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Teen Hiker Missing on Mount Washington

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"One of Dirty Harry's greatest lines was, " A man's got to know his limitations." I'm thinking young Scott is rethinking his. "


Agreed, and the fundamental problem is that an 18 year-old boy isn't a man just because he's an Eagle Scout.


That's boy's lucky and the parents should be slapped up side the head.

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The state actually tried to bill this family ?!?! That's crap. I agree, he made a poor choice, but I don't see how this could be considered negligence. Heck, by this standard, if you're on a day hike in N.H. and get lost, then they have to send out a search party - you are on the hook because if it rains that night and you didn't take a big enough jacket and enough water - you could be labelled as negligent ?!?!?


I wonder if N.H. charges everyone a bill for every fire truck and ambulance that rolls to an auto accident? Usually, a car wreck is somebdy's fault and could much more easily be due to negligence.


Guess one should't go hiking alone and twist their ankle in H.N.


Glad the state backed down. Sad, the family paid $1000 - thought that was what we pay taxes for in the 1st place? Do they get a bill from the fire department if their house burns to the ground and the fault of the fire is found to be someone left the iron on? Sheesh !


Funny - from the news story, sounds like if the economy wasn't in the toilet, the bill would have been a non-issue.

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Unprepared for conditions or overnight stay, hiked during the most perilous time of year (winter/spring) to hike the Whites, and hiked alone. I would say those first two constitutes negligence. His parents reported him overdue for his DAY hike and requested rescue which over three days involved emergency resources from 3 states (NH, VT, ME). A fourth state, his home state of Massachusetts, refused parent's request to send Mass State Police helicopter to aid in search.


The positive

1. He did not die

2. No rescuers died either, though some were injured during stream traversals. Not all rescuers were tax-paid professionals, some rescuers were experienced volunteers.

3. He did not do this stunt during the BSA 100th.


I hope he has or will perform some serious community service in lieu of the financial penalty. Previously, I suggested enlistment in the NH National Guard where he might experience the risks of being a rescuer firsthand. Another idea, setup up a real winter outdoors trek training program with NH Fish & Game, maybe AMC, and our own OKPIK scouters in Maine. As I understand he had earned Wilderness Survival mb prior to this trek.


We all do stupid things from time to time, but I expect scouts and scouters to make amends for their actions or has scouting now lost that distinction too? Specifically, he should work to turn the negative around and make a overall positive outcome, until then I remain disappointed.


My $0.02,

(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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DeanRx, Some fire departments actually do charge for response.


Schiff, National Guard is not all Search & Rescue, Floods, and riots anymore. 50% of the fighting forces in Iraq and Afganistan are reservists and Guard.


yes i do think he needs to ead some kind of service project.

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Yah, the state was completely out to lunch here. The lad was not even close to being negligent by any ordinary meaning of the word.


This is a scary trend, eh? In two ways.


The first is startin' to view any ordinary outdoor adventure as being so risky that to engage in it by itself is negligent. That's bad news for Scouting, and we should fight such notions or we're going to lose our program.


There's nothing inherently dangerous about solo hiking. I do it all the time. It's peaceful. It's safe, if yeh stay within your abilities. His solo hike was ambitious, but not unreasonable for a healthy young man of his experience. He was carrying adequate gear to survive 3 days of unanticipated bivouacs without injury, so he was clearly prepared. He went out of his way to obtain current information from locals and AMC members. He had hiked the area before. All he did was roll his ankle (could happen to anyone), then try to take a short cut not anticipating the added runoff from a very rapid warm-weather melt. That's an ordinary mistake in judgment. From there, he made good choices and effected a self-rescue. In fact his choices were better than some of da SAR folks, who got in trouble makin' ill-advised stream crossings.


If we consider healthy young folks negligent when they have appropriate gear, seek out current information from local experts, and who are able to self-rescue despite injury and very poor weather, then what's goin' to happen when an older overweight scoutmaster with younger kids rolls an ankle and isn't able to self-rescue? Negligence and reckless endangerment of youth no doubt! $25K assessment per person in the troop!! Da state needs money, after all.


