Rescue in nh

6:15 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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So they saved two guys from quebec of mt lafayette. They said they couldnt cook because their cannister was cold and had no pressure, they had no water because their bottles were frozen and they couldnt see to walk because of ice pellets. I guess they couldnt start a fire because of conditions, they huddled under a rock and activated an emergency beacon. Im wondering why they had a beacon but no other resources, they had an orange survival blanket they used to signal a chopper. I dont understand, if a chopper could fly, why couldnt they see. Why didnt they eat the food cold, better than nothing. A survival beacon saved their life I guess, but wouldnt it have been smarter to have a tent, or bivy or at least an alchy stove. I know I wouldnt be depending on a cannister stove,survival blanket and a beacon. Should they pay the bill for the rescue, or should the tax payers of nh?

6:45 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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bill them. they sound like idiots.

8:15 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Winter hiking: always pack enough gear to spend the night out if needed.

Bill them for it.

8:33 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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Something isn't adding up here. Lafayette isn't a huge, or overly challenging mountain. At slightly over 5000 feet its a day hike, even in the winter. Why were these two not able to get themselves off of the mountain. Greenleaf hut would also have been a good place to hunker down. Couldn't have warmed up their water and food with their body heat? Yet prepared enough to have an emergency beacon? Gotta agree with Rob, anytime you step outdoors in winter be prepared for a night (or a couple!), especially when you are putting someone elses life in danger to come save you.

There whole charging for rescue thing is a sticky subject. This one appears, however, to be about as open and closed as possible. Charge 'em. Maybe even charge them twice, or three times just for the hell of it! Ha ha ha, just kidding,....kinda. People like this need to take more responsibility for their own actions. Be prepared for self rescue, if that fails, then consider the other options.

8:36 p.m. on January 1, 2013 (EST)
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I'd also like to apologize on behalf of these two. Most self respecting Canadians would have made a snow angel, built an igloo and called it home for the night! ;)

3:10 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Maybe the thing to do is calculate an "idiocy factor" and multiply the rescue cost by that. i.e. if they were 80% idiotic they should pay 80% of the cost...

Then you could run it up to 200% and use it to raise money for the more legit ones...

7:07 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Bill and charges pressed for wrongful endangerment(of themselves and rescue personnel). Same should happen nationwide.

8:21 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Good one jake! Yea you guys must be reading my mind. I thought the same thing, why do you have a beacon and no tent or fire kit. They must have had no idea where they were or what they were doing. Depending on or planning to use a beacon as your survival plan is wrong. They basically said im done hiking, come pick me up, like they were calling their mom to get them from the mall. A beacon can save lives but not if the sar guys and girls are busy rescuing some idiots who use it as the first hardship, not as a last resort. A beacon and no power bars or jerky or any kind of ready to eat food. What were they gonna cook that they couldnt eat it without heating it. I found the story on WMUR.com if anybody wants to check it out, sorry should have included that in my first post.

11:08 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Oops, I thought it read that they used their bacon to call for a rescue, guess I need something to eat.  Maybe bacon would have been a better, and cheaper item to bring than a beacon, the pre-cooked (yuk) kind in case the stove wont work.   

"I don't need survival gear, I have a beacon."

11:46 a.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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I agree with charging them.  For all of those who are not sure, read the following story.

I was running the Grand Canyon on a commercial raft trip about 10 years ago.  We came around a bend in the River, and there was a lot of commotion.  A dory (solid oar boat) was stuck on some rocks about 30 feet from shore.  The leaders of the trip called in an NPS helicopter.  We stopped to see if we could lend assistance.  We got word that the trip leader "has done this many times before."  I was incensed.  Any three river runners on this forum could have gotten that boat free with a throw line, a rescue rope and some carabiners for a Z drag.  The SAR people have their hands full enough without a bunch of wild goose chases for stupid people.

1:16 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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Im glad everyone agrees with me. I dont know if ive ever seen a thread go ten posts without a diff of opinion. I think that shows how far out of line these guys were. Maybe if on top of billing for needless rescues they could require one hr of trail maint for every man hr used in the rescue. Lots of people have more money than sense as this clearly illustrates, money for a beacon but not enough common sense for some clif bars, but take their time and make them sweat, they might think twice. Maybe some kind of filter on the beacon. A question like" is your life in danger, are you injured?"NO, then start walking, dumba$$!!! Any other ideas how yo curb this ridiculous waste of time,money and sar members safety? Im not talking about tar and feathers, but it would be fitting.

4:28 p.m. on January 2, 2013 (EST)
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I think these guys just wanted a helicopter ride. no food, no shelter in the dead of winter? this is one of the reasons I'm a fairweather hiker, just don't want to run the risk of getting snowed in. and carrying all that equipment for a dayhike is just too much hassle for me. call me wimp hiker...

7:48 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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Looks like another rescue took place last night. I dont know the details yet but two young men had to rescued in northern mass. They were climbing and became stuck, then became hypothermic from laying on the rock face. Ill post some details as I hear them.

11:59 a.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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The problem with Lafayette is not the ascent, it's coming down. If it's dark or you don't have good visibility, the trail down to the hut can be very difficult to find. The cairns are not very tall and blend in with the rest of the snow covered scree on the west side of the mountain. The people who often need rescues, need them because they don't know where they are  (walked off a cliff or into woods, etc)  or because they've slid uncontrollably down the western face on the ice sheet that forms on the western face from sun/refreeze activity. I am always on guard when I climb Lafayette and Franconia Ridge in winter. Switching ones route can help (up Lafayette, down Haystack) and a compass is indispensable. 

On the other hand, there has been a noticeable tendency for NH Fish and Game to respond to all calls for help, even if not really warranted. Rescues really should be limited to life threatening injury or hypothermia, not because you're uncomfortable and destined to spend a cold night out. If you hike in winter in the Whites, carry what you need to spend the night out and hike out the following day. That makes every day hike a backpacking load, but them's the breaks. Suck it up. 

1:19 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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the Union Leader ran a good article about rescues generally.  NH has a cost-recovery law; it only gets used in cases where the state feels pretty strongly that the hikers were negligent. 

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20120617/NEWS07/706179926

 

a couple of years ago, the state tried to recover 25k from a teenager for a 3 day SAR - he sprained his ankle on Mt. Washington; they ultimately withdrew the bill.  the kid was an eagle scout, his family didn't have a lot of money. 

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/699918-196/state-wont-charge-teen-25000-for-white.html

 

moral of the story is that even the lesser peaks in the white mountains can be very challenging depending on the season and the weather.  underestimate them at your peril. 

 

3:19 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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philipwerner said:

... there has been a noticeable tendency for NH Fish and Game to respond to all calls for help, even if not really warranted.

Most SAR organizations would prefer to be called the minute there is the possibility of a callout rather than turn up too late because someone waited too long. That allows time to prepare for the rescue, so that if one is needed they're ready to roll, and it's better to save someone who isn't really in danger than to wait until they get hurt or wander further off into the bush.

But the bane of the mountain rescue organizations are the people who get part way to the top and realize they're getting tired so they call for a pickup. Send them a bill. Rescue shouldn't be used as a taxi service. 

6:28 p.m. on January 3, 2013 (EST)
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There have been several helo rescues in the local mountains around Los Angeles lately. Hikers benighted with no gear of any kind except a cel phone. One had fallen quite a ways, but not injured, he just couldn't get up to the trail. LA Sheriff's Dept. got him with their helo. A couple of others lost in the dark, another on the side a cliff and couldn't figure out how to get up or down.

Just yesterday, two girls were rescued near Frazier Park (top of the Grapevine) after spending the night out. They were wearing jeans and jackets, but didn't have much else with them. No light, apparently. They had left a trail of orange peels, so that's how they were found. No helo, just SAR on foot.

The first ever use of a beacon was by a guy from Ohio canoeing in upstate NY in winter. Set it off when he got stuck in deep snow. He set it off again when he went back for his gear a couple of weeks later and wanted a ride back. The second time he was arrested and fined for misusing it.

A few years ago there was a story in the NYT about beacons being a sort of "yuppie 911" where people were using it as a taxi service and setting if off for all kinds of stupid reasons like "my water tastes funny."

As I have mentioned before, a friend of mine was killed on a SAR mission-helo crash, so I don't have a lot of sympathy for idiots. Yes, I know he chose to do that, but still, endangering others because you are a moron, yes, you should pay for your ignorance.

12:43 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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there is a little more to this story - there often is. 

These guys went for what they thought was a day hike up Lafayette.  that's a reasonable proposition, normally, a strenuous winter day but do-able.  they weren't planning to spend the night out.  they appear to be experienced winter hikers, well-geared for the conditions.  (if they spent the night out in high winds, deep snow, and sub-zero temperatures without a tent or sleeping bag, yet didn't suffer any frostbite, they had to be well-prepared for winter conditions in terms of clothing). 

at the summit of Lafayette, they encountered "severe" snow and wind, they lost the trail, and they descended via a drainage.  sounds like they got to a point Sunday evening where proceeding down or going back up was risky due to conditions & the fact they were off-trail, so they triggered the beacon.  they spend the night out in what was described as 'extreme winter conditions' (high winds and sub-zero temperatures).  they were pulled off the mountain from 'difficult terrain' - steep, deep snow and significant tree cover - by helicopter the following day. 

i have been going up the taller peaks in that area for years in the winter - severe winds and snow make for brutal conditions and can make it very hard to see much of anything. 

anyone in this situation could have exercised better judgment and turned around at some point as the weather worsened.  perhaps they could have benefitted from a GPS, making waypoints as they proceeded, to help guide them back (i don't like depending on devices but have found GPS to be invaluable in these kinds of conditions in the White Mountains).  Given where they ended up, though, where proceeding could have resulted in an injurious or fatal fall and staying meant a high risk of hypothermia and frostbite, i have a hard time arguing with triggering the beacon under the circumstances. 

 

 

2:33 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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The two Canadians, IMO, triggered their beacon prematurely. If they were able to successfully spend the first night out - which they did - then they should have tried self-rescue the next day. 

I regret that the NH F&G dropped the $25,000 billing (which didn't cover all costs) of the 17 year old. When that incident occurred, it was obvious that the kid was not just reckless or negligent, but provocative in his actions. He went on a day hike that couldn't possibly be completed in a day. He purportedly sprained his ankle on day 1, but instead of turning back, he continued hiking for two more days. He actively avoided the searchers who were calling from him lower down the trail and hastened to the summit.

With that in mind, I’ll offer a few thoughts of my own.  The following is just my private opinion.  It’s based on my own general experience as an outdoorsman and guide, but also on the fact that, as a volunteer rescuer, I participated in the search for Scott Mason. And moreover — by a combination of circumstance and plain luck — I was the person who happened to find him.

It turns out Scott Mason did not need to be rescued.  When I spotted him, he was approximately a mile below the top of Mount Washington, moving towards the summit at a steady pace. I have no doubt that he would have reached the observatory located there under his own power, irregardless of the massive search operation that was under way. (I don’t mean to imply that the search effort was inept. The same swollen creeks that had boxed Scott into the Great Gulf had boxed search teams out; for three days everyone was caught in a frustrating and inadvertent game of cat-and-mouse.) But regardless of the circumstances of his “rescue”, the State has held Scott liable due to his original decision to continue into a remote area with a sprained ankle. By the letter of the law in New Hampshire as things currently stand, that is probably true.

from http://www.thenamelesscreature.com/2009/07/30/the-25000-dollar-question-whats-the-price-of-adventure/

4:44 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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Consistent with Peter's comment, the National Association of Search & Rescue opposes billing people for rescue operations because the association believes it may inhibit people from asking for help when they need it.

http://www.nasar.org/files/board_of_directors/positionpaper/No_Bill_for_SAR_Position_Statement_-_NASAR_4-2009.pdf

9:25 p.m. on January 4, 2013 (EST)
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I'm not sure billing them is necessary. Are SAR people actually paid for by "tax dollars"??

Saying that tax dollars pays for those seems like some sort of political agenda in my opinion. Aren't a lot of SAR personnel volunteers? Isn't there national funding in place since it's in a national forest?

Also, I feel like whenever a situation arises where people believe that their tax dollars are being used for something they disapprove of, they make the story out to be that ALL of their tax dollars go to that one undesirable thing.

If tax dollars from NH residents indeed do go to SAR, with a population of 1.3 million, if each resident paid a mere 25 cents A YEAR for SAR, it would equal $325,000.

I think these things get blown out of proportion, and if it were your son, daughter, father, mother, brother, cousin, whoever, that got rescued, you'd be mighty grateful that it happened. Hiking and climbing are risky. Even experienced people need help sometimes; let's stop the crucification.

1:48 a.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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Do you have any idea how expensive rotor time is? Between $500-$2000 per hour, depending on the model for many of them, could be more in some cases. Not all SAR people are volunteers. I'm not saying people don't need rescuing, but the idea that it's really free makes no sense whatsoever. FYI, the entire GPS system was paid for with taxpayer money and no one is charged for that (Spot is different, it's a private system).

2:27 a.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

 He went on a day hike that couldn't possibly be completed in a day. He purportedly sprained his ankle on day 1, but instead of turning back, he continued hiking for two more days. He actively avoided the searchers who were calling from him lower down the trail and hastened to the summit.

 Other than the fact that he sprained his ankle, I don't think any of that is true.

1. His route was 17 miles, a distance routinely covered by fit hikers in the Presidential Range, even in full winter conditions.

2. He didn't "keep hiking", he went with the bailout discussed with the AMC. They were WRONG about it being "clear".

“I had a light sprain coming up, so I decided to take an easier hike down,” he said. He chose a route he had discussed with the staff at the Appalachian Mountain Club lodge where he began his hike. “They had information that it was clear at the time.”

3. What evidence do you have that he "actively avoided the searchers"? - I haven't seen this claim in any published reports.

I can't post a link, but if you Google "Statement on Behalf of Scott Mason Family", you can read his account as a .pdf.

