Backcountry Hiker With A Growing Reputation For Being Overdue Rescued In Glacier National Park

The backcountry of Glacier National Park is dramatically beautiful and appealing no matter what the season, but a Montana man who likes to challenge himself in it is developing a reputation for being overly ambitious, according to park officials.

A Montana man with a penchant for challenging himself in Glacier National Park's backcountry is developing a growing reputation with park rangers...for seemingly biting off more than he can chew.

Richard Layne's latest adventure in the park entailed a wintry trek from the Polebridge Ranger Station into the backcountry, past Bowman Lake, through Boulder Pass, past Kintla Lake, and out the Inside North Fork Road to Big Prairie, according a park release. The 59-year-old's trip started May 10th, and he planned to be picked up by his wife on May 20th.

Mr. Layne told his wife to contact park rangers if he had not surfaced by May 25th. And she did.

"Most of these areas are in still in winter condition with extreme hazards," park spokeswoman Ellen Blickhan said. "Due to an impending change in weather expected on Thursday, rangers contracted Minute Man Aviation to fly Layne’s route. From the helicopter, rangers spotted tracks in the snow going over Boulder Pass that were consistent with human travel.

"In the afternoon Layne was spotted near Upper Kintla Lake waving his red jacket at the helicopter. Rangers retrieved him and brought him out of the backcountry, uninjured but very tired," she said.

While these arduous snowshoe treks are not new for Mr. Layne, who carries backpacks weighing upwards of 100 pounds, they are not recommended by park officials due to their ambitious nature in challenging conditions, said Ms. Blickhan.

“This is not the first time that Layne has been reported overdue,” said Incident Commander Gary Moses. “We are very glad for the successful resolution of the search and that Mr. Layne was uninjured. While he nearly completed his intended trip, the number of days he was overdue, the route itself through extensive avalanche terrain, the approaching weather front, and his history prompted our immediate response upon notification from his wife.”


Do you know if Layne has to reimburse the NPS for any of the costs of this rescue?

No one has to pay for recue operations by the NPS anwhere, for any reason. This is policy and it is a good one.

what a waste of people and resourses,i disagree with MRC,he should have to pay for the cost of the rescue,this is like tha article said ,not the first time, it is really kind of bad when you have done this before,and then the possibility of your resucers getting hurt or killed looking for somesone that is so dumb to go out in that weather..he should be fined.

As regular readers know, the issue of whether people rescued in the national parks should be billed for search and rescue (SAR) costs has been discussed at great length in the Traveler. Perhaps the most compelling argument against charging for SAR costs is that such a policy would almost certainly create many situations in which people who get into bad trouble in the parks die or are seriously injured because they are unable or unwilling to pay SAR costs.


First, I don't believe anybody will make the decision to die rather than face paying a SAR fee sometime later. On the otherhand, some people might be saved before the fact by not foolishly risking their lives knowing that they will face a SAR fee if they need help.

Few people in dire danger would knowingly choose to die rather than pay SAR fees. However, lots of people in dangerous situations would, under the threat of hefty SAR fees, refuse to ask for (or accept) help when they really should. If you engage in very risky behavior in a desperate n attempt to avoid SAR fees, you are much more likely to die or be seriously injured. Of course, you might pull off a self-rescue, and that's why a person who refuses to pay SAR fees is not choosing to die instead.

But maybe Darwin was onto something.

The article didn't say he had been rescued before. It just says he's getting a reputation for "...for seemingly biting off more than he can chew." because he's been overdue before.

Don't read into the article what isn't there. The writer shouldn't have been so ambiguous and suggestive.

Doesn't that kind of trek require permits issued by the park? I would think that on repeated incidents of this type that the park could refuse to issue the permit and prevent him from attempting this type of trip.r

While it is general policy not to charge parties for being rescued in the parks, park officials do have the prerogative to seek reimbursement, depending on the circumstances. Offhand, I can't think of any instances where they did.