Da second concern is the one expressed by other agencies. The only thing this absurd policy teaches is "don't call for help." The lad didn't need help; he self-rescued. So anybody readin' this should rightly look at it and say "Hey, I'm never calling for help in NH." Terrible notion.


I also don't reckon it's a reasonable thing to try to charge a victim helicopter fees just because yeh sent your own helicopter off on a training mission so it wasn't available for a real rescue, and yeh had to rent one. What does that mean, that hikers should call ahead and find out about your aircraft training and maintenance schedule so they don't get slapped with thousands in extra fees?


If I were living in the state I'd be embarrassed. They didn't have a leg to stand on legally and from a public policy perspective their behavior is unconscionable. That they spent a year harassin' this lad and his family is a travesty. In da private sector those officials would be fired.



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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He did not have sufficient gear for a winter trek. No stove (he lit hand sanitizer), no tent, no sleeping bag. Look at his frostbite in the rescue photos. Self-rescue? Well I guess, if seeing your rescuers approaching you and you don't walk away or waving to a rescue aircraft looking for you is self-rescue. There was consensus among his rescuers and NH Fish Game that he was unprepared. NH Fish Game then sought reimbursement under the 1999 NH Reckless Hiker law which was co-sponsored by a former scoutmaster. This young man was not the first person or even scout to be billed under that law. The bill was a record amount but so were the resources committed.


Rescuers have been known to take risks, some have died, in their attempt to bring the lost out alive. I was sorry to hear some were injured during this rescue.


Another $0.02






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Any agency is going to support the notion that ANYONE they have to go in after is ill-prepared. That way, they can 1) use the law to seek reimbursement and 2) persuade via the local media, others to think hard before they go and do the same thing.


I just find the idea of charging someone for rescue services (that are normally part of the public protection agency's duties) ridiculous. What the hell do we pay taxes for then? Why not make rescue service a pay as you play service? Tack on a $5/day service fee for daily use of certain wilderness areas or something like that. BUT, if this is part of their normal duty mission, then how the hell can a state agency decide to BILL private citizens for their services?


"991 - what is your emergency?" "Uh, there's someone trying to break into my house, they have a gun, send the cops !!!" "Sir, we need to get a Credit Card on file first - would you like them to do the full response with hollow-tipped bullets for an extra $500 - It's an add on service..."


Its a VERY dangerous situation when public service folks charged with serving and protecting are in a position to shake-down the citizens they are supposed to be helping. The underfunding of the agency is a local or state government issue. If they want to bill someone, sue their state congress for diversion or redirection of the funding they were supposed to have - don't take it out on a victim that needs their services.


Whether the victim is a complete knuckle-head and went hiking in the winter in a T-shirt and tennis shoes - I would not favor billing them. You're called to help, you go help - that's WHY the agency's exist in the 1st place.


Its a slippery slope in exotic public funding and it decreases the likihood someone truely in need of help will seek assistance. Bad, bad idea.

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Yah, RememberSchiff, I think yeh need to review da signs and symptoms of frostbite, eh? ;) There was no frostbite mentioned in any of da reports, and none evident in the photos. Yeh can't get frostbite when the temperature is above freezing (which was what caused the run-off which blocked his route). In fact, da weather at the time was called "unusually warm and mild." Lad was treated and released for an ankle injury.


The lad had food for multiple days and was hikin' with an ice axe, crampons, and snow shoes. He did have a bivy sack. That's not unprepared for a day hike, eh? The point is to be light and fast, because yeh risk more if you're packed heavy and traveling slow. In fact, as close as I can tell, he had all da gear AMC recommends for a 4-season day hike in da Presidential range, even for extreme conditions.


And yah, walking out to meet your rescuers at a known base location like da Mt. Washington observation station is what we call "self rescue".


As to "consensus at Fish and Game", it sure seems like in the early reports they were praising the lad. "He did everything right" I believe was the quote. Guess da consensus changes when you're looking to raise $$. :( And I reckon da "Reckless Hiker Law" is a bit of a misnomer since they changed it to apply to ordinary negligence rather than recklessness when da state treasury needed help.


