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Hikers rescued

10:52 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Three hikers were rescued in franconia, New Hampshire. This is happening almost weekly now. The short article I read say the rangers were giving the solo hiker food when two more lost hikers found them. Authorities said they were unprepared. I wish the article gave a little more info but maybe they are tired of writing the same story. People have lost their minds, its rugged it those woods. They head out in jeans,a sweatshirt and mesh running shoes with a nalgene bottle and a power bar and think they are gonna bag a few peaks. How many people are going to get lost in the same area before something changes? These people need some knowledge, most seem to be fit, active and reasonably intelligent people. You get them into the woods and they turn into elmer fudd huntin wabbits, not a clue where they are or what they are doing. What can be done to educate people to take the right gear and supplies? Or will they be led out of the woods forever? This same area kills expert hikers on a regular basis, if your not familiar with it. Article on wmur9's website. WMUR.com

11:18 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Pay for your rescue ?

11:27 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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hotdogman said:

What can be done to educate people to take the right gear and supplies? 

 As harsh as it sounds, I think learning the hard way is sometimes the best way, and the only way some people will learn. 

11:41 a.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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1:54 p.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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Here in nh some people have been billed for rescue efforts. The problem with that is its up to someones discretion. They seem to do a good job using that option when it is a more extensive effort. Its all these little rescues that would become worse situations if someone didnt go get them. Its just a shame that what little money these areas have to see it spent walking people out of the woods at night.

4:05 p.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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The White Mountains and Adirondacks are sufficiently accessible that hitting a peak or two on a long day hike seems within reach.  it certainly doesn't always work out that way, and there are plenty of people who enjoy hiking but don't prepare for the unexpected. 

a number of states have statutes on the books to recover expenses related to search and rescue efforts, to varying degrees (Oregon, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Idaho, California, Colorado, and there may be others).   Some of these laws are pretty narrow and limit the circumstances where an indvidual can be help responsible - for example, to those who enter closed areas, so they are demonstrably thumbing their nose at available guidance and putting themselves at risk.  New Hampshire's legal framework requires either reckless or negligent intent to justify billing an individual for SAR efforts, depending on which statute the state chooses to rely on:

http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Newsroom/News_2010/News_2010_Q2/SR_Scott_Mason_Case_040910.html

Notably, in the New Hampshire rescue I linked, the state ultimately exercised discretion and declined to pursue repayment.

The flipside to these laws is the potential negative impact.  In theory, having stranded/injured hikers call SAR earlier rather than later can end up decreasing the likelihood of a more serious problem developing and therefore decreasing the cost of SAR intervention.  In the situation noted above, a few rangers were able to help people without a large team, helicopters,  group carries, or medical/first aid services, and the cost to the Park Service was probably minimal.  had these hikers been stranded overnight with inadequate gear, they could have faced much more serious challenges - hypothermia at a minimum. 

Technology increases the possibility of false alarms, of distress calls that turn out to be small matters.  it is something we will have to address.  it would be a shame of the few who "cry wolf" limit the availability of essential rescue services. 

At the same time, we as a society make choices.  We value freedom of expression and individual rights and liberties.  We pay for systems that provide public health care and legal services and retirement benefits at a much greater public cost than search and rescue operations.

Truly reckless conduct might justify reimbursement in my mind, but not underdressing for the weather.  i think we should err toward keeping people safe and healthy and should not enforce our laws in a manner that would deter people from seeking assistance.   

9:24 p.m. on May 14, 2012 (EDT)
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i could go on and on about this hotdogman. The whites are the area I hike in most and I never underestimate them. I once had to bring someone down by rope from Chocorua in December when the mountain was almost 100% ice. They had no packs, were wearing wind pants and cotton sweat shirts (it was a mild 20 degree day), and had no traction. They decided to keep going up anyway, not realizing how much more difficult getting down would be.

My friend and I were the only other 2 people I saw on the mountain all day, and that night ended up storming and being below zero. I couldn't leave them behind as we cruised down in our crampons, so I helped them for a while until the ice was more manageable. If they had slipped or gotten hurt, they would have been in for a possibly fatal night.

As to WHY this happens so much in the Whites?? It's the ease of access. As one lunatic said to me from the trail head once - "it's right there" (referring to the summit). One guy I saw heading up a trail with his wife and newborn in a carrier on his back with no water and no supplies, wearing jeans, was just hitting the trail at 4pm as I was finishing. Concerned, I said "where ya heading?"..."mt washington" he replies. I said "sir you won't make the summit it's too close to dark and you have no water and no supplies". his reply was "oh we'll be fine, I mean I can see the summit, it's right there, it's gotta be like 45 minutes away."

he didn't realize it was a 5 hr hike for a fit and prepared hiker. Needless to say as I was organizing gear, packing the car and changing out of sweaty clothes, I saw him, the wife, and the baby come back about 25 minutes later and drive off.

