Monday, February 19, 2007

Good news from Mt. Hood, but........

Three stranded climbers were rescued today from Mt. Hood in Oregon, two days after five others who had encountered trouble on the same mountain were similarly saved from death.

I can imagine the great relief these adventurers and their families must feel. The same goes for members of the rescue crews and their loved ones.

But I can't help but feel that the climbers are selfish idiots to have trekked up one of the tallest mountains on the continent -- in the middle of winter, for God's sake -- with such callous disregard for the potential heartbreak for their spouses and children and those of the people who came to their rescue.

Climbing tall mountains is purely an ego trip. It does little or nothing to advance the cause of science or otherwise serve the interests of humankind. It's just a thrill. If climbers without families or friends met their demise on some forbidding slope, I would have little cause for sympathy.

Consider the odds in some of these situations. Take Mt. Everest, for instance, the tallest mountain of them all. Hundreds of people have died trying to reach the top, and an astonishing 20 percent who have made it haven't survived the trip back down.

You might say, well, they can risk their lives if they want. It's their choice. Yeah, but what of the lives of their rescuers? What of the feelings of their families?

Some critics also raise the issue of the public monies spent in rescue efforts -- by the State of Oregon in the Mt. Hood case. The hell with the money. The principal issue, as I see, is the lives of little kids who have lost moms and dads to such reckless adventure. I feel sorry for the spouses, too, but a little less so. If they allowed their husbands or wives to take such risks, they're enablers whose losses are partly their own fault.

Sure, I could be killed driving across town on slippery streets, but I take such trips usually out of necessity, or at least for convenience, not for the thrills or to build my ego.

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