concept? Really? Incredible...
posted by Land Stander at 3:24 PM on December 16, 2006


Methylviolet's previous link about the shame heaped upon the Japanese hostages in Iraq is very telling. In a nation of conformity, the real risk is failing at independence, with honor defined as doing exactly as you are told. This is true in cults as well, where one is condemned for transgressing thought boundaries. To some people, these climbers are sinners. It is then a judgment process of how much they will pay, to make an example of them and service the terror of conformity and hierarchy.
posted by Brian B. at 3:31 PM on December 16, 2006


One other bit of advice, applicable even for the PLB equipped:

Make a "flight plan," aka a written list of route, way points, and overnight stops you plan, "file" it with family and friends who will be reachable, and have any necessary medical and insurance information you'd need to provide in an emergency if you yourself couldn't, and stick to it.. Specify an "overdue" limit of 24 hours beyond your plan, for the people holding your "flight plan" to alert authorities that you are overdue. Carry a pocket signaling mirror, for signalling rescuers and search aircraft.

Doing even just that little bit of planning, and fun "management," can increase your chances of being rescued alive by orders of magnitude, particularly in iffy terrain, or weather situations analogous to those that have developed in the Northwest in the last week.
posted by paulsc at 3:32 PM on December 16, 2006


Go ahead sports, spend the $60 for the better unit that sends your location coordinates via GPS, and save everybody on the rescue team a load of grief.

Hopefully in 5-10 years PLBs will be cheaper and make the whole discussion moot, but a $60 per person entry fee is not a big improvement over $500 blanket participation fee, and would provide a pretty big barrier to a lot of people.
posted by weston at 3:40 PM on December 16, 2006


Brian B:In a nation of conformity, the real risk is failing at independence, with honor defined as doing exactly as you are told. [...] To some people, these climbers are sinners. It is then a judgment process of how much they will pay, to make an example of them and service the terror of conformity and hierarchy.

It works the other way, too. If society is expected to foot the bill for risky, independent behavior, it inevitably starts passing laws limiting such behavior. If I'm responsible for my neighbor's health care, I'm also going to have a vested interest in regulating his smoking and alcohol habits, his dietary intake, and his extreme sport habits. If the government insures savings and loans, it's certainly going to need to regulate the risk of their investments, or you have a disaster on your hands.

A certain amount of personal accountability and responsibility for risk thus goes hand in hand with personal independence.
posted by kid ichorous at 3:46 PM on December 16, 2006


Damn. The air in this thread is thick with moralizing and self-righteousness. People here are sooooo quick to point fingers, so quick to lash out and punish people for taking risks and going outside of the cubicle routine.

Oh, wait. This is MetaFilter. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, should I?
posted by jason's_planet at 3:52 PM on December 16, 2006


but a $60 per person entry fee is not a big improvement

that's pretty much per group; 4 peeps is only $15/week.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:54 PM on December 16, 2006


I guess I shouldn't be surprised, should I?

we do have some population of glibertarians and got-mine-fuck-you free-market fundamentalists, yes.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 3:55 PM on December 16, 2006


Oy. MeTa already.
posted by Methylviolet at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2006


To some people, these climbers are sinners

"sinning" by (apparently, assumedly) externalizing costs of hazardous /"xtreme" wintertime recreation.

violet's moral-hazard hierarchy above does have some degree of resonance with me.

This is similar to people building in 50-year floodplains and sand bars, and expecting a government bailout when the inevitable happens. Free free to proceed, but pay the man.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:02 PM on December 16, 2006


All you in the "make the climbers pay" club are totally missing the real market. How many of these rescues happen per year? A dozen? Two dozen? Even at 200K, that's not that much. $4.8M? Peanuts. Charge people that get into car accidents! Even at 1% of the cost to rescue the climbers, with about 6 million accidents a year, that's $12B!

In fact, how many times have you been inconvenienced because some dumb ass got in a car accident? I think the dumb drivers should compensate the people they inconvenience! Who's with me?
posted by sexymofo at 4:05 PM on December 16, 2006


If the climbers are found dead, is it OK for the rescuers to take what cash they can find from the bodies?
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2006


weston, $60/3 hikers, is $20 a hiker, or as Heywood Mogroot pointed out above, $15 a man for a 4 hiker party. At some point, even $60, a relative cost/benefit analysis is moot, when it's your own life at risk, much less the lives of hundreds of others, pledged to rescue you. In fact, the consequences being so great in relation to the relative costs of mounting large area rescues, I'd even be inclined to require more than one PLB for parties of more than 2 hikers, as a backup to a single point of failure situation with one PLB, or for injury situations where the wisest course of action may be to split the party prior to rescue, as a condition of back country overnight use permits.
posted by paulsc at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2006


ericb:

"Many were amateur/casual hikers who found themselves in unexpected and unanticipated circumstances."

excellent table, but looking at the 1990+ fatal fatal incidents there is clearly a wintertime bias, so indexing the "save my ass" insurance by week should make sense.

March 25, 1996
John Wald 35
Gulf of Slides
died in avalanche

March 24, 1996
Todd E. Crumbaker 35
Gulf of Slides
died in avalanche


heh.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2006


I agree with Mviolet on personal responsibility, let them freeze.

In other words, you'd agree with "They bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say let them crash!"

Searchers retreat down Mount Hood

At this point, with a major storm and the worst storm to hit the Northwest since the Columbus Day Hurricane between when they were reported missing, finding any of them alive would be a canonizable miracle.

If it were a "normal" week in December, it's likely they would have found them by now with very little national publicity.
posted by dw at 4:13 PM on December 16, 2006


TANSTAAFL, fuckers.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:27 PM on December 16, 2006


The question, I think, is what degree of personal responsibility we expect of people. Complete autonomy? None at all?

Some people seem to feel we as a society should just gladly bail anyone out of any self-inflicted difficulty at any cost. I don't agree. People understand incentives better than anything else, and financial ruin is a pretty strong disincentive for reckless behavior. This is a good thing; something we should foster. Lots of people, me included, have chosen not to drive after drinking not out of an actual present sense of personal responsibility, but out of fear of consequences should they get pulled over. Notice this is not fear of the inherent consequences of drunk driving -- dying in a car wreck -- this is fear of punitive, imposed, financial consequences.

Here we have people who apparently aren't afraid to die in pursuit of their bliss. I say let them, when saving them would endanger innocent lives. I'd also like to spit on their graves 'cause they make me mad, but that's just me. If you really can't get to that, at the very least they need to pay the monetary costs of their actions. There's no free money. Everything government does you pay for, and if the money goes over here, there's less to go over there. Is this how you want to spend it? Underwriting someone's Xtreme jollies?

Taking responsibility for your actions is not the same as being a conformist automaton.
It is, in fact, real independence.
posted by Methylviolet at 4:30 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


If everyone thinks they have a right, and therefore expects to be rescued, how long before the first lawsuit when someone dies?
posted by Joeforking at 4:32 PM on December 16, 2006


methyl, the unfortunate side of that is that it tends towards glibertarianism, where real freedom is measured -- ney, bounded -- by how much wealth you have.

What's missing here is slack. I agree that the adventurers who attempted to summit in December without the proper safety equipment deserve little, but is the costs associated with this moral hazard that significant, really?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 4:34 PM on December 16, 2006


that's pretty much per group; 4 peeps is only $15/week.

Definitely more affordable if split amongst the group, but still multiple times more expensive than entry fees or permitting in some locations, and you still deal with the problem of what happens if the group needs or wants to split up. Also, it would seem that this is orders of magnitude more expensive than a small rescue insurance fee unless delmoi or the article are wildly off.

I'm not saying it isn't a good idea to carry them, especially in extra-risky situations, and hey, but it might be a bad idea to *require* them. And premature to moralize at anyone not carrying one.

On Preview:

At some point, even $60, a relative cost/benefit analysis is moot,

If all this came down to was cost of rescue analysis, the clear thing to do would be to completely outlaw entry into mountain/wilderness areas and levy stiff fines against anyone found doing so.

I'll grant that at some point the costs become moot relative to the benefits, but I don't think that $60 is it, partly for the reasons I outlined above, partly because of my familiarity with the community I live in. 60,000 college students, low median wage, and right by the mountains. The effective cost of a day hike here is practically free ($3 per vehicle access to some spots). Change it to $15 every time you want to walk up into a canyon trail and it's burdensome enough that for a good chunk of the population you're not far from effecting the outlawed-entry scenario I outlined. The dollar movie theater and the video rental places would probably win big, though.
posted by weston at 4:40 PM on December 16, 2006


Well, Heywood, lest you think I personally am coming from a let-'em-eat-cake standpoint, I am broke as a joke. South of the federal poverty line. And take it from me -- real freedom is bounded by how much wealth you have!

Most things are possible with money, impossible without. We as a society try to ensure equal access to lots of things (food, education, etc) regardless of ability to pay. I don't see why xtreme thrill-seeking should effectively be one of those things.
posted by Methylviolet at 4:46 PM on December 16, 2006


Some people seem to feel we as a society should just gladly bail anyone out of any self-inflicted difficulty at any cost.

I suppose there are people who feel that way. There are, however, a number of viewpoints in this thread that are far more measured.

I don't agree. People understand incentives better than anything else, and financial ruin is a pretty strong disincentive for reckless behavior

Not that I like repeating myself, but I think it bears repeating that there's already some fairly significant disincentives against getting oneself lost, injured, or otherwise in mortal danger in the wilderness.
posted by weston at 4:48 PM on December 16, 2006


posted by Methylviolet I am broke as a joke.

Fortunately, if you got lost while hiking or your boat capsized in a surprise squall, you'd still be rescued, because your taxes pay for those emergency services.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:52 PM on December 16, 2006


What's missing here is slack.

Yes, exactly. If you don't allow for it, then you're making moral judgments about who gets rescued in any event, major or minor.

I mean, why do hikers and climbers volunteer to do these search and rescue operations? Because they are hoping that should something horrible happen to them in the backcountry that others will take the time and risk to go looking for them. You know, Golden Rule and all that.

It doesn't excuse the stupidity of not being prepared, not having a map, not having a PLB or cell phone, not having a plan of action, and/or not staying on the path. But it does mean we give people the benefit of the doubt. Slack.
posted by dw at 4:54 PM on December 16, 2006


People understand incentives better than anything else (...)
But do they? If they do then why does the death penalty not lower US murder rates?

There is something between "confirmist automaton" and fuck-all-y'all independence. You can be a free thinker and still believe that people deserve the basics in life, and that we all need compassion, even when we show our human fallibility.
posted by loiseau at 5:12 PM on December 16, 2006


This post is cast as a financial question which is not the issue anyway, the problem is one of education, people getting into trouble they didn't anticipate but arguably might have if better informed. Handing out fines is never going to have the same educational potential that PSA's or other community work might. It was interesting for example, in the Kim thread, to see there were commenters who didn't understand cell phone service doesn't exist everywhere and the reason is because it's just not economically feasible to install it absolutely everywhere, especially in the mountains. The wilderness in North America is bigger, less well populated, and still more dangerous to get lost in than they seemed to realize despite current technology.
posted by scheptech at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2006


"... Change it to $15 every time you want to walk up into a canyon trail and it's burdensome enough that for a good chunk of the population you're not far from effecting the outlawed-entry scenario I outlined. ..."
posted by weston at 7:40 PM EST on December 16

I grant your point, weston, which is why I suggested making a PLB carry requirement a condition of overnight use permits.