5:23 a.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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If the searcher that actually found him said" I saw him moving towards the top of mt washington at a steady clip" " irregardless of the massive search going on below him". I think that is pretty good evidence that he was hindering the effort. Why else was he going up, it sar and safety was down? I realize there is shelter at the top, but he was much lower when he called for help. He evidently left the zone he said he was in to avoid help and prolong the search. Several other people involved with the search expressed similar opinions. Im glad the dropped the bill, he was a minor and his parents would have been responsible. If he had been an adult he should have been made to pay. I dont think anybody on here thinks sar is a bad thing we think they are getting abused, used as a taxi service or in that case, a juvenile prank. The risk to the people going into these bad situations is my greatest concern, the money is secondary but still a concern. I for one purposely did not include any names in my post. We talk a lot about being prepared and what one should carry in diff situations. I think too many people think because they have a beacon they can be less prepared. Who climbs in ne during winter with no shelter,one cooking device,no instant or snack food and then doesnt know to warm the fuel against your body (before you are cold and in trouble). My complaint isnt with someone needing rescue,its someone getting rescued that really isnt in danger, just uncomfortable. Every situation is diff, if we discuss current rescues it helps all of us think about our gear and plans for survival. Did you read all of the comments in their favor, even first hand info about the route. I started this thread because I felt they mafe bad decisions and then triggered their beacon when they should have walked out. Maybe I was wrong, if they were in a spot they couldnt move safely from maybe I was, but its just my opinion.

10:45 a.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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The notion that he was irresponsible in heading UP the mountain is not supported by the facts:

He set out on April 25, 2009. Although he was making good time, in part because of a slip and a resulting twinge to his ankle, Scott
determined to shorten his hike, and to use the bailout route that he had discussed with the AMC. Unfortunately, this route turned out to be impassable due to floodwaters caused by exceptionally warm weather. As a result, Scott had to work his way steadily back up the ridgeline.

He could not go "down" because of the floodwaters. I'd love to know what idiot at Pinkham directed him there.

I have to wonder if the AMC had a hand in calling off the dogs as far as charging for the rescue - it would certainly come out in the wash that they were partially responsible for giving such terrible "advice".

4:26 p.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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But wouldnt a bailout plan be used before he tripped the beacon. Once he tripped the beacon shouldnt he stay in that location so he could be found easier. If he was able to move at a steady pace after three days in the woods, why did he need to be rescued. I dont think his parents should have to pay, but there should be some consequence. Maybe lots of hrs of trail maint or cleaning up state parks. Once again I wonder why these people have a beacon yet no traditional survival or camping gear. If you arent prepared you could die or be billed for your rescue. A beacon in your pack is NOT being prepared!!!

6:07 p.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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"Who climbs in ne during winter with no shelter,one cooking device,no instant or snack food and then doesnt know to warm the fuel against your body (before you are cold and in trouble)."

From what I read every year, quite a few people. This also happens around here regularly and people have to be rescued in far milder, but still cold enough weather that a day or two out could be fatal.

Far too many people who live in urban environments have no idea what to take, what they need or what can happen in the outdoors. They don't even know what they don't know and that is why they get into trouble.

8:49 p.m. on January 5, 2013 (EST)
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Those or these are the people who should be charged for rescue. This has been my point, people that carry the weight, bring the things they might need, then suffer some type of misfortune should not be charged. They made the effort to be prepared, they learned what to do in an emergency. I think the people who this thread was started about, felt the beacon was their bailout plan, thats the problem I have with that rescue.

10:14 a.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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Tom, that's not that expensive if you paid attention to what I posted. 25 cents  A YEAR!!! That's all each citizen of NH has to pay for SAR to have a $325,000 budget!!

Who would, in their right mind, complain about a quarter!! If I have to pay a quarter a year to help save someone's life, here's mine. Heck, I'll even give a few bucks a year of my "evil tax money" to help save lives. 

I would love to see the results or posts that would follow if one of you required rescue. Everyone has differing levels of experience, and even "experts" need help sometimes. 

If we were talking hundreds of helicopter rescues a year at thousands of dollar per hour, maybe we'd need some changes. But with a dozen or so rescues a winter, with maybe a couple requiring a helicopter, I don't think you're gonna see a drop in your savings account.

Again, if this were your relative, would you be complaining in the same fashion? It is easy to whine and moan when we are far removed and have no connection or compassion for the people effected. However, if they were in trouble, they deserved help, and I'm glad they got it.

Here - for those of you complaining, I'll foot your part of the bill. PM me your addresses and I'll mail you a few pennies each.

10:17 a.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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I think this crucification of rescues comes down to an elitist mindset that "I wouldn't do those stupid mistakes" or "I know what to do to be prepared, why don't these idiots know what to do."

I personally don't feel comfortable calling some guys I don't know "idiots" because they needed rescuing from a dangerous situation. Especially when ALL of our information comes from a few news articles.

We weren't on the mountain, we don't know them, their experiences, their knowledge - NOTHING.

12:17 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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We do know some things. We know they didnt take a tent, we know they didnt warm their fuel with body heat, we know they should have turned back when visibility dropped, we know they had no food they could eat without cooking, we know they had no gps or map, and we know that they sirvived one night with no ill results. These are facts that they gave as their reasons for needing rescue, not that they were.hurt or hypothermic. We werent on the mountain with them, but we can all see and learn from the mistakes they made BEFORE they started their climb. Whether they get charged for the rescue or not isnt up to uou or me but the paople who were there. What about the sar volunteers, they are friends of mine and one relative, cant I be concerned when they are called to rescue "uncomfortable" people not people truly in danger. You guys are taking it wrong, it should be taken as a learning experience not as a witch hunt. I think they made some idiotic gear choices, thats why I called them that. By your screen name your a climber, do u climd in winter with a cannister stove, no tent, no instant food and no directional aids. I climb mt mndk once a week plus year round. I even know where the emergency gear caches near the top are, but I always carry the proper gear for the situation, dont you. Some of the members here have been rescued, but because they were in life threatening danger not because they were unprepared. I take this subject personally, I have an artificial knee and I have been told that I will almost def get billed if I have to be rescued. I can carry fifty pounds of gear, but if I make a mistake im gonna get a big bill, but these guys go fairly unprepared but dressed properly and they shouldnt get billed. There is something wrong with this picture. They made a big mistake not carrying the right gear, they should pay for their mistake just like everyone else. Just my opinion, dont get bent out of shape!!!

2:43 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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here's debunking what we THINK we know, about what we know.

no tent - I typically don't take a tent on a winter day hike either. A 4 season tent is an extra 10+ lbs. I usually bring a waterproof, -20F sleeping bag, as well as an emergency bivy, emergency blanket, and poncho for a few good shelter options. Didn't they have some of these things? It would seem to me that they must have been fairly prepared in terms of clothing and layers. Otherwise they would have been in far more trouble when the 'copter finally got to them.

Fuel - maybe as the day started things we going really well and weather was fine, and they had no reason to feel that a bulky fuel canister needed to be in their jacket.

Visibility - What if they were already above tree line when visibility dropped. On the ridge of the Franconia trail, there is little to give you direction in poor weather, and things turn in the Whites very quickly.

Food - you can survive for days without food, they wouldn't die from that.

GPS or Map - seems pretty irresponsible, but in white out conditions in bad weather, a map won't help at all if you don't know where you are. A GPS with waypoints may have been helpful.

SAR staff and volunteers take on that job KNOWING that they will encounter risk and danger when going to help people. That can't even be a factor here. Yes you are concerned about your friend and relative, that's ok, but no one held a gun to their head and said go work for SAR.

As a matter of fact I do climb with a canister stove when I do overnights and for some day hikes. I keep it in my coat at all times, and I've used it as ambient temps approached 0 degrees. If you put the canister in a small pot with an inch or two of water in it, the water (as long as it's liquid) is above 32 degrees, so the pressure in the canister stays high and cooks just fine. Maybe they did not know this, but that's no reason to call them idiots and treat them like irresponsible jerks.

In my opinion there were some mistakes made, but they were not blatantly  unprepared. Blatant unpreparedness is the only time charging someone for a rescue makes sense...and even that has nothing to do with financial reimbursement for SAR - the purpose of charging is generally to make an example of how serious being unprepared could be.

I apologize if I seemed bent out of shape, I think there has been a culmination of people jumping all over these types of rescues lately, in a variety of forums. Most of the people I see making comments don't even do anything outdoors - they are the armchair expert variety. I suppose I got a little passionate since it has bothered me for a while.

8:20 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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I agree about the food, but they said they tripped the beacon because they were hungry and uncomfortable. If they were hurt or incapacitated in any way I think they should get rescued. But when their own statement doesnt mention anything like that I wonder if they needed rescue. Shouldnt they have turned around or hunkered down as soon as visibility dropped, not proceeded on to the summit. I carry a cannister stove all winter, but I carry backup and like you I keep the fuel in my jacket. No one mistake caused this rescue, but a pattern of poor choices starting with their gear selection is to blame. They had a survival blanket and good clothes but I dont think anything else. Shouldnt they carry the same gear you or I hump up the hill? I live fairly close to that area, and it has been too cold for an unprotected cannister for weeks, coming from canada, shouldnt they know to protect their fuel, espescially if they have no backup? My prob is that they relied on their beacon and not commonly carried survival gear. I doubt anyone put a gun to their heads either, since you want to make ridiculous statements, they can go both ways. They were unprepared, with the wrong gear, they had to get rescued, they should be billed for the rescue.

10:03 p.m. on January 6, 2013 (EST)
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Can't we all at least agree that calling for assistance when you have not sustained injuries that make self-rescue impossible is, at least, self-centered. You are asking others to risk life-and-limb, but you won't even make your own greatest effort to rescue yourself.

The onus is on the hiker to insure that he or she is prepared for the worst wilderness incident or accident. SAR is not as convenient as an ambulance service, which typically travels on paved roads; yet would you call an ambulance if your tummy feels wobbly? Yet SAR is called for less ("I'm so tired... please call a copter.") If you did require an ambulance, would you be affronted if they sent you a bill for costs (plus profit); yet when someone uses SAR services because of their own negligence, they expect it to be free.

If you read the article leadbelly posted - http://www.unionleader.com/article/20120617/NEWS07/706179926 - you will see that once the $180k set aside from general funds is exhausted, SAR in NH is paid for by the hunters and fishermen who buy licenses and register their boats. Yet, the hunters and fishermen use, in the average year, only 16% of the SAR budget; the rest is used by hikers and campers who pay no fees. So, it makes sense to bill any one too lazy or too negligent to rescue themselves. This is a bill for costs or less, not a fine. 

Too often hikers behave like the mother whose child breaks through the ice of a pond while skating. The mother wails "Will someone please save my child!" as she watches little Jimmy sinking in the cold water. A man rushes from the crowd, rips off his coat and dives into the water. A moment later, he breaks the surface and pushes Jimmy, gasping and choking up onto the ice. The mother showers the Good Samaritan with thanks as he wrings the pond out of his pants, then says "Since you're already wet, would you mind going back in for his other skate?"

7:58 a.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Thats kinda the point im trying to make, thank you overmywaders. Nothing against the people being rescued, if they had proper gear and made every effort to save themselves. If you are hurt,sick or hypothermic by all means call for help. But if you are in good shape and can walk normaly or steadily then save yourself. If you dont make every effort to walk out on your and have the proper gear, then expect to get billed. Its pretty simple in my book, if you arent willing to pay for your own mistakes maybe you should have stayed on the couch. Call an ambulance to rescue you from anywhere and see if you get a bill. If more people were billed less people would go unprepared, I mean mentally as well as having the proper gear for conditions. If you walk into the woods, why shouldnt you expect to walk out? If you are not injured in anyway, but you dont have the mental toughness to push through some discomfort you shouldnt be climbing mountains. Go walk around a track, you can quit whenever you want without risking other peoples lives cause your tired. Sorry for the rants, but I feel strongly that people should accept responsibility for their actions, period! Im done, listen to reason or dont, but if you get rescued in nh for little reason, pay the damn bill!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have a hunting,fishing license, two registered boats, and four atvs registered in nh and im tired of paying for unprepared IDIOTS to be rescued.

8:03 a.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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One quick question; these guys were canadian. What is canadas policy on sar rescues? Do they bill for rescues? I know we have many canadians on this site. How about in europe, where are you big red? Let us know how its done in the old world, maybe somebody else has a better policy than ours here in nh.

11:59 a.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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99% of the people doing the Falling Waters/Bridal Path loop don't have overnight gear - that's just the way it is. The F&G people stated that the were well equipped - I'll take their word.

Lafayette can be tricky to descend, as the wind is generally in your face on the way down, and it's easy to miss the turns that guide you down to Greenleaf. This scenario happens all the time here.

I love hearing about how people "are sick of paying for it", when their actual contribution, if it even exists, is measured in pennies.

According to Conservation Officer Lt. James Goss, the men were reported to be well equipped for winter conditions. They had hiked to the summit of Mount Lafayette where they encountered severe winds and blowing snow. They lost the trail and descended into the Lafayette Brook drainage. Due to the extreme conditions and the difficult terrain, they made the decision to activate their beacon. They then prepared as best they could to spend the night in the frigid conditions and stay as warm as possible.

12:24 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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i think New Hampshire's law regarding SAR cost-recovery is sound.  It's up to the state, Fish & Game really, to enforce the law.  in some countries, the chopper won't come pick you up unless you have insurance coverage or  guarantee payment in advance.  I'm not sure that would be workable in the US, it's a pretty callous approach.  the press releases from NH emphasize whether hikers were prepared for conditions and often include advice for people to avoid problems in the future, so the focus seems to be on prevention rather than blame. 

i'm most interested in the public policy impact from more aggressive cost-recovery efforts for search and rescue:

-would such efforts actually inhibit the calls for help that might be questionable?

-would people who are really in trouble feel inhibited from asking for help?

 

 

12:26 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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If you ask me, activating their beacon was a good idea even though they were not hurt, and showed very good judgement.

Trying to descend and find a trail in white out conditions with strong wind and blowing snow is dangerous and likely to get you more lost and possibly hurt if you fall, roll an ankle, etc. 

As I said once before, it is likely that they did not "push on" through bad weather and no visibility to get to the summit. The weather in the Whites changes so quickly, it may have been snowing before, but not as bad as when they tried to descend. Hiking in snow in the Whites is common and should not be avoided for fear of "what if the weather changes."

