You are here

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.”


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


AnonD -- that sounds like a very good idea.

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide

Recent Forum Comments