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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

June 9, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Mount Rainier accident: Stop blaming climbers for costs

A photo provided by the National Park Service shows Liberty Ridge and the Carbon Glacier, with a helicopter at top right. (National Park Service)

Like many in the climbing community, I was sad to see the recent Rainier climbing accident, and proud of the rangers, guide service and community response [“Liberty Ridge is risky, deadly Mount Rainier route,” Local News, June 2].  One thing I hope to address is the knee-jerk reaction that I almost always see online after any such accident:  Climbers (or their survivors) should be sent a bill for rescue costs.  The underlying assumption is that climbers shouldn’t be taking risks and exposing others to the danger, and the cost, of rescuing them.

First, this arrangement is actually already in place in many ways.  If visitors act negligently or recklessly on federal lands, they can receive a bill for the rescue, or for the fire they started, or whatever the case may be.

More importantly, many of these rescues are already built into operating costs, through a variety of ways.  Many mountain rescue associations are teams of volunteers.  When military helicopters come in, the flight hours are often logged as essential and useful training time for military pilots.  National Park Service rangers do a lot more than just rescue people — their time is equally (or more) importantly spent preventing incidents than responding to them.

Steve Smith, Seattle

Comments | More in Climbing | Topics: climbing, Mount Rainier, National Park Service

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