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.