It's not like I've never done incredibly stupid things, myself. Like making the same kind of mistake the Kim family did, in 1982, in the mountains of Pennsylvania southwest of Wilkes Barre, in late December, and finding myself coming down the side of a mountain on an 8' wide summer-only access "road" that was covered in sheet ice, and had not a single guard rail or turn out. I've also survived some stupid decision tree mistakes in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, in much the same circumstances in which these guys on Mt. Hood now find themselves stuck. But back then, there were no technological devices to mitigate stupidity, at any cost.

Now, there are. And requiring their use, to improve the safety and effectiveness of search personnel efforts, should they be needed, is a sensible public policy.

I don't know what the thought process of the Mt. Hood party was. I suspect that it was something like "Emergency plan? Got my cell phone! Check!" and off they went, giving more thought to how much water and food they'd carry, while trying to travel light, than to how they'd get off the mountain if someone broke an ankle. The kinds of weather that have caught the whole Northwest region since they left, are just karmic amplification of a slightly poor start on their decision tree.

But that's why the FAA sponsors decision tree analysis talks at meetings for private pilots. It's a kind of institutionalized wisdom, to take people through the spiral of small mistakes that annually takes several recreational general aviation pilots into the deadly situation of flying into the dead end of a box canyon in the mountains under developing cloud cover, when they just went up in a rented Cessna for a couple of hours of fall leaf peeping on a partly cloudy afternoon. I wish such sessions could be required of everyone whose failure to think ahead, and plan conservatively, could be life affecting for themselves, and for potential rescue personnel.

We've gone a long way with understanding how to save people in survival situations, if we can get to them, and we've developed ways of locating the lost and injured that are very good, if they were used consistently. There is a small cost to that PLB technology, but it's already so low that it makes no moral sense at all that today, in avalanche conditions, there were 80+ brave people on Mt. Hood, looking for these lost guys, when there didn't have to be any. 0. None.

And I bet if any of those lost guys are still alive, and you could offer them a PLB now, and a promise of a helicopter out tomorrow, based on its signal and feasible flight weather conditions, I bet they wouldn't quibble for one second, at any price you'd care to name, even if it meant 30 year second mortgages on their houses, and no college funds for their kids.
posted by paulsc at 6:04 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


I grant your point, weston, which is why I suggested making a PLB carry requirement a condition of overnight use permits.

I think that's more reasonable, but I'm still wary at the requirement. Maybe in the winter, when you really have to have some decent resources just to get in there and survive under good conditions anyway.

And I bet if any of those lost guys are still alive, and you could offer them a PLB now, and a promise of a helicopter out tomorrow, based on its signal and feasible flight weather conditions, I bet they wouldn't quibble for one second, at any price you'd care to name

You'd be in a good position to win the bet, and you'd probably increase your chances if you asked their families or loved ones. And I'll say that after seeing an avalanche up close and personal and reading reports of people who've died not so far from where I've snowshoed, I doubt I'm ever going far into the mountains in the winter without a PLB, day trip or overnight. But I agree more with scheptech: this is an education problem. I suspect most people who understand the risks and have the resources to mount a winter expedition would probably agree to take one with them. And if the average cost of rescue averages out to be closer to $.02 per parks participant, it really isn't so much a question of community resources.
posted by weston at 6:35 PM on December 16, 2006


I live in a huge county (50,000 sq kilometers) with a lot of harsh terrain that ranges below sea level desert where the temps often approach 130 degrees to 11,000 foot mountains with ice chutes over a thousand foor long and a lot of rescues are paid for out of my tax dollars every year.

We pick up the tab for everyone that is following the law and sometimes bill those break the law and venture into areas that are closed and posted due to extreme hazards. Those that have been billed were those that were really stupid and went out of their way to be stupid. I don't have a problem with that.

These folks on Mt Hood appear to have adhered to all the rules and I see no reason to bill them or their survivors for their actions, which seem to be using the land for what is there for.

If we start billing people for risky behavior, we're heading down a slippery slope. Most of us take risks of one sort of another and it is our responsibility to share the costs when things go wrong. Otherwise, we'll be billing people for being too fat, living in bad neighborhoods, riding bikes in traffic, not exercising, etc.
posted by buggzzee23 at 6:36 PM on December 16, 2006


"paulsc, PLBs are something like $500"

Yeah, they are, but remember we're a society where people will happily drop that much money on a new purse. For something that could make it a lot easier to save your life if you're stuck on a mountain, $500 should be considered a bargain.
posted by drstein at 6:37 PM on December 16, 2006


"...Otherwise, we'll be billing people for being too fat, living in bad neighborhoods, riding bikes in traffic, not exercising, etc. ..."
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:36 PM EST on December 16

Actually, buggzzee23, we already do "bill" people for the consequences of all these examples. XL and larger clothes cost more at Walmart. If you live in a bad neighborhood, you generally pay more for some kinds of insurance, than if you live elsewhere. If you ride your bike in traffic, and suffer the consequence of being involved in an injury accident with an automobile, you'll be the primary party responsible for your hospital bill. And if you don't excercise, you'll be likely to pay more for lifelong anti-cholesterol medications and diabetes drugs, than if you do.

It's a pretty well established economic principal in America that we readily charge folks, somehow, for the consequences of their elective decisions. Even if those consequences stem somewhat from genetic predispositions.

Personally, I'm large boned. :-)
posted by paulsc at 6:53 PM on December 16, 2006


a $60 per person entry fee is not a big improvement over $500 blanket participation fee, and would provide a pretty big barrier to a lot of people.

Really, good equipment that'll keep you alive isn't cheap to begin with. If you can't afford PLB rental, maybe you should reconsider whether the rest of your gear is up to the task. If it's really a question of sixty bucks, they should save up for a month/two/three/whatever and go out after they can afford it.

Certain backcountry areas already have equipment regulations, e.g., requiring all food be in bear canisters. Maybe the relevant park authorities could buy some decent PLBs (I'm sure they'd get a bulk discount) and offer them for rental, the way they do now w/bear canisters @ Whitney Portal. Set the price high enough that the beacons get paid off in a reasonable time period, and the income after that can go into a general rescue fund.
posted by Opposite George at 7:28 PM on December 16, 2006


A certain amount of personal accountability and responsibility for risk thus goes hand in hand with personal independence.

As governing human responses to mishaps, I don't agree. Accidents have enough randomness that make it impossible to assign blame, and disasters are not curses of personal fate. Social contracts make us personally accountable but personal responsibility is the contradiction between masters and slaves. Free nations would be defenseless under the idea. Independence is public and universal and we are responsible to each other in every conceivable way, or we would never be able to claim freedom at all. Personal responsibility simply tries to get rid of the idea of a public responsibility. But it can't do it in an honest way and hope to have freedom for the few. So advocates sell the morality of fate and pretty soon it sounds like the bogus religion of the damned that it really is. Personal responsiblity is why the average libertarian feels like they are personally paying for everyone's healthcare. So they use any opportunity to blame the victim. Beyond their psychology, I think it allows them to conceive of a bewildering freedom and chaotic nature in terms of simple order.
posted by Brian B. at 7:51 PM on December 16, 2006


paulsc has articulated the basic issue that led me to post this in the first place.

Full disclosure: I'm very much an outdoorsy-type - avid hiker and camper (but not climber) who has put himself into many relatively dangerous positions through bad planning, bad decision-making, or just sheer arrogance. In some respects, this makes me very sympathetic to the Mt. Hood 3; after all, it was the knowledge that someone would probably rescue me at some point that helped me take those risks in the first place.

But, at the same time, I have less sympathy for the Mt. Hood 3, for many of the reasons that have been reviewed in this thread: they are experienced, educated adventurers who knew the risks they faced; they are well-off enough to afford every piece of equipment, insurance, and even private rescue brigade if necessary; and they are doing something that ultimately is solely for their own entertainment and fulfillment. And yet here we are, spending thousands of dollars and risking scores of lives (yes, volunteer lives, possibly gaining valuable training hours, but lives nonetheless) to search for them. I can't get around the fact that there is something incongruous about sending a C-130 up to search for 3 men who are after some high-risk fun, while we hold most people personally (and fiscally) accountable for the consequences of their own risky behaviors.

This to me is the basic question that led to my post: under what sicumstances do we hold people (financially) responsible for their own risky behaviors? What events do we regard as tragic enough to warrant taxpayer relief, as opposed to ones that don't [possibly related?]? I suspect that events like this throw our usual calculus of personal vs. public responsiblity out of whack.

Regardless, I've learned a lot from the discussion. Thank you MeFi!

An aside to delmoi: you raise a good point. I made every effort to be balanced in my framing of this post, but couldn't find out exactly how much they paid in fees and where those fees went. Might be that they paid insurance fees that more than cover this. Regardless, I think its an important issue in general.
posted by googly at 8:04 PM on December 16, 2006 [1 favorite]


er....circumstances, not sicumstances.
posted by googly at 8:16 PM on December 16, 2006


When the rubber hits the road, there are three real people freezing/frozen to death out there, needing help. Would you rather be counted amongst those who went to their rescue, or those who whined about how much it cost on the internet? Look at yourself in the mirror when you answer that question.

I can scarcely believe the question needs asking.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:18 PM on December 16, 2006 [2 favorites]


Really, good equipment that'll keep you alive isn't cheap to begin with. If you can't afford PLB rental, maybe you should reconsider whether the rest of your gear is up to the task.

It really depends on your conditions. I've done all kinds of camping, including backpacking, where the total cost of my camping-specific gear was less than $100. The ability to make that work was largely what gave me the access to the outdoors that I had as a teen scout and as a barely solvent young adult, and I rather imagine there are many others in that situation, and from that point of view, PLB rental could easily be cost prohibitive.

I do understand that the more extreme the environment that you pick, the better your gear has to be in order to be prepared for dire scenarios. Most of that early experience I'm referencing was warm-weather. And I think once you get into winter mountain back-country adventuring, you're probably more right. Smart people probably ought to carry one where there's a stronger chance of them getting into a situation where it could save their life.

But a mandate is a different story. Doing so is essentially imposing a use fee that is several times what many accessing/permitting fees are, and orders of magnitude higher on a per person basis than rescue costs are now.
posted by weston at 9:41 PM on December 16, 2006


I've climbed big mountains in winter.

I would not pay for a rescue -- but you know what? I'd have no problem signing a form or whatnot saying that getting my ass back home safe is my responsibility, and mine only. Feel free to leave me to die on the mountain. I'd much rather die than have some volunteer die trying to save my ass, especially in light of the fact that my climbing mountains and cliffs is recreation.

But I've never asked for nor expected rescue in the wilderness, so it really annoys the hell out of me that some think I should pay for rescues that I didn't ask for, or worse, pay fees up front for a service I don't want provided.

Rescue should be 100% volunteer.

That's actually an integral part of climbing big mountains. Risk is a part of it, and death might happen (even on a simple hike). If you can't come to terms with that, stay home.

