Winter Trail Running and Negligence

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Note: The following post assumes the victim was doing a one-day Pemi Traverse as reported in this forum:

This latest fatal near Bond got me thinking about the nature of Winter trail running.

If F&G went through Christopher's pack and deemed him "under equipped" for a winter hike above treeline, could / should he be found negligent?

This will not happen since it was a fatal event. But this incident will prove to be an expensive SAR exercise with three chopper missions one day and a fourth next day. Not to mention the volunteer call outs in the middle of a frigid Winter night.

We don't know what he carried. But it obviously was not enough to insure his survival under the conditions he encountered. The decisions he made had consequences not just for him, but also for people he never met who came to his aid.

So I'm left with this question: Is winter trail running -- with a minimum amount of gear -- a reasonable thing to do in the high Whites? Or is it negligent?
 
Note: The following post assumes the victim was doing a one-day Pemi Traverse as reported in this forum:

This latest fatal near Bond got me thinking about the nature of Winter trail running.

If F&G went through Christopher's pack and deemed him "under equipped" for a winter hike above treeline, could / should he be found negligent?

This will not happen since it was a fatal event. But this incident will prove to be an expensive SAR exercise with three chopper missions one day and a fourth next day. Not to mention the volunteer call outs in the middle of a frigid Winter night.

We don't know what he carried. But it obviously was not enough to insure his survival under the conditions he encountered. The decisions he made had consequences not just for him, but also for people he never met who came to his aid.

So I'm left with this question: Is winter trail running -- with a minimum amount of gear -- a reasonable thing to do in the high Whites? Or is it negligent?
People have different risk tolerance.
We do not have any common standard to decide whether this hiker was negligent or not.
 
Allow me to put my lawyer hat on.

Negligence is the failure to act in a manner a reasonable person would do.

Allow me to put my common sense hat on.

People have different understanding of what "a reasonable person" is.
Let Fish and Game to judge this hiker and sue his estate.
 
So I'm left with this question: Is winter trail running -- with a minimum amount of gear -- a reasonable thing to do in the high Whites? Or is it negligent?

Recognizing that the line between trail running and hiking in the mountains gets very blurry, especially in winter I think the answer is...it depends. In my opinion it's very situational based on the weather conditions, trail conditions, number of people in the group and the route. A bunch of fit people running the Presidentials on a bluebird day in February is very different from a solo outing deep in the wilderness when there's the potential for iffy weather. And then there are short outings like heading up Tecumseh on a well packed trail but in bad conditions. Lots of variables to consider.

So there are degrees of risk which would swing the pendulum somewhere between reasonable and negligent.
 
Note: The following post assumes the victim was doing a one-day Pemi Traverse as reported in this forum:

We don't know what he carried. But it obviously was not enough to insure his survival under the conditions he encountered. The decisions he made had consequences not just for him, but also for people he never met who came to his aid.
You're making another assumption. It is very common by many posters here including myself although I try not to. You do not know if he was underequipped yet. He could have had plenty of gear but something as simple as a glove being blown away by the wind could have led to the lack of ability to deploy gear which may not have lead to his demise. In the bigger picture we will probably never know exactly what happened.
 
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People have different risk tolerance.
We do not have any common standard to decide whether this hiker was negligent or not.
That has nothing to do with negligence. Your personal risk tolerance might mean you're OK with doing bat shit crazy stuff with no back up gear or plan whatsoever. You might be OK with that, and it is obviously your choice to do so, but that does not absolve you of being negligent. As B The Hiker pointed out, the standard is what would a reasonable person do, not what you're personally cool with doing.
 
I don’t consider it “reasonable” to expect everything to go perfectly and equip yourself accordingly, especially in winter.
 
The F&G telegraphs their intent to seek reimbursement in their new reports. This report said thing like well known, well experienced hiker. Compare that to the recent Monadnock rescue.

Also I don't think they can bill you for National Guard helicopters or volunteers, just F&G costs.
 
We'll have to wait for the accident report in Appalachia journal to get more details. I have wondered if Ty Gagne will write a third book someday about one of these tragedies; in that format, we'd get all the details and analysis, based on his meticulous interviews and research.
 
I have wondered if Ty Gagne will write a third book someday about one of these tragedies;
What is his second book?
I am familiar only with his "Where you will find me" book about Kate Matrosova.
 
Note that the second book recounts an accident back in 2008 so there was a 12 year lag between the accident and the book.
 
I guess the question I have is what is the purpose of being fined if being found “under equipped”. (I wish we knew what was in his pack!!!!)

Is it to make an example as a possible way to prevent others from being under equipped?