I think all da rest of the states should start chargin' for rescues... but only for tourists from New Hampshire. :) For all da rest, I guess our former scouts and scoutmasters will just keep on rememberin' our duty "to help other people at all times."


Beavah(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Looks like he had first degree frostbite or windburn on face and hands. Yes, you can get frostbite if the air temp is above 32F which seems contradictory. It is called the wind chill factor. Temps were above freezing but in the upper 30's to 40's. It was windy - 40mph or more, 90mph gusts over those days. Looking at NOAA's windchill chart, with 40deg air temp but 40mph wind gives a skin temp of 27deg.


You can check the "Summit weather archive"



When you day hike in these mountains, no matter the time of year, you should be prepared to stay overnight. The weather can suddenly take a turn for the worse, you can get lost, or you can get hurt. I had not read any reports of a bivy sack, tarp, sleeping bag; the reports I read said he curled up in snow caves. No stove? No fuel? He wasn't prepared for a day hike that could go wrong. Thank heaven for flammable hand sanitizer.


Rather than put spin on stupidity or bad mouth his rescuers and the State of NH, I think a better approach would be for this young man to do a serious community service project along the lines of winter trek safety. I don't want to read about a lost scout's body being recovered after a failed day hike in the NH mountains. Safety first.


Another $0.02



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I see two separate issues here. The first is whether this particular young man was negligent, and the second is how to pay for rescues, especially rescues of the foolish.


On the first Im with RememberSchiff, this kid was negligent. Ive spent some time in those mountains and they can be notoriously difficult. Backpacker Magazine computed Americas 10 Most Dangerous Hikes, Mt. Washington was number 4. If you google lost hiker found in White Mountains you have to wade through a lot of stories to find this particular one, including several that are BODY of lost hiker found I dont think any 17 year old high school junior has any business trying to summit Mt. Washington alone, especially in winter conditions.


Lets start with his plan. The 17 miles he intended to do is considered either a REALLY ambitious day hike or more often an overnighter --- in mid-summer. Day hike in this case meaning using all 14 hours of sunlight to get there and back. The chances that he was going to complete it in one day in April were almost nil. April, the cruelest month, youre going to have snow, lots of it, but not the white fluffy stuff you can snow shoe on top of, rather its going to be soft and mushy, like walking through waist deep slush. The searchers had to set up rope systems to traverse streams just to get into the search area, but he expected to get through there by himself. This is not the best time of year to go up, especially by yourself. Finally his equipment, yes he had a bivvy sack, warm clothes and snow shoes, but except for the snow shoes thats the minimum you take if you do that climb in July, in winter you take a real shelter, a down bag and a stove, and someone to share the weight. This young man was a rescue waiting to happen when he took his first step on the trail. Everything would have had to go better than it was reasonable to expect for him to get up and down based on his plan. If the weather hadnt been unusually nice for the three days he spent on the mountain we would be mourning his tragedy not debating his negligence.


One of my all time favorite signs is at the top of Wildcat Mountain, the ski area across the valley from Mt. Washington: These mountains will be as cold, dark, and lonely tonight as they were two hundred years ago ---never ski alone


Ill give my $.02 about paying for rescues in a second posting.


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Yes, you can get frostbite if the air temp is above 32F which seems contradictory.


Yah, sorry mate, that's not da way things work. Best to take a good wilderness first aid course or pick up a standard reference like Medicine for Mountaineering, eh?


Frostbite requires the dehydration of cells and freezin' of the water between them. That requires absolute temperatures below freezing, period. Wind chill matters not a puff. Even if you were naked as the day you were born, yeh couldn't get frostbite if it were 33 degrees and blowin' a gale. In fact, if you're wearin' a hard shell outer layer as the lad was, wind chill is mostly a crock.


And that wasn't windburn on his face, mate. It was sunburn. Pretty obvious, but also reported in the contemporaneous news - "Scott was hungry, a little sunburned and was obviously limping, but he was alive after three nights in the wilderness." The lad should learn to bring a touch of sunscreen early in the season. ;)


But forgettin' sunscreen I don't reckon rises to the level of negligence, let alone recklessness. Nor does successfully managing a 3-night unintended bivy demonstrate a lack of preparedness for campin' overnight.


