Letters to the Editor

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RAINIER: One idea could enhance safety

Letter by Phil E.Arnold, Eatonville on Feb. 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm with 7 Comments »
February 21, 2012 2:32 pm

Re: “Life and death on the mountain” (TNT, 2-19).

The National Park Service staff working up on Mount Rainier should be applauded for their efforts to make visitor trips to the park as safe as possible. However, education, technology, and search and rescue staff can only go so far.

Having worked on the mountain, and taken more than 100 trips to the summit, I’ve always wondered why the park has not implemented a simple solution that certainly would have prevented many fatalities in the past.

When driving up to Paradise in the winter, the road is lined with 8-foot bamboo poles that are covered in orange and black tape. These are used by plow drivers to mark the edges of the road. They are highly visible and tough. These poles, if placed in 50- to 75-yard intervals on the route up to Camp Muir, would provide landmarks for people to safety return to Paradise.

Many fatalities have occurred over the years as a result of people simply getting lost in bad weather. Interestingly, the park uses similar, but much smaller wands, in the spring to make sure visitors stay on the trails as the snow is melting out. I believe adding such markers higher up on the mountain would prevent some future tragedies from occurring.

Leave a comment Comments → 7
  1. ReadNLearn says:

    How about grown adults stop playing in the snow?

  2. Well gee Phil…why doesn’t the financially strapped NPS just go the whole way and pave a road all the way up to the peak that is plowed all winter long so that everybody can have that wilderness experience?

  3. bBoy, since I have become too decrepit to make it up the mountain, I love your idea. Perhaps a gondola like they have on many European mountains with a nice wine bar and tapas, or a cogwheel train tunnel going up to same.

    Mount Adams is great for wilderness, Rainier needs to be a N.P. Disney adventure with guides dressed in animal costumes so the whole family can enjoy it.

  4. itwasntmethistime says:

    Good idea, Phil. A simple Hansel and Gretel approach that sounds pretty basic and inexpensive.

  5. Mt Rainier is considered one of the top 10 most dangerous hikes, even to Camp Muir, in the nation based on deaths. Drifts of snow in a surprise localized storm can reach five feet in one hour. Whiteouts can last hours or days where you can’t see one foot in front of your face.

    The answer is to respect the mountain and prepare for the worst. 8 ft bamboo poles may help a little bit if someone is disoriented and they are not in a blinding snow storm, but it won’t help if the drifts cover them and you couldn’t see them, anyway, because of a blizzard.

  6. itwasntmethistime says:

    Maybe they could use taller ones, like 20′.

  7. peaarnold says:

    Here are a couple of responses to the above…The use of wands is a very common practice in the mountains. The NPS even requires the guide services to maintain the wanded route on the upper mountain during the summer climbing season. So, yes, wands DO work, and the park understands this. This is also true on Denali in AK btw. This would cost very little, Beerboy, and the park aready does this for other reasons… to protect plants. Tuddo, sure there are situations when they wouldn’t help, BUT most the time they would. I’ve been to Muir hundreds of times in summer and winter and understand what the weather can be like. Regarding the “wilderness experience”… If you want one go do another route. Several hundred climbers/ hikers going to Muir on a nice day hardly qualifies.

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