So - SAR officer said they were prepared for winter conditions, the weather probably changed for the worse AFTER they were above tree line already, and they made a good call to not wander around like fools to get lost or hurt since they couldn't see.

That's just MHO and I wouldn't charge them.

Wasn't there supposed to be some new insurance policy thing the NH Fish and Game were going to start doing for hikers? All this talk about ambulance charges - what about people with no money and no insurance who require an ambulance? There are literally thousands of them daily in new england using those services and paying nothing.

12:59 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Well, Tim, I'm glad you love hearing about people being resistant to paying for people who refuse to care for themselves in the wilderness. I will endeavor to provide more instances as they occur.

Of course, since you live in VT, not NH, you don't understand the User Pays approach. While it has its drawbacks, it relieves us of onerous sales taxes and state income taxes. We pay our legislators $200.00 for a two year term, and have the largest state legislature in the US and fourth largest in the English-speaking countries. That means we have lots of retirees and mothers among our lawmakers, so we get wisdom from both those quarters. 

It is not a bad system. There are problems with the way NH pays for education, and other areas, I'm sure, could use improvement, but overall it works... except when we have to divert F&G funds for SAR. See, I made you happy again. Ahh, to bring joy into one little life!

1:17 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Iclimb, they activated their beacon on Sunday evening. 

Searchers worked throughout the night in extreme winter conditions and very difficult terrain. Sub-zero temperatures, high winds and drifting snow complicated search efforts.

So, they survived Sunday night just fine, but called out all the SAR people to struggle through the dark. 

These were experienced hikers. Since they knew that they could make it through the night, they didn't need to trigger the beacon so soon. They might have attempted to find their way out the next morning. (Self rescue) If by midday they were still lost, activating the beacon might make sense and they would be much easier to find in full daylight. 

2:11 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Lot of heat being generated in this thread, with little if any light being cast. As someone else already posted, I gotta wonder about the real-world experience level of some of the "authoritative" statements that were made.

I've done SAR (was the S&R lead for a group in SoCal many years ago), so I have a bit of experience in the area. Here is an incident involving some  acquaintances that happened locally that raises some questions related to the operations in the incident described above (I do have to admit to being very confused by conflicting and contradictory descriptions related above and won't express any opinions one way or the other about that incident, or was it a compounding of several incidents??)

On a hot day last summer, my acquaintances (husband and wife, experienced outdoor folks, excellent shape, though some might consider them to be "seniors") set out to hike a popular trail in one of the local parks. They drank plenty of water and ate snacks along the way. The trail happens to be a favorite of mine (I used to have a half dozen geocaches placed along the trail), about 5 miles long and 2600 feet elevation gain, so 10 miles round trip. I don't recall what they said their time was, but I think it was in the range of a 2-3 mph average speed. When they returned to the parking lot, the wife suddenly felt a bit dizzy and the husband helped her into the car, with the intention of turning the AC on to help cool down. A couple of other hikers got very concerned and decided to call 911 (the trailhead is at what is basically an "urban interface") over the objections of my acquaintances. Remember, they were at the trailhead and the wife was in the car, with the water, snacks, and AC in hand. Also, they are both trained in WFA and experienced hikers.

The call was made on a cell phone. The caller wasn't sure how to describe the location and apparently the 911 operator told the caller to hand the phone to the husband. He told the 911 operator that no help was needed, but 911 said the paramedics were already on the way, and in fact the sirens could be heard. When the paramedics arrived (from the description, less than the canonical "5 minutes", and there is a fire station less than a mile away), the husband and wife both told the paramedics that no help was needed. The paramedic crew consisted of an EMT truck and a fire truck, with a total of 6 crew members. Despite the husband and wife's insistence that no help was needed, the EMT team insisted on moving the wife to the EMT truck/ambulance and hooking her to an IV, then headed off to the Stanford Hospital ER. The ER involved several doctors and the "board" (apparently there is some group of doctors who get consulted to make decisions) decided that the wife should stay overnight, although the various tests they were running showed that the likely dizzyness was due to the sudden stop at the end of a brisk hike on a hot day, a syndrome referred to as "heat syncope". The major reason they wanted to keep her for overnight observation was that "elderly people might have a heart attack or stroke", although they told me that all the tests were negative. By 9 or 10 PM, the wife was insisting on heading home. So the ER people finally consented, but attached some sort of heart monitoring device that she was to send in for analysis. Her own doctor, who she saw the next day, reviewed all the reports from the ER and paramedics, and basically said "nonsense!".

Over the several months since, they have received various bills and letters from the fire department, the associated EMT crew, the emergency room, and their health insurance (since they are seniors, this involves Medicare as well). The totals run into the $10,000 range, though so far, they haven't had to pay anything, including copays.

I asked them if they thought the responders were just being cautious. The wife was especially strong in her "ridiculous!" comment. Basically, the system forced a "rescue" on them, despite their insistence that all was well and they were refusing "rescue".  It is not clear to me who, if anyone, will have to pay for the ambulance, fire truck, ER room, etc, except the taxpayers.

I will note that people have been seriously injured, disappeared, and died on that trail (and other trails in that park and others of the many parks in this area). But somehow, it seems to me that sometimes the "authorities" over-react. Yeah, we have wild animals (mountain lion, coyote, bobcats, bears, all of which I have seen in these parks) and the hills are steep. But still .... Actually, the most danger comes from certain "agricultural operations" in these hills and parks. I do see people heading up the trails with only one of the tiny bottled water half-pint containers. But this husband and wife are experienced, had water and snacks with them, and the wife was already in the car that has air conditioning, and they are clearly in good physical shape.

3:27 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Looks like a lot of armchair quarterbacking going on.

I enjoy hearing more facts about this specific case but seriously, if you weren't involved in the rescue you probably have very little reason to spray about what should have been done if you weren't there. 

I would like to hear more about real SAR incidents and lessons learned from them from the people involved.  Maybe this is a good idea for a discussion. 

4:06 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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This is a ridiculous characterization of what I posted:

overmywaders said:

Well, Tim, I'm glad you love hearing about people being resistant to paying for people who refuse to care for themselves in the wilderness. I will endeavor to provide more instances as they occur.

What does that even mean? I support the position of NASAR, who went out of their way to condemn NH's ham-handed approach to the Scott Mason Rescue. They - that is, the majority of the SAR community - is OPPOSED to billing people for rescue. You can dance around that and ignore it, but it won't go away - it's a fact.

And this is simply a stupid assumption based on where I live:

overmywaders said:

Of course, since you live in VT, not NH, you don't understand the User Pays approach.

I suggest sticking to the topic and not personalizing this. You don't know jack about me.

7:32 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Wow.  Maybe we need to work on mutual respect for each others' point of view, even if those views may conflict.  also, maybe we should quit speculating about the conditions these guys faced on Lafayette by going back & forth about whether they could have walked out or not, or whether they were stuck and felt their lives were in danger.  we weren't there.  

maybe we should wait and see if NH charges them.  the state is certainly more aggressive than most about trying to collect those costs.   

8:12 p.m. on January 7, 2013 (EST)
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Since this is a gear site, I thought they should have had diff gear, espescially navigation aids. For that reason I think they were not prepared. That blinding snowstorm was predicted for days, even to intensify as the day went on. With that forecast and temps below zero, they should have had more gear. I wasnt there, you werent there, their decisions arent my point, at least not when I started this thread. It has degenerated into a mess, should they have had more gear is my question? Someone said 99% of the people who make this hike dont carry a tent, but do they climb on when a storm has been forecast for a week? Maybe if your gonna climb into the teeth of a northeaster that is the one percent of the time you should be ready to spend a couple of nights until the storm passes.

11:02 a.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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fair to say people took one of your initial questions, should they pay for the rescue, and ran with it.  if that storm was forecast, they should have seriously considered turning around at the treeline, even if the weather looked OK at the time. 

to answer your other question, had these guys or anyone else anticipated getting stuck above the treeline in a storm, they should have at least carried sleeping bags and bivy sacks, if not a tent, and food they could eat without firing up a stove. 

11:58 a.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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That was my initial thought. I had been watching that storm for days, from a thousand miles away. Saying nothing about the decisions they made on the mntn, they made poor choices on what gear to carry, it was snowing when they started. Shouldnt one expect it to get worse as you gain elevation, espescially above tree line. I dont question their behavior on the mntn, except why trip the beacon in the evening, after you survived one night with no frostbite or hypothermia. My thought is that if they thought there was enough danger to carry a beacon shouldnt they have carried some traditional survival gear. The fact that they didnt is why they should be charged imho. The statement one of them made about being hungry and uncomfortable so we tripped the.beacon, says it all for me. If they had said they couldnt feel their extremities or couldnt stop shivering, maybe I would feel diffrently. I dont think sar personel should risk their lives or the state should pay to rescue them if they were in no real jeopardy. Tripping the beacon is not the same as calling a taxi, a taxi gets paid without all this bs. Leadbelly the points you made are exactly the ones I think point to billing them. This has def gotten out of hand, what gear would you carry climbing lafayette, when a northeaster is forecast? They were predicting 16-20 inches of snow and winds of 30mph with gusts to 45mph. I would be interested to hear what gear the people who think they shouldnt be charged would carry in that scenario. Lets stick to that, this is a gear site, not politics or name callin. Yea I called them idiots, I should have said they made idiotic choices not that they were idiots.

2:05 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders - unless in subzero temps they got into trouble with hypothermia and dehydration, leading to a situation the next day where they can't rescue themselves, so they activate the beacon and need to wait several hours before anyone can actually get to them. Then once SAR reaches them, they still have to get off the mountain and into a hospital to get true definitive medical care.

Not to mention there have been plenty of storms that have blown through the Whites that have lasted more than 1 day. So now they waited to see if they could do a self rescue, have to activate the beacon, wait for help, they are already nearly dead, and on and on...

There are many angles from which to analyze this situation. I'm merely proving the point that most of these angles are opinion and there might have been other outcomes - namely death.

They didn't take a chance with their lives when they knew things were not good.

2:12 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman - i personally would consider it uncomfortable to be nearing hypothermic states. Just because they worded it in a way that can be interpreted differently by different people doesn't mean they made they wrong choice.

5:46 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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You continue to avoid the gear question, and try to interpret statements to mean what you want them to. If they were nearly hypothermic why would they be described as being in good shape and not need any medical attention. I stand by my statements, in this scenario they should have had more gear, different gear. Your own statement about storms lasting more than one day is reason enough to carry a tent. The storm had begun before they left their car, predicting over a foot of snow. Would you have taken a tent in this situation?

6:10 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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I don't want this to be an argument or turn into anything else. I have no ill will towards anyone here, I'm just presenting a different angle on the situation to prove to people that everyone interprets things differently and they need to keep an open mind and think critically about things.

sticking to gear - for my upcoming trip to Mt Washington on 1/19 and my multiple other trips occurring in the whites this winter - I always bring at LEAST a 20 (usually minus 20) degree waterproof synthetic sleeping bag. To make the rest of my shelter I use a bag liner that weighs ounces and makes the sleeping bag good for another 10 degrees, as well as carry an emergency bivy sack and emergency blanket. I always carry more than I need in case others need help or in case I need something a little extra.

.

I sometimes take a poncho to make a tarp like shelter around the sleeping bag for a little extra, but this is not necessary in winter as precipitation is frozen and winds would likely rip it to shreds. Also I have my extra layering clothing that would be used inside of this shelter. The emergency bivy or blanket inside of the sleeping bag would be necessary because I don't carry a sleeping pad, and without the emergency blanket material I would lose too much heat through the ground in just the sleeping bag alone. With this set up, I would be far from comfortable if I had to stay out for a couple of days, but I would certainly survive. The 20 degree bag weighs 3 lbs, the -20 degree bag weighs 6 lbs. The other mentioned gear weighs less than 1 lb combined. This is far better to carry in my opinion than a 13lb bulky tent.

.

I also bring food that doesn't need cooking, I use neoprene liners and vacuum sealed bottles to keep liquids warm - and here's a tip. I take those bottles and fill them with boiling water from my tea kettle when I set out at 4 am. Then on the road I stop and get 1 or 2 gatorades. I drink those gatorades on the way up to keep hydration going, and I know the boiling water in the containers will still be warm or at least not frozen for the way down. I have seen -88 with the wind chill (25 below without the wind) and this method worked to keep water in it's liquid form.

There's no question - these items are needed for me personally on my trips to feel like I could safely manage emergencies. We all have different levels of acceptable risk. I would feel completely uncomfortable taking a trip in the White during winter with only a Bivy sack and uncooked food.

9:37 p.m. on January 8, 2013 (EST)
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Avoiding all the other issues, do you think they were wrong not to have a more sustainable survival plan? That has been my point from the begining. I dont know what kind of tent you would carry that weighs 13 lbs. My four season tent is much lighter than that, less than half actually. If they had split the weight, each would have about three pounds of tent. I carry a 20 degree bag all year as well, unless im planning to be out for many days. I use a thermolite reactor liner and a waterproof bivy sack as well. I also carry extra gear, in case of failure, or to help others. I carry a cat stove and a few ounces of fuel, if nothing else I make warm water to put my cannister in as you described. No hard feelings, but they were wrong, they needed some type of shelter and better food. Not to mention a gps, thats why they should be billed for their rescue.

9:42 a.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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There's really nothing more to debate here, and we'd really just be beating a dead horse. It's obvious that there are differences of opinion. What's comfortable for me may not be for you or them or visa versa.

What this discussion has done is provided a pretty good look at the SAR system and the fact that the current criteria used to determine liability is unclear, subjective, and loose. It leaves room for interpretation, which will in turn give people the chance to fight bills and argue.

What needs to occur is SAR needs to set clear and well defined limits about what is considered unprepared, and publish it so it is easily accessible and available to any hiker. If the hiker than chooses to disregard the limits that have been set, it will be clear that they are liable should they need rescue.

The other option is to set a clear and REASONABLE standard fee that every rescue will be charged. I'm thinking $2000 or less since they DO get a budget and the fees should only off set PART of that, not completely pay for it.

