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cluck

News poll: require climbers to carry beacons?

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I'm surprised that one wouldn't be interested in contacting the media (or anyone other than fellow climbers?) about getting their voice heard on such important issues.

 

 

A rep from the Mazamas was on TV last night (forget what station). He did a stand up job outlining the issues and why PLB shouldn't be required.

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News station reports mountain climbing accident.

News station runs poll if climbing should be allowed.

Funwreckers have there way, no more accidents.

News station begins reporting on fisherman drowning in their wadders.

News station runs poll........

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Contrary to what people think, the media spends the majority of it's time reporting on issues very quickly, not creating them, and not educating people. Hence, the executive news producer here may read the PMRU statement and say "That makes sense". But if people call up 100:1 saying we should report on how stupid climbing is, and climbers don't speak up for themselves, what do you think they're going to report on?

 

Excellent comment. I'm not a reporter but I am married to one....

 

Same one who has picked me up at the hospital after decking out with Sobo and same one who buried a fiancee' after he fell in the Snake after his waders filled up. He made it out and died of ...you guested it hypothermia.

 

If it were my friends still lost on Hood I'd be the first to advocate beacons. Thankfully it isn't. But seems like Hood gets an inordinate amount of "lost" climbers. I think it is a damn GOOD idea to require beacons on Hood. I once spent a really long night walking out to the road after skiing off Hood in a white out.

 

Anyone want to tally of the number of bodies that we would have found if everyone, in every party, HAD been using a beacon? Not to sound too insensitive, saving lives is a good thing....but body recovery is as well.

 

What is the big deal?

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I guess this is now the Rampant Speculation and Opining thread....

 

The "news" is an entertainment/depression fix matrix for commercials. The "journalists" are parasite bottom feeders when it comes to these cases. Seeing as "Hikers Lost on Mount Hood" sells commercials better than "Squirrel Looks Like Abraham Lincoln" we get days worth of "Hikers Lost on Mount Hood" and MLU polls and no one notices when the Lincoln Squirrel gets shot.

 

Meanwhile, about 115 people die every day in the US in car accidents. No one gives a shit, and the parasites don't make a poll about it. It doesn't sell unless it's "Prom Queen and Friends Killed by Semi on Prom Night" That's a fucking tragedy...

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Dane,

as much as I usually agree with you positions and evaluations of climbing gear and related topics, I'm going to have to disagree on this one. Even were it my climbing buddy up there I would not be calling for an MLU/PLB regulation. Would I want him to have had one? Sure, but a mandate is another monster entirely. PMR, among others have come out saying that they believe a mandate would increase both number of incidents and the amount of money spent on rescues (caused both by unnecessary action and more ill-equipped climbers). While the idea of saving more lives is a really nice though, beacons are not the way to go about doing it; education is.

 

 

About the reporting-- I have now written two long letters to KATU and am moving on to the other PDX area stations with two main ideas: MLUs/PLBs should NOT be mandated and that their reporting of climbing rescues creates a false, unfair image of climbers.

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Well, we made contact with Jim Whittaker and are trying to get him on. If a crew can get to his cabin, he's up for talking.

 

Trying to get in touch with Glenn Kessler as well...

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Count me as opposed to legislating the use of MLU's for climbing parties or any recreational activity group. Completely agree with and appreciate PMR's statement on mandating MLU use. That being said, someone's comment about keeping the rescuers in mind during these events got me thinking...(I know, dangerous)

What if there would be a culture shift among climbers regarding MLU's when they consider a winter climb? I'm thinking along the lines of climbers starting to consider the dangers to a rescue team conducting a lengthy search/recovery when a pinging MLU might have shortened the rescuers exposure. I'm sure there are holes in my theory. Carry on.

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Joe,

No disagreement with you...beacons won't save a lot of lives. Skills and education would. We've see how far that goes. You can't mandate either or simple bad luck. The beacons would hopefully help on the body recovery.

 

Letters to the stations? If you don't like the reporting call the reporter and let them know what you think. You might be surprised at the response.

 

20 years ago wearing a helmet while rock climbing signaled you out as a dork. Now even the Huber brothers wear them on El Cap. While I still refuse to wear one in Yosemite, I do wear one on ice and in the Alpine. Always have once they became available.

