Moral hazard

Morally Hazardous Hikes


Tracie Cone of the Associated Press reports:

Last month two men and their teenage sons tackled one of the world's most unforgiving summertime hikes: the Grand Canyon's parched and searing Royal Arch Loop. Along with bedrolls and freeze-dried food, the inexperienced backpackers carried a personal locator beacon—just in case.

In the span of three days, the group pushed the panic button three times, mobilizing helicopters for dangerous, lifesaving rescues inside the steep canyon walls.

What was that emergency? The water they had found to quench their thirst "tasted salty."

If they had not been toting the device that works like Onstar for hikers, "we would have never attempted this hike," one of them said after the third rescue crew forced them to board their chopper. It's a growing problem facing the men and women who risk their lives when they believe others are in danger of losing theirs.

"Rescue officials are deciding whether to start keeping statistics on the problem," Cone writes, "but the incidents have become so frequent that the head of California's Search and Rescue operation has a name for the devices: Yuppie 911." The unnecessary calls range from the accidental ("very often the beacons go off unintentionally when the button is pushed in someone's backpack") to the ridiculous ("a woman who was frightened by a thunderstorm"). Apparently, poor incentives have taken a system conceived as a way to help people beset by catastrophe and turned it into an overused, potentially overstretched service invoked at the drop of a hat. Now where have we seen that before?

Bonus comparison: If the health insurance angle ain't doing it for you, maybe you'd rather think of the beacons as a metaphor for bank bailouts:

"Now you can go into the back country and take a risk you might not normally have taken," says Matt Scharper, who coordinates a rescue every day in a state with wilderness so rugged even crashed planes can take decades to find. "With the Yuppie 911, you send a message to a satellite and the government pulls your butt out of something you shouldn't have been in in the first place."

As one rescue worker told Cone, "We are now entering the Twilight Zone of someone else's intentions."

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  1. “Yuppie 911″… that’s fucking gold.

    Even before I got this part of the post, my thoughts on this group where the “OMG the water tasted salty” was “fucking yuppies”.

    I couldn’t do that job. I’d get these idiots in the chopper and then toss them out at altitude.

    1. And the bureaucrats would probably fine you for littering.

      Not that it wouldn’t be worth it.

      1. It would probably be good for the environment, so really you break even.

    2. The solution to problems like this is things like this. Of course, that would be “statist” so forget it.

      1. You’re not fooling anyone. The real Lonewacko would have linked to his own site. Also, he would have said the solution was to ask the hikers tough questions and post their answers on YouTube.

        1. In order to prove it’s me, I’ll link to this example of the benefits of massive immigration. However, in order to sow doubt, I’ll also link to this other example of the wondrous benefits.

          1. in the future, we’ll all have worked for the government, so nobody will be able to emigrate.

  2. Why don’t the rescue agencies employ the tactic many fire departments do — billing people who make frivolous emergency calls for the equipment, fuel, and man-hours wasted responding to said call?

    1. Yeah, thats what I thought as well. Fine these fools to make up for the money they waste, that should take care of the incentive problem.

    2. I’m guessing many of these yuppies are lawsuit happy lawyers. Who else is stupid enough to call in emergency services when the water tastes a little bit salty?

      1. I’m not a lawyer, but on what grounds could they sue? The Scotus has ruled several times that emergency service providers have no legal obligation to individuals who call for their services.

    3. The solution to problems like this is things like this. Of course, that would be “statist” and thus something only Stalin would support, so forget it.

      Do the Kochs own a National Park or something? I’m just wondering.

    4. billing people who make emergency calls for the equipment, fuel, and man-hours used responding to said call?

      there, fixed. If you can’t afford to be saved, you can’t afford to take the risk.