1:28 p.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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iclimb,

It is generally understood that laws, by their nature, are somewhat general (too general or ambiguous can make them "void by vagueness" for not providing substantive due process). The courts interpret the laws. So, presently, everything is as it should be - the F&G at the highest level determines that a hiker was negligent, bills for costs, or less than costs, then if the hiker objects, it might end up in court. Of course, that is only if the State allows it to go to court. Otherwise, when the hiker doesn't pay, the State can revoke his driver's license, business license, etc. and has reciprocity with other states to do likewise.

The NHDF&G already has http://hikesafe.com/ which gives recommendations on hiking safety and has the creedo - hikeSafe: It's your responsibility.

F&G has asked the legislature for years to provide the funds for SAR from the Rooms&Meals tax, but the legislature won't budge.

I regret that our climate in NH doesn't provide the option that some parks in more moderate climes can employ -- when a hiker calls in to say they need rescue, unless they are materially injured they are told to hike out or call back when they have broken a bone. :) Here in NH, they must take every call as a life or death matter and respond accordingly. On busy weekends, three rescues have been occurring simultaneously. Since the state doesn't have its own copters, they depend on Nat. Guard to do a "training flight" for rescues. Sometimes they get a copter from Maine. 

I think if you were to look at the stats I linked to in another thread, you would be appalled at how often unnecessary "rescues" occur and might be interested in billing the negligent hiker who, neither injured nor sick, gets the copter ride, while someone is bleeding out a few miles away, for want of an air evac.

4:00 p.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

iclimb,

It is generally understood that laws, by their nature, are somewhat general (too general or ambiguous can make them "void by vagueness" for not providing substantive due process). The courts interpret the laws.

 A bit off topic, but I would argue that is not the case in general, but it is true that courts interpret the laws. This is called "statutory construction" when the courts are reading the language and looking at the history of a bill to figure out what the legislature intended when they wrote the statute.

But, as to the rescue rules, the question becomes was the person reckless and that is often determined by the "reasonable person" standard, which itself is open for interpretation.

I think in some cases, it is more about perceived danger than real danger. Beginners (based on my years of diving experience) may panic at what to me were normal conditions or at the most, a minor annoyance.

It is easy to go out on a casual dayhike unprepared. I've done it. Won't do it again and no harm came of it, but I got caught out without a flashlight as it was getting dark in unfamiliar territory. Of course I knew better, but just wasn't thinking we'd be gone that long.

Much of the problem is that beginners or casual hikers have no idea that something could go wrong, that they could get lost or even get cold. In other words, they don't even know what they don't know. Should they? Of course they should, but they don't. Should they pay for that mistake? Probably, otherwise, they won't learn anything.

As I already noted, the first guy to set off a PLB learned nothing from that experience, went back out and set it off again a few weeks later in the same place. That time he was cited for being reckless and deservedly so.

4:20 p.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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I think in some cases, it is more about perceived danger than real danger. Beginners (based on my years of diving experience) may panic at what to me were normal conditions or at the most, a minor annoyance.

(I think I have read most of this thread.) I'm glad you said that.

7:04 p.m. on January 9, 2013 (EST)
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Tom, the rules were modified in 2008. Now the behavior need only be "negligent" rather than the earlier requirement of "reckless". See http://nhrsa.org/law/206-26-bb-search-and-rescue-response-expenses-recovery/

 Notwithstanding RSA 153-A:24, any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department’s expenses for such search and rescue response. The executive director shall bill the responsible person for such costs. Payment shall be made to the department within 30 days after the receipt of the bill, or by some other date determined by the executive director.

The way I understand it, by the "reasonable person" rule a hiker who was warned that he is setting out too late to reach the summit and return, might be considered "reckless" if he attempted the summit against that advice. (He didn't reck.) If, however, a hiker made no attempt to learn of expected weather conditions, and was subsequently caught in a widely-forecast storm, might be construed to be "negligent." 

9:24 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Isnt that kinda common sense? Head up a mountain with no shelter into the teeth of a noreaster and your gonna be in trouble. Duh!!!!!! But its all politics, I would hope they are charged for the rescue, but you never know.

9:37 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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The SAR part is not politics - it's just people in trouble getting help. The fighting over how you pay for the rescues that people will always need is where NH's dysfunctional political system falls on it's face. Maybe now that NH cleaned out a lot of the unhinged old coots in the last election and have more women in charge, we'll see some reasonable progress on SAR funding. Or not.

10:07 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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It is totally politics that decide if someone is billed. The searchers dont get to make that call, when they should , they were there. You must have misunderstood my statement, I should have been clearer. The percentage of unwarranted rescues is steadily rising, billing people may make them hesitate to call for help if their life is not in danger. Do you call an ambulance for a cold, or a nose bleed, no, you call them when your life is in danger. Then they send you a bill.

10:15 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I was a member of a river search and rescue team for twelve years in nc. I have been on over a hundred searches, found survivors, and some not so lucky. I spent three days beside a river in virginia with a buddy who had broken his leg. We had the proper gear and were fine just a little hungry. I have been on both sides of this debate, The small budgets sar teams get barely cover expenses, never mind new gear or training costs. There are so many issues with each rescue, lets focus on the gear that should have been carried on each rescue and maybe we could be better prepared if we are ever in a similar situation. This is a gear site.

10:17 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Sorry, one more point. In my mind the term reckless pertains to action, whereas negligent addresses the preperation and actions of the person. That distinction allows them to bill someone who is negligent in their prep, like not watching the weather or not carrying the proper gear.

10:27 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I cant resist. Tim seaver, did you join this community just to argue about sar? I notice you havent commented on any other threads or made any other contribution? Doesnt climbing into the face of a widely publicized storm without a tent,gps, proper food, or a backup stove constitute negligence? If not, what would? Would you have gone up in this situation? You mention dancing around a subject in one of your posts. Dont dance around my questions. Answer them.

10:29 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Ps. If you dont like nh's politics or policies, stay in vermont!!!!!

10:53 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Even in a state where people enjoy the outdoors as much as New Hampshire, I highly doubt that changing a few elected representatives will change much about search and rescue funding.  it isn't enough money for most politicians, particularly those who don't live in the far northern parts of the state where this matters, to really care.  PS this is a problem that crops up all over the place.  I did some hiking with a guide in the Albanian Alps this fall, and he said their mountain club often gets called by the government for SAR - but has a heck of a time getting the government to compensate them. 

for what it's worth, recklessness and negligence are different tiers of the same general question: what was the person thinking when they acted, what was their intent? in every court I have ever practiced in, recklessness is a higher standard to meet.  to prove recklessness, one must generally show that the person knowingly disregarded a foreseeable risk.  reckless would be talking to someone, learning of a high risk of avalanches in a particular place, then climbing up the high-risk slope anyway. 

Negligence, in contrast, imposes broader obligations and is usually easier to prove.  Negligence means that one had a general duty to do something, breached that duty, and someone (in this case the state) was harmed as a result.  failing to check the weather in advance; faililng to bring the right gear for conditions; undertaking a trip one knew or should have known was at the very edge or beyond their capabilities to too difficult to finish in one day given the conditions - these could all conceivably be negligent.  

(most inexperienced hikers who trigger those beacons aren't looking for a taxi ride - there are some bad eggs, of course, and those who trigger them in absolutely ridiculous circumstances are the people who should probably get charged for their rescue.  due to their inexperience, lack of preparation, whatever, a fair majority of inexperienced hikers who get lost or stuck out late or hemmed in by the weather are probably quite scared and incredibly thankful to have been helped.  WE may think they are negligent and could easily have survived, but I think it's pretty hard for an experienced outdoorsperson to put themselves in a rookie's shoes and understand their fears),  

a statute that allows the state to collect for negligence gives the state more discretion to decide when to collect, and conceivably makes it easier to collect.  Because taking matters like this to court would virtually always make the process costly and therefore pointless,  and because the amounts are generally relatively small given the gravity of the situation, most of this probably gets handled informally.  and that is better for everyone.  I said earlier that the state reportedly collected better than 60% of the rescue costs it seeks, and that is 'pretty good'; in fact, that is a very good rate of return.  I guarantee you that the State of New Hampshire is not nearly as effective at collecting fines it imposes in criminal cases.  I wrote an article last year about low collection rates for criminal fines and administrative penalties; some statistics suggest that the federal government collects less than ten percent of the fines and administrative penalties imposed. 

 

11:59 a.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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what happened to the $18 insurance that was proposed which hikers could optionally purchase to avoid paying rescue fees, or the standard charges that would occur after rescue depending on the cost of the rescue? This seems like the most reasonable and reliable method to me.

laws are open to a court's interpretation, sure. But these people aren't breaking laws, they are getting rescued. I think with specifics around what a person should do to be prepared, interpretation is not even needed, and the standard fee I mentioned above would be easily implemented.

For example - any backcountry traveler should have the means to provide him/herself with shelter, wound care, potable water, food, weather appropriate clothing, terrain appropriate equipment, etc. There could be additional categories about what specifically is meant by terrain or weather appropriate items. It could be a simple addition to websites and guide books and publicly be announced. Heck it would even give some businesses a chance to release a "new edition" to their books to make more money!

Debating experience and knowledge levels is pointless and a waste of time. A concrete, clear list of exactly what a person should have would be great. Then the SAR folks could simply look at what supplies were present and say yes or no to whether the person was prepared. What's so hard about that? Why does interpretation HAVE to be a part of it? When I see things being left open for interpretation, I see ego's and "best" opinions becoming the center of the argument and it's just stupid. This seems like it is getting beyond rational and logical conversation and people are starting to get personal, overly opinionated, and ridiculous. I'll stand back and observe, I'm out.

1:03 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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If we only focus on gear, then anyone who is carrying appropriate gear, but gets tired and calls for SAR is exempt from billing.

The standard was lowered to negligence because it was difficult to address the higher standard of recklessness in all cases.

Suppose I am on a two day hike with a heavy pack carrying all the gear necessary for two days. However, I neglected to properly condition my body to make the hike all the way in two days and, collapsed in a sweaty heap on day two. I call for SAR to airlift me to the parking lot. I am negligent. Negligent because I didn't prepare for that hike by previous physical conditioning.

Remember: Ignorance of the law is no excuse. And the corollary: Ignorance of the law of gravity is no excuse. If you are tired, a pack feels heavier with every step, no matter how light it was at the trailhead. Your feet seem to be made of lead. That is the inescapable law of gravity at work when you are exhausted. If you did not take this into account when you set out, tough -- you have been in gravity your entire life and should know better. Don't ask anyone to carry you out, you aren't broken, you are experiencing a good healthy dose of reality, enjoy it. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and replenish your body; so what if your two day hike takes four days to accomplish, enjoy.

3:55 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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i have always found that abundant supplies of chocolate have an amazing ability to help me defy the laws of gravity.

the problem with the theory that anyone can turn a 2 day hike into a 4 day hike without involving SAR is the Scott Mason situation, not that i really want to delve into that hornet's nest again.  SAR often gets called out based on necessarily incomplete information, knowing only that someone is 'missing' and maybe the general area where they might be.  remember, there was no unnecessary beacon activity in that one.  the kid didn't even ask to be rescued or to get help.  though he was tired and had a bum ankle, he was still moving under his own power when searchers found him, and he probably could have descended the auto road once he reached the summit of Washington.  his parents made the call when the boy didn't turn up after his planned hike; my wife would probably do the same thing, if i didn't check in on the cell phone from time to time and ended up extending a hike. 

 

4:12 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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FYI,

Don't forget, Trailspace is a community of strangers, but some people have been here a long time and feel they know and will defend other members they feel have been wronged. You may have years of experience, but if you are new here, it will take time before what you say carries the weight of long time members.

Some of the comments here have approached or crossed the line into personal attacks. We try to keep things civil here. You can point out that someone is a wrong-headed dope in a polite and courteous way if you have some facts to back you up. I do it all the time in my work, but have to be clever about it when I do. I can't just say so, but if I can point out why someone is wrong, then a judge will get the idea. Telling an appellate panel that a trial judge is a moron is an art form in itself, but it can be done and pointing out why someone here is wrong is no different. Use facts, not "in your face" to get your point across. I heard that "love it or leave it!" BS back in the 60's and it didn't work then, either, so no more of that here.

As a last resort, we can and have edited comments, deleted comments and banned people who just didn't play well with others, but that is only after we have asked members to be more respectful of others and they continue to violate the rules.

 

4:57 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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leadbelly, 

Next time you leave a note for your wife saying you are going on a hike, you might allow an "unforeseen event factor" of two days. That way, you will not be embarrassed by some SAR folk knocking on your tent flap because conditions extended your hike.

At one time in this country, when you notified a friend who lived beyond a day's buggy ride that you would pay him a visit on March 10th, you would add the abbreviation "D.V." for Deo volente. This was the Christian equivalent of the Muslim Insha'Allah, that is, God willing. IMO, it is still always wise to make our calculations with a base understanding of "Good lord willing and the creek don't rise."

5:18 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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Here in the English Lakes, some tourists are late back to the bed&breakfast or hotel by only a few hours and the SAR people are called out. One has to be careful cycling through the settings on one's headlamp, as flashing lights on the hill have lead to the same.

Reading the general reports these days is dispiriting and something may have to change with all the personal technology and increasing 'learned helplessness'.

Currently they are volunteers and get popular support but that cannot last, methinks, at least in the same way. (North America is vast, must be much harder to deal with.)

People can be pathetic through and through, but everyday, every minute, someone in the emergency services or even general public and private services, has to attend to a time-waster. Some people are very good at it and everyone benefits, even the wasters sometimes.

Yet every year the Queen hands out gongs to a bunch of celebrities and overlooks, mostly, these helpful people.

7:18 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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'leaving a note' for my wife that i'm going on an overnight would be a foreign concept.  we talk, and she knows where i'm going.  besides, if calling her occasionally gives her peace of mind, i have no problem with that.  if i can get my phone to work given the cold, the terrain, and the location.  i was half-kidding, though, because she knows i'm going to be fine & will make good, conservative decisions out there.  

7:26 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

"Good lord willing and the creek don't rise."

 Haven't heard that one since we moved out of Mississippi back to the Left Coast 28 years ago.

