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Instead of being prepared, irresponsible hikers just call for help

  • Published in Letters

To the Daily Sun,

I would like to address the problem of rescuing irresponsible hikers.

All of the information that I am sharing about safe hiking in N.H., I found on the N.H. State Fish and Game website.

Safe hiking in N.H.: Under the safe hiker responsibility code you are responsible for the following:

— With knowledge and gear, become self reliant by learning about the terrain, conditions, local weather and equipment before you start.

— Leave your plans, tell someone where you are going, including the trails you are hiking, as well as when you will return. Address emergency plans as well.

— Stay together, when you start as a group, end as group. Pace your hike to the slowest person.

— Turn back if necessary. The weather changes quickly in the mountains. Fatigue and unexpected conditions can also affect your hike, so know your limitations and when to post pone your hike. The mountains will be there another day.

— Be prepared for emergencies, even if you are headed out for just and hour, an injury, server weather or a wrong turn could become life threatening. Don't assume you will be rescued; know how to rescue yourself.

— Share the Hike Code with others, NH RSA-153-A:24 I-(C)-Recklessly or intentionally creating a situation requiring an emergency response. II-A person's liability under this subdivision for response expenses shall not exceed $100,000 for any single public agency incident response.

I am very upset that we continue to see hikers that do not follow the above rules of hiking and being rescued.

For example, on Saturday, January 18th, three hikers climbing Mount Washington were well off the trail (to quote N.H. Fish and Game officials) and one of the hikers tried to find a new route up and icy flowage. She was unable to return to her group and they continued without her expecting that they would meet at the top of the climb. She had trouble and what does she do? She uses her cell phone to call for help. What is wrong with these people? You don't leave your fellow hikers behind. After the rescue an official statement from Fish and Game: she kept a level head and used her skills and available gear to ultimately get herself back to a known location. The group was experienced, had done extensive research on their planned hike and were appropriately dressed for the winter adventure. So if this group was so well prepared why did she need to call for help? She left her group, went out on her own, and they continued on without her. This is not prepared, this is stupid and wrong, it also breaks the Hiking Code in all the research they did not visit the Fish and Game website.

Next example: Sunday, January 19, 15 hikers attempt to hike Mount Washington summit, setting out early Sunday morning, but a smaller group later decides to separate and head back down to Pinkham Notch while the larger group continues. The smaller group misses the trail junction and become disoriented, so they tried do dig themselves into the snow and called 911 and activated their emergency signaling devices.

Is anyone besides myself starting to see a pattern? In both of my examples hikers left their hiking group, and instead of being prepared, they used their cell phones to call for help. At least with the second group they weren't praised for being prepared.

What really bothers me about all of the above rescues is that these hikers are only thinking of themselves when they go our to hike. They have their cell phones and all they need to do is have fun, get lost and call for help and the N.H. Fish and Game, U.S. Forest Service Snow Rangers and the Mountain Rescue Service and I am sure many others will come to save them. On the 19th, winds were 65 mph, with 95 mph gusts, zero degree temperatures, and the brave rescuers came. They risked their lives to save foolish people who didn't follow the rules. These rules are there for a reason, for safety, both for the hikers and for the rescuers.

The above RSA states that hikes that are reckless are responsible and liable for the response expenses. I would like to know if any of the hikers were billed? The state has now recommended that all hikers pay a hiking fee to buy insurance in case they need to be rescued. This is a great idea, but until we start to bill the foolish hikers why should the smart hikers have to pay? I would like to see signs at the beginning of all the trails that state RSA0153-As contents. Until we start to bill these hikers that venture off on their ow, and know that all they have to do is dial 911 on their cell phones, we will continue to have to rescue them and the Fish and Game will continue to be over budget and begging for more money. I know that it can't be done , but I really think that we should be able to tell these foolish hikers to leave their cell phones in their cars.

Sherry Boynton

New Hampton