Saturday, November 17, 2012

Chile: Massive, Nine-Day Search for Three Missing European Hikers Called Off

As a follow-up to my numerous postings in connection with three European hikers who disappeared nine days ago, the expensive and exhaustive search that included 500 rescuers, helicopters and thermal imaging equipment was called off Friday (November 16) after Janet Medrano, a regional director of Chile's national emergency service, announced that no leads have been connected to the missing hikers.

Please see my previous postings for further details.

Those missing include Dmitry Sivenkov of Russia, Gillhem Bellon of France and Luca Ogliengo of Italy. The three men have not been heard from since a snowstorm hit November 7, while they were hiking atop Quetrupillán, which is in Chile's Villarica National Park. 

Quetrupillán is 7,743 feet (2,360 meters) high and covered with glaciers. High winds, rain and fog grounded two helicopters for much of the search. Bad weather translates into the fact that the imaging cameras the rescuers were using were essentially ineffective throughout most of the search.

COMMENT: Although our prayers and thoughts go out to the hikers and their respective families, it does need to be noted that the three men in this case were ill-equipped for ever-changing weather conditions. Reportedly, they were not prepared for overnight travel, dropping temperatures and a sudden snow-storm.

It is appropriate to mention that hikers who do not adequately prepare for adverse mountain conditions, particularly in Chile in November, must understand that rescuers cannot be expected to jeopardize their own lives for those who do not adequately prepare for bad weather or who don't prudently hire a local guide.

As a personal note, I have hiked mountain ranges in Japan, Nepal, the Andes and in Chile during the summer, and cannot imagine undertaking rigorous mountain hiking late in the year without the use of a professional guide who understands changing weather conditions.