10:35 p.m. on January 10, 2013 (EST)
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I know I said I was out, but it seems Tom layed down the law so hopefully those who were arguing with each other are done.

Overmywaders - I'm a pretty concrete, logical, and scientifically minded guy. I don't like much being left to interpretation. The issue around how "in shape" someone is, is loose and an irresponsible method of determining negligence with hikers.

Maybe they should use calipers and scales to determine body fat %, or test the v02 max of the hiker to see if they are within normal age performance. Maybe they should see what their typical diet and workout regime is like.

Of course, I'm being sarcastic, because those things would not happen. Clearly the current system of interpretation is not working well if a forum of experienced hikers and climbers can't even agree on what is negligent and what is not.

12:58 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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To clarify collection of fees in nh. If you dont pay a fine or fee of ANY kind in nh, they handle them in the same way. They revoke your drivers license, your car registration, hunting or fishing licenses, business licenses and any other state licenses you have. Then after a certain amount of time they give you a court date, in court they give you a payment plan. Sometimes they make you appear in open court with each payment. If you miss one or dont show for court a warrant is written, then when arrested your bail is the total amount you owe. If you cant or wont pay they take fifty dollars a day off while you are in jail. Sometimes they let you wirk off fines at the rate of ten dollars an hr doing community service. They attack all delinquent fines the same way, the criminals just pay less often, prob go to jail instead of paying. Im sorry if I offended anybody. I think all but a couple of people here agree that they were negligent in their preperation. Im done with this thread, sorry I ever started it actually. Im gonna stay off this site for awhile, I dont need to get fired up over other peoples opinions.

11:31 a.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

I cant resist. Tim seaver, did you join this community just to argue about sar? I notice you havent commented on any other threads or made any other contribution? Doesnt climbing into the face of a widely publicized storm without a tent,gps, proper food, or a backup stove constitute negligence? If not, what would? Would you have gone up in this situation? You mention dancing around a subject in one of your posts. Dont dance around my questions. Answer them.

 lol.

1. This thread was mentioned by somebody on VFTT, a forum in the Northeast where NH SAR is a frequent topic. Because I hike in NH all the time, know people in the SAR field, and have strong feelings on the topic, I thought I would weigh in, particularly after seeing the multiple errors in "overwaders" post.

2. "According to Conservation Officer Lt. James Goss, the men were reported to be well equipped for winter conditions."

3. I may have gone up in this situation if the visibility wasn't too terrible when facing into the wind above Greenleaf Hut - but then again, I have done the route more than 30 times in the winter, so am much more familiar with the route and the trouble spots, as well as the typical reaction to the rescues in NH.

How many times have you done this loop in winter, Mr. HotdogPerson?

I hope this answers your questions ;)

"Ps. If you dont like nh's politics or policies, stay in vermont!!!!!"

Now you are just being silly. I have hiked and climbed in NH for over 30 years, and am not going to let my feelings on their rescue policy dictate where I go. Don't you feel just a little embarrassed to state such a thing?

It's the backcountry variation of the cranky old man yelling "Get Off My Lawn".

12:23 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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What constitutes "prepared?" Who qualifies for a rescue? Who pays for a rescue? These are good questions, and since most of us are well-prepared when we venture out into the backcountry, we all have a personal stake in the answers.

Reading through this thread, I see a lot of speculation, but I actually don't seem a lot of disagreement.

This issue is one that finds a lot of resonance with me though. A few weeks ago, I felt close to being the subject of one of these threads!


Chilly-NYE-2013.jpg

Over NYE, I went on a hut-to-hut snowshoe trip with my lady-friend. We were staying at a furnished hut, exactly because I didn't want to carry a load of shelter, a stove, etc..Shortly after this picture was taken, the sun went down and the temp PLUMMETED.  Despite keeping our headlamps inside our jackets, the batteries gradually froze when we put them on our foreheads. Then, a misleading trail sign lead us off-trail, steeply descending to an seldom-used path with waist-deep snow. Not wanting to re-ascend, we pushed forward.  For a long time. After an hour it occurred to me that our headlamps were nearly dead, it was pitch black, and the ambient temperature was around 0. I whistled a lot and did not alarm my companion.  We kept cool heads, consulted the map, and re-oriented and proceeded.  A 3-hour detour, a few extra miles covered and 15 minutes spent contemplating how I would button my shirt without fingers! We were fine. If things had turned out a little differently, we might have been the subjects of a similar thread.

I certainly have opinions about the big questions: What constitutes "prepared?" Who qualifies for a rescue? Who pays for a rescue?

These opinions evolve with time, and this evolution is hastened each time I find myself "almost" subject to a search or rescue. However, my opinions on this matter aren't so static that they can't accommodate the views of those with more or different experiences.

12:54 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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76 posts (77 now).  I think it rivals the great gun debates we had a while back.

The gist of the "Make Them Pay" crowd is, it seems, is that we should make people pay as long as it its someone who they deem to be fools. 

The SAR people I used to work with (L.E.O.) desperately WANTED to go save people (hero issues?).  The local SAR even has a bumper sticker that says something like, "Support SAR, GET LOST"

Unless people got themselves into some kind of mishap, these poor SAR folks just sat around at their day jobs wasting their high angle, man-tracker, underwater, nuclear, cave diver instructor certifications and a huge pile of unused rescue gear.  

It made me sad to hear how, in the 24+ years some of them had served that no one in the area had yet to get lost underwater in a high-angle,  radioactive tunnel infested with poisonous snakes and divorce attorneys.  I bet that Cert was a real pain to get. 

Of all the things governments waste money on is rescuing people REALLY that much of a waste? Even at the risk that they might, one day, have to rescue someone we consider to be an an idiot?

12:58 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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 "Despite keeping our headlamps inside our jackets, the batteries gradually froze when we put them on our foreheads."

I know this is off-topic, but I am curious - were these alkaline batteries? The lithium batteries are FAR better when it's really cold out. Like night and day, you might say ;) Expensive, but not as expensive as a night "out".

2:02 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Actually the debate over who pays is rhetorical.  Consider that several among us do not carry health insurance; and when these folk suffer the unfortunate occurrence of a heart attack, the state, hospitals and medical practices will be the ones covering most of this bill.  And the sum cost these coronaries is many times the cost of rescue activities.  Yet no one in their right mind would consider forcing the patient to cough up the cash for these incidents, that just isn’t feasible.  Yet most heart attacks are the result of poor life style choices – but as Seth muses, who dares sit in judgment as to which ones were avoidable?  And that is the simplistic analysis of this dilemma.

This whole debate falls under the umbrella of the wider debate: Who pays for public services vended?  Indeed the orthodox libertarian perspective is in an ideal world the beneficiary of the service should bear the entire cost of the service.  Well that opens the flood gate; I live out West, why should I pay for interstate highways back East that I never use?  And speaking on behalf of NH couch potatoes, why should they pay for access roads servicing trailheads in the White Mountains, after all they don’t hike or camp.  Paying only for what you personally consume works well with dim sum in a Chinese restaurant, but get really messy, quickly, when the concept is applied to government services.  So let’s say we agree that the cost of rescues should be borne by the party rescued; how much should we charge for the cost of owning the vehicles and helicopters?  We haven’t even received a call for help, and already we have costs mounting, with equipment sitting idle.  And these costs are not small change.  At some juncture the cost of tracking costs and prorating them to individual rescues becomes a costly proposition in its own right.  I think we all agree spending money on desks, computers, and green tinted visors is a poor use of funds earmarked for enjoying the out doors.  Alas engaging in these arguments one can claim only limited logic supporting any position.  Often those in charge of herding cats like us end up throwing their hands up in frustration, and establish policies that preclude the whole subject, such as the policy of no winter travel allowed above certain elevations in the mountains of certain eastern states.  There! No rescues to pay for, hope everyone is happy.  Perhaps the biggest omission of logic is the fact that most of those rescued did not intend to endanger themselves – an observation that calls into question the logic behind those who consider billing the rescued as a sort of punitive response to their self inflicted folly.

Lastly we should be careful for what we wish.  This debate rages currently on a broader range of budgetary items in Washington and state capitals throughout the land.  The topic of who pays for what is rebutted with we can’t afford all these services.  Hopefully no one here proposes we leave those hapless individuals befalling misfortune in the back country to their own devices.  But if you are even entertaining such a notion, let me relate that one of the most sobering experiences I ever had was encountering the corpses of climbers who perished high on Denali.  It is bad enough they perished, whatever the reason, and bad enough it is too dangerous – let alone very expensive – to retrieve these souls.  But imagine the whole country side marked with little memorials in tribute to those who met their maker while out on a day hike along your favorite stomping grounds.  I for one can do without that experience every time I step foot on a trail.  As a lyric from the band Rush observes: “we will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.”

Ed

2:40 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Okay, back again. 

In response to the remark

I thought I would weigh in, particularly after seeing the multiple errors in "overwaders" post.

There were no errors in my post.

Let's see what prompted F&G to levy the bill to Scott Mason - 

The decision to issue the fine was based on evidence collected by the New Hampshire Fish and Game law enforcement division. They found Mason was negligent in his actions following his injury, and before the injury by planning a 17-mile hike across four peaks in New Hampshire’s Presidential Range during the spring thaw.

“The department looked at everything associated with Scott Mason and what happened during the totality of the incident,” Maj. Timothy Acerno, assistant chief of law enforcement for New Hampshire Fish and Game, said.

The first question that comes to mind for many people is, “how can an Eagle Scout be negligent if he survived four days and has experience hiking?”

Acerno said that question is answered by the department’s findings.

“In our opinion he had an aggressive hiking itinerary,” Acerno said.

Mason was hiking the “Presidential Travers,” over mounts Washington, Jefferson, Madison and Adams, a 19-mile group of trails that can take hikers up to four days to complete during the winter. It can be completed in one day by expert hikers.

“He wasn’t hiking in summer conditions or winter conditions, these spring-like conditions are very different. There’s snow, but you can’t walk on top of it like you can in the winter. Even though our rescuers were wearing snowshoes, they were up to armpits sometimes. They found tracks in the snow then lost them on bare ground. The conditions were very difficult,” Acerno said.
...

Acerno said Scott Mason’s negligence began with his itinerary. After he injured himself, Acerno said Mason made the decision to get off the trail to find a faster way back to the lodge.

“He was not staying on the trail,” Acerno said. “Our volunteers ran the trails of his itinerary but he began bushwhacking and navigating through places he should not have during the spring. He took an undesirable route, crossed streams that are swollen in the spring, and tried to make his way out rather than turning around on the trail and hiking out that way.

“We looked at everything and in the department’s opinion he was negligent in totality.”

http://www.wickedlocal.com/halifax/news/x631635939/Eagle-Scout-fined-for-Mount-Washington-rescue?zc_p=1#axzz2Hh4tGYix

So, contrary to Mason's statements, he was not following the "bailout route" but was off-trail and bushwhacking. Since Mason claimed to have injured his ankle within two hours of starting out from Pinkham, it was negligent to start bushwhacking to get back "Mason made the decision to get off the trail to find a faster way back to the lodge."

 On Monday he tried signaling to passing helicopters, but they were looking at a lower altitude.

Since he knew that the search was going on below him, why did he avoid the searchers and go up Mt. Washington? It would have made more sense to sit down and shout occasionally, rather than choose a route away from rescuers.

[] Mason had discussed his planned bail-out route, but taking shortcuts to get back on- or off-route is one of the biggest reasons hikers get lost. If possible, always retrace your inbound tracks.
http://www.backpacker.com/survival_lost_injured_hikers_scouts_bighorn_sheep/blogs/the_pulse/1028

That is enough on that subject, IMO.

2:56 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Ed,

Alas, some of my friends have no health insurance - along with about 50 million other Americans - but they get hit with a bill when they require care. Usually payment plans extending for years are possible. Personally, as an unregenerate ex-pat Canadian, I believe in universal health care.

Health care is different than SAR. I don't expect someone to perform their own frontal lobotomies - though I would recommend it for some - but I do expect someone who is neither sick, nor injured, to rescue himself.

3:40 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders said:


There were no errors in my post.

 Yes, actually there were quite a few, the main one which you just repeated.

 He WAS on the bailout route which he went over with the AMC. This has been confirmed. The problem was that the AMC gave him terrible advice, terrible advice which was actually a key factor in the huge cost of this rescue. This statement is from somebody who works on Mount Washington:

"He took Six Husbands in order to GET DOWN off the ridge. He'd been advised by AMC at PNVC to use that as a bail. As he descended he realized it was a bad move, deep, wet snow and LOTS of fast running water. He reasoned that he'd have to go BACK UP, but going up 6 Husbands wasn't going to cut it with his ankle. He mapped it from 6 Husbands to Sphinx and bushwacked best he was able, across the cirque and went back UP Sphinx to Gulfside.

To me that is neither negligent, nor reckless. He used his brain, his maps, his advise, and his own personal resources to stay safe and stay alive. He walked his own ass out to the summit of MW."

There have been many discussions of this incident on VFTT - you might want to read up a bit on it before making such ill-informed statements.



3:48 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Tim - no, that question is pretty on-topic. I really do struggle with what constitutes proper preparation. I've been writing about gear for a long time, have a lot of experience, etc...and grabbed the wrong headlamps from a box.  They had alkaline batteries, and I typically reserve these for front country use, power-outages, etc....but we were at the trail head by the time I realized my mistake and didn't want to turn back. 

From where I'm sitting now - dumb mistake.  Funny one too.  "Which batteries does the gear writer bring? The wrong ones." But, in the context of a rescue, this mistake would have a lot in common with negligent stupidity.

4:22 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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I wasnt going to post again, but. If you guys would stop bashing each other and discuss the issue people wouldnt get upset. No, I have never hiked that trail, but I have also never gone on a hike in winter without a tent. Im from the south, I dont have the winter experience some of you have, thats why I asked this forum. I was honestly trying to find others opinions. Its called a sniper or troll when you lurk or join a forum just to ambush people on their posts. Thats my problem with you tim seaver. tim whay would constitute negligence in you opinion?

