I‘m recently a Wyoming Girl, but having spent a few years in the unshorn-leg-hair land of Oregon, this still feels like it hits close to home. The following is excerpted from a larger piece that appeared in the Northwest Mountaineering Journal about last December’s well publicized–or completely over-hyped–series of fatalities on Mt. Hood.
“As of this writing, House Bill 2509 has passed in the House with a vote of 33 to 22. The bill requires climbers, between the months of November and March, above 10,000ft, to carry a “two-way electronic communication device” and a GPS, or Personal Locator Beacon, or MLU, or comparable device. House Bill 2509 was put forth by a representative as a direct response to the December rescue, believing these climbers would not have been lost had they carried a signaling device of some kind.”
“In public hearings, representatives said they were doing this for rescuer safety, despite the fact that mountain rescue units across the Northwest have spoken out in opposition. In fact, one representative stated bluntly, “We’re going to pass something, regardless of what is said.” It seemed clear that the legislature had no interest in reality, but wanted to appear as if they were doing something about the problem. Indeed, the legislature would find inaction difficult when news polls (however inaccurate) show that 90% of Oregon citizens want mandatory rescue beacons. A cheap poll on a news web page can have an amazing influence on such decisions.”
“The bill has no provisions for punishment or enforcement, so the legislation appears to be more of a suggestion to climbers. It seems we’ve learned nothing from the last time we did this in 1987, and again in 1995, each after incidents on the mountain. Trying to explain that we’ve done this before falls on deaf ears. Trying to explain that MLUs would not have saved these unreachable climbers doesn’t seem to help either.”
“Portland Mountain Rescue has made it clear that we fully support the use of Mount Hood Locator Units (similar to bear tracking transmitters). They take much of the “search” out of search and rescue. They might have helped to some degree in this mission. But to require them would do nothing but perhaps cause more rescues on the mountain. The facts appeared to be irrelevant in this case.”