2:40 p.m. on May 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I'd suggest that people be encouraged to join a hiking group to begin with, just so they're in the company of more experienced people, but we all know that isn't going to happen. Too many people who are too blase about any risks they might encounter, and too many young people who think they're bullet-proof.

There's a neat little page here on mountain rescues:

http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/progs/np-pn/sp-ps/sec7/2011.aspx

What is shows is interesting, though. While there were a few rescues of inexperienced people who accidentally got in over their heads by taking a wrong turn or not planning properly, most of the people who needed a SAR callout were ones who considered themselves more experienced.

It suggests that newbies are more likely to back down (like the guy and his family that iClimb mentions) and that it's the veterans who tend to push on when they really would be better off turning back.

8:55 p.m. on May 15, 2012 (EDT)
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peter good point. Experienced hikers and climbers sometimes become overly confident about their skills and knowledge being able to get them out of situations. Unfortunately mother nature can overtake even the most knowledgeable or skillful outdoorsman, and I think the individuals who are truly experienced realize this and will back down when needed.

The ones who claim to be experienced but get in over their heads have that false confidence.

10:05 p.m. on May 15, 2012 (EDT)
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There's a famous reminder from one of the ACMG trainers: 'The mountain doesn't care if you're a professional'.

I always try to err on the side of caution, but when I do, I still get people insisting we should push on in spite of the evident dangers.

4:56 p.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm reviving this thread because I just read an article in the Littleton Record that addresses the funding deficit being experienced by NH fish and game for SAR missions and how they are proposing to fix the issue for next year. I'm not intending that this re-ignite a debate about charging versus not charging for search activities but I wanted to share what their plan will be for next year (assuming it is approved).

According to Fish and Game Maj. Kevin Jordan, there will be a baseline fee that anyone requiring assistance will need to pay. For an operation costings the agency between $500 and $999 dollars the flat fee would be $350. For an operation costing between $1,000 and $1,499 the fee would be $600. For any operation costing more than $1,500 the fee would be $1,000.

Additionally, it looks like Fish and Game may team up with organizations like the AMC to sell a voluntary "hike safe" card. The card would be $18 with $3 going to the selling organization and $15 going to Fish and Game. If you buy a card and need help and are NOT deemed negligent you would not be charged the flat fee. However, this is not a get out of jail free card for all situations because if fish and game determines you were negligent they would charge you the flat fee. For most hikers this card is being advertised as cheap insurance.

There are other non-hiking related proposals but I wanted to share these ones with everyone since they seemed the most appropriate for this forum.

5:50 p.m. on June 9, 2012 (EDT)
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i think those fees and the card are great.

4:10 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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i think a state is more likely to recover costs on this basis than trying to charge an individual, who may or may not have the means, for a five-figure rescue operation. 

5:12 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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Another option is to put the onus on the individual to be self insured, just like we do with automobiles in many states.  Excursion insurance already exists; I wonder if there are pre-existing policies that have such coverage build into programs folks typically purchase, without having to buy an excursion policy every time you take a walk in the woods.

Ed

5:40 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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I just don't know how people head out for a hike of any length in remote w/o at least some form of food water and light. I always get a map idealy a topo of the area as well and that along with my compass can get me out of any area. Also always check the overnight lows and prepare for 5-10 degrees colder just in case.

One way to fix this issue is certainly not ideal, and I probably would not like it but, maybe a trail usage fee, something small, would deter a lot of people who want to just get out of their car and hike a few miles w/o planning.

My view on the whole thing is it seems like younger people these days expect everything to be done for them, and think I always have my cell phone thats all I need, I can call anyone and have them come get me. I am 31 and I can tell you most my friends that are younger especially those in early 20's think exaclty that way. One even said he was just going to do a quick day hike/jog on a 16 mile loop and asked if he should bring more than a water bottle, cliff bar, and his cell phone. I straightened him out and after he argued he didn't need them I lent him my small camelback pack and made him take one of my MREs along with an emergency blanket and a flashlight. Well turns out he spent the night and he was very happy for the MRE and blanket, he said the night was miserable, but at least he had some food. Turns out in the morning he was still 3 or 4 miles from the end, so he was starving, by the time he finished.

7:58 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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jchanman33 - i think it has less to do with age and more to do with a lack of education, training, and attitudes.

Granted, the attitudes we're discussing here tend to come more with people on the younger side, but that is not without exception, and some older folks can certainly be just as cocky and ignorant to the dangers. The Whites are especially an issue when they have such easy access - just park your car in the allotted hiking lots and you are steps from beautiful trails...and danger.

10:59 p.m. on June 11, 2012 (EDT)
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iClimb, very true, and thats what I meant is that it is more prevalent an attitude in younger people, however I do know some older folks who have talked about how much they know about the outdoors cause they hunt and have been camping a bunch, but the camping they mean is campground camping, not backcountry hiking 50 miles from anywhere camping, and the hunting is only a few miles from their truck.

