As the drama of the three lost climbers on Mount Hood segues into tragedy, expect a growing chorus of armchair Sherpas demanding winter climbing bans, mandatory climbing insurance and other measures—all designed to make sure no one ever engages in "risk-taking" again.
As we saw when James Kim and his family got lost in the mountainous woods of Southern Oregon after a fatal wrong turn, a certain breed of Oregonian pounces whenever anyone comes to grief in the Pacific Wonderland. And if the unlucky (or unwise) party happens to be from OUT OF STATE...brace yourselves.
Is it dumb to attempt Hood in December? I wouldn't presume to say one way or another. What I do know is that the censorious impulse to regulate the behavior of others doesn't do anyone much credit; nor does it make sense, when wild nature is under threat just about everywhere, to try to turn one of the great wildernesses of Oregon into the equivalent of a suburban golf course. ("Did you sign the waiver, sir?") The fact that nature can kill you is a big reason it remains an essential element of our over-civilized, trivialized post-modern world.
I don't often find myself applauding Oregonian editorials, but on this issue, the daily got it right. Maybe the Hood climbers did something dumb. That's life—some might even say that's life fully lived. To say that they shouldn't expect (or don't deserve) rescue efforts is cruel. To say that weather-safety rules should determine who gets rescued and who doesn't is to invite an army of lawyers to invade Mount Hood and every other mountaineering area.
We've already nurtured a vigorous cult of litigation in this country—it doesn't need any help. It's time to recognize that people enjoy a certain latitude for risk, error and misjudgement in a free society.