6:22 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

 Its called a sniper or troll when you lurk or join a forum just to ambush people on their posts. Thats my problem with you tim seaver. tim whay would constitute negligence in you opinion?

Good thing that's not why I joined - to "ambush" anyone - I joined because I was given a link here and saw the faulty information that was being spread like an old can of Cheese Whiz, and wanted to correct it as I am very familiar with the details of the case. And the particular trails it happened on, in the season the event occurred. I guess one person's "sniper troll" is another person's "local acquainted with the facts"?

It's really not a matter of what I think "negligence" is, it's more about whether people should be penalized for it.

To repeat, I simply agree with the good folks at NASAR, that the prospect of the victim being charged for rescue can delay SAR calls to the degree that both victim and SAR personnel are put at further risk, and for that reason, they do not support charging for rescue as a matter of policy. I urge you to visit the NASAR site and read it for yourself, from the people that put their butts on the line for us.

8:47 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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It does little to establish the truth of an event by simply re-iterating hearsay.  I provided the words of the F&G people who made the determination of negligence; all you have offered, Tim, is anonymous sources.

F&G says Mason was not on the bailout trail, he had gone bushwhacking. F&G, after I assume great deliberation, hit Mason with the costs because Mason was "was negligent in totality.”

Now, if you have primary sources to disprove F&G's assertions, please submit them. Otherwise, accept the record.

11:23 p.m. on January 11, 2013 (EST)
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Mr. Acerno's statement is incorrect.

Below is the statement from Scott Mason's Family ( which I also posted earlier), which also confirms that he was on the bailout route discussed with the AMC. It's not an accident that the fact that the AMC approved "bailout" information was included in this statement. Nor is the fact that F&G dropped the whole thing. Maybe those two items are connected?

STATEMENT ON BEHALF OF SCOTT MASON FAMILY REGARDING NEW
HAMPSHIRE ATTORNEY GENERAL DECISION NOT TO PURSUE
COLLECTION OF RESCUE COSTS:

 ...Scott planned his hike well, and discussed the conditions on the mountain and the gear that he would need with the staff of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) numerous times including on the day before the hike. He talked in detail with the AMC staff about his planned route and planned “bailout” or shortened route, left information about his route and bailout route with his parents, had a map with him, and had appropriate gear and equipment for the conditions. He set out on April 25, 2009. Although he was making good time, in part because of a slip and a resulting twinge to his ankle, Scott
determined to shorten his hike, and to use the bailout route that he had discussed with the AMC. Unfortunately, this route turned out to be impassable due to floodwaters caused by exceptionally warm weather.

9:45 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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New Hampshire Fish and Game said it has “decided not to pursue collecting the reimbursement because of (Scott) Mason’s personal circumstances and conditions at this time. The department reserved the right to bring action in the future, however.” http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/news/699918-196/state-wont-charge-teen-25000-for-white.html

F&G is not saying that they agree with Mason's self-serving narration of events, which is what you are offering; after all, F&G followed his tracks off trail, so they know the truth. They are simply noting that it was unlikely they could get the money from Mason at this time, but they might bring action in the future.

11:07 a.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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overwaders, The F&G followed his bushwhack that he used the escape from the hell-hole that the AMC sent him into. THAT is when he went off trail.

Try reading this once again:

"He reasoned that he'd have to go BACK UP, but going up 6 Husbands wasn't going to cut it with his ankle. He mapped it from 6 Husbands to Sphinx and bushwacked best he was able, across the cirque and went back UP Sphinx to Gulfside."

You simply don't understand what happened, on a very, very basic level. You don't know the route, you don't know the area, you don't know the trails.

Ah well, that's what the internet is all about. Cheers! And do let me know when the F&G decides to re-litigate the infamous, embarrassing case that inspired National rescue groups to CONDEMN them for it. I won't hold my breath.

After searching for a way out on Monday, Scott decided the only thing to do was climb back up Mount Washington, said Acerno.

“He was real ambitious, but once he got lost he did everything right,” Acerno said.

2:44 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Well, I certainly know the area and I know the mountains, but the last time I hiked the AT in that area was, IIRC, 1967. So, some of the trails may be new or renamed since then. 

Do let me know if there is anything that would induce you to hold your breath. Thanks. : )

3:03 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Overmywaders, I had no idea that was your book. Ive had it for two yrs and using what I learned in it has increased my catch more than anything else in the whole time I have trout fished. Thanks for some great info, and it is well written as well, a lot of informative fishing books arent as enjoyable to read, more like a textbook. I know im off topic, but I dont care. maybe ill see you fishin or hikin some day here in beautiful new hampshire.

3:30 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman,

Maybe we will meet some warm day on the Sugar. I can enjoy every pocket in my favorite stretch, just by closing my eyes.

Thanks for the kind words about the book.

Regards,

Reed

5:04 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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overmywaders said:

Health care is different than SAR. I don't expect someone to perform their own frontal lobotomies - though I would recommend it for some - but I do expect someone who is neither sick, nor injured, to rescue himself.

 No, Health care is not different than SAR services in the context I was attempting to describe. I did not attempt to address if one can self rescue or not; I was addressing the ethics of how we recover the cost of a rescue or treating a profound medical emergency. 

overmywaders said:

Alas, some of my friends have no health insurance - along with about 50 million other Americans - but they get hit with a bill when they require care. Usually payment plans extending for years are possible. Personally, as an unregenerate ex-pat Canadian, I believe in universal health care.

I am fully aware of payment plans.  I sustained a serious head injury in my early twenties.  The cause of my accident remains unknown.  By the time I emerged from the comma (my first opportunity to apply for Medicaid) I had blown through the lifetime cap on my health insurance, and was hundreds of thousands of dollars in the hole.  My payment plan had me on the hook for fifteen years.  Nevertheless a significant portion of that bill was forgiven – someone covered those costs…

Heart attacks and rescues can both be financially catastrophic events.  So can hurricanes.  So do we just sit back and wag our finger at those in these predicaments, and make them pay for our assistance, rationalizing they could have taken better care of themselves, did not have to risk personal welfare by wandering off into the forest, or they didn't have to live in a flood plain?  Health emergencies, getting lost, and having your house wreaked are all unplanned events.  Much as I may resent paying for some fool's extraction from a situation they could have avoided, I think it a fool's plan to allow these events to cascade and cause further misery, especially to those not directly involved.  But this is more than an ethical issue, helping others in need has a economic rationale: folks in these circumstances may never regain the ability to be productive members of our society without some help.  Providing that help is part of what defines civilization.  Extending that help to those ill fated, as well as those who should have known better and those not smart enough to know any better is a measure of how far a society has progressed from just being a troop monkeys individually facing the odds of the jungle. 

Thus like the health care debate, there are underlying questions that frame this debate:

  1. At what level do we draw the line between obviously reasonable behavior that results in misfortune and behavior that is obviously egregious?
  2. Do people have the right to expect assistance in their time of need?
  3. What defines the basic level of such assistance?
  4. How is the cost covered when holding the recipient solely accountable creates profound hardship?

My point is this debate has a lot more ethical and moral issues than whether or not one goes day hiking with the 10 essentials.

Ed

5:57 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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Ed,

As I said, I am in favor of universal health care. However, even with such care, there is a need for triage. It is not possible to have someone clamoring to have a surgeon look at his bunion, and also have that skilled specialist performing cardiac surgery. Everyone can get the same level of care, but everyone does not have the same immediate need.

To move this to SAR. In some situations the person calling for aid is simply tired or afraid of impending darkness; they have no actual need for rescue. If you read those studies I linked to, 65% of SAR incidents were for people who were neither sick, nor injured, nor walkaways. Do you send a search team out to retrieve everyone? What if you get a call that a climber has broken his leg and may be suffering internal bleeding; air lift is necessary, but the copter can't get close to the victim, so you need to send a ground team in first. Which of these has the higher priority, the hiker with a blister or the climber? How do you tell the widow of the climber that you couldn't help her husband because you had sent your SAR personnel to handhold someone who was on the trail but didn't know that the sun sets each day?

Hike safely: It's your responsibility.

Accidents happen to even the best equipped and trained. But if, as a SAR manager you don't use triage wisely, you are going to waste your resources and not have them when and where they are needed most. 

When a river flood occurs in the US, it is understood that those living in the flood zone will have flood insurance to cover their losses. In the case of fire, the fire department may try to save your house from the flames, but you are still expected to rebuild as necessary through carrying fire insurance. Likewise with motor vehicles. If you total your car, through no fault of your own, you don't expect me to buy you a new car -- that is why you paid for automobile insurance.

Help in genuine emergencies should be a given in any society; however, the incident that initiated this thread was not an emergency - the hikers were well-equipped and got through a night with only discomfort, no digits lost to frostbite. They triggered their beacon the first evening, calling SAR people out into the night in terrible conditions. That, IMO, was totally irresponsible and they should pay. But I believe we have covered that already.

10:42 p.m. on January 12, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

One quick question; these guys were canadian. What is canadas policy on sar rescues? Do they bill for rescues? I know we have many canadians on this site. How about in europe, where are you big red? Let us know how its done in the old world, maybe somebody else has a better policy than ours here in nh.

In Canada's National Parks, some of which are immense, SAR is handled by Parks staff, specially-trained experts employed by Parks Canada. Funding is paid for out of the fees people pay to enter. 

Local volunteer SAR organizations receive federal funding and training, but each case is considered on its merits. If you bring the right gear but need rescue anyway, you won't be billed. 

If you trigger your McMurdo Fastfind, the signal goes to the Department of National Defense, which then contacts local Mounties and SAR, but may also initiate a rescue on its own.

Case in point, a local helicopter landed on an ice floe last week to rescue a couple of stranded hunters, but then fell through the ice. DND already had one of its own helicopters on the way, and they wound up rescuing the hunters and the crew of the first helicopter. Simple misadventure - you can't bill the hunters for the downed chopper, and you can't bill the helicopter crew for needing a bailout.

On the other side of the spectrum, in a recent case, a snowboarder at a private resort went out of bounds, on purpose, and wound up the subject of a 3-day search. Because he did it intentionally, he faces a possible $10,000 bill, not enough to cover the actual costs, but probably enough to make him think twice before doing something so dumb again.  

It was the kid's willful negligence that got him into trouble and he should pay for it. 

5:47 a.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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I think it is wrong to use a retrospectoscope and then bill someone. It is also immoral to make a habit of condemning people with the same instrument. It seems wrong to discriminate in favour of the intelligent, billing only the stupid, who have as much physical needs and possibly more mental needs.

There is also the problem of not rescuing someone because their situation is not dire and then having them injure themselves subsequently. This would lead to the practice of 'defensive rescue', where the rescue people cover their collective/individual ass if they want to avoid litigation costs; this might be better understood as 'over-rescue'. Related, how could you show that the psychological effect of being 'left on the mountain' was not a contributing factor to the real situation that then developed, if the victim was to use his or her retrospectoscope? Should Johnny Foreigner be rescued and/or billed?

There seem to be laws in place already for people who waste resources. There isn't a law as a basis for pursuit of costs for problems that are not easily falsifiable, as far as I am aware? Restricting the wilderness to people with money-power, intelligence and providence, experience, the right gear and the right connections, would seem to be a can of worms.

Capital can always be taxed. Most people can be shamed. Sociopaths are a fact of life. Not everyone can drink their own piss.

12:04 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser,

Some great stuff, there!

Billing isn't done according to purported intelligence; even the most intelligent (ignoring the fact that there are many kinds of intelligence) can be ignorant and/or perform stupid acts. Think of the stereotypical absent-minded professor. Or ask your wife if you have ever done anything completely stupid.

Walkaways are never charged. Walkaways may be small children, those suffering from dementia, and those who would be non compos mentis through no fault of their own.

Certainly many rescues would fit under the term "defensive rescue". Responding to a PLB, gives the SAR no choice; it may be serious or trivial, but since you have no information from the victim, you can't tell, so out you go. A call from a concerned family member when the hiker is late arriving home (perhaps because he is at the pub), also forces a search. A cell phone call from the stranded hiker at least allows the SAR manager to make an informed decision regarding the need for a rescue.

65% of search and rescues are for those neither injured nor sick.

Capital can always be taxed. Most people can be shamed. Sociopaths are a fact of life. Not everyone can drink their own piss.


I want that embroidered in needlepoint! That is wonderful!

Unfortunately, on this side of the pond, not all of those are true.

1/ In NH taxes are anathema - the only state with both no sales and no state income tax.

2/ It is harder every day to find people who can blush. What would have been cause for mortification twenty years ago is just titillating now. 

3/ There are lots of -paths. Hard to avoid, really, although I steer clear of cyclepaths or psychopaths - I get them confused. Fortunately, I've found that bludgeoning anyone wearing spandex pretty well covers both.

4/ Not without an intermediate receptacle.

 

 

1:40 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Overmywaders, so leaving political economy aside, is the point of recovering costs to 'send a message' or punish or simply add something to the credit side of the accounts?

***

If it is right to individualise accounting, and have those determined 'negligent' pay towards costs, then how can we know when it is fair? More importantly, how can those who pay the price know this? The instances above sound like they are open to interpretation, as usual.

There are often cases of 'suiciding' in the outdoors. If the person has a history and a loved-one knows this, should the person and/or family pay for the rescue? Do they phone SAR and hope no-one hears later about the history of the victim? What could be more negligent than not wanting to be rescued yet knowing that you will be rescued/searched for and still going ahead and precipitating the SAR? If they fail but attempt again the next week, does this change things?

I think one of the reasons that we wouldn't (surely not?) pursue costs in such situations is because of the feeling that a price is already being paid, that the family/person has already suffered, punishment has been dealt.

Which brings me to the point: is it a form of scapegoating? Does the fact that it is often 'arrogant punks'  or people with 'too many expectations' who are most condemned have anything to do with it?

Perhaps we cannot escape the political-economical implications, however: we spend a lot of money on fighting wars against nebulous enemies with high tech equipment; we let the rich and powerful get away with social and economic violence; we are jealous of the affluent and frivolous when they then venture into our territory that we have sequestered. Let's face it, we are fighting amongst ourselves and they like it that way.