In a canyoneering news group, someone raised the idea of the NPS charging a fee that's essentially SAR insurance. It apparently works well in Europe. If NPS charged a (hypothetical) $20 insurance fee for every hike that required a permit, it would at least make a dent in the SAR costs and would be underwritten by those most likely to require SAR services.

Our country is now a Debtor Nation largely due to military budgets and wars we
should/hopefully will learn to avoid. We are selling off our country at a rate of at least
one $billion per day to purchase oil we often waste to fuel energy inefficient vehicles.
Given the low priority of park budgets especially among Tea Party Republicans, it
is only common sense to charge all users of extreme outdoor activities a high annual rate
for potential insurance rescue costs which are often in the tens of thousands
of dollars. The NPS ranger establishment prefers not to charge simply to justify their
positions devoted for rescues, but our national dollar debt reality is finally overwhelming
that internal bureaucratic bais.

AnonD -- that sounds like a very good idea.

"The NPS ranger establishment prefers not to charge simply to justify their
positions devoted for rescues..." Amazing that someone would believe and say that.


As far as I know, nobody is specifically paid to be search and rescue personnel. I thought at NPS sites, it's typically volunteer assignments among NPS personnel as well as local law enforcement and private citizens. For example, Yosemite NP doesn't have its own helicopter. Whenever I hear about a helicopter rescue, it's either from the local sheriff department or the California Highway Patrol.

Most NPS personnel get paid to participate in Search and Rescue unless they are told beforehand that there is no budget for them. Most of the Park Rangers I know jump at any chance to make some extra money and help out someone in need. As far as Yosemite is concerned, there are a ton of paid SAR personnel, even if they have to bring in a helicopter from elsewhere for an evac.

The total cost for SAR all over the National Park System was around 12 Million in 2009 (we had that discussion here on the traveler a few times before). Some beancounters evaluated that number down to the exact dollars and if I remember correctly 12 cents. Given the size of the system and the budget, this is negligible. Just accounting for it may be a waste of ressources, inventing, supervising and collecting a special fee would almost certainly be more expensive than the actual SAR costs. And no one sould believe that the NPS gets more staff for any burocratic tasks connected with such a fee.

There are two exeptions: Climbing Mount McKinley and Mount Rainier requires a special fee, that pays for parts of the mountain rescue teams in those two areas. Given the relative small number of climbers on those two mountains and the huge expenditures all climbers have anyway, I can live with those fees in very special cases.

While working backcountry at Grand Canyon in the mid-'80's I worked several "rescues" where the individuals were charged for the "rescue". In those situations the individuals involved were uninjured and not lost, but had simply refused to continue on a route they had insisted on taking, even after being advised of the difficulties of their intended route by backcountry permit staff. The permit staff had even suggested less difficult routes, which were also rejected. These individuals refused to backtrack and come out the way they had gone in and waited along the Colorado River for several days to be extricated. I have never understood, why some people insist on ignoring the advise of staff who have an intimate working knowledge of an area and who are working very hard to proactively prevent unnecessary rescues due to an individuals lack of preparedness.

I also recall some discussion during the early to late '80's of the development of no-rescue zones. These zones would be those areas of extremely remote and difficult to reach terrain, where the individuals seeking to enter would sign a waiver indicating that they understood that there would be no rescue attempts. In some ways, the concept completes the whole idea of the "Wilderness Experience", in that you are on your own, and that your survival rests upon you and your abilities alone.

I like your conclusion (the thought to charge to rescue ) but your premise is entirely off base. "Military budgets and wars" are a minor contributor to our debtor status. We are "selling off our country" because the powers that be are blocking efficient domestic devlopment and I don't know of any "Tea Party Rebulicans" that place our parks as a low priority.

I am certain this had been said on Traveller before, though not in this thread: Currently, NPS has the flexibility to delay or refuse to undertake rescue missions if conditions would endanger the rescuers. Requiring a rescue fee/insurance in advance would create an expectation that a rescue would be mounted regardless of conditions. That is a bad idea, regardless of the stupid and infuriating behavior exhibited by a few extreme adventurers.