The mountains are calling and many must go — but would-be adventurers need to be aware of the risks involved when they make their plans.
A key component of enjoying the outdoors is understanding your level of expertise, recognizing the inherent challenges of a particular terrain, and making wise decisions to prepare for a trek.
These two hikers did none of those things, and are now quite literally paying for it.
Back in June, two young men — 22-year-old Jason Feierstin and 25-year-old Dylan Stahley — set off to Franconia Notch State Park in New Hampshire to tackle a mountain, choosing to forge their own trail rather than follow any marked path.
They were woefully unprepared for the feat, a fact they recognized when one made a 911 call at around 2:15 p.m. after becoming trapped under a ledge.
He didn’t know where he was. His “buddy” had continued on his own up the cliffside and gotten stuck at another spot higher up.
All the first hiker could tell the dispatcher was that he could see the freeway from his perilous perch. It took an experienced team hours to locate the general area where he might be, and it was only after a rescuer on the freeway spotted him and used a drone that they were better able to pinpoint his location.
Both hikers were eventually saved by 7:21 p.m. after a demanding technical rescue by experienced rock climbing guides. It was 9:37 p.m. before everyone was back safe at the command post.
As the rescue progressed, more and more details about the two cavalier hikers’ plans (or lack thereof) became insultingly clear. One of the two said, simply, “We were exploring.”
“Conservation Officers learned from the two hikers they had no plan for a hike that day,” the New Hampshire Fish and Game Law Enforcement Division shared on Facebook on Sept. 6.
“They were not familiar with the area, did not stay on any trail and did not have any equipment or even footwear for entering such a steep and dangerous location, much less ropes, harnesses or climbing gear.
“Both hikers were issued summonses to court for Reckless Conduct. Their reckless actions placed the rescuers in danger of serious bodily injury.”
Both men pleaded guilty to the charges. As a result, Feierstin and Stahley received “a violation-level Reckless Conduct conviction and $200 fine, plus $48 penalty assessment.”
While no lives were lost, and rescuers are often placed in perilous situations thanks to the reckless behavior of adventurers, this case has many up in arms because of the sheer lack of consideration shown by the hikers.
“The safety of rescuers is paramount in the execution of search & rescue missions,” Lt. James Kneeland of the Fish and Game Department said.
“When people put themselves into hazardous situations needlessly or by being ill-prepared, and put rescuers in harm’s way, they need to be held accountable.”
Officials took the opportunity to remind readers of what they call the Hiker Responsibility Code, which includes being well-prepared with knowledge of the area and appropriate gear, letting people know what your plans are, staying together with other members of your party and turning back when needed, all in order to avoid situations like this one.
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