***

Still, I cannot agree that it is simple for some people to recognise when others are 'not drowning but waving', however self-consciously so, and in a way that is true to events - especially after the fact when it is time to rationalise the irrational. Observed or reported behaviour only tells us so much; the inner history of an individual can tell us much more. But if only money talks then why should we need to listen to anything else?

We are responsible for the predictable consequences of our actions. I think someone who is self-consciously waving because they want to be the centre of attention is obvious. We can ban them from the park and give them a fine and label it 'factitious'. But some people really think they can swim and by the same token they think they are drowning when they begin to sink a bit. I think it is stretching things to imagine that punishing them for not predicting the outcome of 'bad technique', when they hardly understand the term as others do, will benefit society subsequently. It will, however, privatise the issue and punish them as individuals.

2:09 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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WOW! 100 posts is that some kind of record. Im truly sorty I started this thread. My intention was not to stir up all this political bs. I was curious about peoples opinion on this rescue. I was also intetested in what gear should be carried on this hike, its on my list to do in the winter. Im also curious about what percentage of people here hike in winter without consulting or heeding a weather forecast. If we could have stayed on this rescue and stated our opinions without all this extra stuff maybe I could have gotten some answers instead of insults. If it is a record, do I get a prize or something. Haha, a booby prize for startin such a disagreeable thread. Im gonna bring up guns and bears next. Anyway, lets change the tone of this to something lighter. Lets make it a poll; if its snowing before you leave, do you personally take a tent with you? What type of stove/food would you take? Last one; would you take a gps? Maybe if we can stick to those questions, the foolishness will stop.

2:10 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

 I think it is stretching things to imagine that punishing them for not predicting the outcome of 'bad technique', when they hardly understand the term as others do, will benefit society subsequently. It will, however, privatise the issue and punish them as individuals.

Exactly.

I have read a lot of rescue threads, and they all have one thing in common: the loudest voices generally come from the those with a strong desire to punish the victim for their "stupidity", generally combined with an extremely weak claim that the victims are somehow a huge financial burden on society.

Some of the replies in this thread is are a great example of that, spiced up with some falsehoods for good measure.

Not surprising.

2:23 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Please stop!! Havent you gone far enough? Everyone is entitled to their opinion, your just slingin mud. I think we all know how you feel, you have made yourself perfectly clear.

2:46 p.m. on January 13, 2013 (EST)
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Me think doth protest too much. Compared to the accusations of being a "sniper troll" out to "ambush" people, my comments have been mild and fairly generalized.

As far as your "poll": I know very, very few people in the Northeast who bring a tent in winter simply because it's snowing. I am talking about dayhikers. Survival gear, yes, perhaps a bivy and pad, but tents no. I almost always bring my Blizzard Bag, which is only the size of a VHS tape.

4:51 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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I realised that I have probably missed the 'state vs federation' aspect to all this, being a Limey. Though issues of fund-raising will soon encroach upon the decision-making in the UK SAR services if the economy continues to slide as it does now.

I also realised that NH is one of the better states in terms of equality-based quality of life measures, according to the book The Spirit Level by Wilkinson and Pickett. It sounds like a great place to live. According to the book, VT has the highest tax burden of any state but is third highest on the Index of Health and Social Problems and is near the top with NH on equality, which has the lowest taxation after Alaska. So two paths to greatness.

But for me, this only provokes the question, why do they have such discriminating rules regarding people who are seen to seek adventure recklessly? I am only half-serious and my knowledge is limited but I think I will make a guess and indulge in some amateur psycho-politics:

Is it a 'conservative' state? I can see how they would want to conserve such quality of life, one that might even be explained by the second-lowest taxation in the US (but see the book above). So if taxation is the only obvious way to recover costs and generate funds for SAR, some might feel as if 'breaking with tradition' leads to an 'opening of the floodgates' if they were to resort to this. Breaking with tradition is often perceived by reactionary minds as inviting chaos, or losing control, even though it discloses some potential for success for others. To some, this step into the unknown is tempting but for others it is the road to sin.

Now if sins are "what we cannot allow ourselves to desire" and for a society they are meant to be contained collectively, then the stronger the suppression in the face of temptation, the stronger the potential for reaction formation as a manifest group behaviour. With reaction formation, behaviour is exaggerated but points to an unconscious attachment to its opposite. In scapegoating, sins are painted on to a target and instead of 'owning' those sins, consuming them, they are 'cast-out' and consumed (burned?) outside - vomited away, if you will.

Now what is the projected opposite of a frightened (with good reason) but fixated person described as "reactionary-conservative" herein, an opposite that that self-paints the sins of the Other? Well, I can think of no better example than The Reckless Adventurer.

We may be, to use Ed's felicitous phrase, a long way from being a troop monkeys individually facing the odds of the jungle, but we are not that far from Salem, in my humble opinion.

7:23 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Path,

The word "discriminating" is not necessarily a pejorative, so I will assume you mean it in its broadest sense, that of the ability to observe differences. Yes, we - all homo sapien sapien reading this - can discern negligence and recklessness. It is not difficult. 

If you wish to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, NH says "Okay". Seatbelts - not necessary for adults. Buy an AK47 at the corner store, fine. [I do not subscribe to any of these notions, but the majority has spoken.] An adult is expected to make their own decisions in these matters. Similarly, if you wish to negligently go hiking, fine; just don't ask anyone to risk life and limb to get you out, and if you do ask and are not injured or sick, expect to pay. See, that is simple, we allow free will in the matter; but we also say that actions have consequences and adults are responsible for their choices.

The person you dub a Reckless Adventurer, may be reckless, but if he expects to find a net to catch him if he slips, he is not, IMO, an adventurer. An "adventure" implies a risk of loss, a gamble. Someone carrying a PLB is not gambling, as he is not prepared to lose. We do a disservice to the English language to demean real adventure with its DisneyWorld or reality show version. As for reckless, obviously the PLB-carrying hiker is reckoning on the assistance of others. Recklessness is only a positive term when the doer must take immediate action without counting the cost to himself; otherwise it equates with stupidity in not preparing for the worst.

TANSTAAFL is still true. 

10:32 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Pathloser said:

Now what is the projected opposite of a frightened (with good reason) but fixated person described as "reactionary-conservative" herein, an opposite that that self-paints the sins of the Other? Well, I can think of no better example than The Reckless Adventurer.

 

Yup, NH is chock full of reactionary-conservatives - I can verify that. One only has to look at the articles and comments in the dreadfully backwards Union Leader every time there is a rescue - it's chock full of the get-off-my-lawn, nobody-should-be-hiking-in-winter-anyways crowd, who parrot the ridiculous "this is costing ME bigtime" nonsense.

Below is the latest NH proposal, which isn't exactly getting a great reception at VFTT ( Views From The Top Forum) ( where you can find much more information without the misinformed noise from people who rarely hike there, if ever ) on the topic of rescue in NH. Initially I was supportive of the $18 card, but now they have decided that even if you buy the card, and are deemed merely negligent ( NOT "reckless"), you will get the full bill. They want to have their cake and eat it too, unlike Colorado's excellent CORSAR card program. I'd provide links if I could.


The new proposal would shift some of the expense to hikers, increase the proportion paid by sportsmen and put a price on every rescue called in. "This is not the optimal program," Jordan said, but the agency needs to do something. The proposal, which is currently just a legislative request but is making its way into bill form, was at the behest of Rep. Gene Chandler of Bartlett. It would create a sliding scale fee structure where fees would depend on the cost of the rescue. A $500 to $1,000 rescue, for example, would generate a bill of $350. A $1,000 to $1,500 rescue would cost the victim $600, and a rescue costing more than $1,500 would cost the victim $1,000.
In any instance where the victim was negligent, however, the victim would be charged the full amount of the rescue.
There would also be a $10 surcharge added to any Fish and Game-related violation that would go into the fund, according to officials, so if someone were caught poaching or taking an undersized fish they would be helping pay for searches.
The last piece, according to officials, is a voluntary Hike Safe card that hikers could purchase to support the fund. The card would cost $18, and anyone who had one would have their bill forgiven should they need a rescue so long as they weren't found negligent.

11:43 a.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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hotdogman said:

What type of stove/food would you take? Last one; would you take a gps? Maybe if we can stick to those questions, the foolishness will stop.

How about a return to sanity, people? This thread has gone way beyond silly, and all the argument and name-calling doesn't add to the discussion. 

If heading out under those conditions, I would take:

  • a handful of Vel bars (like concentrated granola bars @ 360 calories each, and always in my pack), as well as food and water for the day.
  • I wouldn't carry a tent, but my standard emergency kit includes a dollar-store painters tarp and cord to make a tent and three different ways of making a fire. 
  • I don't like or trust GPS so I wouldn't take one, but if I owned a FastFind or a SPOT I would bring it along. However, I wouldn't trigger it unless I believed my life was in danger. 
12:21 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks peter, I dont really like or use my gps very often, but it comes in handy in whiteout conditions. I didnt expect such venom from our community, everybody is usually civil. Maybe I should have said shelter instead of a tent, basically the same thing. I always go gear heavy, prob from lack of winter hiking experience. Not much snow in coastal nc, but the biggest single dtorm snowfall ive seen was in nc, even after eleven yrs in nh. Twenty three inches, and the sound froze over.

4:52 p.m. on January 14, 2013 (EST)
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wow, still at it!

it turns out i'm going to be in the Adams/Madison/Jefferson vicinity the weekend of February 8, so maybe i'll get to see some lousy weather.  will be hiking up with full gear, including a -40 sleeping bag, and staying a few nights somewhere below treeline, and day-hiking from there.  

this is what i plan to take during the day hikes, in or strapped to a summit bag.  of course, i'm going to have crampons, snowshoes, an ice axe, and appropriate clothing and footwear. 

-gps with lithium batteries and a set of backups, as well as a compass and map.

-expedition-weight down parka, insulated pants, and a gore tex bivy bag.

-spare hats/mitts.

-boiled water in bottle with insulated jacket (maybe 2 bottles), or a thermos, depending on weather.

-energy bars.

-stove depending on conditions, but probably not. 

i have been hiking the Presidentials in the winter for over 25 years, which hopefully contributes to exercising good judgment.  i'm in my mid-40's.  i get 4-8 hours of aerobic exercise weekly, sometimes more.  i don't own a beacon, so my only way to call SAR would be my cell phone, if it even works, or sending a hiking partner for help. 

feel free to assess my potential negligence. 

11:40 a.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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My initial post asked several questions, mostly about gear and what would be appropriate. My lack of winter camping experience means I go gear heavy every time. I really wanted to know what gear more experienced people would take in that scenario. I asked the billing question to see if in experienced hikers minds they were or were not negligent. I too have been kinking and camping for many yrs, but mostly in the south. Ive moved to nh, so I need advice and information, my intent was never to get into the debate that I began, im sorry if I offended anyone. Your negligence or not has never been in question, nor did I bring up the scott mason rescue. The trend appears to be to bring a beacon instead of gear, which may be my imagination. I was just looking for the opinion of people with more cold weather experience, you being one of them leadbelly. I respect and listen to advice on this website above all others, partially because of the less aggressive tone of the threads, and the quality of the advice. Maybe alicia should close this thread, but I thought the tone had improved in the last couple of posts. Once again im sorry I started this thread, but my intentions were good. Rest assured I wont start another thread unless its a much simpler issue. Mark

12:12 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Hotdogman:

no need to apologize, and i was not offended by any of this.  your post raised or prompted discussion about a number of interesting issues, as well as some unexpectedly passionate back and forth.  i think some of this goes with the territory, a faceless community where people shoudl be but do not feel truly accountable to each other.  had we all sat down at a table over a beer (or coffee) to talk about this, i suspect it would have been equally spirited but more civil.  so be it.  

as far as my last comment was concerned, it was intended to be a harmless jab at some of the comments - such as the implication that people should go through some kind of fitness and/or competency exam before they embark on a hike, which i think is ridiculous.  backpacking appeals to me because it is so accessible - you don't need pricy gear to do it, and it's quite safe if you think ahead and exercise a modicum of common sense. 

winter backpacking and climibing does require a certain additional level of fitness, gear, knowledge, and common sense, especially in places where the weather gets extraordinarily harsh. 

if anyone happens to be on the shoulder of Mount Adams in a few weekends, I'm happy to share that table and talk.  Regrettably, beer is out of the question up there, so we will have to settle for a cup of steaming (and rapidly cooling) hot chocolate, hot chocolate, or soup!

 

3:24 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

this is what i plan to take during the day hikes...

I would take a stove on a day hike in the snow, in case all water sources along the walk are frozen.

I also recommend carrying a snow shovel wherever you hike in snow; digging into the snow provides a warmer shelter than surface shelter solutions.  I also bring a snow saw, as brick shelters require less energy to build.

Bring along a space blanket.  They weigh next to nothing, and can be used as a hard shell over whatever clothing you wear, or as a skin layer to increase the thermal efficiency of you layering system.

Plastic bags.  Bring a trash bag for each of your packs, and several bags each of the quart, 1 and 2 gallon sizes.  They have many uses, and weigh little.  You may also bring a couple of the large trash bags to cover yourself with; select black color for its thermal properties.

Consider bringing something that can help others locate you from the air, should misfortune befall your solo adventure, such as smoke flares, and a signal mirror.

Ed

5:45 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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Thanks Ed, I bought a little lifeline collapsable snow shovel on clearence at dicks last spring for 20 bucks. Ive only carried it a couple of times, cause were kinda low on snow again. I havent used a snow saw, could I use my laplander wood saw in a pinch. I usually carry it anyway. I had a couple of big trash bags in my kit but I replaced them with a bag that came over my wood pellets, but im gonna put them back because of islandess's idea to use them as make do hip waders. I agree about the stove, I have an alchy stove at the minimum, not very powerful but will melt snow in a pinch. I made a bunch and ive got one thats pretty hot. The space blanket is in my first aid kit, but I carry an adventure medical two layer blanket, silver on one side and orange on the other. Thanks for the advice.