 

Times change...common sense prevails at times. Too damn many people dying on Hood. Don't care what the reasons are. If a beacon would save a few or at least find the bodies quicker I am all for it.

 

My heart goes out to the families and friends in the recent tragedy.

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Dane,

I agree about body recovery. It would be horrible to have lost a dear friend or family member and not even have their body found. I don't know that any beacon available would last long enough to assist in body recovery (especially if not found within a few days or weeks.)

 

I will try calling the individual reporters. This is the one article (and comments below) that really set me off: http://www.kgw.com/home/Two-others-who-climbed-Mt-Hood-Friday-turned-back-79269457.html

 

I met these two on the way down. The first said he was getting sick...some combination of AMS and reaction to the fumeroles. The second turned back because he saw some ice fall. My party continued up...the ice fall the article mentions was nothing more than normal winter ice fall (with no chunks larger than a baseball.) The article is completely misleading.

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Joe,

Here is what I know of good reporters...they do some research if they have time...other than that they report...what others tell them.

 

Down side of TV reporting is ...."it is now and it is in a hurry".

 

A three minute spot on the Hood deaths is a lot of TV time. Be a hard story to tell accurately in a hour show.

 

Most reporters, my Emmy and E. R Murrow winning investigative wife included, report what they are told when it comes to mtn accidents. They have no clue what the conditions are on the mountain (nor do we generally) past what they are TOLD or how experienced the climbers are besides what they are TOLD. Spot news...which is what this incident is is a "run and gun" affair.

 

I spent a good deal of time on Hood...grew up living close to Hood and my first climbing was there. I can't see the problem with the report you gave a link to. I'm a couple hundred miles away but thought the conditions would be good that day.

 

I see stupid mistakes by reporters everyday....part of our life style. But it generally isn't the fault of the reporter. They might look really stupid talking about climbing but they generally aren't stupid people.

 

As climbers when we make stupid mistakes the end results are more serious. In the case of Hood I don't think beacons are a bad idea. Sadly all of us (I don't like the idea either) who don't think they are needed....are just as likely to need them as anyone else.

 

How many bodies are buried on Hood?

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I think the reason so many people are pro-MLU is that they actually think we would wear one if they "made" us. Haha. It's a problem with the perceived role of government, which neither R or D these days has a very good concept of, except maybe Ron Paul. Don't give up, Ron, you've got one vote in the bag!

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They might look really stupid talking about climbing but they generally aren't stupid people.

 

I mean thats how TV works, you get hired for brains not teeth and hair...

 

So if beacons become mandatory on hood then its not much of a stretch to make it mandatory everywhere is it...best to not let them gain an inch.

 

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I don't mean to call them stupid, and I have taken some steps to contact a few reporters as I feel they could do a better job representing the climbers lost up there right now. An article is not subject to the same restrictions that a 3 min TV clip is (and it is with articles that i have the biggest problem.) I don't fault the reporters entirely; the fault is also on the culture that has developed in the media and to some extent an individual reporter cannot escape that. Again, I'm spending the day (when I'm not too drugged to type) writing both to stations and reporters in an attempt to provide them with some ideas on how they may better represent the decisions made by the three climbers.

 

Regarding the conditions on Hood, as I said, I was up there that day. Weather was perfect and was not an issue. My problem with the article is that it makes the climbers who chose to continue to the summit that day look like idiots to the general public. I can assure you that there were no "person sized" ice chunks falling Friday-- I was there. The article did not need to be written, it adds nothing to the story about Luke, Katie and Anthony and makes them look foolish (to the general public) for attempting an ascent that day.

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Re: reporters

 

mace...you'd be surprised how reporters get hired. It actually does go beyound the teeth and hair...other wise we'd all (us beautiful people) be reporters right?

 

I'd be willing to bet the reporter didn't pull the "body size chunks" out of his ass. Ask Guy Skeele (climber in video) about that quote.

 

re: climbers

 

From a lay persons perspective...climbers turn around and live...climbers continue and die. How else would you look?

Why climb in winter for GOD's sake? Good question. Why would you?..people die of hypothermia and avalanches for chrimney sake. But a lot of us really like climbing in winter. Almost the only climbing I do these days. How stupid is that?

 

I fell and decked from 30 feet on 5.6 rock while roped and damn near died. I've soloed trad 5.11s. How stupid would that headline look to a non climber if they could even remotely understand it...and they can't? I'd be just another stupid climber who "almost died" CLIMBING.

