Half Dome survivors wish they had taken heed.


FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — Armando Castillo knew he should not attempt the last treacherous stretch up Half Dome with storm clouds looming. But he felt he had come too far not to accomplish his goal.
Loss aversion. Not wanting to accept a loss after already sunken costs have accumulated - not willing to accept anything less than being able to go back and tell friends that you succeeded. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_costs#Loss_aversion_and_the_sunk_cost_fallacy

"I've come this far, I may as well finish the job." Kind of like how we kept throwing soldiers and equipment and bombs at Vietnam (not that all kinds of issues with that war could conceivably have been surmounted and enabled a relatively clear US "victory") for a long time, unwilling to cut our losses and get out of the conflict. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escalation_of_commitment

For background on Yosemite and accidents there see http://reasonablydoubtingnews.blogspot.com/2011/08/woman-dies-in-600ft-fall-in-yosemite.html

"About three-quarters of the way up it started hailing," he said. "There's a bunch of people and everybody just stops. Some women started crying because it was slippery and pretty scary. Then it cleared up."
While others turned back, Castillo pushed on up the park's iconic feature, making him one of Yosemite National Park's worst nightmares— the increasing number of wilderness neophytes who mistakenly think the government is obligated to save them.
"People are pushing their luck, trying to beat the weather, and their backup plan is to call for a rescue," said Mark Marschall, project manager for the Half Dome interim permit program. "They're not understanding what that means. We can't fly in that kind of weather. They're on their own."
Why do stupid people overestimate their abilities? Because they're not smart enough to realize they're making bad decisions. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

Some callers tell the dispatcher they want to use their platinum credit card for the free helicopter ride some companies guarantee in an emergency. Park officials don't charge for rescues — nearly 1,000 rescues cost more than $2.5 million between 2007 and 2010 — but neither do they fly in dangerous weather.Castillo, with six hours of hiking behind him, made a poor choice.
The salsa dancer from Hayward, Calif., soon found himself trapped at the 8,842-foot summit in a freezing thunderstorm. Soaked and shivering, he huddled under a rock with four other terrified hikers. Then he called 911, thinking he was going to die.
I'm wet and I'm shivering and I'm really cold right now, Castillo pleaded to dispatchers.
A sign at the bottom of the cables warns hikers not to attempt Half Dome if weather threatens — and rangers try to issue verbal warnings.
But 20 people have died on Half Dome over the decades, nearly all with rain as a factor, officials say. One of the two to perish this year was a Bay Area woman who slipped in a July storm and fell 800 feet. (A total of 13 died in park mishaps this year, the most in decades — including three swept over a raging waterfall on the trail to Half Dome.)

The day after Castillo called for help, a group of 20 hikers called 911, not understanding that the very rain storm threatening their lives would also endanger a ranger.

"We have to decide 'Can we really expose rescuers to the risk that is present?'" Marschall said. "Can we commit a helicopter in the middle of a rainstorm with the potential of lightning? The answer is typically no." 
So what's the solution? More signs? Maybe. Make sure people become aware that people JUST. LIKE. YOU. ...have died in the very spot that you're getting ready to go up. A tally of "killed" and injured, maybe.

I'd rather not have my taxpayer's money go toward rescuing people who are stupid enough to go climb a mountain in bad weather. But that's just me.

Or you could just let people die, and cut back on rescue services. Make people sign a release of liability when you enter the park. But that's kind of cold-hearted. Emergencies and accidents do happen to people who take all the precautions and follow the rules and aren't dumb enough to get themselves voluntarily in a really bad spot. So keep the rescue services, publicize how much money it costs and maybe start trying to recuperate some of that cash. Or put a private pay-for-rescue insurance company into the mix.

Question: Do you really want your money to be used to rescue people who decide to walk up very dangerous terrain in bad weather?

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