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Thread: 46-year-old hiker from Hinesburg dies on Hunger Mountain trail

  1. #1
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    46-year-old hiker from Hinesburg dies on Hunger Mountain trail


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    Senior Member erugs's Avatar
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    That is sad, especially because his friends did as he asked and went ahead without him. I've asked friends to leave me behind when I've had an off day on the trail. I've seen people lagging behind their faster-paced friends. How do we gauge when that is not a good idea, or do we just assume it never is wise?
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    Senior Member sardog1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erugs View Post
    That is sad, especially because his friends did as he asked and went ahead without him. I've asked friends to leave me behind when I've had an off day on the trail. I've seen people lagging behind their faster-paced friends. How do we gauge when that is not a good idea, or do we just assume it never is wise?
    Number two, always. Seen too many instances where number one was the wrong choice.
    sardog1

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    og Drykk og Tørste og det heile, som
    er Liv og Helse i ein Hovedsum."

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    Senior Member Lefty E's Avatar
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    Hunger Mt.

    Reality is it happens all the time, we all go ahead when asked or others go ahead when we ask them to..don't get too far ahead without checking back..
    we don't know the specifics of the incident, maybe the lead group was not too far ahead, and went back to check..the word "later" has many meanings...condolences..Lefty E

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    Senior Member Hiking with Kat's Avatar
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    I've been a co-leader on a number of organized hikes and we always make sure the sweep is behind the slowest hiker to avoid such situations. Even on less organized hikes we always stop ever half hour or so to let everyone catch up to make sure something hasn't gone wrong.

    FWIW, when someone says they are having a bad day it seems like you want to be extra cautious that they aren't in denial about a more serious problem (men do this all the time, especially around chest pain). If someone is just a slow hiker its probably less of an issue.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    I am going to be harshly judgmental about this.

    This is a prime example of why parties never should leave members -- and particularly single members -- behind, unattended. Never. Start together, stay together, finish together. Period. It is called working as a team.

    G.

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    Senior Member Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
    I am going to be harshly judgmental about this.

    This is a prime example of why parties never should leave members -- and particularly single members -- behind, unattended. Never. Start together, stay together, finish together. Period. It is called working as a team.

    G.
    Agreed. Don't bother hiking with a group in the first place if you only want to hike your pace. I have a huge amount of respect for strong hikers who stay with a group and sometimes break trail most of the way.
    "I once met a man with a sense of adventure,
    He was dressed to thrill wherever he went,
    He said, 'let's make love on a mountain top,
    under the stars on a big hard rock.'
    I said, 'In these shoes? I don't think so.'
    I said, 'Honey, let's do it here.'" -K. Maccoll

  8. #8
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue View Post
    Agreed. Don't bother hiking with a group in the first place if you only want to hike your pace. I have a huge amount of respect for strong hikers who stay with a group and sometimes break trail most of the way.
    When they become part of a group, strong hikers take on an ethical obligation to support the weaker members of their party. That may mean adjusting their pace to accommodate their companions' needs. While I don't believe that weaker hikers should deliberately inflict themselves on the stronger, once the party is formed, it must remain intact, as a team. Period.

    By the way, while there are moral-ethical dimensions to my "rule" (a very old, old-fashion rule and traditional, by the way) there also is a practical aspect of it, as well. You never really know when you -- yourself -- suddenly will become the weak link, and find yourself in need of support.

    I stand four-square for the idea of personal independence, in hiking and other aspects of life. I reject self-centerdness, however.

    G.

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    Senior Member SAR-EMT40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
    I am going to be harshly judgmental about this.

    This is a prime example of why parties never should leave members -- and particularly single members -- behind, unattended. Never. Start together, stay together, finish together. Period. It is called working as a team.

    G.
    I agree with this if this was an organized trip with a leader. As a leader of an organized trip they have a legal obligation. In this case, even though there is no legal obligation, I personally would stay with the person (I am not that goal driven anymore) and let the others go. And in most cases I would insist that they go on if it was me holding the group back. But I also never attend organized hikes because of my attitude. I hike my own hike and I don't expect anyone else to hike it. Of course I solo a lot because of my attitude.

    Also bear in mind that it is unlikely that the outcome would have been different even if they stayed with him if this is as suspected, a cardiac event. A sad but unfortunate fact being so far from definitive care and the extended time until first responders could arrive.

    Keith
    "The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information."- Ed Abbey

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    Sometimes a bad day is just a bad day.

    For example, I made atrocious time yesterday on a couple of miles and ~700 feet. It was definitely an off day. Had I been with anyone, I definitely would have told them to go on ahead. Everyone has days where they just can't get going. On the vast majority of occasions this doesn't mean that you're going to drop dead further up the trail.

    One of the reasons that I only hike solo is so that I only have to contend with my own pace. A bad day doesn't bog anyone else down, and a good day doesn't mean that I have to feel obligated to slow myself for others.

    I think it's a reasonable assumption to make that anybody throwing themselves up the side of a mountain is in reasonable physical condition. If they're not, then they probably shouldn't be there to begin with. I don't think it's anybody's inherent responsibility to "babysit" other hikers if it can be assumed they're capable.

    Consider the AT, for example. It's common practice to leave a shelter with someone in the morning, keep pace and talk while you warm up, and then split up for the rest of the day with a plan to meet at a given shelter further up the trail. Sometimes people get separated by 5 or 6 hours depending upon weather and whether or not it's just an off day. If everyone adopted the "never separate" philosophy, then the AT would be a sidewalk and nobody would ever complete it. Granted, some people stick together the whole way, but they're certainly in the vast minority.