  3. Someone needs to send those helmets the bill for all that. Some people’s kids, I swear.

  4. Most people today are fucking stupid. They live in cushy suburbs and have no idea about nature. They see a garden or a park and think about how much they love nature. They never realize that they are seeing nature chained and constricted. If they ever saw nature unchained, they would be very afraid. But they are too dumb to know that. So they charge off into the bush with no idea what they are getting into. No idea that if you are out in the middle of nowhere and you get hurt or lost or the weather changes you could die. They should just stop rescuing people period. Fuck them. It is just a good way to thin the gene pool and teach the rest of the herd a lesson.

    1. +1

      Further evidence that we are becoming a nation of flabby, soft, pussy wimps.

    2. Most people today are fucking stupid. They live in cushy suburbs and have no idea about nature.

      We call them ‘environmentalists’.

    3. That wooly, woozy notion of “the circle of life” becomes much less attractive when one finds one’s self at a certain arc of said circle.

  5. But, John, the Grand Canyon is in a park, a National Park even! It is their right to be rescued because their tax dollars paid for the Grand Canyon to be, like, built, dude.

    1. How many trillion dollars would it take to fill the Grand Canyon?

      1. Not sure, but I think that is Bernanke’s measuring stick for a good day.

      2. I don’t know. Ask Bugs Bunny.

    2. As a taxpayer I want to know why there aren’t any rides at the Grand Canyon? What crappy sort of park is it?!?!

      1. I want to know why the gubmint hasn’t done something about the lack of good cellphone service in these parks?

        1. you’d be surprised. it gets worse and worse every year.

  6. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!

  7. Why not require them to either buy insurance or pay the full cost? Throw in a $500 deductible and the stupid calls would end in no time.

    I believe one of the Scandanavian countries (Norway, IIRC) has this requirement for hikers.

    1. Norway can do this because they have refused to join the EU. Smart, cuz you know those dillholes would never let them charge people for being stupid.

      1. Far from it, the EU would likely subsidize said stupidity.

  8. Either don’t rescue people or bill them for the full cost of the rescue. Backpacking is an optional activity. If you are going to do it, take responsibility for yourself and accept the inherent risks.

    I like the idea of you’re-on-your-own wilderness zones. If you want to go camp in such places, do so with the understanding that under no circumstances will someone come and rescue you if you get into trouble (unless you have made prior arrangements and are willing to pay for it.

    1. I agree. Part of the reason I go hiking in remote areas is to get away from civilization, but it’s getting harder and harder to find places without cell-phone reception.

    2. I don’t know. I have gone into the Boundary Waters many times. The last few I have taken a cell phone. If a storm breaks out and a big branch falls on my tent breaking my leg, Imma gonna call 911.

      1. Reminds me of the one time I went to the boundry waters. We just got to the outfitter in the morning when two guys came in. They had paddled/portaged all night to get help because their buddy who was looked after by a third friend apperantely was too big/injured to move broke his leg.

  9. I have had several relatives and friends who worked up in Yellowstone and Glacer National Parks. It is mindboggling how stupid people are. People will hike out and try to have their pictures taken with moose. People will tease buffalo. People hike in areas known to have grizzleys without taking any precautions. Everyone I have known who has worked in a national park hates hikers.

    1. Oldie but goodie joke:

      In light of the rising frequency of human/grizzly bear conflicts, the
      Montana Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and
      fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert for bears while in the

      We advise that outdoorsmen wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as
      not to startle bears that aren’t expecting them. We also advise outdoorsmen to
      carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a
      good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should
      recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear poop. Black bear
      poop is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Grizzly bear
      poop has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

      1. That one is like chimps in suits. It never gets old.

      2. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity.

    2. At yellowstone, I saw this dudr walk up to this 1000 lbs plus buffalo and take FLASH pictures. I can’t tell you how much I wanted to see a dawrin award winner happen right before my eyes.

  10. Remember the moron that sawed his own arm off? Everyone called him a hero. I called him a dipshit you paid the price of a known risk. Every rescue should come with a huge negative utility to even out the benefit.