I don't like the way it makes people treat the wilderness, this expectation of moving heaven and earth to rescue folks.
posted by teece at 10:15 PM on December 16, 2006


Brain B: Accidents have enough randomness that make it impossible to assign blame, and disasters are not curses of personal fate.

Rumsfeld, is that YOU?
posted by kid ichorous at 10:57 PM on December 16, 2006


I do understand that the more extreme the environment that you pick, the better your gear has to be in order to be prepared for dire scenarios.

And that's really what I'm thinking about. To me, for most areas they're probably overkill. You probably don't need a PLB for situations where a tarp or garbage-bag bivvy sack suffice for shelter. Winter expeditions at altitude are a completely different story.

The NPS makes beach ORVs carry boards and shovels and they make cavers document their experience before letting them in certain areas so requiring a PLB for real backwoods expeditions* isn't that much of a stretch; a PLB could cut search and rescue times by days. That means fewer rescuers' lives at risk, and higher chances of success.

The thing is, the Park Service could charge 5 bucks/day for the beacons and still break even after a few months. Maybe require one per group of four. That doesn't seem entirely unreasonable. At least it underscores the seriousness of heading off the beaten path (signing in at trail registers doesn't do it, especially after you realize nobody really checks them until after somebody's reported missing.)

Of course you'll have people go in without them anyway, just like there are people who stealth camp and carry firearms in restricted areas. But I think pushing the cheap insurance angle would help compliance -- tell them they won't get charged for the rescue if they carry the PLB and that'll encourage their use. The sticky part for me is how you'd keep people who don't need a full-fledged rescue from setting them off for minor incidents.

*Say, overnights more than 10 miles from a trailhead or more than one mile from an established trail or more than 3000' altitude change -- and you could make the criteria seasonal. You don't need to require them at all on major throughfares like the AT or PCT in high season, if at all. I'm totally pulling these numbers out of my butt so maybe they don't make any sense -- most of my outdoors knowledge is Eastern U.S., and here on the East Coast I can think of few places outside of Central and Northern Maine and maybe parts of the Whites and the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks where you're going to be more than a day from help, no matter which direction you choose.
posted by Opposite George at 11:12 PM on December 16, 2006


I served for many years on Britain's busiest Mountain Rescue Team. We are all volunteers and are made up of active climbers and walkers living in the local community.

We are climbers helping climbers, people wanting to give something back to the area and recreation we get so much out of. Sure, some of the people we see are idiots but they are the exception, almost every person I have rescued has been properly equipped and doing something within their abilities in reasonable weather conditions.

Most incidents are quickly resolved but there are the occasional long searches. These are incredibly time consuming and we've often put over 200 people on the fells.

Often these people are in a guest house tucked up in bed and through a mis-communication are rported missing. These people fully deserve, as our old team leader put it, a good talking to delivered by the means of a size 9 boot.

The searches that take the longest are people who have killed themselves, sometimes choosing an obscure place as possible. ho gets the bill that time?

MR teams do not want rescues to be charged. I'm not going to be very happy to volunteer for an all night search, knowing that an insurance company is going to make a profit out of it.

Secondly, is there any actual need for insurance? The system, at least in the UK, isn't broke. So why fix it?

Then there's the logistics of it. Who decides on liability? This could turn the MR teams into the 'policemen of the fells' something they do not want.

Climbing accidents may be dramatic but there's only a handful of them every year, the brunt of insurance will be bourne by elderly women who twist their ankles.

As for helicopters, we use the RAF Rescue Helicopters. The UK has a legal duty to have them for safeguarding the seas, Their second priority is to RAF accidents. We come third.

It goes without saying that flying on rescues is excellent training for the pilots and crews.
posted by quarsan at 12:03 AM on December 17, 2006 [2 favorites]


Hope these guys are OK. But yeah, if they're rescued, hand them a bill. People who have car accidents pay for their repair and medical bills, although usually in the form of car- and medical-insurance per month. I don't think "Hiking Insurance" would be a bad idea, actually, as long as it was optional. As for "ZOMG poor people won't hike any more!" well, they'd still get rescued, they'd just have to go into debt to do it. And that's unfortunately not uncommon these days. I doubt any creditable agency would ask for cash up front (actually, I've heard it happens to trekkers in Tibet, many of whom carry wads of cash in case they need a lift).

As for training future SAR efforts, sure, it's good practice, but it's not as if those guys don't have other duties (and a life outside of work) as well. I could do a lot of heroin and OD and argue that it's good practice for ER docs and techs, and I'd be laughed at.

Again, the important thing is that these guys are hopefully still alive. And if they make it, I'm sure they'll recoup any financial losses on book-deals and the talk-show circuit. Sorry, but that's how America works these days.
posted by bardic at 1:34 AM on December 17, 2006


I'd say that being human, each of us has some particular brand of stupidity that at some point in our lives some government service or another might be called upon to bail us out from under. We pay a premium for this kind of insurance, called tax; and the services provided under the plan are decided by us as a whole.

And I don't imagine that those here calling for rescue fees would be too excited about the level of scrutiny and personal-responsibility assessment that would inevitably accompany any number of government-funded services; any tragedy can ultimately be attributed to a bad decision.

And one need look little further than the failure of managed care health plans to see how the administrative costs alone of implementing and investigating restrictions like this will always grow larger than those of the problem they purport to solve.
posted by troybob at 1:45 AM on December 17, 2006


No. This is why we have government. We pay taxes for this. When we are hurt or in a difficult spot, the community steps up to save us. The rescuers on the helicopter? They are us. They represent our collective will to help the injured or stranded. When I am lost, I want to be saved. So I extend that principle to others. It's pretty simple, really.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:53 AM on December 17, 2006


This is why we have government. We pay taxes for this</I.

Our government has been on a 25+ year long campaign to convince you that this isn't true.

posted by eriko at 8:22 AM on December 17, 2006


Wow Ironmouth, what horseshit. We pay taxes to have stop-lights and cops. We don't pay taxes to have people play dangerous stupid games like this.

(Having played many dangerous and stupid games myself, I never expected the government to bail me out.)

I hope they make it, I really do. But please don't argue that the job of capital G-government is to subsidize extreme sports. As someone who enjoys hiking, just avoid the double-black diamonds, mkay?
posted by bardic at 8:43 AM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


That was far too nasty on my part Ironmouth. Again, I hope these guys make it through. Again, let's save them -- use all resources. Get them the fuck out of there.

And then, kindly, send them a check for all of it.

(Realizes I'm a libertarian on mefi, hangs head in shame.)
posted by bardic at 8:48 AM on December 17, 2006


No. This is why we have government. We pay taxes for this.

We pay taxes for many things, few of which get done well. It is reasonable for a taxpayer to say "I want my government to prioritize the use of my taxes in ways that benefit the helpless and poor, not to provide backup insurance for upper-middle-class adventurers." I don't see any natural argument for supporting mountain search and rescue teams when we can't provide basic health care to children with the taxes we pay.

Another libertarian, sort of, on MeFi.
posted by spitbull at 8:58 AM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


"If we start billing people for risky behavior, we're heading down a slippery slope. Most of us take risks of one sort of another and it is our responsibility to share the costs when things go wrong. Otherwise, we'll be billing people for being too fat, living in bad neighborhoods, riding bikes in traffic, not exercising, etc."

Ah, the fallacy of the slippery slope. You know, our government doesn't provide health insurance, right? So that most "risky" behavior costs the individual. And you know that when people do risky things like drive drunk, they're on the hook for damages resulting, right? You might live in Cloud-cuckoo-land, but the rest of us have to moderate our behavior based on percieved risks.

"As governing human responses to mishaps, I don't agree. "

That's OK; you're totally wrong.

"Accidents have enough randomness that make it impossible to assign blame, and disasters are not curses of personal fate."

No, actually, most accidents and disasters are pretty easy to plan for, and we as a society seek to mitigate them. That's a better view of society, in fact, and certainly of insurance, than this argument that bad things have no possible solution and appear out of nowhere.

"Social contracts make us personally accountable but personal responsibility is the contradiction between masters and slaves. Free nations would be defenseless under the idea."

What the fuck are you on about? Are you just trying to take some sort of stout club to Hegel?

"Independence is public and universal and we are responsible to each other in every conceivable way, or we would never be able to claim freedom at all."

Wait, what? Your gobbledygook is making my head hurt. Freedom is based on being tethered? Again, it sounds like you're making a Hegelian argument based on determinancy and the actualization of freedom into particulars, but are totally talking out of your ass.

"Personal responsibility simply tries to get rid of the idea of a public responsibility. "

Not at all. There are some things that we as a society agree to be responsible for collectively (common defense, election of representative government, adherence to the compromise of law) and some things that we agree to be responsible for personally, in order to make our own decisions about what we desire. I'm responsible for feeding myself, and thus enjoy the freedom of eating what I like. No adult who had ever fed himself would argue otherwise.

"But it can't do it in an honest way and hope to have freedom for the few."

I assume that what you're saying is that because personal responsibility can't be handled in an honest way for all, people instead try to advocate more freedom for themselves at the expense of others. The second part of that is true, but does not prove the first part.

"So advocates sell the morality of fate and pretty soon it sounds like the bogus religion of the damned that it really is."

You're off the rails again.

"Personal responsiblity is why the average libertarian feels like they are personally paying for everyone's healthcare. So they use any opportunity to blame the victim."

Yeah, that often happens. But there's also the fact that often, the victim must share some of the blame. In this model you're putting forth, we're all children before the nanny state, unable to see that our rights confer personal responsibility. That I can walk around free is predicated on the idea that I am responsible for not breaking any laws that would imprison me. (And if you try some existential "Isn't that just a prison too?" comeback, I'll thump your bullshit hippy ass).

"Beyond their psychology, I think it allows them to conceive of a bewildering freedom and chaotic nature in terms of simple order."

Thank God we finally got to your opinion; shame it wasn't one worth reading. Beyond psychology? How so? And no, most libertarians are pretty blunt about seeing the world as chaotic. It is because of this that they advocate high amounts of personal independence from the state, as they don't feel that the state adequately reflects the world.

I'm no libertarian, but your strawman needs more stuffing, and your views on freedom are (thank God) well outside any conception held in the Western world.
posted by klangklangston at 9:21 AM on December 17, 2006


The thing is that there are people who feel that walking out the front door or crossing the street are risky behaviors. A car trip not for the purposes of getting to work or obtaining food or healthcare can be considered unnecessarily risky. Living in an earthquake/tornado/hurricane zone is dangerous, so they should pay for their own damn rescue and reconstruction. If you're poor and your kids develop diabetes from poor eating habits, don't go asking Medicaid to cover the insulin.

If you start to charge people for emergency rescue, then emergency rescue potentially becomes a profitable private enterprise; when that happens, expect to be charged for any number of ever-expanding 'personal responsibility' expenses. (I'm sorry your dad was murdered, but our investigations have determined that he was an asshole and had it coming; if you want us to do forensics to investigate, we'll need a deposit, and please sign this credit agreement.) From there, look forward to tiered services (fighting fires is less profitable in poorer neighborhoods), and inevitably to non-covered services, financial risk assessment, and pre-approval.

