Thursday, December 31, 2009
The memorial services for Touchet High School graduate Katie Nolan and her climbing partners are over.
Now the inevitable questions of what to do will have to be dealt with.
This is the second time in three years that search-and-rescue teams have risked their lives to try to locate missing climbers on the Oregon mountain. In both cases, the rescuers' efforts were made all the more difficult because the climbers hadn't spent $5 to rent a locator beacon.
The Oregon Legislature, which failed in 2007 to pass a bill requiring Mount Hood climbers to carry a beacon, will probably be asked to take up the issue again.
Climbers who don't want to carry the equipment will square off with those who argue the devices can save lives of climbers and of rescue workers, and they can cut costs.
The 10-day search for Nolan, Luke Gullberg and Anthony Vietti cost Hood River County around $50,000.
Beacons are not a magic wand that will pluck climbers from life-threatening danger to safety in every situation. But they can get searchers to those in need faster and with less risk to the rescuers.
It's just common sense to use the remarkable advances in technology to improve the odds of being found if you plan to trek up an 11,239-foot mountain.
But then it's common sense that motorcyclists and bicyclists should wear helmets and drivers should buckle their seat belts. Unfortunately, it took the passage of laws to get many people to use their common sense.
There are far fewer mountain climbers than their are bikers and drivers, and the number of accidents experienced by climbers seems to be too small a number to require legislative action.
So it's up to the climbers and their friends and relatives. We need a slogan like the "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" campaign to reinforce with climbers that for everyone's peace of mind they should take the beacons as a safety net.