    1. As I remember it, he did not expect rescue, and did what was necessary to save himself.

      Yes, there were consequences, but he paid them (and with good spirits, as I recall).

      1. He entered the wilderness with no backup plan, insufficient gear, no itinerary, did not leave his itinerary with anyone, and took risks in the wilderness only a moron would take.

        If he had a button. He would have hit it. He was a moron, not the hero he was made out to be.

        1. he cut his own arm off with a pen knife. gigantic fucking balls period. retarded, but gigantic fucking balls anyway.

          1. I have issues with heroism predicated on stupidity.

        2. seemed like he had a backup plan after all….he did get out, after all.

  11. I assume that when it tasted salty, she didn’t swallow?

    1. Ha ha ha, I was waiting for someone to make that joke.

    2. Since she was probably an uptight feminist white girl, it is doubtful that she did. In fact, she probably gagged and that is why they called 911.

    3. Yes, I saw it was 2 “men” and their sons but after what they did I deduced that their names were Nancy, a name that deserves a “she.”

      1. Maybe a boy named sue?

  12. Oh, the time I hiked the Linville Gorge with a formerly good friend who got us lost. He supposedly knew the place up and down, and I trusted his judgment only to get lost. We saw a cliff above us that had a recognizable outgrowth from a previous path. Left with no other choices, we climbed that steep, nearly vertical, embankment two or so hundred yards straight up with nothing for support but our fingers and some vines. Once at the top, exhausted out of my mind, I crawled over to the bastard and tried to choke him, but my thumbs were too weak at that point to crush his larynx.

    1. Couldn’t you have retraced your path? Was it really necessary to go up a cliff?

      1. The retraced path had several alternative directions with only one that was right for the preferable outcome which was to get our asses back in the car before nightfall.

    2. I salute you. I wouldn’t climb that high without support. Of course, if I had I also would’ve tried to strangle that guy.

      1. I’da just kicked his ass back over the edge. But I have real strong legs. Prison squats and all that.

        1. I took a shit in prison once too.

      2. Thanks. I was in top shape back then.

        I only half heartedly tried to kill him, but the part about my thumbs being too numb and weak too apply pressure was true.

        He really hurt my feelings when he laughed at my efforts. At that point I should have taken Brotherben’s advice.

    3. I would have taken a topo and compass. Even if he had lived there all his life. I’m silly that way.

  13. Couldn’t a communication device be installed with the location device? That way if a hiker sends out a signal someone could contact them and ask what the issue is. Of course you would want to institute an insanely high fee for contacting the rescuers, something like $1,000 for each call. You can contact us because the water you’re drinking is too salty, but you will pay for it.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. Isn’t it kind of stupid to have a button that doesn’t have an “undo” function, at least?

      As for the fee, get a deposit or a credit card # up front.

  14. I’ve been saying for some time that we should simply stop offering rescues for people in remote areas.

    If you want to go out there (and I do, often), great…but don’t expect any help from anyone except the people you’re with.

  15. I wonder if they really did not have to pay (the article does not say anything about it). As far as I know, normally people are billed for helicopter rescues and it is not cheap.

    Happened to me once and it was private party who rescued us, but my understanding was that rangers would cost us even more.

    1. Not sure if it’s entirely applicable, but if you are helicoptered to a hospital after an accident the charge is usually around $20,000. Insurance pays about $500 for an ambulance trip and you are on the hook for the rest.

  16. Help! I’m not kidding!

    1. Shut up, Grandma….Medicare doesn’t cover helicopters.

      1. Heeeeellllllp! [gasp]

        1. Sign here.

          And initial here.

          And here.

  17. Why don’t the rescue agencies employ the tactic many fire departments do — billing people who make frivolous emergency calls for the equipment, fuel, and man-hours wasted responding to said call?

    They were for a while at the Grand Canyon. Have they stopped?

    People will hike out and try to have their pictures taken with moose.