    I think that everyone out there needs to take responsibility for themselves. If you tell the rest of your party to go on ahead, then that's was your decision. If something winds up happening to you, then it's your responsibility.

    It's unfortunate that this guy died, but I don't think it serves as a lesson about why we should never separate so much as it serves as a lesson in the importance of honestly evaluating your physical condition before and during strenuous activity. If he had a heart attack or something similar, what exactly could his companions have done? Even if they had called 911 immediately, it still would have taken hours for medical aid to arrive and the end result would have likely been the same.

    I do believe there are a couple of exceptions, however.
    1: Obviously my feelings don't apply if guiding a novice. Even if they feel you should go on ahead, you hauled them up there, so it's your job to get them back.
    2: They also don't apply to club outings or something similar, in which case there is a responsibility for the leader to keep track of the party.)

    But in terms of a normal group of able bodied people, I don't think there's anything wrong with consensual separations.

  11. #11
    Senior Member RollingRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
    When they become part of a group, strong hikers take on an ethical obligation to support the weaker members of their party. That may mean adjusting their pace to accommodate their companions' needs. While I don't believe that weaker hikers should deliberately inflict themselves on the stronger, once the party is formed, it must remain intact, as a team. Period.

    By the way, while there are moral-ethical dimensions to my "rule" (a very old, old-fashion rule and traditional, by the way) there also is a practical aspect of it, as well. You never really know when you -- yourself -- suddenly will become the weak link, and find yourself in need of support.

    I stand four-square for the idea of personal independence, in hiking and other aspects of life. I reject self-centerdness, however.

    G.
    Well said! I chew out the strong hikers [privately of course] when they run back to the cars after reaching the summit leaving me [the trip leader] and the slower ones behind. With that said, I also try to identify weak hikers [i.e., unfit] early on who might excessively slow down the group and ask that they turnaround because they can compromise the safety of the group as well.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SAR-EMT40 View Post
    ...

    Also bear in mind that it is unlikely that the outcome would have been different even if they stayed with him if this is as suspected, a cardiac event. A sad but unfortunate fact being so far from definitive care and the extended time until first responders could arrive.

    Keith
    I've thought about that. Certainly the outcome might not have changed. That is reality. But where lies the humanity -- basic moral decency -- in leaving a companion alongside the trail, not out of necessity but of choice, possibly to die alone as did this poor chap?

    G.

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    Senior Member mirabela's Avatar
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    While I respect where all the "never separate, ever" voices are coming from, I submit there are times when it is reasonable to do so -- but those are contextual and based on the nature of the group arrangement, individual experience and training of the group members, experience together, honesty and full disclosure, prevailing conditions, and a host of other factors.

    What's probably most important to reiterate here is what Blue mentioned -- men having heart attacks often deny they are having heart attacks, and will minimize the problem and say something to the effect of no, I'm just <tired / having a bad day / suffering indigestion / dehydrated / zapped from last night / whatever>, go on ahead without me.

    I'm not going to second-guess what this party did as I'm sure it seemed reasonable to all of them at the time, but the outcome is a sad reminder of what can happen.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Grumpy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RollingRock View Post
    ... I also try to identify weak hikers [i.e., unfit] early on who might excessively slow down the group and ask that they turnaround because they can compromise the safety of the group as well.
    Are "weak" hikers automatically "unfit," or do they just have fewer or lesser physical gifts?

    When you ask your weak-unfit hikers to turn around, do you provide them a strong-fit escort back to the trailhead and assured safety, or simply dismiss them to fend for themselves?

    By the way, in these discussions about interpersonal obligations I do not differentiate between "formally" organized group hikes (and all the legal baggage they tote) and informal "pickup" groups. Once a bunch of people agrees to go together, they have individually and jointly taken on the ethical obligation to function as a team, in my opinion. I am very old-fashion that way.

    G.

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    Senior Member SAR-EMT40's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy View Post
    I've thought about that. Certainly the outcome might not have changed. That is reality. But where lies the humanity -- basic moral decency -- in leaving a companion alongside the trail, not out of necessity but of choice, possibly to die alone as did this poor chap?

    G.
    I understand what you are saying having attended enough end of life events to last me the rest of my life. Absolutely no pun intended. But, if the person is of legal age with intact faculties they have a right to determine their fate. I can suggest things to them, I can strongly suggest things to them and even as a last resort I can and have just stood around without their permission, just in case. An unconscious patient is a treatable patient under the law of implied consent. But, if conscious, without explicit consent they are in charge of their fate unless 1. they have given some written consent like should be obtained in an organized trip or 2. they are unconscious or 3. they are not reliable (i.e. altered mentally) or 4. not of legal age without parent present.

    If it was not in an organized trip and they didn’t suspect any serious underlying condition, I would not find fault with what they did and personally have no issue with what they did.

    I do feel very bad for them and their friend. 46 is too young to die.

    Keith
    "The real work of men was hunting meat. The invention of agriculture was a giant step in the wrong direction, leading to serfdom, cities, and empire. From a race of hunters, artists, warriors, and tamers of horses, we degraded ourselves to what we are now: clerks, functionaries, laborers, entertainers, processors of information."- Ed Abbey

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