December 16th, 2009 5:33 pm | by JAMES PITKIN News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Multnomah County

'Mountain Man' Ted Wheeler on Mt. Hood and Locator Beacons

Wheeler sunglasses

Rescuers today called off the search for two missing climbers on Mt. Hood. But while the five-day operation is now over, the debate is sure to continue over whether climbers should be required to carry emergency beacons.

The devices, known as Mountain Locator Units or MLUs, allow searchers to pinpoint a climber's location. Rules to require such beacons have been proposed in the past. But many mountaineers oppose mandating their use, saying they'll lead to greater risk-taking.

The debate has re-emerged in recent days during the search for the three missing climbers, who were not carrying a beacon. So we took notice yesterday when Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler posted on Twitter an argument by Portland Mountain Rescue against mandating MLUs.

Wheeler is an accomplished mountaineer who has summited Mt. Everest and volunteered for Portland Mountain Rescue for six years. He took part in dozens of rescues, including the 2006 search for three missing climbers on Mt. Hood that drew national attention.

Back in the office this week after a skiing accident over Thanksgiving weekend, Wheeler stopped short of taking a firm position in the debate in an interview with WW. He said he has used MLUs in the past, but not always. For instance, he didn't do so two years ago on his last ascent of Mt. Hood.

"My personal recommendation to people would be to carry one, but I would also caution that it's not a panacea," Wheeler said. "There's no guarantee that having an MLU is going to lead to a successful resolution of a search."

Wheeler's conclusion: "I think the most important thing is for people to use good judgment when you climb mountains."
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