Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Left To Our Own Devices


It's certain now.  The mountain has taken three more.  And in the wake of the most recent climber deaths on Mt. Hood an argument rages.  Why isn't it mandatory for all climbers to carry a simple tracking beacon?  Pitted against each other are folks who think that the small signaling device, which rents for $5.00 would not only save more lives, but would also same the cost of search and rescue/recovery missions.  They don't forget that it was not too long ago that a helicopter full of rescuers crashed on the mountain in a vain attempt to find missing climbers.  Seems like a no brainer, but the adventurous do make a few points that merit attention.  
They claim that part of their spiritual attraction to climbing the mountain is the risk involved; all the risk involved.  They claim that if everybody were "forced" to carry the beacon then people would take unnecessary risks.  
Others, who do a bit of risky climbing themselves, say that part of being well-prepared, being a professional, includes preparing for everything, even the possibility of being lost.  They advocate the use of a beacon.  Then there are those who have tried to make a workable compromise.  They argue if climbers feel that any governmental regulation infringes on their right to risky adventure, they should sign a waiver  allowing them to assume the risk they covet, but also assuming the financial responsibility for any rescue attempt, should one become necessary.  That might work...but is that really the issue here?
One of the most convincing arguments in favor of NOT carrying the device I've heard concerns the encroachment of technology on everything human.  These people feel that the true experience of being in the wild, unattached is truly threatened.  They want to go into the wilderness with no net at all times because to do otherwise means we are less human, less able to depend on human resources, human self-reliance, human qualities.  I get that.  But I also get that the mountain has claimed three more, three more who will not be around t give us their feedback in this debate.  Three more who might have  a change of heart given what they have now experienced.  
Nevertheless, the questions raised here are all good ones.  What do you think?

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