    I’ve seen a mother in mall clothes urging her 8ish year old son to get closer to the moos so she could take a picture. Luckily for the boy (1) she was also too dumb to have noticed the medium sized stream between her spawn that the creature, and (2) the rangers arrived shortly thereafter with dart guns, real guns, a bull horn, and really pissed off expressions.

    1. I have never seen a moose in the wild. But I am told they are the Charlie Mansons of the forrest. They are huge, don’t see well, and generally have pissed off dispositions.

      I have seen an elk though. And they are just magnificent and more than a little terrifying in their own way. They are like bambi’s giant brother.

      1. If an elk bugles within 50 yards of you unexpectedly, your nuts draw up so far ya gotta stick a finger in your ass and holler “snake” to get em to drop again. I’ve seen about a dozen moose in Idaho while deer and elk hunting and they were never grumpy. But I was armed and not shy about dirting one if I had too.

        1. I went elk hunting once in Wyoming. We went out to camp the day before the season started. Fuckers were everywhere frolicking and taunting us. We didn’t dare risk shooting one before the season started. Sure enough, we woke up at dawn the next morning there wasn’t one to be found. Three days later of humping around Wyoming and never saw one except in the far distance. Never got a shot off. But it was still a fun trip. And I would have felt kind of guilty blasting one. They are almost too pretty to shoot.

          1. I chased em for 12 seasons in Idaho and never got a shot at one. I’ve stalked and killed plenty of deer but elk are different level of wiley. It was always a pleasure to hunt them. To tie it into the article, I always carried a small pack with enough gear to make it a few days in the woods if I had too, even on a morning hunt just out of town.

            1. That makes me feel better about not getting a shot off. Getting an elk is a pretty big deal. Anyone can get a deer. But I only know a couple of people who have ever gotten an elk. I would love to get one, pretty or not, because they sure do taste good.

          2. Most game seems to be like that I find.

            Most of my hunting trips would be more accurately called “armed hiking.”

            1. Same here. I always figured that if I killed something on every trip I wouldn’t be the woodsman I am today.

              1. i once shot an elk in my pajamas…

                oh, never mind.

      2. I did while elk hunting near Coeur d Alene, Idaho. But I never really went with the intent to kill anything. I just like the camping and excessive beer drinking. And those mooses are indeed big.

  18. Ya gotta love the folks from the shallow end of the gene pool.

  19. People will hike out and try to have their pictures taken with moose. People will tease buffalo. People hike in areas known to have grizzleys without taking any precautions.

    An office where I worked was on a lake. Since this is central Florida, the lake had alligators. There was a veranda built out on a dock onto the lake. They actually had to put up signs telling idiots not to feed the alligators. And some people did anyway.

    Talk about begging for a Darwin award.

  20. Why don’t they just use their cell phones?

  21. Anybody remember that dipshit millionaire (billionaire?) doing some sort of dumbass aviation record stunt thingee and his plane disappeared? I’m grateful his attention seeking ass was never foung and I hope his estate got for every penny that the search efforts cost.

    Columbus, Magellen and the like were explorers, if they didn’t come back the investors just wrote it off as a bad speculative investment. Nobody went looking for them.

    1. Actually, there was an expedition that went looking for Henry Hudson after his crew gave him some rowing practice in Hudson’s Bay in the 1600s.

      And the British sent two expeditions after Franklin after he disappeared in the Northwest Passage.

      I don’t recall if anyone went looking for Scott when he froze in the Antarctic.

      However, these were all state-sponsored expeditions, so the analogy is not exact.

      Did anyone go looking for the Donner party? And did they bring ketchup?

      1. The long-pig is best with tartar sauce and lemonade.

        1. No, I believe they brought fruit punch and novelty whistles when they went searching for the Donner Party.

  22. Steve Fossett. They found some of his bones in California.

  23. I hiked part of the Bright Angel Trail at the Grand Canyon. My 13 year old daughter was with me. I brought a gallon of water and lots of custom trail mix. We made it to Indian Gardens. I didn’t dare go any farther, cuz 1) I didn’t know what kind of shape I was in, and 2) you always here about the idiots that die. I knew the trip back was going to be hard, but man,….
    The last .5 mile back up I could only walk about 200 hundred feet then would have to rest. My daughter didn’t have any issues.