The only time I would consider charges like this justified might be in the case that one takes on risk by engaging inillegal behavior; but even then, there is probably too much potential for unfairness; and, again, the cost of implimentation/enforcement/investigation would surpass the amount we might be expected to collect.
posted by troybob at 9:49 AM on December 17, 2006


I know in seattle / king county that the ambulances are part of the fire department, and your ride to the hospital is paid for by your taxes (however, if you want a ride *home* you have to pay for it yourself).

My county EMS service charges for every ambulance ride. Around $430 per trip plus a mileage charge.
posted by mediareport at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2006


Ironmouth nailed it. But state, not federal, should pay for both rescues & helth care. however, I can imagine having "negligence" criteria, which if violated, means the rescued get billed.

Anywho, such stories likely turn the state a profit by giving the news an interesting story.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:04 AM on December 17, 2006


...not to mention that in calling for personal-responsibility means testing, you're inviting a degree of philosophical complexity that seems excessive for a country destined to spend yet another hundred or so years trying to decide if it's okay for someone to invoke prayer at a football game, much less a community that will spend more time debating whether a topic is FPP worthy than discussing (or not discussing) the topic itself.
posted by troybob at 10:07 AM on December 17, 2006


Troybob— again, a fallacious appeal to the slippery slope. We as a society set limits as to what sort of risk is acceptable, and should be protected to maximize freedom. The minority of people doing fairly risky (with high penalty) activities like these hikes, without mitigation from available technological sources, should not be protected. It does not follow from that, that forensics should be a profit-based enterprise; the state has an interest in prosecuting the law (as do we all). We do not all have an interest in letting people hike mountains in the middle of winter, or if we do, it is a much smaller interest than any of the other things you mentioned.
posted by klangklangston at 10:09 AM on December 17, 2006


The slippery slope appeal would prove fallacious were there not industries--from insurers to credit card companies--that ride that slope over our backs into profitability and beyond. Each of us would tend to define ourselves as the line of demarcation between acceptable and unacceptable risk, between responsible and irresponsible behavior. It's not only naive to think that we could form some consensus on where we draw that line as a society, but it comes across as rather willfully ignorant (if not downright hypocritical) to imply that you yourself would accede to the degree of personal scrutiny that you would so readily invite upon your intellectual and/or moral lessers.
posted by troybob at 10:31 AM on December 17, 2006


klangklangston, you aren't competent to police for fallacies. When someone wrote that we are headed down a slippery slope for charging for risky behaviors, they weren't saying that one thing was sure to cause another thing without arguing it. They were correctly pointing out, as a fact, that there are too many things to begin charging for. You missed it, and then implied that we each already pay for our mistakes. Rarely true, because that's what insurance does. They assign blame as cost sharing, not as an epistemological exercise.

Now you again claim the slippery slope for someone who correctly identifies the expensive can of worms for personal responsibility testing each action. Again, it is asserting a fact, not an unargued reason. It seems that you are in denial here. Your worldview commodifies freedom and therefore punishes risk and rewards paranoia. Okay, we can see, psychologically, why one would do that, because there will always be those who fault any courage as stupidity, especially after the fact. But as a free society we should encourage courageous behavior. Cowards can disagree. However, there is no method or excuse for commodifying freedom unless you completely misunderstand what it is. Freedom must be free to the individual, perhaps costly to the society, because it is mutually guaranteed.

Since you asked, note the liberal use of the personal anecdote in liberatarian argument ("I shouldn't pay for...") and you see why it is psychological.
posted by Brian B. at 10:53 AM on December 17, 2006


North Shore Rescue will not charge for rescues and this page has two good reasons why they won't.

I live on the North Shore and these guys are out damn near every weekend looking for people who have made bad decisions. A number of them die.

I fully agree with North Shore SAR, you start charging and the people who are lost will start hiding from rescuers, making the job that much more difficult and dangerous for everyone involved.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:01 AM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


OregonLive.com has this update:


BREAKING NEWS: Searchers find signs of climbers
A helicopter surveying the Mount Hood summit this morning has captured images of what appears to be a snow cave, scattered equipment and what looks like frozen tracks in the snow.

Search organizers plan to airlift pararescuers to the summit by helicopter so they can make their way to the area by foot.
posted by thirteenkiller at 12:04 PM on December 17, 2006


posted by bardic I hope these guys make it through. Again, let's save them -- use all resources. Get them the fuck out of there. And then, kindly, send them a check for all of it.

So if you get in a car accident, and the paramedics and firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract you from the wreckage, you should be billed for their services?

Also, should Aron Ralston have been billed for his search-and-rescue?
posted by fandango_matt at 12:29 PM on December 17, 2006


Salmonberry, that's a good link, and I'm sure those situations come up. In fact, I've heard at least one SAR volunteer tell me about a rescue on Utah Lake where the people in trouble, after being found, initially wanted to turn down the rescue and continue their efforts at making it back on their own for fear of sustaining high charges.

let's save them -- use all resources. And then, kindly, send them a check for all of it.

Why would we choose this as a policy when an insurance model levying a $.02 per person per use fee would apparently cover rescue costs?

We don't pay taxes to have people play dangerous stupid games like this.

But we have. To get people to the moon, to underwrite dangerous expeditions to distant or deep or high locations. Many of these also have information or knowledge gathering purposes, but that's really not their only benefit.

Most of the people I know who are climbers or backcountry adventurers have an energy and ambition outside the outdoor context that serves society as well as themselves. That energy and ambition can get you into trouble, and sometimes it creates individualists with wild cases of hubris, but it's also made some of these people I'm acquainted with into succesful entreprenuers and thoughtful authors and community contributers and activists and humanitarians and rescuers.

I can see that some people think that channeling that drive and energy and affinity into mountainclimbing expeditions is a waste. Certainly it turns to tradgedy sometimes, but my observation (and my limited experience doing much less challenging things) however, is that it feeds the kind of spirit that also makes these other kinds of contributions I'm talking about. Recreation can be dull or a mere distraction, but when it's real re-creation, it's no mean thing, nor are the benefits it brings limited to the individuals who participate personally. And it's therefore in nobody's interest to write off either the adventurers or the undertaking of adventure itself.
posted by weston at 12:37 PM on December 17, 2006


My county EMS service charges for every ambulance ride. Around $430 per trip plus a mileage charge.

And like the charge of thousands of dollars for a Grand Canyon helicopter rescue when $100 could get me in and out commercially, I'm not sure I understand this. I don't think ambulance rides should be free, but I don't understand where the $430 for 30 minutes of assistance/transportation comes from... even if you're billing EMT and driver time and vehicle use at $100 an hour. Maybe more of the costs are just involved in the readiness itself?
posted by weston at 12:49 PM on December 17, 2006


What about rescue work timesharing? That's the principle that a lot of rescue volunteers already work under, it could be made a prerequisite for getting permits to go on those kind of adventures, as well as valuable training for how to prepare (and a good source of thrills all it's own).

I don't understand some of the venom against the people in danger here.

Imagine if there were some psychopathology where someone courted danger so they could be validated by the rescue attempt. We should still try to save them (and then follow-up with one or two types of therapy). Billing them afterwards wouldn't change this. Likely it would just create a cooresponding financial disaster from which we'd have to bail them out.

I think it's more common that people are ashamed about asking for help, even for simple things. It's just this illusion of independence that gets them in trouble because, early in their decision making (see here), they do not ask for an independent assessment of their planning.
posted by wobh at 12:54 PM on December 17, 2006


posted by thirteenkiller at 12:04 PM PST on December 17
BREAKING NEWS: Searchers find signs of climbers
A helicopter surveying the Mount Hood summit this morning has captured images of what appears to be a snow cave, scattered equipment and what looks like frozen tracks in the snow. Search organizers plan to airlift pararescuers to the summit by helicopter so they can make their way to the area by foot.


Breaking News from CNN:
Authorities say search teams have reached the snow cave; no one found in snow cave on Mount Hood after searchers spotted nearby equipment of missing three climbers.
posted by fandango_matt at 2:33 PM on December 17, 2006


I don't understand where the $430 for 30 minutes of assistance/transportation comes from

It comes from the cost of providing round-the-clock ready-to-go trained medical assistance, whether needed or not, very high insurance costs, finicky state-of-the-art equipment, and so forth.

As for timesharing rescue work, fine. But that doesn't begin to pay for the fuel and machinery currently being used on Mt. Hood.

I hadn't realized these dudes went up the north face of Hood. Jesus. That's difficult in August! Barring a miracle, they are long dead now based on the latest report. No vitriol -- most climbers I have known say that is how they want to die that way. But those of us who don't have to look at them and say "what the hell were you thinking?"
posted by spitbull at 3:01 PM on December 17, 2006


"... Recreation can be dull or a mere distraction, but when it's real re-creation, it's no mean thing, nor are the benefits it brings limited to the individuals who participate personally. And it's therefore in nobody's interest to write off either the adventurers or the undertaking of adventure itself. ..."
posted by weston at 3:37 PM EST on December 17

That is an incredibly elitist comment, weston. Apparently, you think that people undertaking "adventure" in some high minded Victorian sense of the word should get a pass from the rest of us to allow them to be insulated from the economic consequences of their elective, recreational actions. But such "benefits" as you describe such people bringing to the rest of us are no certian obligation on the "adventurers" you admire, like a bill for services to them is, as a tax bill is to the rest of us.

If you're honorable, pay the bill when you use rescue services if one is presented, and encourage others to do so, too, so that rescue will continue to be available. Work, if you like, as a volunteer to lower the cost of such services to others, and encourage such thinking, if you like. But otherwise, your political opinions and Sierra Club calendar sensibilities do not serve practical discussion.
posted by paulsc at 3:06 PM on December 17, 2006


So paulsc, do you think Aron Ralston should have been handed a bill for his search and rescue? And since driving a car is also a risky adventure, do you think victims of car accidents should be billed for the paramedics and firemen using the Jaws of Life to extract the victims from the wreckage?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:22 PM on December 17, 2006


no one found in snow cave

What a letdown. I've being watch CNN periodically during the day -- and held up hope when the first found signs of a snow cave. It must be absolutely excrutiating for the climbers' families who've been dealing with ups-and-downs for a week now.
posted by ericb at 3:23 PM on December 17, 2006


Also paulsc, what about the Kims? Should they have been billed for their search and rescue?
posted by fandango_matt at 3:25 PM on December 17, 2006


That is an incredibly elitist comment, weston. Apparently, you think that people undertaking "adventure" in some high minded Victorian sense of the word should get a pass from the rest of us to allow them to be insulated from the economic consequences of their elective, recreational actions.

You have it absurdly backwards. Elitism would be to have a system that allows only insured climbers to go. Egalitarian would be the system that rescues all climbers, discouraging none. Obviously.
posted by Brian B. at 3:42 PM on December 17, 2006


One of them has been found dead.
posted by thirteenkiller at 3:51 PM on December 17, 2006


"So paulsc, do you think Aron Ralston should have been handed a bill for his search and rescue?..."
Definitely, as he himself admits his mistakes in failing to set up a trip plan complicated his situation. But since it was largely unsucessful, perhaps he should be given a reduced billing rate.