Me, I think it's just fine to criticize a state government. Even a patriotic duty :). In this case, though, it's particularly well deserved. If yeh really believe in "safety first", then as DeanRx points out, yeh should be strongly opposed to the state's policy. For my part, I'd sentence the officials to 2000 hours of community service workin' with real hikers and youth. And until they change their tune, I'd recommend outdoor recreationists and scout units stay away from the state. There are 49 others and a bunch of Canadian provinces that treat rescues as a civic responsibility we have to each other. Might as well take vacation where folks are friendlier, eh?



(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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Yah, T2Eagle, we cross-posted. I think yeh have to go read the accounts with a careful eye. The lad had a plan to do the 17-miler; he also had all kinds of options to stop short which he discussed with locals. The 17 miles he talked of doing was actually clear at the time, not snow-covered as you suggest; da snow was only down in the valley on his attempted route out, which he took only after the ankle injury (based on information from da AMC caretaker that it was also clear).


As for da rest, I'm just goin' to have to disagree with yeh. If you want to do a day hike like that during a weather window of the sort he had, you don't take a bunch of heavy gear. Yeh go light, which allows you to move faster, doesn't bog yeh down in softer snow, makes crossings easier and reduces your chance of fatigue-related injury and bein' caught out. What you're tryin' to call "negligent" would be considered "best practices" by a lot of more modern adventure hikers.


Yah, yah, I admit I'm an old dog. But every now and then some of our young whippersnappers manages to teach me a new trick. :) I'm not a complete convert to da lightweight thing, but I honestly don't think "negligent" is at all accurate. I think that a successful 3-night bivy and self-rescue despite an ankle injury demonstrates that.


Beavah(This message has been edited by Beavah)

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The question of when and whether to charge people for rescuing them is a complicated one. I think the threshold question is whether were talking about charging everyone or just those whose foolishness was so far beyond the pale that its unreasonable to expect the rest of us foot their bill.


I would say its only folks in the latter category who we should even consider charging. We should, as a society, be willing to allow folks to participate in somewhat risky activities and be willing to bail them out of them even at a cost to the commonwealth. Go for a hike in the mountains and get attacked by a bear, sure we'll go rescue you. Even get into the wilderness a little over your head or get caught in some unseasonable weather, yes, we all pitch in and pay for it knowing someday it could be us we could be unlucky, or we could make those small missteps in judgment that add up to real problems.


But then theres a second category of folks whose behavior is different, whose behavior almost guarantees that its not a matter of bad luck that they end up in trouble, rather it can only be great good luck that will keep them out of it.


Where I live now its ice fishing that brings out the recklessly foolish. Last year more than 150 people had to be rescued from an ice flow in Lake Erie.




The number was an anomaly but the circumstances were not. What happens usually goes something like this: its really cold for a while and a nice bit of ice builds up. Some very hearty souls go out in this cold and fish through the ice. But then the weather gets warm very quickly and another group of people say to themselves hey, its a nice warm day, I think Ill go ice fishing, and inevitably a bunch of them end up having to be rescued because they went out on the ice when they absolutely shouldnt have gone.


In the case above a good many of them either jumped over open water to get out on the ice flow or crossed some plywood bridges people had built over the breaks in the ice. We can talk about paying taxes for this sort of thing, but the costs here fall disproportionately on one small town whose inhabitants are not those needing to be rescued.


I know that first responders are rightly concerned that charging for rescues just makes people wait longer to call for help, and then the rescue is just riskier and more expensive. But isnt there some point where we should bill people whose actions show that they assume well come get them no matter how reckless they are?


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I would tend to agree with you, however, WHO gets to make that determination? If the state wants to charge, then I'm fine with it, but be up front about it... have a line on the topo that says, "if you're inside here and we have to come get you - you have to pay for it", or take a $5 per person per day "risk" fee to offset costs of those who use the area. I have friends that are medi-vac pilots, you turn the rotors and wind the engine one time on a helicoper and the fuel alone is going to run 1 to 2 grand and that's not even to get the bird off the ground!