6:07 p.m. on January 15, 2013 (EST)
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thanks, Ed.  this isn't solo - i never go up there in the winter alone and don't think that is very safe.  a couple of years ago, jet lag left me pretty depleted on one of these trips & i had terrible leg cramps the first day.  i had to drop my pack & move on with the essential stuff for another half mile or so until we hit a good stopping point, after which my buddies emptied a pack, went back for mine, and split the load to bring my stuff back.  some years before that, i ended up shoving most of a hiking partner's stuff into my pack when she had similar issues.  hiking alone, these would have been much more complicated problems.  besides, hiking alone means no one to play poker at night! 

-i neglected to mention that i bring trekking poles, and at least one person will carry a telescoping handle snow shovel.

-2 liters of boiled water in the a.m. generally suffices, but i agree, if the weather really stinks, we bring a stove in case we need to melt snow.  have never used it on a winter day hike, though.  there is one spring that runs all winter at a decent elevation, but not where we would normally hike above treeline.   

-the bivy bag i bring is a full-length gore tex bag.   i think it provides more protection than a space blanket or trash bags, but i agree, these could be alternatives.  in theory, if i'm wearing a huge down parka, insulated pants, and the high-altitude inner boots from my Scarpas (loosened to improve circulation, outer shells removed to limit conductive heat loss), i could dig in and survive an uncomfortable few nights in the bivy bag if i were absolutely stuck.  through good judgment or good fortune, it hasn't happened yet. 

-i have a small whistle which is useless if the wind is up, and i suspect a smoke flare would have some of the same issues, but i hadn't thought to bring a mirror.  great idea.   

1:27 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

I hadn't thought to bring a mirror.  great idea.   

This is a standard item of safety gear.

Someone last year posted photos of mirror signals being seen from many miles away far up a mountainside and across an urban valley. The effectiveness was quite amazing.

Look for a sighting mirror, one with a hole in the middle.  

2:36 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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Peter, I have just a regular mirror, and was told to hold it by my eye with my right hand, while making a peace sign with the left hand at arm's length, framing the target, and to flash the light on and between those two fingers.

Now I'll take any excuse to make a peace sign (I'm on a one-woman mission to revive it anyway), but I'd like to know if this is a good technique? Should I go get a sighting mirror?

2:43 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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In my experience. any mirror will do. The sighting mirror just makes hitting a target (like a search plane flying over) a bit easier. 

6:23 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:

..i have a small whistle which is useless if the wind is up, and i suspect a smoke flare would have some of the same issues...

A breeze actually enhances a smoke flare's effect, making for a plume that creates a bigger color splotch on the landscape.  A wind so great as to obliterate a flare's effectiveness is also too high to permit most airborne mountain rescue efforts.

Ed

8:18 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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leadbelly2550 said:


-the bivy bag i bring is a full-length gore tex bag.   i think it provides more protection than a space blanket or trash bags, but i agree, these could be alternatives.

 The "Blizzard Bag" I mentioned above may be something of interest to you - it has a three-layer elasticized reflective foil body that has some insulating value. They are only about $40, and are carried by all manner of SAR teams  and EMTs all over the world.

If you search for the phrase "Blizzard Bag, a shelter from the storm!", you will get a link for a pretty good video on them. Lots of vendors for them as well.

8:27 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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for a shelter I like to use a waterproof sleeping bag that I can also put my emergency bivy into. Plus if I layer up with my insulation that I carry for clothing before I get into the bag, I'd be pretty dang warm and protected from all elements minus a monsoon rain storm.

10:23 p.m. on January 16, 2013 (EST)
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I carry an adventure medical bivy I thinks its called a thermolite 2.0. Sounds like what tim is talking about, I paid 39.99 for it. I havent used it in an emergency, but it adds a solid ten degrees to your bags rating. Its big enough for most bags, except the highest loft winter bags, it goes over my 20 degree bag with almost no compression of the insulation. Plus they are super light, I dont leave home without it, all year long. Ive used it at 55degrees with a sts liner and been comfortable. Im a big guy but in a pinch I can close it over my head. One of these should be the 11th essential during colder weather.

9:47 a.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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I stopped following this thread for a while but then came back to it and, despite all the protests of untrailspacelike-conduct, I have to admit it got me thinking.

First, here's a clip from NH Fish and Game's FAQ on SAR:

"Search and Rescue Funding FAQs

Listed below are commonly asked questions regarding Search and Rescue missions occurring in New Hampshire:

How many Search and Rescue Missions occur in New Hampshire and what is the cost of these missions?
Over the five years from 2006-2011, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department conducted approximately 800 search and rescue missions, at an approximate cost of $1.5 million."

OK, so that's 160 SARs a year at a cost of about $400,000 a year, 2,500 per rescue on average. Peanuts! While I don't think that it's at all fair that hunters and fisherman should pay the tab, maybe the real problem is that NH taxpayers are too cheap to provide what is arguably a basic, civilized safety net.

Now matter how much you educate or try to scare people off by threatening them with a substantial fine, some people are still going to get lost or injured out in the woods and mountains and therefore require SAR. Some of them will be "idiots", others more or less well prepared people that had a bad day. To try to draw an "idiot line" that separates the one from the other seems somewhere between silly and uncivilized. I'm guessing that the cost of legal actions to collect SAR costs rivals the SAR costs themselves, and I doubt it has much impact on the "idiot" faction. ("Oh jeez, NH charges for rescues so I think I'll go get lost in VT instead").

Here's another point: if a worried mom calls in and reports her son and friends missing in the Mt. Lafayette area and it's getting dark and cold, I bet you SAR goes right into action. (Here in Norway there are almost weekly reports of Sea King helicopters taking to the air to search for missing persons; there doesn't seem to be much debate about who should pay). In the case that started this thread, the objection seems to be that these guys called for help themselves when, according to some of us, they might have been able to get out on their own.

I have to admit that having somebody call in on a cell phone and demand help because they stubbed their toe is an abuse of the system and maybe there should be some kind of consequences for that. But how big is the distance between "Let the idiots pay" and "Let the idiots die?" Maybe rescuing idiots is just a cost of being civilized...?

10:02 a.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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Let's run with that thought:

Operator: "Good evening, NH Fish and Game, Search and Rescue Division. How may I direct your call?"

Victim: "Help!"

Operator: "What seems to be the problem?"

Victim: "Well I fell and I think I sprained my ankle and it's getting dark and I'm kind of c-c-cold!"

Operator: "I see. Are you an idiot?"

Victim: "W-what?"

Operator: "Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?"

Victim: "Uh, yeah, I think so."

Operator: "Do you have the ten essentials?"

Victim: "What? Well I have a rain jacket and some old matches..."

Operator: "Sleeping bag? Shelter? Extra food? Alky stove?"

Victim: "Uh, no, actually--"

Operator: "-- Well then, according to our decision matrix, you're an idiot and I have to inform you that you'll have to pay the full cost of your rescue. Would you like a basic, mid-range or deluxe rescue?"

Victim: "Uh, jeez, I don't know if I can afford that. Maybe I'll just lay down and die right here."

10:10 a.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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BigRed said:

OK, so that's 160 SARs a year at a cost of about $400,000 a year, 2,500 per rescue on average. Peanuts! While I don't think that it's at all fair that hunters and fisherman should pay the tab, maybe the real problem is that NH taxpayers are too cheap to provide what is arguably a basic, civilized safety net.

 We have a winner! That, in a nutshell, is a big part of the problem.

It's about perception. This isn't really that much money in the grand scheme of things. A lot of smoke, not much fire.

12:32 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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Red, the problem is there is no tax money. No income tax and no sales tax, so after the $180,000 budgeted for sar the rest comes from the money for trail maint and education. This is a very conservative state, live free or die is the motto. part of that ideal is to take care of yourself or pay for help. Im not saying we shouldnt help injured people off the mntns, but that people who are uninjured should attempt self rescue before calling for help. Walk aways like you mentioned, kids and the elderly are never charged, not even open for discussion. The money for these budgets comes from registration of grown up toys, not tax dollars. My intent was and is to learn what is the proper gear and when in the eyes of this experienced community people should be classified as negligent, not to judge anyone. I personally think it atleast irresponsible to carry a beacon without any or much proper survival gear. The intent of this thread has been severly twisted from my original intent.

2:47 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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Actually your original question was:

hotdogman said:

Should they pay the bill for the rescue, or should the tax payers of nh?

My initial, knee-jerk reaction was that "idiots should pay", although I thought this case is more in the gray zone. But having read through all the posts and given the matter more thought,  I think the taxpayers should pick up the tab. I lived in NH for many years so I am very familiar with the politics there (and the White Mtns) so whether they will or not is a different, and very politically charged question, maybe we don't need to go there.

As far as gear and preparedness goes, I think it's so highly contextual that there can be no absolute, universal list. I'll go for a 20 km run on the trails in Estenstadmarka right out my back door in shorts and a t-shirt with a little water-bottle fanny pack and a granola bar, with maybe a nylon windbreaker if I think it's going to rain, and if I'm being a good boy I'll take my cell phone. I guess there's some probability I'll take a bad fall, hit my head, and die of hypothermia (see: Caballo Blanco), but I know the territory extremely well, my wife at least usually knows that I'm out there somewhere, and in general help is not far away.

OTOH for winter day trips in the mtns I try to have one more layer than I think I'll really need, a down sweater or full hooded down jacket depending on anticipated temperature, extra hat and mittens, a small first aid kit, a lightweight emergency bivy, map and compass, nowadays a GPS, a 200+ lumen headlamp and sometimes a smaller backup, if in avalanche territory a beacon, probe and shovel, and always at least one companion -- the Norwegian mountains are way too severe for solo travel in winter, unless maybe you are staying down in the valleys, preferably those that have trees in them. I usually start out with a small thermos but that's gone by lunch time, water bottle (or bladder if it's not too cold), cold lunch and some cookies and/or chocolate. That's enough to fill up my 30L Osprey pack, with helmet and goggles riding on the outside since my usual thing is backountry skiing. I still don't carry a stove, but I suppose I could try to cram my Whitebox with a few ounces of alcohol and a small pot in there somehow.

That's kind of the other extreme for day trips for me. Winter here lasts into April, but then I can begin to relax the standards a bit. The days get longer real fast, so by the first of May a power headlamp becomes pretty optional. The focus shifts to staying warm when wet, so unless the forecast is really good I'll have a pile jacket and some lycra for the legs, and by summer just one wool hat and pair of gloves, maybe also a "buff", and if I'm not already wearing a capilene or wool shirt that'll be in the pack. The bivy is so light (albeit a bit bulky) that I carry that on pretty much any summit attempt, even in summer, if not for me then maybe someone else.

So I guess when I'm in the mtns I'm usually prepared for a very uncomfortable and hungry night out, not much more, but it's also pretty rare that I go it alone these days (although my dog Ralph and I had a pretty interesting trip in Rondane this summer, see the trip report). I think to some extent a more or less experienced companion gives as big a safety margin as a whole lot of gear, because if one gets hurt the the other can respond, and if two get lost, well, two heads are better than one and you can at least take care of each other.

2:55 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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I agree, this started out with good questions about what gear one should bring on a winter hike, and it has gravitated toward a different issue - should unprepared hikers be charged for getting rescued.  whether these guys were unprepared? reasonable minds obviously disagree about that. 

The suggestion that NH lacks a basic, civilized safety net for people who need SAR is factually groundless.  the search and rescue happens when people call for help in New Hampshire, period, and the state pays for it, period.  when i lived in NH, i used to joke around that the state should shorten its motto from "live free or die" to "die" due to the lack of taxes and corresponding strain on basic services, but that logic does not apply in the context of SAR.  if anyone has contrary facts, feel free to share. 

the issue is how NH (and oregon, colorado, and utah, all of which have similar laws) chooses to partially recover those costs in cases where rescuees are deemed to be negligent.  maybe we should call these "darwin award" laws: "Named in honor of Charles Darwin, the father of evolution, the Darwin Awards commemorate those who improve our gene pool by removing themselves from it."

Specifically focusing on Tim's posts that unfavorably compare NH to VT on this issue, Vermont's legislature recently discussed SAR cost recovery due to skier rescues that have taxed resources in Central VT. While the VT Commissioner of public safety appears very reticent about cost-recovery legislation, he also said "the state police have had legal authority to do so for years."

http://vtdigger.org/2013/01/10/fees-on-lost-skiers-for-search-and-rescue-considered/

In short, no matter how much anyone rants about this pro or con, it is an issue with serious arguments on both sides of the equation.   consider:

-targeted cost recovery isn't just a NH issue.  the $350 'special use fee' you have to pay to climb Denali or Mount Foraker contributes to (but does by any means fully fund) SAR, which is a fact of life on those mountains.  four states with decidedly different political leanings and tax structures have SAR cost-recovery laws.  if this were a liberal/conservative issue, we wouldn't see these laws across this variety of states.   

-The National Park Service does not charge for rescues.  Like NASAR, senior park service officials say that charging for rescues will inhibit at least some legitimate calls for help, which (a) places completely innocent and needy people at increased risk, and (b) places rescuers at increased risk.  this isn't speculation, there are many real examples.

http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/files/NASAR-Refusing_Help.pdf

-the park service spends at least $5 million (and probably a fair bit more) on rescues annually; it's a drop in the $2+ billion budget, though. 

http://wyofile.com/2011/05/teton-rescue-cost/

3:07 p.m. on January 17, 2013 (EST)
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That was one in a string of questions. The money comes from people in nh, shoildnt have called it tax money I guess. There is a one dollar surcharge to register a boat,rv,atv,or snowmobile and on hunting and fishing licenses. They state that it is for conservation and training, but a large portion has been going to search and rescue operations. Many of the other f&g programs are suffering because of this, less maint, less education and more blow downs not being cleaned up promptly. On my local mntn, two full time positions have been eliminated, without a budget cut or salary increase for the others. The money is being spent for other things than what it is budgeted for one being search and rescue. Rescue for someone in life threatening danger is one thing but the ever increasing percentage of marginal(at best) rescues is another. 65% of rescues fall into this category, if you read the posted study. Elimintaing some of these by teaching proper preparedness would eliminate some of these. Penalizing negligent people is another way of limiting these rescues. Maybe, as I suggested some type of service to the community that paid for the rescue would work to curb the hungry uncomfortable people from calling for rescue so quickly.

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