"...do you think victims of car accidents should be billed for the paramedics and firemen using the Jaws of Life to extract the victims from the wreckage?"
posted by fandango_matt at 6:22 PM EST on December 17

In my county, they generally are charged for ambulance and EMS services, if they require treatment or transportation to a hospital. That's the way the system works.

"Also paulsc, what about the Kims? Should they have been billed for their search and rescue?"
In many jurisdictions, they would have been. Again, their position was elective, the result of becoming lost, and continuing to make their situation worse by poor decisions on the back of previous poor decisions.

I'm not saying I don't have sympathy for people in such circumstances, but there is, I believe, a definite cost of stupidity, and sharing it is unhelpful in stopping it. I'd rather stop it.

But I think a different moral and economic case entirely can be made for people who are unknowingly or innocently victims of other kinds of disasters. People trapped in collapsed structures in an earthquake should be rescued, if possible, with due regard for the safety of rescuers, but I think it can be practically argued that the cost of their rescue should be shared with the society at large, for failing to regulate building on filled areas properly, or having a municipal code that was sufficiently stringent on highway overpass construction standards. People trapped in those kinds of structures had an expectation of safety that wasn't met, due to poor engineering, previously regulated and approved by government. So, government (and thus society at large) bears them some moral and financial responsibility.

Likewise, passengers and their families of an airline certificated for operations in the U.S. should expect search and rescue assistance from government, airplane manufacturers, and the airline operators, as they have no control of the means of their passage, and have a contracted expectation of safe performance of the transport function. This is actually somewhat specified in terms of liability, in the Terms of Contract governing most airline tickets, and in the Warsaw Convention and subsequent international airline treaties and conventions.
posted by paulsc at 4:02 PM on December 17, 2006



posted by Methylviolet
Screw them. If you need to blaze your own trail and pursue your snowflake destiny, rock on. Be happy. But whatever the consequences are, suck it up. Why would you deliberately endanger your life, knowing that you are compelling other people to risk their lives -- even give their lives -- to save you? Because you are a selfish ass, and if you can't take care of yourself, that should be a death sentence.

posted by Methylviolet To clarify, I do not advocate billing the climbers for the cost of the rescue. I advocate locating them, telling them they're bastards, and flying away and leaving them to die.

posted by Methylviolet Here we have people who apparently aren't afraid to die in pursuit of their bliss. I say let them, when saving them would endanger innocent lives. I'd also like to spit on their graves 'cause they make me mad, but that's just me.
posted by fandango_matt at 4:06 PM on December 17, 2006


God, she sounds like such a sociopath.
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:11 PM on December 17, 2006


why not charge a 1% royalty for every ad dollar generated by the news story covered by the media . . . that would pay for the rescue in about . . . oh . . . 3 and a half minutes judging by my expert calculations.
posted by huckhound at 4:14 PM on December 17, 2006


posted by paulsc Definitely, as he himself admits his mistakes in failing to set up a trip plan complicated his situation. But since it was largely unsucessful, perhaps he should be given a reduced billing rate.

Wow. The man nearly dies, does everything in his power to save himself which ultimately means amputating his own arm, and you think he ought to be billed for his rescue. Just wow.

posted by paulsc In my county, they generally are charged for ambulance and EMS services, if they require treatment or transportation to a hospital. That's the way the system works.

I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think car accident victims should be billed if the firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract them from the wreckage. (That's the appropriate analogy here: an emergency situation requiring trained professionals to extract the victim from danger.) Can you answer that question?

posted by paulsc In many jurisdictions, [The Kims] would have been [billed]. Again, their position was elective, the result of becoming lost, and continuing to make their situation worse by poor decisions on the back of previous poor decisions.

I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think the Kims should have been billed for their rescue. Can you answer that question?
posted by fandango_matt at 4:18 PM on December 17, 2006


Didn't the Kim family privately hire most of the search helicopters?
posted by thirteenkiller at 4:22 PM on December 17, 2006


Body found on Mount Hood (CNN link).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:29 PM on December 17, 2006 [1 favorite]


That is an incredibly elitist comment, weston.

How so?

Apparently, you think that people undertaking "adventure" in some high minded Victorian sense of the word should get a pass from the rest of us to allow them to be insulated from the economic consequences of their elective, recreational actions.

I don't believe I've made such an argument. So far what I've said is that if it's true that small use fees (again, it's been noted that for some areas, anyway, on the order of two cents per access) can cover rescue costs, then I think that's a better option than billing people the full costs of the rescue, as pretty much anybody can find themselves in some kind of trouble. I've also advocated measured fees with reasonable terms to the rescued as a means of funding current and future rescues, and agreed that asking rescuees to participate in PSAs is fair-minded, or alternatively, asking them to commit themselves to future rescues. None of that constitutes "a pass."

But I do stand by the assertion that having people who are willing to undertake backcountry adventure for recreation or for higher loftier purposes has benefits to individuals and to society along with the risks, and I think it's a mistake to leave it out of the discussion, especally when much of the rest of what's been said consists of complete dismissal of adventure activities as the jonesing of adrenaline jumkies.

Nor is there anything elitist in it, either, given that there are lots of ways to contribute to society and I haven't even implied that this is somehow One True way or other ways are unworthy. And as Brian B. pointed out, the position I'm arguing would be more likely to keep the activity open to more people who want to participate

But otherwise, your political opinions and Sierra Club calendar sensibilities do not serve practical discussion.

It's inevitable that in discussion some things are going to be missed or misunderstood, but that last phrase there is pretty-content free and practically useless itself. Don't screw up what's been a pretty even-handed discussion on your part up until now with a pointless jab towards whatever you may imagine my political opinions or affiliations to be.
posted by weston at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2006


Actually, as I suggested upthread, I think Aron Ralston, and folks that act the way he did, in terms of preparation, should be billed 2x times actual rescue cost, as a stupidity fine. In his case, since his rescue wasn't all that effective, it's OK with me if he pays actual costs.

"...I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think car accident victims should be billed if the firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract them from the wreckage. (That's the appropriate analogy here: an emergency situation requiring trained professionals to extract the victim from danger.) Can you answer that question?"
posted by fandango_matt at 7:18 PM EST on December 17

That's what EMS services here do, fandango_matt. In my opinion, yes, people needing those services should be billed for them. In this county, they are. If they have appropriate health insurance, their insurance pays. If not, they pay. That's fair, but it may not be entirely equitable.

"I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think the Kims should have been billed for their rescue. Can you answer that question?"

In my opinion, they should have been. If they had gotten lost in some analogous way where I live, they would have been.
posted by paulsc at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2006


Actually, as I suggested upthread, I think Aron Ralston, and folks that act the way he did, in terms of preparation, should be billed 2x times actual rescue cost, as a stupidity fine. In his case, since his rescue wasn't all that effective, it's OK with me if he pays actual costs.

"...I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think car accident victims should be billed if the firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract them from the wreckage. (That's the appropriate analogy here: an emergency situation requiring trained professionals to extract the victim from danger.) Can you answer that question?"
posted by fandango_matt at 7:18 PM EST on December 17

That's what EMS services here do, fandango_matt. In my opinion, yes, people needing those services should be billed for them. In this county, they are. If they have appropriate health insurance, their insurance pays. If not, they pay. That's fair, but it may not be entirely equitable.

"I didn't ask you that. I asked you if you think the Kims should have been billed for their rescue. Can you answer that question?"

In my opinion, they should have been. If they had gotten lost in some analogous way where I live, they would have been.
posted by paulsc at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2006


posted by paulsc In my opinion, [the Kims] should have been [billed for their rescue].

Wow.

posted by paulsc That's what EMS services here do, fandango_matt. In my opinion, yes, people needing those services should be billed for them. In this county, they are. If they have appropriate health insurance, their insurance pays. If not, they pay. That's fair, but it may not be entirely equitable.

I'm going to assume you understand I'm not talking about the ambulance ride--I'm talking about the firemen/paramedics using the Jaws of Life to extract you from your wrecked vehicle. And you appear to continuing your line of logic, saying victims should be billed for having their lives saved.

Now, let's take this one step further: according to your logic, if your house is on fire, you should be billed for the firemen running inside to save you or your family, which means you would also say the people who were rescued from the World Trade Center should have been billed, too.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:36 PM on December 17, 2006


"...I don't believe I've made such an argument. So far what I've said is that if it's true that small use fees (again, it's been noted that for some areas, anyway, on the order of two cents per access) can cover rescue costs, then I think that's a better option than billing people the full costs of the rescue, as pretty much anybody can find themselves in some kind of trouble. I've also advocated measured fees with reasonable terms to the rescued as a means of funding current and future rescues, and agreed that asking rescuees to participate in PSAs is fair-minded, or alternatively, asking them to commit themselves to future rescues. None of that constitutes "a pass."
posted by weston at 8:18 PM EST on December 17

Fair enough. The C-130 used to look for the lost men on Mr. Hood has an unweighted operational cost (crew, fuel, maintenance, but no capital cost), of about $1400 per flight hour. Helicopters of the heavy lift, dual rotor types so far employed have an unweighted operational cost of about $700 per flight hour, according to a flight officer friend of mine in the Air National Guard, whose opinion I think is fairly accurate. I could see this search effort cost easily going to 6 figures of direct air operation expense alone by tomorrow, and I think we're agreed it's the responsibility of the estate of the men, if they are found dead, as it now appears at least one man in the party has been, since he, at least, won't be able to participate in future PSA activities.

"But I do stand by the assertion that having people who are willing to undertake backcountry adventure for recreation or for higher loftier purposes has benefits to individuals and to society along with the risks, and I think it's a mistake to leave it out of the discussion, especally when much of the rest of what's been said consists of complete dismissal of adventure activities as the jonesing of adrenaline jumkies.

Nor is there anything elitist in it, either, given that there are lots of ways to contribute to society and I haven't even implied that this is somehow One True way or other ways are unworthy. And as Brian B. pointed out, the position I'm arguing would be more likely to keep the activity open to more people who want to participate"


Most of the above quoted two paragraphs are your restated but unsubstantiated, and probably factually unsupportable, assertions and opinions. If you'll keep them out of further discussion, I'll have no reason to draw further equally valid and well considered inferences regarding them.
posted by paulsc at 6:41 PM on December 17, 2006


"I'm going to assume you understand I'm not talking about the ambulance ride--I'm talking about the firemen/paramedics using the Jaws of Life to extract you from your wrecked vehicle. And you appear to continuing your line of logic, saying victims should be billed for having their lives saved."

Let's see if the paragraph on the page immediately above the anchor tag for billing I previously linked, taken together with the anchored paragraph I did link, makes things clear for you, fandango_matt.
"Q: Why does a fire engine show up when I call an ambulance?

A: Many times a fire engine will arrive when an ambulance is called because it is the closest emergency vehicle to the scene. All people on the fire engine are trained Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT's) or paramedics; therefore they can provide whatever aid is necessary until an ambulance arrives.

(back to top)

-----

Q: Will I get billed for an ambulance?

A: The answer is yes and no. If you call an ambulance, but do not require treatment or transportation to a hospital, then you will not get billed. If, on the other hand, you require treatment and/or transportation to a hospital, then you will get billed. The cost varies depending on the type of treatment given while in the ambulance and the distance to the hospital. Please call 1-800-632-7065 with any additional questions regarding billing.

