Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hikers rescued

It turns out that there were three Sierra Club groups hiking in the backcountry this weekend and all three of them were rescued by search and rescue. People are all mad at them now. Bad publicity for the Sierra Club.

The three groups were part of a Wilderness Basics course where they teach backpacking. The beginner group had tried to get themselves out of the backcountry by trying to hike out to the highway via some off-trail route and were found struggling at a cliff and had to be repelled down. The other two groups were found just chilling in their campsites.

People are all mad now at the Sierra Club calling them a bunch of irresponsible hippies who should pay for for their rescues. The thing is, nobody in any of the groups called for a rescue. It was someone at home who called. Seventy-two people were rescued over the weekend and only some of those people were in the wilderness and even fewer of them asked for the rescue.

I thought about this and what I hope to remember to do if this ever happens to me is to leave a note somewhere as close to the cars ad I can get that says don't bother rescuing me. I'm fine. I am waiting for the creeks to go down and then I'll walk myself out. Then I'd go back to the camp and kick back. There is nothing about civilization that is so pressing that I need to risk my life to get back.


  1. I like your blog! I was supposed to be on that hike. I like adventure and the outdoors. I chose to stay home because of the impending storm, but i struggled with that decision. I did not want to be a wimp. I also struggle with knowing right from wrong and "minding my own business". I do not know where the fine line is between courage and common sense. Even today, I struggle with being proud of myself for staying home and wishing I had a story to tell! My husband is very glad I errored on the side of caution. He would have missed the LAKERS game, because it would have been expected of him to worry about me! kind of interesting huh? I like your approach with the note on the car! It is kind of hard for the ones that love you, to let go and know that all is well, when in fact you could be in danger of losing your life and they sat by a didn't reach out to save you? I think SAR has the right idea. They get to go out and risk their lives and not have to risk being called names except "hero". I am glad my husband got to see the LAKER game, I am not sure if I made the right decision....wish I could hit "undo" a play out the other scenario. being safe is kind of boring!

  2. They make you pay for rescues? Even if you don't want to be rescued? That doesn't seem right.

    I would be so mad if someone called SAR on me.

    I'm even annoyed when someone gets concerned about me on the trail. Once, on the AT, another hiker and I left together from taking a break. The walking was over a huge rocky crest--no trail just rocks every where. I went slower than her. When I caught up to her she said she was thinking about calling for a rescue because she was worried about me. I wasn't even walking with her. I told her, "Let me worry about me and you worry about you."

    Last year I slept on Muir Pass and when I tried to get up I would get sick, throw up, and then lay back down.

    Some hikers I knew, came by and insisted that they would stay with me. They didn't understand that I really like to take care of myself. So then some more hikers I knew came by and they insisted I eat and drink and that they would take some of my stuff and we should get me to lower elevations. So I ate, then threw it all back up and followed them down.

    I did start feeling better when I got to a lower elevation and decided to take a day off. The first hikers insisted they would stay right by my side even though I kept saying I was fine to take care of myself.

    Then the next day they start saying they are running low on food. And since I felt responsible for slowing them down I gave them some of my food and hiked as fast as I could away from them.

    They were nice people but just didn't get that I want to take care of myself and I want other people to take care of themselves.

    But I do think that is why people take Sierra Club and other guided walks, they don't want to take responsibility for themselves, they don't want anything bad to happen, they don't want to take any risks, and if anything should happen--they want to be rescued.

  3. After leading Sierra Club hikes for many years, I agree that many people join groups so they don't have to take any responsibility. I have been hiking with some people for over a decade, going to the same trails over and over and some of these folks still do not know the way to the trailhead or their way on the trail. But not everyone is like that. I go on a lot of the hikes because I like some of the people.

    They don't make people pay to be rescued but every time there is a rescue people start screaming about their tax dollars. The fact is, it was the Search and Rescue people who decided they should go rescue everybody.

    It sounds like the one group that was trying to get out were actually in need of a rescue, though. They appeared to have made some mistakes. They left all their gear behind. They tried to bushwhack on a ridge. They got tired and had hypothermia. All of that surprises me.

    I don't know what all happened and wasn't there, but I know sometimes with beginner hikers or with hikers who aren't as in love with hiking as me, the pressure to get out and go home is really strong. They will put a lot of pressure on the leader. They will make you feel irresponsible for not feeling a sense of urgency like they feel. It may have been possible the leader felt pressured to get everybody out to keep them happy and as a result made some bad choices.

    I think you were smart, Hannah, to stay home. It was a miserable rainy day on Sunday. I wouldn't have wanted to be out there. I had no idea it was going to rain that much, but if I had, I certainly wouldn't have gone anywhere that on a good weekend has a thigh-deep creek crossing. I would have gone to Forbush Flat where there's no creek to cross at all.

    One thing I liked about hiking the PCT was how you didn't have a time you were supposed to be back. So there was no worry. If things got sketchy, you could always bail. In those mountains above Ojai I'm not sure there was a way to bail. Their only choice would be to stay where they were.