Is it a way to offset rescue cost?

In the first instance of setting an example for others I just don’t see that happening. There are some really phenomenally fit athletes who will understandably, and continually, push the limits and that’s just not going to happen with a fully loaded pack. So to me, if setting an example via a fine just isn’t going to work with that group.

There are also the group of people who are simply clueless and the mountains are way more accessible than they were years ago, (roads are better, millions of people can reach trailheads easily) so for many of those people the entire idea of carrying what is needed to survive a night out, at any time of year is totally incomprehensible to them. In fact, it surprises me there aren’t more rescues and deaths!

If it’s a way to offset rescue costs then, why not just fine everyone?

On a side note, that area between South Twin and Bondcliff has been the scene of a couple terrible deaths, and some near misses. I think it’s highly underestimated because it’s not Mt. Washington or Franconia Ridge…but you work up such a sweat going up South Twin, then cool down coming off South Twin, then the snow drifts…and then IF he had made it down from Mt. Bond he would have been faced with the winds heading to Bondcliff….it’s a LOT of exposure. If he had enough in his pack, even marginally, perhaps he could have hunkered down at Guyot shelter. It’s obviously a terrible, terrible, terrible accident, but I doubt if this will be the last one, fines or no fines.
 
I guess the question I have is what is the purpose of being fined if being found “under equipped”. (I wish we knew what was in his pack!!!!)

Is it to make an example as a possible way to prevent others from being under equipped?

Is it a way to offset rescue cost?

In the first instance of setting an example for others I just don’t see that happening. There are some really phenomenally fit athletes who will understandably, and continually, push the limits and that’s just not going to happen with a fully loaded pack. So to me, if setting an example via a fine just isn’t going to work with that group.

There are also the group of people who are simply clueless and the mountains are way more accessible than they were years ago, (roads are better, millions of people can reach trailheads easily) so for many of those people the entire idea of carrying what is needed to survive a night out, at any time of year is totally incomprehensible to them. In fact, it surprises me there aren’t more rescues and deaths!

If it’s a way to offset rescue costs then, why not just fine everyone?

On a side note, that area between South Twin and Bondcliff has been the scene of a couple terrible deaths, and some near misses. I think it’s highly underestimated because it’s not Mt. Washington or Franconia Ridge…but you work up such a sweat going up South Twin, then cool down coming off South Twin, then the snow drifts…and then IF he had made it down from Mt. Bond he would have been faced with the winds heading to Bondcliff….it’s a LOT of exposure. If he had enough in his pack, even marginally, perhaps he could have hunkered down at Guyot shelter. It’s obviously a terrible, terrible, terrible accident, but I doubt if this will be the last one, fines or no fines.
They don't fine you, they attempt to recover rescue costs. It's supposed to be a deterent to reckless behavior. You can buy a Hike Safe card to raise the bar from negligent to reckless or intentional.
People have different opinions about whether deterents actually work. But ask someone whose car insurance doubles how they feel about speeding tickets.
 
They don't fine you, they attempt to recover rescue costs. It's supposed to be a deterent to reckless behavior. You can buy a Hike Safe card to raise the bar from negligent to reckless or intentional.
People have different opinions about whether deterents actually work. But ask someone whose car insurance doubles how they feel about speeding tickets.

There was a pair of guys rescued in 2022 who were fined $200+ for reckless conduct.
 
Note that the second book recounts an accident back in 2008 so there was a 12 year lag between the accident and the book.
If I remember correctly, the story was chosen because the story had a personal impact to him - he had been up there around the same time and had an experience where he felt he put himself at risk hiking with a couple of strangers. The story about Kate was done so soon because he used the scenario in workshops with his company that works with public entities in NH before turning it into a book.
 
There was a pair of guys rescued in 2022 who were fined $200+ for reckless conduct.
This the NH law that most people are charged under:
206:26-bb Search and Rescue Response Expenses; Recovery. –
I. Any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department's expenses for such search and rescue response, unless the person shows proof of possessing a current version of any of the following:
(a) A hunting or fishing license.....

Not sure what law those hikers were fined under.
 
This the NH law that most people are charged under:
206:26-bb Search and Rescue Response Expenses; Recovery. –
I. Any person determined by the department to have acted negligently in requiring a search and rescue response by the department shall be liable to the department for the reasonable cost of the department's expenses for such search and rescue response, unless the person shows proof of possessing a current version of any of the following:
(a) A hunting or fishing license.....

Not sure what law those hikers were fined under.
631:3 Reckless Conduct. –
I. A person is guilty of reckless conduct if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another in danger of serious bodily injury.
 
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