(back to top)
So, yes, if someone (a bystander, a police officer, or an involved motorist) calls 911 for emergency assistance, you'll be billed if the responders find you need treatment and transportation, and your bill will be based on the care delivered while in transit to the hospital. What is so hard to understand about that?

"Now, let's take this one step further: ..."

Nah, you walk your own dogs, and I'll walk mine, thanks.
posted by paulsc at 7:01 PM on December 17, 2006


And again, I didn't ask you about any of that. I asked you if you think car accident victims should be billed if the firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract victims from the wreckage (yes/no). Your refusal to answer the question suggests you are either too ashamed to admit you think they should, otherwise you'd have to admit this is the point at which your Libertarian logic falls apart.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:12 PM on December 17, 2006


"...Your refusal to answer the question suggests you are either too ashamed to admit you think they should..."
posted by fandango_matt at 10:12 PM EST on December 17

fandango_matt, I think you're being intentionally "dense" for rhetorical purposes. I'm linking you to what happens where I live, because it is what happens where I live, regardless of my opinion. My opinion of what should happen is pretty close to what does happen here. You get billed for treatment or transportation if you need treatment or transportation, and since I'm not registered in this state as a Libertarian, my Independent logic holds up just fine, thanks. Most folks here pass those billings on to health care insurers, or to the liability insurers of parties determined at fault in car accidents, or if no party is determined at fault, to their own liability insurers, Florida being a "limited no fault" state.

If you want to talk about financial implications specifically concerned with using hydraulic devices to pry apart wrecked car frames, why don't you start a thread about that? I, for one, don't see any relevance of that topic to rescue costs of men exposed on Mt. Hood.
posted by paulsc at 7:39 PM on December 17, 2006


"It's not only naive to think that we could form some consensus on where we draw that line as a society, but it comes across as rather willfully ignorant (if not downright hypocritical) to imply that you yourself would accede to the degree of personal scrutiny that you would so readily invite upon your intellectual and/or moral lessers."

Bullshit. We have a consensus already enshrined as law, and some are questioning the placement of such. And how is it hypocritical to say that I already balance my individual freedom with individual responsibility? I take pains to mitigate forseeable risk every day, and refer you back to the seatbelt discussion.

"They were correctly pointing out, as a fact, that there are too many things to begin charging for. You missed it, and then implied that we each already pay for our mistakes. Rarely true, because that's what insurance does. They assign blame as cost

sharing, not as an epistemological exercise."

While there are many things we could charge for, we don't. Ergo, charging for one more is unlikely to proceed to charging for more, given that we already charge for many things but not all. And we pay for insurance, genius. It isn't granted magically as natural right by some skygod.

"Now you again claim the slippery slope for someone who correctly identifies the expensive can of worms for personal responsibility testing each action. Again, it is asserting a fact, not an unargued reason. It seems that you are in denial here. Your worldview commodifies freedom and therefore punishes risk and rewards paranoia. Okay, we can see, psychologically, why one would do that, because there will always be those who fault any courage as stupidity, especially after the fact. But as a free society we should encourage courageous behavior. Cowards can disagree. However, there is no method or excuse for commodifying freedom unless you completely misunderstand what it is. Freedom must be free to the individual, perhaps costly to the society, because it is mutually guaranteed."

Bullshit again. He was clearly setting forth an argument that proceeded from the idea that society cannot qualitiatively address risk, and if it does, we must proceed to monetize every interaction. Which is pattently false, and, had you the basic comprehension required to engage in an argument, not an assertion of fact.

As to your contention that my worldview commodifies freedom, and the unspoken allegation of cowardice, I'd remind you that there is a huge gulf between stupidity and courage. Perhaps if you weren't so much enamored of the former, you'd be better qualified to argue the latter. (Further, you've got a hard row to till if you seriously hope to prove the allegation that I'm "commodifing freedom," rather than putting forth the very simple argument that liberty does not equal license. And if you want to throw down on defining liberty, I am for you. Your hodgepodge of second-hand philosophy and vague appeals to moronitude writ large cannot justify a society built purely on a disregard for common sense and caution in order to extoll this juvenile sense of freedom you have. If you want to argue from first principles, or from societal understanding, put forth your precepts so that I may eat them.)

"Since you asked, note the liberal use of the personal anecdote in liberatarian argument ("I shouldn't pay for...") and you see why it is psychological."

First person tense isn't an anecdote, though it is individualistic. But since you're privileging the individual over society, you should enjoy that rather than railing against it.

"But we have. To get people to the moon, to underwrite dangerous expeditions to distant or deep or high locations. Many of these also have information or knowledge gathering purposes, but that's really not their only benefit."

But we as a society have, through our representatives, believed that those expeditions have held a higher purpose than just some schlubs off on a mountain. Even further, we no longer believe that many of those missions are justified. Note the tremendous downswing in manned spaceflight since the Challenger.

"I can see that some people think that channeling that drive and energy and affinity into mountainclimbing expeditions is a waste. Certainly it turns to tradgedy sometimes, but my observation (and my limited experience doing much less challenging things) however, is that it feeds the kind of spirit that also makes these other kinds of contributions I'm talking about. Recreation can be dull or a mere distraction, but when it's real re-creation, it's no mean thing, nor are the benefits it brings limited to the individuals who participate personally. And it's therefore in nobody's interest to write off either the adventurers or the undertaking of adventure itself."

Aside from arguments over limited effects of this outdoorsmanship, how would any of that be truly stymied by requiring the climbers to be equiped adequately to deal with emergencies?

"You have it absurdly backwards. Elitism would be to have a system that allows only insured climbers to go. Egalitarian would be the system that rescues all climbers, discouraging none. Obviously."

Yes, when all people have equal access to equipment and training. And the system that rescues all climbers would simply encourage more to need rescuing, especially if the goal was to have everyone climb to whatever level they might feel like without regard to actual skill. There's a reason that communism doesn't work, Brian. Perhaps you'd like to reflect on what those reasons might be?

"Wow. The man nearly dies, does everything in his power to save himself which ultimately means amputating his own arm, and you think he ought to be billed for his rescue. Just wow."

You're totally right. No one should ever feel any consequences for terrible decisions. If you slam your dick in the oven, not only should it not hurt, but everyone around you should pay for your suffering. (You know, so long as we're having a moment of bullshit rhetorical theater).

"Now, let's take this one step further: according to your logic, if your house is on fire, you should be billed for the firemen running inside to save you or your family, which means you would also say the people who were rescued from the World Trade Center should have been billed, too."

So, Fandango, if you light your house on fire, you shouldn't be charged? What if a fireman dies in the act of clearing you out? I mean, again, we're playing bullshit rhetorical theater, so I want to know why you hate firefighters and love arsonists.
Hiking has a high level of personal responsibility attached to it, and no amount of your faux-gasping over Paulsc's temerity will mitigate that.
And yes, as has been said above, there are definitely ways to strike a middle ground and both pay for the rescues and try to make it clear to people that the risks they face are real enough to demand forethought and punishment.
posted by klangklangston at 8:34 PM on December 17, 2006


posted by paulsc I think you're being intentionally "dense" for rhetorical purposes. I'm linking you to what happens where I live, because it is what happens where I live, regardless of my opinion. My opinion of what should happen is pretty close to what does happen here. You get billed for treatment or transportation if you need treatment or transportation, and since I'm not registered in this state as a Libertarian, my Independent logic holds up just fine, thanks. Most folks here pass those billings on to health care insurers, or to the liability insurers of parties determined at fault in car accidents, or if no party is determined at fault, to their own liability insurers, Florida being a "limited no fault" state.

I beg your pardon, sir, but you're the one who keeps dodging the question, which was, do you think car accident victims should be billed if firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract victims from the wreckage? The answer to this question is simple: Yes, they should be billed, or No, they should not be billed. I did not ask you about Florida law. I did not ask you about billing for ambulance rides. I did not ask you about treatment or transportation. I asked you about whether victims should be billed for rescuing them in an emergency, and I gave you a specific example. And just so we're clear, we already collectively pay for these emergency rescue services in the form of taxes, so you're talking about a separate bill.

posted by paulsc I, for one, don't see any relevance of [using hydraulic devices to pry apart wrecked car frames] to rescue costs of men exposed on Mt. Hood.

Yes, we've noticed you're having a problem grasping the logic supporting your remarks, which seems to be, "Victims should be billed for the costs of rescuing them in an emergency." So in the case of car accident victims trapped in wreckage, then you'd be sending the victims a bill for using the Jaws of Life to get them out. You'd also be sending bills to people rescued from burning homes, and to the people rescued from the WTC on September 11. You've already stated the Kim family and Aron Ralston should have been billed for their rescues, so we can deduce you also think car accident victims should be billed if firemen need to use the Jaws of Life to extract victims from the wreckage.

Had you disagreed and said, "No, we shouldn't charge car accident victims for emergency rescue", you'd acknowledge the glaring inconsistency in providing (free) emergency rescue to one group of victims while insisting the Mount Hood hikers--another group of victims in need of emergency rescue--pay for theirs. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're refusing to answer the question because to do so would reveal you understand exactly where your logic fails but you're simply unwilling to admit it; the other answer would continue to expose your shockingly fundamental lack of humanity you revealed with your answers regarding the Kims and Aron Ralston.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:11 PM on December 17, 2006


Holy Cow, fandango_matt, you're a narrow minded, dualistic rhetorically challenged punter. The world doesn't have to fit your silly Yes/No duality, and hasn't since Plato put that trick in the mouth of Socrates, 2500 years ago. It's a TV lawyer trick because it is so bunglingly simple minded.

So, let's slow things down, so even you can get the gist.

A) I've said (and you've quoted) "My opinion of what should happen is pretty close to what does happen here."
B) What happens here is that people that need rescue from car accidents are rescued, and if they need transportation or treatment, they are billed for those services. I've provided Web citations in simple English, supporting this.
C) People aren't somehow magically "rescued" from car accidents, if and only if the (cue dramatic Hollywood blood and gut music for fandango_matt!) The Jaws of Life!!! are put to use by burly rescue workers on scene. Indeed, people get pried out of wrecks fairly regularly around here, shake hands with the EMTs, and use their cell phones to call someone to come get them. But some do need medical attention, and ambulance transport, so they get that, and thereafter, a bill for those services.
D) Some of them with appropriate foresight and insurance provisions, or a clear case of the liability of the other driver, send the bills off for 3rd party payment.

And I think that's all fair, if not equitable. So, to make it exquisitely simple for you, I think that

1) You don't understand anything about the continuity of treatment services in emergency situatations, and are pandering hypotheticals that never exist, in order to make cheap rhetorical points. Go piss up a rope.
2) I could care less about your feigned moral outrage, or rhetorical limitations. Eat s**t and die.

And I mean all that in the nicest, Metafilter blue kind of way, my friend.
posted by paulsc at 9:36 PM on December 17, 2006


Oh, lordy, what to do when the romance is gone!

posted by paulsc Holy Cow, fandango_matt, you're a narrow minded, dualistic rhetorically challenged punter. The world doesn't have to fit your silly Yes/No duality, and hasn't since Plato put that trick in the mouth of Socrates, 2500 years ago. It's a TV lawyer trick because it is so bunglingly simple minded.