I grew up in Oregon and we have a lot of the same type of thing throughout the cascades there are spots right off some pretty major highways to just get out and hike to a lake or some other site....man I miss that place compared to ND.

9:55 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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whomeworry said:

Excursion insurance already exists; I wonder if there are pre-existing policies that have such coverage build into programs folks typically purchase, without having to buy an excursion policy every time you take a walk in the woods.

I'd think that if I was in the insurance business, I'd want to know which 'excursions' the client was planning on going on and what the risks might be. There's a big difference between a pleasant day hike close to civilization, and an week-long solo trip into the mountains.

I know climbers have a hard time getting life insurance; even though it often includes hiking, their activity is considered too dangerous by the companies.

10:02 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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jchanman33 said:

I just don't know how people head out for a hike of any length in remote w/o at least some form of food water and light. I always get a map idealy a topo of the area as well and that along with my compass can get me out of any area. Also always check the overnight lows and prepare for 5-10 degrees colder just in case.

One way to fix this issue is certainly not ideal, and I probably would not like it but, maybe a trail usage fee, something small, would deter a lot of people who want to just get out of their car and hike a few miles w/o planning.

My view on the whole thing is it seems like younger people these days expect everything to be done for them, and think I always have my cell phone thats all I need, I can call anyone and have them come get me. I am 31 and I can tell you most my friends that are younger especially those in early 20's think exaclty that way. One even said he was just going to do a quick day hike/jog on a 16 mile loop and asked if he should bring more than a water bottle, cliff bar, and his cell phone. I straightened him out and after he argued he didn't need them I lent him my small camelback pack and made him take one of my MREs along with an emergency blanket and a flashlight. Well turns out he spent the night and he was very happy for the MRE and blanket, he said the night was miserable, but at least he had some food. Turns out in the morning he was still 3 or 4 miles from the end, so he was starving, by the time he finished.

 The problem with trail usage fees is that, at least on federal land, there are laws that prohibit that because our tax dollars already go to the preservation and access of the lands. Fee charging is limited to charging for the USE of facilities and even those are specifically designated in the law. As a matter of fact, the law is designed to prevent deterence of getting out of ones car and hiking a few miles. We will never be able to control everything and we are not a nanny state, despite the increased regulations and onerous government intrusion into our lives. Oh, not to mention tha the rescue costs are not incurred by the park, but by municiple or reagional public/private Search adn Rescue most often.

Your friend that did the 16 mile loop....did he start late? Sounds liek that was the worst of his judgement. I agree that kids these days expect everything done for them or instantly fixed. They have no clue because they are not taught to have one. That is their parent's fault.

10:51 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Fact: People are going to make mistakes and do dumb things.

Charging for rescue is a topic that has been discussed at length here before. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that it's a big, long, heavy, double-edged sword. There is no one answer to how to do it properly and consistently. Everyone thinks someone ELSE should pay the bill.

11:33 a.m. on June 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Having just gone through a $10,000.00 evacuation myself, albeit in another country, (would have cost more here) I agree that insurance is the way to go. But not everyone would make the sacrifice to incure that kind of expense. I am sure glad I did! I would say at LEAST do it for the bigger hikes on the bigger mountains. That would help a little with defraying losses to SAR teams.

5:05 p.m. on July 21, 2012 (EDT)
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anybody thats been to the white mountains understands,anybody that lives in the white mountains comprehends.

1:24 p.m. on August 15, 2012 (EDT)
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There was an interesting Op-ed in the NYT this week about just this topic.  It just scratches the surface, but perhaps enough "yuppy 911's" will read it to take a step back?

nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/when-gps-leads-to-s-o-s.html?_r=1

5:55 p.m. on August 15, 2012 (EDT)
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I'm just glad its not another killed climber story.

10:19 a.m. on August 16, 2012 (EDT)
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IMHO, I think 'killed climber' stories are appropriate in the 'Climbing' section, especially if they offer information that might prevent other people from making a similar mistake.

On a 'Hikers Rescued' thread, the processes and organizations being used in the rescue are sometimes the same, and the mindset of the people needing rescue can be similar. In my experience, hikers who need help are either inexperienced people who make a wrong turn or are unprepared for conditions, OR (like many climbers) those who overestimate their skills, who tackle something they think they can do, then fail.

I've always found it curious that in the SAR reports (for both hikers and climbers) in our national parks, the majority fall into the later category. The inexperienced ones seem to be less likely to get themselves into a situation they can't get out of, while those who consider themselves 'skilled' and 'experienced' seem to push on instead of turning back when they should.

10:24 a.m. on August 16, 2012 (EDT)
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nytimes.com/2012/08/14/opinion/when-gps-leads-to-s-o-s.html?_r=1

By the way, GREAT article!

April 20, 2014
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