Hans_Blix Posted December 21, 2009 Share Posted December 21, 2009 This is in response to the post by Monty on the Oregonian website: Mandating beacons would be poor public policy. Encouraging the public to use them appropriately would be good public policy! I find parts of the post from Portland Mountain Rescue (i.e. Monty) frustrating, anecdotal and unhelpful. What, I think, is enflaming the discussion is the perception that Portland Mountain Rescue is adamantly demonstrating how beacons won't work and aren't useful instead of cultivating a discussion on things that improve the information and resources available to climbers who are attempting Mount Hood. Maybe this is a defensive reaction because of proposed legislation about beacons? Regardless, beacons and/or locator devices can and do work in the mountains and saying they won't doesn't stick. Boaters and pilots have been using similar technology and such devices have saved lives, or, at a minimum, helped rescuer's find wreckage or remains. After watching the news and various posts on the web, you get the impression that Portland Mountain Rescue is dug in on the issue. One of rescue leaders actually told the TV and print media that having a beacon could increase a climber's chance of being caught in an avalanche or rockfall because of its weight?! This comes off as either silly or evasive to a fair question. Instead of contriving every possible reason why a beacon (broadly taken as PLB, MLU or Spot Beacon etc) won't work, it would make more sense if the USFS with Portland Mountain Rescue worked together to educate people on ways these devices work effectively. The technology is rapidly improving and these devices are getting better, more affordable, and user friendly every year. This latest incident, and the 2007 winter incident, strike many as good examples of where and how a locator beacon could have helped the rescuers. In both cases, strong clues indicate that at some point during the climbing trip, there was an accident. And after to that accident, the climbers attempted to save themselves. Given that these climbers attempted self rescue, it seems quite likely that one of the survivors could have alerted a locator beacon - if they had one. And though alerting a beacon may not have allowed rescuers to save the climbers in time, it could have helped the recovery team later. Spot Beacons, for example, send a GPS coordinate - and having seen and used them before, I found them to be "spot-on." As grim as this may sound, a GPS coordinate of an accident site or emergency snow cave is very useful information, but why can't Portland Mountain Rescue acknowledge this? We understand that weather and mountain conditions can prevent active field rescue, and that an avalanche (or an earthquake or a meteor as PMR might point out) could potentially move the bodies if that rescue doesn't happen in time. But come on Portland Mountain Rescue, a known GPS location is useful information for recovery teams and investigators. Also, I don't buy the argument that the public will rely on such devices and therefore start making reckless choices while climbing. This point is actually quite insulting to the public if you think about it too. Similar arguments were made about cell/sat phones, avalanche transceivers, 2-way radios, and other devices and tools as they entered the mainstream market. But cell/sat phones have proven to be very useful during many well publicized rescues on Mount Adams, Rainier, Whitney and even Mount McKinley. Portland Mountain Rescue does some wonderful volunteer work, and I believe that they did the best that anyone could have done to rescue or recover these climbers. Somehow though, they lost their way with the defensive and confusing communication strategy about the appropriate use of the various types of locator beacons. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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