 

There is no socially redeeming value to climbing in the greater non climbing community. We all look foolish.....might as well get use to it.

 

If a beacon would find one person alive or just the body with less hassle I'm all for it.

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Regarding the conditions on Hood, as I said, I was up there that day. Weather was perfect and was not an issue.

 

Weather was perfect that day - but the forecast on the backend succinctly forecast conditions that would create bad avalanche conditions and minimize options for any self or SAR rescue in the event things went bad. As far as I'm concerned if you do a winter ascent of a significant mountain with less than a 72-hour weather window you are gambling. How well you gamble is dependent on your level of skill and experience. Go with less than a 36-hour window you better be damn good and prepared to deal with all eventualities.

 

But then this is the same mountain with a level of accessibility where thousands of the people summit and make it up and down - so long as nothing goes wrong. If it does go wrong then probably 90% or more of them don't really have the skills or experience to deal.

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I don't know Pat Dooris who wrote that article, but as Dane says, he was likely working from limited information given to him, tried to make phone calls to the Sheriff's dept, PMRU, the USFS and got dead ends as they are all overwhelmed, which ran into his deadline, and he wrote what he could.

 

It sucks that the evening news can't operate like Frontline or Nova every night, but you guys would be alarmed at just how quickly everything moves in this business, and that when misinformation does get reported, how serious the consequences can be internally.

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Count me on the list opposed to mandatory beacons/locator devices. I don't see how a beacon would help in recovery of my corpse if I am not alive to turn the beacon on.

 

I don't agree with PMR's statement that requiring beacons creates a sense of false security or an expectation of rescue. The bigger risk of a creating sense of false security is the continuing mass marketing approach of certain outdoor equipment retailers. Combined with the print media's need to sell advertising, the corporate world sponsors and promotes products, through sponsored climbers and media reports, with an every man approach to getting into the mountains. Who hasn't seen some sap wearing the latest NF jacket with a credit card getting outfitted with a new rope, rack, the latest funky ice tool and a guide book after reading an article about how be safe lead climbing. Every one needs a chance to learn through experience to be safe in the woods but those who are taught through the media that all you need to be safe is the latest piece of gear or electronics put themselves and those who volunteer to rescue them at risk. There is no doubt the gear available today is better than it was twenty years ago and undoubtedly helps us all come home to the kids with all of our fingers and toes. But the idea that better gear alone will keep you safe is fallacious.

 

I would be in favor of a permit system that charged a per climber fee to offset the cost of rescue efforts but don't make me carry some useless electronic gadget if the only reason is to help alleviate the concerns of the lemming masses influenced by the fair and balanced corporate media.

 

 

 

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Regarding the conditions on Hood, as I said, I was up there that day. Weather was perfect and was not an issue.

 

Weather was perfect that day - but the forecast on the backend succinctly forecast conditions that would create bad avalanche conditions and minimize options for any self or SAR rescue in the event things went bad. As far as I'm concerned if you do a winter ascent of a significant mountain with less than a 72-hour weather window you are gambling. How well you gamble is dependent on your level of skill and experience. Go with less than a 36-hour window you better be damn good and prepared to deal with all eventualities.

 

But then this is the same mountain with a level of accessibility where thousands of the people summit and make it up and down - so long as nothing goes wrong. If it does go wrong then probably 90% or more of them don't really have the skills or experience to deal.

 

 

So true. The team that perished on Hood in 2006 also pushed too close to the closing of the weather window. Fred Beckey has often said that you need to actually get into position for your climb while the weather is still active, if you can do so without undue risk, then begin your summit attempt just as conditions begin to improve,(with prudent regard for avalanche threat in winter) to give yourself the greatest possible opening.

 

Early winter in the Cascades is well known for unpredictability. A longtime practice of experienced NW climbers focused on winter ascent of significant routes on the major peaks is to wait until the long mid-winter weather break which almost always occurs sometime between mid-January and end of February. The exact time and length of this pause varies from year to year, but even with climate change has remained fairly consistent and dependable. It usually lasts from 10 days to two weeks or more, with clear, calm, and very cold conditions at the higher elevations. By the time it arrives, snowpack has become much more consolidated, crevasses are completely filled or solidly bridged over, windloaded slopes and cornices are more stable (NOT foolproof,ever) and buildup of rime and heavy crust over areas of exposed rock, powder or sugar snow offer good cramponing and speed.