My beef is this:


1) Negilent means a willful disregard for reasonable safety. Heck, well seasoned outdoorsmen and hikers on this forum cannot come to a consensus on what was reasonable safety precautions in this case.


2) Being told you are going to have to pay AFTER the fact leaves folks little room to make an informed decision about the potential COST of their risk taking behavoir.


3) If its really an undue outlay of resources, then disband the fish & game, the county sherrif, and whatever other agency's lent manpower and rescources to the rescue and make the public aware, "You're on your own". Its false pretense to say we'll come get you, but only if you pay. Its worse yet when state and local governments say, "We'll come get you, but we get to determine if you were too big a knucklehead in what you were doing, so we may charge you... but we won't know how much that'll be until the rescue is over."


Would this family have been billed if they were a promenient political family in the area? What if his dad was the CEO of a major corporation in the area? What if his uncle just happened to WORK for fish and game? I doubt they'd be looking to collect. What if he HAD taken a stove (ridiculous for a day hike, but OK - I'll play along), a down Parka, and a dogsled with a full double-walled snow tent? Then would he be considered negligent?


I've personally rescued a toddler from an accidental drowning at a local lake as a young man. They called in park rangers, EMT and had a med-evac on standby because they didn't know for sure the condition of the little girl once I got her back to shore. It sure was negligence on the part of this little girl's mother and grandmother for letting a 2 y/o wander into the swimming area of the lake unsupervised. Thankfully, a few minutes of CPR and about a 1/2 gallon of lake water and puke was the worst of it. Anyone think those parents should have been charged by the authorities for the resources they scrambled that day? Heck no, they were doing their JOBS. At the time, I thought they should be arrested for child endangerment, but I grew to understand that in life sometimes there are ACCIDENTS. Yes, sometimes people's ill choice / action can potentiate a bad outcome, but its still everyone's job (especially the public services - fire, rescue, EMT, fish&game) to help SAVE THE VICTIM. Why else to sure agency's exist? Why else have they spent the taxpayors dollars on helicopters and other equipment?


The reason this family was harrased by the state: 1) All goverment agency's are hurting for funding right now 2) They had a HUGE outlay of costs over multiple agency's and over multiple days 3) The kid got out just fine / realitively unharmed for the threat faced. Hard to not come off looking REAL bad when you bill the family after you complete a body recovery mission.


I have to believe that if it hadn't been such a long and wide ranging (i.e. expensive) search, in very tough economic times, then the outlay of cost would be a non-issue.

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I could be wrong on the diagnosis. His skin appeared red and swollen to me - chilblains maybe? but if the docs said sunburn so be it. Some of my (old) texts and I combine chilblains with frostbite as both are cold weather tissue injuries and similar in appearance (early frostbite stage) and treatment. And yes on exposed skin, windchill causes a quicker onset of both.


Another safety concern was the "going lite" comment, as I mentioned things can happen on the trail - injury, weather change, getting lost. By AMC standards, he did not even carry the gear for a three season hike let alone a winter hike



Be prepared. He wasn't, but he was extremely lucky.


Scouting would better serve youth by manning-up instead of lawyering-up. Be honest and forthcoming about our mistakes, learn from them and pass that learning on to others. Turn incidents like this around. Better for the scout, better for the community, and better for the BSA.


I wish this scout (and his family) would have said to NH Fish & Game, "I made mistakes in taking this trek. I have come to realize how much effort and risk others took to ensure my safe return. I want to give back to those that came to my aid, maybe I can help teach others and reduce the number of winter rescues..." Scout character. Instead of here is $1000, thanks and then hire a string of lawyers. Despite attempts to vilify NH Fish & Game, they are great people and very involved in outdoor education



Which has me wondering if NH Fish & Game ever intended to collect this fine, maybe they wanted the shock value to get hikers thinking? The number of rescue calls appear down, maybe there were fewer untrained out-of-state hikers :)


Another $0.02


(This message has been edited by RememberSchiff)

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