Is Social Media to Blame for Mountaineering Mishaps?

Greg Obernesser | | BrainsBrains
social media
The scene on piste as patrol and medical workers assess a fatal accident. Photo: Daily Mail

Let’s face it, we live in a globalized world where we’re all connected through technology, but are more backcountry accidents occurring more frequently due to social media? According to the Yakima Herald, there is a strong concern in the mountaineering community that social media is generating more accidents by tempting unprepared people to venture into the backcountry.

accident, social media
Mt. Adams in the background with some backcountry skiers. Credit: Yakima Herald

While there is a lack of hard data that people are making these decisions based on social media, one thing is certain; more people are exploring the backcountry. For example, Mount Adams, WA (12,280 foot or 3,743 meters) has seen a 33 percent increase in annual visits. Justin Ewer, a wilderness manager and recreation planner with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA articulated that there was an uptick in accidents on the peak. While Ewer did not have exact numbers, CragRats (volunteer search and rescue team based in Hood River, Oregon), recently reported that their efforts to save people in the backcountry have tripled in the last five years.

backcountry, social media
Sumner making a big turn in Jackson Hole backcountry. Credit: Wight Haus

But, is social media really to blame for people going into the backcountry and falling prey to being unprepared or getting hurt? Jerry Isaak, State University of New York at Plattsburg associate professor and chair of the Department of Expeditionary Studies thinks so. Isaak believes people are obtaining more and more knowledge on more remote locations through various social media platforms which is generally is kept secret or guarded by locals.

steep, social media
Getting ready to drop into a steep chute. Credit: Wight Haus

People are also obtaining knowledge online and underestimating the difficulty. Hikers, mountaineers, skiers, climbers, etc. , we all fall for this once and a while… ratings of trials are all normative, meaning they are established by the community that best reflects the amount of effort needed for the activity. However, the consensus can be misleading, especially if you are not prepared or if you do not do the activity often. Not only are the inexperienced getting caught by this heuristic trap, but also to fall victim are the experienced.

Social media is here to stay. It can help connect people of liked interests and various skill levels. However, when exploring a new area, please execute caution and conduct deep due diligence. 

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One thought on “Is Social Media to Blame for Mountaineering Mishaps?

  1. It’s more about people taking responsibility , most are unprepared or lack the experience and skill .most overestimate their ability.
    When things go wrong they blame other
    People or the conditions .
    Take responsibility for your actions and don’t go when you’re unprepared or the
    Conditions are not favorable.
    Hire an expert, take a class , heed the
    Warning signs . If the backcountry gate is closed try later . Better to be alive to ski another day .

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