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147 Rescue Me 2009-11-06

Helicopter on Mount Ranier

In April of 2009 a seventeen year old boy left Pinkham Notch Lodge for a hike to the top of Mount Washington (link to the story). He did not return to the Lodge that night and did not call his mom. His mom began calling the Lodge and asking questions. The next day a search began. The hiker was well prepared for the snowy hike but made a few questionable decisions which left him lost. Luckily, for him the weather had been very mild with the lows only in the forties. He survived three nights out on the mountain alone. The rescuers found him on the fourth day and led him back to the Observatory, located on top of the mountain. He was given a ride down the mountain.

Last week the story of the boy resurfaced as he was fined $25,000 by the State of New Hampshire for having to be rescued. They fined him because he was ill prepared and did not use good judgement. The State’s Fish and Game department, the lead agency in the rescue, used a helicopter to help locate the hiker. The cost of the helicopter rescue was passed on to the victim. Of course if the State also had to pay for the volunteer rescuers the price would have been doubly outrageous.

Was the State wrong? After all the hiker did make mistakes. The State claimed that he was ill prepared; but the hiker claims he packed extra food and tools.

He did however make a couple of mistakes: 1) Few shortcuts are actually shorter. Even if the trail was going to be steeper, he should have returned on the familiar path. 2) When things didn’t look right, he should have returned to familiar ground - retracing his steps.

What I liked about the hiker was that he was trying to find his way even though he had injured his ankle. He also spent three nights out in the snowy mountains. He must have been tough enough to survive.

Should he have been charged for the rescue? No. We all make mistakes, but nothing he did was reckless. Everyone finds moments when we do not know exactly where we are. It is at that time when we make the critical decisions to help find ourselves. Experience makes the task easier, but experience is not easily learned. Youth is no reason for a $25,000 fine. He climbed the mountain. Rescue was not part of his plan. It just happened.

A SPOT would have helped the rescuers locate the teenager, but I am not sure if the teen would have activated it!


Happy trails.


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