You are attempting a 17-mile hike on and around Mount Washington in New Hampshire. It’s late April but you face anything but a typical New England spring in the White Mountains. You have to keep in mind that Mount Washington is reputed to have the worst weather in the world. That’s right. Not Everest, not Kilimanjaro. In a day’s drive or less, millions of people can experience the best and the worst that Mount Washington can offer. Just ask Scott Mason.
Scott, a 17-year-old from Halifax, Mass., was attempting the above hike when he sprained an ankle. His decision to leave the marked trails would be costly. He was eventually confronted with deep snow and swollen streams. He ended up spending three nights alone on the mountain. His Eagle Scout skills were put to the test. As he was making his way out of all this, a rescue team met him. He has also been met with a bill for more than $25,000 for the rescue.
Syndicated columnist Tim Jones writes about outdoor recreation. His focus is hiking and mountain climbing. He asked for opinions on this incident and paying for rescue by the people or person being rescued. Here is my response:
I find the ‘bill’ to rescue people in the mountains a heartless act. It is a symptom of a society that was going down hill ethically and culturally. The $25,234.65 reimbursement bill laid on teenager Scott Mason certainly falls in this category.
In 1979, I fell near the top of Algonquin Mountain in the Adirondacks.
It was February with temperatures into the minus 30s degrees and lower. We were coming down on hard packed snow and ice after peaking.
The fall initially knocked me out and separated my right shoulder. I was well equipped as was my large party. After securing my shoulder, we started down while one member went for assistance.
We were about halfway down when state park people reached us. While we were doing OK, it was reassuring that they were there. For example, they had a boat sled in case I couldn’t walk any longer. We all walked out together well into the night. A state employee took me to the hospital. I certainly got a hospital bill but that was it.
I find these huge rescue bills, as exemplified by the Scott Mason incident, particularly cruel when laid on young people. It seems vindictive. Everyone can’t know everything about mountain hiking in a short period. This is particularly true of working class urban youth who may not have that tradition in their families.
The idea of a non-mandatory hiking permit has merit and goes in a healthier direction.
I suggest we use the National Guard for mountain rescues rather than military adventures in other countries. After 30 years of the myth of rugged individualism, self-aggrandizement and more, I think we are slowly righting our ethical, cultural ship. The surging movement for strengthening Medicare and health care for all is an example.
Let’s hear from others concerning being billed for your own rescue. For more background on the ‘debate’, go to the forum at Mount Washington Observatory, .
And Tim Jones gives excellent hiking tips at .