 

As always, patience, careful attention to forecasting (and we have SO much more detailed and real time information to work from now than we did when I started climbing in 1965-- the advent of Doppler radar, online weathercams, hourly updates, snow profiles, etc. There's pretty much no excuse for being ignorant of the current and upcoming weather.) and timing are climbing skills of equal importance to technical ability and conditioning.

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Ok, guess I am in the minority. But sure looks like a lot of folks die on Hood climbing. More than I would think possible even with the easy access. Never thought I be suggesting a beacon might well be a good idea there or any where. I am now but I have no idea how it should be implimented or by whom.

 

And from just the little reearch I have done on beacons today they don't seem up to the task technically...yet. Not yet.

 

But neither were crampons, climbing helmets, avalungs or avi transcievers originally.

 

"Unique to Mount Hood, these devices can be rented for $5 at Portland-area outdoor shops[2] and the Mount Hood Inn at Government Camp, which is open 24 hours a day. The MLUs are simple radio beacons, and thus require search and rescuers to use traditional radio direction finding (RDF) equipment that provides a bearing, but not a precise location, to the beacon.

 

Groups scaling the mountain are recommended to carry an MLU and all climbers must register before their climb and sign upon return.

 

The MLU was designed after a school group with two adults and seven children perished on Mount Hood. (See Mount Hood climbing accidents.) The bodies of some of the group were found in a snow cave a day after the searchers had passed within fifteen feet of their shelter without noticing them."

 

from here:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mountain_Locator_Unit

 

No one piece of gear makes you safe in the mountains. But some can make it safer, like wearing crampons, a rope or a helmet under the right circumstances.

 

But here in another tragedy where the dead climber at least moved from his original position after a fall and could have theoretically turned on a beacon. He then died of hypothermia.....exposure by the SOs report . Where are his companions? In a snow cave or a crevasse? Could they have also turned on a beacon?

 

Obviously they could have all rented beacons @ $5 a pop.

 

There is a reason bike helmet laws have been inacted on a county by county basis in WA. People die when you get your noggin bounced off the pavement. Most of the time it is a automobile driver's fault.

 

Does it matter who's fault it is? Not IMO. Climber, weather, driver or just and unlucky accident that was no ones fault?

 

No one has bothered to add up and post the number of bodies still buried on Hood. I suspect it is more than are still buried on Rainier. As a group (of climbers) I think that should bother us all.

 

 

 

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Just a thought. All these winter tragedies on Mount Hood typically involve bad weather moving in and trapping climbers injured or otherwise high on the mountain.

 

Everyone owns a cell phone, there is cell reception on Mount Hood. Compared to speaking with them how would some sort of beacon provide superior actionable data to rescue folks on the ground if climbers were caught up high during a major storm? Isn't part of the problem that once a storm moves in any sort of rescue effort is simply on hold until the weather improves?

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Well, we made contact with Jim Whittaker and are trying to get him on. If a crew can get to his cabin, he's up for talking.

 

Trying to get in touch with Glenn Kessler as well...

 

I would be very interested to hear what Glenn has to say. I would guess it would echo what Rocky Henderson of PMR said here: (assuming this is the same Rocky that assisted Glenn in teaching the avalanche course I took on Hood a few years ago)

http://www.traditionalmountaineering.org/News_HB2509.htm

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Good thought but I think the technology is simply lacking to locate the missing.

 

Given skilled and trained climbers and a SAR staff working with excellent communication and GPS location on the victims not much weather wise that would keep them from reaching a victim on Hood.

 

Everyone involved said the weather/conditions were almost perfect during part of the air/ground search in this incident.

 

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Dane,

 

Of the 138 people who have died on Mt. Hood since 1896 I found information suggesting that only 5 bodies remain on the mountain.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Hood_climbing_accidents

 

I still don't think that beacons could help recover more bodies.

 

MLUs only work on Mt. Hood and even then there are MANY places on the mountain where they do not successfully transmit a signal. If we are going to focus on making a beacon mandate, I think it would be more useful to focus on PLBs which use satellite signal and could theoretically be used on any peak and not just Hood. (I still don't know if I would carry one.)

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