Holy cow yourself. You're the one who refused to answer a simple question the first three times it was asked.

posted by paulsc So, let's slow things down, so even you can get the gist.
A) I've said (and you've quoted) "My opinion of what should happen is pretty close to what does happen here."


Yes, we were all mildly impressed with your middle-school debate team skills at avoiding answering the question by instead saying you agreed with the status quo and then feigning outrage when you're informed that you didn't answer the question.

posted by paulsc B) What happens here is that people that need rescue from car accidents are rescued, and if they need transportation or treatment, they are billed for those services. I've provided Web citations in simple English, supporting this.

And I told you that was irrelevant, because I didn't ask you about transportation or treatment. I asked you about emergency rescue.

posted by paulsc C) People aren't somehow magically "rescued" from car accidents, if and only if the (cue dramatic Hollywood blood and gut music for fandango_matt!) The Jaws of Life!!! are put to use by burly rescue workers on scene. Indeed, people get pried out of wrecks fairly regularly around here, shake hands with the EMTs, and use their cell phones to call someone to come get them. But some do need medical attention, and ambulance transport, so they get that, and thereafter, a bill for those services.
D) Some of them with appropriate foresight and insurance provisions, or a clear case of the liability of the other driver, send the bills off for 3rd party payment.


Yeah, I think I saw that once on ER. And as I said, more than a few times, I didn't ask you about whether they should be billed for transport and treatment. I asked if you thought victims should be charged to be pried out of a wrecked car.

posted by paulsc And I think that's all fair, if not equitable. So, to make it exquisitely simple for you, I think that
1) You don't understand anything about the continuity of treatment services in emergency situatations, and are pandering hypotheticals that never exist, in order to make cheap rhetorical points. Go piss up a rope.
2) I could [sic] care less about your feigned moral outrage, or rhetorical limitations. Eat s**t and die.
And I mean all that in the nicest, Metafilter blue kind of way, my friend.


Boohoo. You ought to have your blood pressure checked, and soon. That aneurysm's going to cost you a fortune in ambulance fees, especially if it happens while you're out on a hike.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:25 PM on December 17, 2006


If joe-homeless man goes into convulsions, someone calls 911, and he's taken to the hospital, he wracks up a pretty hefty bill. But he never pays it, he has no job. Instead, the hospital passes some of his costs off to the government, and the rest get passed on as cost-of-business for those people who do pay, or have insurance that pays. It is against the law in the US for a hospital to refuse joe treatment prior to payment; they can't even shuffle him off to a cheaper hospital. As a society, we've decided it's better that we all pay more for our healthcare, than to let people die in the ER when they don't have a valid credit card to put a $10,000 hold on. Joe may not get the same treatment options as richie-rich, but he gets something.


From what I've seen, rescue-charging services follow the same pattern. Provide services, then request payment, and when no payment is forthcoming, pass the costs on to those who do pay their bills.

It makes a certain sense. You don't go into the business of saving lives, so you can take them away again. If you wanted to do that, you'd be a loan shark.
posted by nomisxid at 11:19 PM on December 17, 2006


The C-130 used to look for the lost men on Mr. Hood has an unweighted operational cost (crew, fuel, maintenance, but no capital cost), of about $1400 per flight hour.

I'm not surprised it's expensive, though as you'll see from my earlier comments, I retain some skepticism that actual operation costs are in fact that high, whether it's for a C130 or an ambulance or a helicopter into and out of the grand canyon.

I think we're agreed it's the responsibility of the estate of the men

Nope. We're not. What we've agreed on is that it's fair to ask the estate or survivors to bear some of the responsibility. The part you seem to be completely opposed to is where part of the expense is also shared by people who participate in this kind of rec but never need rescuing, and part of it's supported as part of the general infrastructure that's prepared to be versatile provide all kinds of emergency services. I think that's a pretty reasonable balance.


Most of the above quoted two paragraphs are your restated but unsubstantiated, and probably factually unsupportable, assertions and opinions.


Did you offer a counterargument to the idea that society benefits from having individuals who are interested in recreational adventure, or did you simply say "you can't support that"?

If you'll keep them out of further discussion, I'll have no reason to draw further equally valid and well considered inferences regarding them.

Riight. The "sierra club calnedar sentiment" jab was equally valid and well-considered. You *could* just apologize for letting that creep in, you know.
posted by weston at 2:26 AM on December 18, 2006


Sad news.

And fandango_matt, great job bringing this thread down. At this point it's not worth engaging you because you're not listening to what anyone says, but I just want to add -- in the "Jaws of Life" scenario, the victim who needs rescue does pay, albeit in the form of taxes. People drive cars to get to work, accidents happen. Fine. I think you're bright enough to see the qualitative difference between something like that and something like this, where a "rescue" involves tens of thousands of dollars to save three guys in, sadly, a bad situation of their own making, as opposed to a few thousand dollars to save people on a daily basis. Like I said earlier, we need to draw lines on our behavior -- break you ankle playing basketball? Hope you have health insurance. Get stranded in the middle of nowhere and require tons of money and hours of man-power to get out? Hope you have a trust fund. Then again, it's not like lots of people out there aren't already in debt.

As for James Kim, another sad, awful story, it wouldn't bug me if the state or local authorities sent him a bill. Thing is, he'd have grounds to sue them for not locking the gate in question. I imagine his family has been in touch with a lawyer or two. Responsiblity works both ways.

Hopefully they'll find the other two guys, alive. And if they do, get them the medical treatment they need. And then bill them for all of it, although at this point I don't think that's going to happen.
posted by bardic at 3:51 AM on December 18, 2006


"...It is against the law in the US for a hospital to refuse joe treatment prior to payment; they can't even shuffle him off to a cheaper hospital. ..."
posted by nomisxid at 2:19 AM EST on December 18

That's not entirely true, if he's not actively convulsing when he hits the ER door.

"From what I've seen, rescue-charging services follow the same pattern. Provide services, then request payment, and when no payment is forthcoming, pass the costs on to those who do pay their bills."

Ah. Well, if this is the reason you want to talk about systems of ER payment, and rules for ER practice, in a thread about who should be responsible for massive search and rescue costs for finding recreational mountain climbers, just say so. Better yet, start a thread on that topic, and be ready to discuss why more and more hospitals are cutting back, or dropping provision of ER services altogether, even as population and demand for emergency services continues to rise.

"...Joe may not get the same treatment options as richie-rich, but he gets something. ..."
Not if Joe doesn't live long enough to survive transport to a mandated services ER, as happens more and more often in circumstances where there are fewer ERs. Or if he's "parked" in an ambulance outside the ER, awaiting "acceptance" by the ER. You have to literally be bleeding or fall out on the ER "security lobby" floor in most ERs now, to be immediately triaged. And triage is not treatment, it's evaluation for hospital liability, under the Federal care guidelines in which you trust. Let's you and me spend a few nights at Shands Jacksonville, or at Grady Hospital in Atlanta, and see how things are really working. 'Cause I took my disabled brother to an ER in October, on orders of his primary care physician, and I think you'd be surprised what's going on.

It's certianly not what you say you've seen.

"It makes a certain sense. You don't go into the business of saving lives, so you can take them away again. If you wanted to do that, you'd be a loan shark."

Or, you'd outsource emergency services to specialist firms that are "regionalizing" them, if you couldn't get Congress to pay up to support your for-profit healthcare model.
posted by paulsc at 3:55 AM on December 18, 2006


If the mountain is a part of a parks system, all climbers should be required to buy rescue insurance and get advice from a park-appointed expert on local climbing (probably a member of the local rescue team) before the climb, including a last-minute call to verify the opinion based on last-minute weather conditions and forecasts.

If the expert compares the climber's experience and equipment and plans to the proposed route and current conditions and weather forecast and says no, don't climb, that should be the end of the climb. In fact, if it looks like conditions are becoming dangerous, the expert should be able to call climbers and instruct them to return to base even if they've already set off. If the climber then goes on to climb the mountain (or goes without the appointed expert's advice at all), the climber should have to pay for any rescue, pay a large fine, and be banned from climbing in any US parks.
posted by pracowity at 4:17 AM on December 18, 2006


posted by bardic in the "Jaws of Life" scenario, the victim who needs rescue does pay, albeit in the form of taxes. People drive cars to get to work, accidents happen. Fine. I think you're bright enough to see the qualitative difference between something like that and something like this, where a "rescue" involves tens of thousands of dollars to save three guys in, sadly, a bad situation of their own making, as opposed to a few thousand dollars to save people on a daily basis.

Actually, the two rescue situations are not all that different--in both situations, the victims need immediate extrication from their respective predicaments because their lives are in danger. Sure, people drive cars to work and get in accidents, but--to use your phrasing--those are also "bad situations of their own making." Bear in mind these climbers are highly experienced and were caught in a fierce set of storms that wiped out power and made their rescue almost impossible for the first several days. The reasons, circumstances, and decisions which have led to the people's need for emergency rescue are irrelevant; otherwise, you're saying that emergency rescues should be affirmed by the legitimacy of the rationale which led to the necessity for the rescue, regardless of the circumstances. And I don't think I'm too far afield in pointing out the costs of rescuing three climbers from Mount Hood probably pales in comparison to the cost of maintaining a nationwide fleet of fire and police departments to ensure each and every citizen can be rescued if they're trapped in a car wreck, not to mention the cost of maintaining safe roads and highways. On that point (the costs) I could be wrong, but if someone's got the numbers to prove it, I'd be interested to know.

posted by bardic Like I said earlier, we need to draw lines on our behavior -- break you ankle playing basketball? Hope you have health insurance.

Putting aside the debate over the current state of health care in this country, I completely agree.

posted by bardic Get stranded in the middle of nowhere and require tons of money and hours of man-power to get out? Hope you have a trust fund. Then again, it's not like lots of people out there aren't already in debt.

Well, surely you will agree that's a little bit different. Breaking your ankle on the basketball court is not, for the most part, a life-threatening predicament from which you need emergency rescue--immediate treatment and transportation to a hospital, sure. Being trapped on a the side of a mountain in sub-zero weather is a life-threatening predicament from which you need emergency rescue, and it necessitates the same degree of urgent rescue as rescuing someone from a burning building or a capsized boat in a storm.

I completely agree we should urge and expect people to behave responsibly and use to good judgment, take all foreseeable precautions, and engage in activities well within their personal thresholds of experience and ability. Unfortunately, human nature and unforeseeable circumstances often mean people need to be rescued from bad weather, bad luck, bad planning, bad decisions, or what-have-you, so we pay taxes for fire departments, lifeguards, and the like to ensure people can be rescued in an emergency, regardless of the reasons which necessitate their emergency rescue.
posted by fandango_matt at 6:31 AM on December 18, 2006


And just to clarify, I agree with passing the expense of emergency rescue on to everyone who participates in the activity, including people who may never need it, in the form of climbing permits and park entrance fees. This way emergency rescue is supported as part of the maintenance and infrastructure of the recreation in question, much in the same way our vehicle registration taxes contribute to the maintenance and safety of the roads and highways on which we drive. I think that's a very reasonable proposition.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:02 AM on December 18, 2006


"And I don't think I'm too far afield in pointing out the costs of rescuing three climbers from Mount Hood probably pales in comparison to the cost of maintaining a nationwide fleet of fire and police departments to ensure each and every citizen can be rescued if they're trapped in a car wreck, not to mention the cost of maintaining safe roads and highways. On that point (the costs) I could be wrong, but if someone's got the numbers to prove it, I'd be interested to know."

