Mountain Rescue does not judge
Dear Editor: The article by Michael Conniff in the Aspen Daily News titled “Fate of Five Fingers” last Saturday (June 25) has left some people with the unfortunate and erroneous impression that Mountain Rescue Aspen as an organization, has an agenda concerning the circumstances that led to the death of John Jenson on March 6. This impression seemed evident in Andrew Bisharat’s letter to the editor, “In Support of Whiting” (Aspen Daily News, June 29). It is MRA’s firm policy not to publicly comment on the people involved in an incident. MRA reacts to help people, not to judge how they got in trouble. As best we can determine, the opinions attributed to the “many members of MRA” came primarily from one person, in a series of conversations with Mr. Conniff last April. Mr. Conniff has not elected to share his sources with us thus far, but any MRA member who spoke to him did so as an individual and was not authorized to speak on behalf of MRA.Individuals can sometimes be vulnerable to the press after dealing with the deceased, their family and companions. The fact that MRA team members volunteer to deal with these situations on a 24/7/365 basis makes me proud to be counted as one of them. It is only human to be upset or angry at a tragedy. Mr. Conniff contacted me shortly before the article was printed to attempt to get more information. He was told that the team had nothing further to add to the letter I wrote to the local papers about the Human Factor (Aspen Times, April 5; Aspen Daily News, April 13). The theme of self reliance in Mr. Bisharat’s letter is strongly echoed in our official letter. Mr. Conniff was also told that investigations of causes leading to a death or serious injury in a permitted-guided activity are not uncommon in national parks and some outdoor ed non-profit organizations. As far as we know, the Forest Service does not have the resources to carry out such an investigation. Further, MRA does not engage in investigations and has never offered to conduct anything of this nature.Anyone who truly wishes to study the anatomy of mountaineering accidents in order to learn or teach others how to better spot and avoid perils may find it helpful to read any of the annual “Accidents in North American Mountaineering” books published by the American Alpine Club Press, and available from http://www.mountaineersbooks.org.We see nothing to be gained by the MRA team second guessing anyone. Instead we will simply do what we always do – stand ready to respond to anyone in trouble in the backcountry, without regard to how they got there.Hugh ZukerPresident, Mountain Rescue Aspen
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