Friday, February 20, 2009

Mountain Rescuers Getting Taken to Court?

A post on the National Geographic Adventure blog says prosecutors in Argentina are investigating an attempted rescue on Aconcagua for possible negligence. And this isn't even in the USA, where you expect everything to be taken to court.

Apparently a video from the rescue has caused huge controversy because the rescuers were "just standing around".

I don't know any more details, but on the surface I'm flabbergasted. What do people expect the rescuers to be doing? If the guy can't even get up, how do you get him down? The rescuers were probably pushed to the limit just to reach the guy. People who have no experience of high altitude or even mountaineering should not be judging.

I've often talked to non-climbers who read about climbing incidents, especially on Everest, and ask my opinion. How could they have left someone to die? How could they have just walked by? They don't realize that you barely have energy to move yourself, let alone enough energy to help someone else. And if you did help someone, you're placing yourself in serious jeopardy and may just end up with two casualties. And lastly, the person in trouble chose to be there, chose to take the risks. And often what got them into trouble was ignoring advice and common sense. If I say "don't walk on the ice, it's too thin" and you ignore me and walk on the ice and fall in, am I still obligated to jump in and try and rescue you?

These were volunteer rescuers. If they end up being prosecuted or sued, then who is going to volunteer to try to rescue anyone?

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Ultimate North American City

I recently got back from a week long trip to Arizona, mostly around Phoenix. We were visiting Shelley's Dad who has recently taken to spending three or four months of the winter down there, like so many other "snow birds". I can't blame them for wanting to escape Saskatchewan winters.

Phoenix is the 5th largest city in the USA. Its metropolitan area has over 4 million people sprawled over 37,000 square kilometers (16,000 square miles).

Phoenix seemed to be the ultimate North American city, the distillation of our suburban culture to its essence of cars, freeways, malls, and planned communities.

In case you're at all unclear, I don't think that's a good thing. I found it appalling. Even more disheartening is that I don't think most people see anything wrong with it. I think they think that's how it ought to be.

One day when we foolishly picked a climbing area across town we spent more time on the freeways than we did on the rock. And that wasn't even on the opposite side of the city, we just had to cut across a corner of the metro area.

Like the rest of North America, the automobile rules. If you're not in a vehicle you're screwed. The nearest coffee shop is probably 6 miles away. And even if you did feel like a two hour walk to go for coffee, you'd better be prepared to play Frogger with the traffic.

Despite a great climate for it, less than 1% of commuters use bicycles. I'm surprised anyone does.

I like the desert and the climbing was good, but I'm not going to be in a rush to go back to Phoenix.