Not wrong, just retarded. How many people benefit from the Mount Hood rescue directly? How many benefit from the nationwide fleet of police, EMTs, etc.? Might the individual versus the society be the salient point that your dudgeon ignores while attempting to pillory Paul?

Find out next comment on the Fandango Matt Rhetorical Theater hour.
posted by klangklangston at 7:58 AM on December 18, 2006


Well, it doesn't look like they'll be able to get any money out of them anyway
posted by Flashman at 9:29 AM on December 18, 2006


He was clearly setting forth an argument that proceeded from the idea that society cannot qualitiatively address risk, and if it does, we must proceed to monetize every interaction. Which is pattently false, and, had you the basic comprehension required to engage in an argument, not an assertion of fact.

Patently false? You said it was a fallacy and fallacies are errors in reasonings, not errors of fact. It seems you also regarded it as counterexample, as I did. Worse for you, he was using your argument, with your assumptions, stating what it would potentially mean to apply your reasoning across the board. In effect, your not only described your own position as patently false, but you said troybob proceeded from the idea that we could not "qualitatively" address risk when he used your own reasoning.
posted by Brian B. at 10:54 AM on December 18, 2006


"Actually, the two rescue situations are not all that different--in both situations, the victims need immediate extrication from their respective predicaments because their lives are in danger."

It's that kind of sweeping generalization, that completely artificial take on reality, trying to force facts to fit your own views, that makes you the constant source of entertainment you've become in this thread, fandango_matt. Only a clown car is stuffed with more silliness than your arguments here, but let's just take this one, because it's a comment lead of yours.

There is a tremendous difference in mounting a multi-day combined air and ground search effort costing hundreds of thousands of dollars directly, and involving hundreds of skilled people and specialized military assets in dangerous weather and avalanche conditions over an intial search area of hundreds of square miles, to find 3 people who apparently didn't carry or can't use something as simple as a pocket signaling mirror, compared to EMS units responding to a car wreck. To assert that there isn't trivializes the one, and overly dramatizes the other, which is another of your tired and overworked rhetorical devices. Because, you know, the Mt. Hood thing is all about search before there's any rescue, whereas at most car accidents, search isn't so big a deal, by an order of 6 figures of direct expense usually, and they get right to the rescue thing, with your beloved and dramatic Jaws of Life, if needs be.

And that massive difference in cost and effort for these huge and specialized search operations was kind of the whole, original point of this thread, to which you contribute nothing by ignoring it entirely, or by trying to sweep it away in a massive generalization of your own. But don't let me stop the clown parade, pal.
posted by paulsc at 11:05 AM on December 18, 2006


Paul, despite your ad hominem defense, you failed to explain how the two rescues are different categorically. The main difference to you is relative cost, but cost also distinguishes two nearly identical rescues which differ only under lucky and unlucky conditions. At least you admitted it about cost, but clearly you are the one who dramatizes one rescue while trivializing the other to make your point.
posted by Brian B. at 5:01 PM on December 18, 2006


I was all for this rescue try, but this is excessive, i think--blackhawks? wtf? who are these people? We should always try to save lives if we can, but there has to be a limit, and people should not just be allowed to go unprepared up mountains--it's not like a hike.

. (for all 3, i fear)
posted by amberglow at 6:43 PM on December 18, 2006


And just to clarify, I agree with passing the expense of emergency rescue on to everyone who participates in the activity, including people who may never need it, in the form of climbing permits and park entrance fees. This way emergency rescue is supported as part of the maintenance and infrastructure of the recreation in question, much in the same way our vehicle registration taxes contribute to the maintenance and safety of the roads and highways on which we drive. I think that's a very reasonable proposition.


I think this should be made law immediately. They should also have to register at a ranger office that day and their intentions in terms of directions/course (faces, which trails up, etc) should be left there. It would take no time and can be integrated into their other prep.
posted by amberglow at 6:46 PM on December 18, 2006


"If the mountain is a part of a parks system, all climbers should be required to buy rescue insurance and get advice from a park-appointed expert on local climbing (probably a member of the local rescue team) before the climb, including a last-minute call to verify the opinion based on last-minute weather conditions and forecasts. Blah Blah Blah..."

This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever read. Do you really believe that an overburdened park system is going to have the resources for something like this? There are thousands of climbers in the US going on thousands of climbs every year. The vast majority of them never require a rescue. It bears repeating that climbers require far less rescues than any other user group that uses the national parks. If I weren't lazy I would find the statistics for Yosemite National Park.

In one of the above comments someone mentioned that the American Alpine Club offers rescue insurance. They do and for a paltry $75 a year, $45 if you are under 26, you get all the resources of the AAC, including insurance. I'm not sure where the commenter got the idea that it's hard to join the AAC. The application is here. All they ask is that you have two years of climbing experience. As I climb abroad I also carry travel insurance through a company called MedJet. It's kind of pricey, but worth it if you need it.

I'm not sure where people got the idea that climbing Hood in December is absolutely insane. Hood sees many, many winter ascents every year. Things went wrong for these guys. It happens. Why this incident has turned into a media circus is beyond me. This year has been quite tough on the climbing community. We have lost a number of well respected members, none of whom have garnered the media attention that these guys have. Right now Charlie Fowler and Christine Boskoff are missing in Tibet. I bet you will hear nothing about them on CNN.

This media attention is frustrating for climbers as it draws negative attention to something that, for many of us, is a passion that very few people outside of our community can understand. Speculation from non-participants and calls for banning climbing altogether, or creating regulations that effectively do this will only serve to further alienate.

Anyway, I think I've said enough. I'm going ice climbing tomorrow, like I did today, and I'm going to enjoy myself more than most of you can possibly ever imagine.
posted by alpinist at 9:39 PM on December 18, 2006


alpinist, if you're looking to garner more sympathy for climbers in general (I'm a recreational hiker myself, different league obviously, but I hope I've made it clear that I wanted nothing more than these guys to make it home safe), you need to realize what a douchebag you sound like in your final paragraph: "I'm going ice climbing tomorrow, like I did today, and I'm going to enjoy myself more than most of you can possibly ever imagine."

Because it's not too much of a stretch to think (and I've seen some comments on the news that sort of go down this road), "Aright asshole, you're doing what you love and that no one else can appreciate. Enjoy dying up on that mountain, because it would be a shame to spoil your buzz by mounting a costly rescue effort."

Although I applaud you for carrying insurance. Especially if you have kids, it's the only sensible thing to do.
posted by bardic at 10:28 PM on December 18, 2006


alpinist, maybe there's something you guys could do while you're up there to help future climbers? Like setting up emergency beacons or flares or gps or cellphone alarms or something so that future climbers could just go to one of those to signal for help and to let people know where they are? Or stashes of food or shelter things at specified places? or something?

I don't really think you dropping off a list/contact info of people climbing with you, and your intended route, at an office is really a hardship at all. I do it every time i board a plane--naming a contact person and what flight number and stuff.
posted by amberglow at 10:38 PM on December 18, 2006


Hey Bardic, re-reading the last part I do sound a bit douchebagish. It wasn't my intention to come off as a prick, it's just hard to convey how much climbing means to me. As strange as it may seem to a lot of people, for many of us our lives revolve around climbing. When people call for climbing bans or increased regulations without any real idea of what's going on it feels like I am being personally attacked. Even Bill O'Reilly chimed in and called for a ban on winter mountaineering. WTF? So, is it really that hard to fathom some politician seeing an uninformed publics attitudes towards climbing influenced by sensationalized media events like this and attempting to enact legislation that negatively affects the climbing community? I don't think so. Thousands of people climb and ski everyday in mountains all over the United States and the world without incident. SAR operations to rescue climbers account for such a minute amount of taxpayer dollars that it is essentially a non-issue. I can't wait for the next missing white woman story to come along and get this out of the mainstream media.

FWIW, Portland Mountain Rescue (one of the main SAR groups involved in the Mt. Hood SAR) is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization. It's well worth reading their FAQ for more info on rescue costs. I assume the Hood River Crag Rats have a similar system. As was said in some comment above, the military uses these operations for training purposes. So what's the problem?
posted by alpinist at 11:07 PM on December 18, 2006


Well put alpinist. Have fun cllimbing tomorrow.
posted by bardic at 11:23 PM on December 18, 2006


Amberglow, I personally always let someone I trust know where I'm going to be, what route I'm doing and when I intend to be back. As far as the Cascade volcanoes go, just about all of them have places to self register your party. Registration on Mt. Hood is optional whereas registration (and a permit fee) is mandatory on Mt. Rainier, so it depends on where you are. The guys on Hood registered with the rangers informally. Conditions dictate where one can climb and you can't really know what conditions are like until you are on the mountain. Conditions can change drastically by the hour, so it is not uncommon to deviate from the original plan.

Personally I believe that calling in a rescue is the absolute last possible thing a team should ever do. Climbing is about self-reliance and the ability to self-rescue is mandatory. Only in the most dire of circumstances should someone call in the calvary. When Tomaz Humar was trapped high on Nanga Parbat last year one leading climber said he should just wait there and die. Harsh, but I believe his point was that Humar put himself in that situation, climbed when the weather forecast was shit, and ultimately should have paid the price for his poor decisions. Instead he was slung off the face in the highest helicopter rescue in history, forever changing high altitude alpinism. Anyway, I digress.
posted by alpinist at 11:25 PM on December 18, 2006


maybe you guys need DNRs on file with Rangers? (Do Not Rescue instead of Do Not Resuscitate)
posted by amberglow at 7:03 AM on December 19, 2006


We have lost a number of well respected members, none of whom have garnered the media attention that these guys have.

Right, because they have pretty wives and middle class lives and because Mt. Hood is easy to get to with camera crews. The coverage passed from maudlin and voyeuristic to absurd yesterday. Three white guys die on a mountain and it's non-stop coverage for a week. Three children die of AIDS every hour or so in Africa (it might be more) and you barely hear about it.
posted by spitbull at 7:57 AM on December 20, 2006


"Who's paying for Mt. Hood rescue? The Mount Hood River Count Sheriff's Office estimates the rescue efforts to find two missing climbers conts about $5,000 a day. Who's footing the bill?" -- video
posted by ericb at 10:30 AM on December 20, 2006


Interesting video. Thanks ericb. Further reading for anyone who is still paying attention to this thread:

Mount Hood rescue renews a cost debate

Mount Hood Search Cost Hard to Determine

A conservative estimate based on the figures of $5K/day for first 3 days & $6.5K/day following (assuming the rescue effort has been going on for 8 days now) is $47,500 so far. This is for the Mount Hood River Count Sheriff's Office alone, and doesn't include costs of the helicopters, which are estimated to cost $2-5K per hour.
posted by googly at 2:23 PM on December 20, 2006


Sad news.
posted by fandango_matt at 5:34 PM on December 20, 2006


Sad news indeed.

.
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posted by googly at 7:54 PM on December 20, 2006


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