  24. When the Coast Guard fishes you out of the ocean, they charge a fee; so why don’t other government agencies?

    1. Some do. New Hampshire has a pretty good system of determining negligence, and if they find you to be negligent, they fine you for the cost of your rescue.

      1. why bother determining if you were negligent or not? They performed a service, they deserve compensation.

  25. I’m going to be in a group that makes this trip over New Years.

    We will be self contained and don’t expect to need help. If for some reason we need to call out on the ham radio, I would expect any help that arrives to send a bill.
    Of course the waiver states that No help will be sent so I guess it’s a moot point

    1. from the sounds of it, the border patrol will be very close by at all times. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind giving you a lift back into town!

  26. I once went to this little cliff trail with these dudes to hike around and smoke some weed. When we were leaving just after dark, we noticed there was a car still in the lot that had been there all day, but as far as we knew no one was on the trail. It turns out the next day someone found a suicide victim/hero in the valley. Dude set down his wallet and girlfriend’s car keys on the ledge and took a leap.

  27. The problem is that NOAA doesn’t charge PLB owners for the monitoring service. A couple hundred bucks and any idiot can get free rescues for life. Still, even the most experienced, well prepared hikers can get caught in an ugly situation; the SARSAT service is a godsend for folks up here in Alaska. Were NOAA to charge a hefty fee for monitoring service they could discourage the casual hiker from abusing it while continuing to make available an enormously valuable service to those who take wilderness travel seriously.

  28. I’m with Doug. This is simple supply and demand. When the price of a false alarm is ZERO, what the hell do you expect to see, but a lot of false alarms.

    Solution is easy: if you push the button, you are charged $1000 (or whatever). The point is, if you really are in deep shit, the $1000 is well worth it. It also covers the cost of the chopper, so even if it’s a false alarm, it’s a wash (or even a revenue stream) for the rescuers.

    It would also create a good incentive to put the button somewhere it wouldn’t get pushed accidentally. Who created these things that could get turned on in a backpack anyway??

  29. I’m not sure if $1,000 would quite cover dispatching a chopper.

    They should make the buttons so that they do not function unless two people have keys, and if the one guy refuses to turn his key you have to shoot him.

  30. Calling 911 is not always the best idea even in a surrounding that should be more familiar to most modern folk than the wilderness. Like in an automobile……..ryid=67914

    Put down the fucking cell phone, reach for the ignition, and turn the car off.

  31. Money quote:

    “If police see me (hiking) in the woods, they’re going to arrest me,” Carroll, of suburban Chicago, told the local daily paper. “The chief ranger said he’s not going to come looking for me anymore.”…..11798.html

    That’s what happens when you call for a rescue twice in one summer in Alaska, ESPECIALLY if you were trying to get to the bus from “Into the Wild.”


    1. Can’t find yer links, guys, so we’re calling off the searches.

  32. This is just painful. Heck, I’m hardly what you’d call an Uber woodsman but I know better than these yuppie knuckleheads. I take the gear I’ll need for emergencies and I know my limits (which seem to grow with each passing year…).

    I was in W VA taking pictures of a waterfall last month. I was looking at it and thinking, “if I go out on that rock there it will be the perfect angle”. Then I thought “if I fall off of that rock there and bust my leg, there’s nobody out here to hear me scream, and why are those buzzards tying on bibs?” I decided to be happy with the pics I had.

    1. I know that waterfall – and that rock. I had the same thought, but I’m clumsy anyway…I did get several pics of rattlesnakes on the return hike, though.

      1. How those rattlesnakes learned to hike I’ll never know.

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