The Freakonomics of Mountain Rescues

I have written many pieces on mountain rescue, some well received by the masses but less so within the Rescue team that I volunteered for, a team that due to personal circumstance I am taking what might be seen as a sabbatical from. I can only talk for myself, and make assumptions through my observations as a team member, and as such do not speak for the team. This I would like to get clear from the out set, mainly because I am going to address the thorny issue of reducing unnecessary calls out to mountain rescue teams.

Calls like a twisted ankle 2 miles along a path, exhaustion halfway up a mountain, lost on a major footpath. All of these and many more incidents like them become a tiresome burden on local rescue teams that deal with ‘Honey pot’ destination. Some of which might be genuine calls, however many are just people not being bothered to look after themselves and be independent. I would put into these areas LLanberis, Ogwen, Lakes District and Lochaber, Glencoe and Cairngorms.

A couple of years ago LLanberis Team had 180 call out in a year, many didn’t need a fall team call out, but I would say in excess of 120 did, that’s about one rescue every three days, with an average rescue last say three or more hours. That’s a lot of volunteer’s time. On top of that it takes around £30000 a year to run a rescue team (I Think, I am sure real figures could be gleaned for this, and this doesn’t include the price of an RAF Helicopter), meaning that a price per rescue would be around £250.

The question becomes how can we reduce this number, education is one such avenue, just how we get to the 20 to 30 year old males from the south east of England, who for Llanberis at the very least seems to be statistical majority of our jobs, is beyond me. I have talked before about an education programme that is operated by North Wales Police and the Local rescue teams in the past, and they simply don’t reach out ‘Target” audience.

Another step I have mentioned is the charging of group who use the team, or at least sending them a itemised costing of their rescue, so they can see the real cost of what it took to get them home save that day. Although it is more the human cost of voluntary time, that needs waving in people faces so they can appreciate that we don’t necessarily appreciate being called out for trivial incidents, but respond we do.

Then I read freakonomics, I shall probably bore you to death with this book, but it has an interesting tale to tell. Economic looks at the cost in terms of human, emotional, social of acquiring something. In one way examines incentives to manage human behaviour. Some of the research is interesting, and could be applicable to Mountain Rescue and reducing unnecessary call out.

First of all in my book they talk about a day-care nursery that has a problem with parents picking up their kids late. So an economist suggested charging for late pick-ups. The result wasn’t the expected reduction in lateness, but an increase. Why, because the parents could now pay off their guilt for being late. As such charging for rescues may see a similar incentive to call, if you can pay off your conscience.

Later in the book the authors examine another phenomenon of crime, this time looking at the seedy world of prostitution. Here rather than fine the hookers they looked at a punishment for the user of prostitutes, the John’s. Where in several cities they produced a wall of shame on the Internet, or a social deterrent to those that might use a hooker. If caught your picture would be posted on the web for all to see. Who would want to be seen on or imagine if there were a would this be a sufficient deterrent from making an unnecessary callout?

Who knows, I am only musing and getting fresh ideas out there.

USA Today

I think I have heard every possible news story there is to have but the US keeps finding the bizzarre. Last night the main over the top news item was from a young mother who put her baby on craig’s list. A kind of international freecycle site. Saying that if no one picked the baby up her boyfriend was going to put it in the garbage. Suffice to say the police have been search all the garbage cans around the area from which the IP address originated, as well as the address the poster gave as the collection address. Hopefully it is just a wind up, but only in america, surely!

There was also a great news item on how traumatised a family were after they saw a circus performer mauled half to death by a lion. Interestingly they weren’t that traumatised that they stopped filming the event, and subsiquently sold the film to the news networks.

Other than that i have been reading, doing my tax return and trying to do a little preparation for my new job that starts in under a week now. I did also find the two nices places so far in vegas for food. Breakfast is the Pancake House on Chalston, and for dinner the Thai Restarant between the Sahara and the Stratosphere, which is so small you can miss it as you walk past. Only a few more days until i have to hit the road and work my way back to LA. In preparation I have brought myself as spainish phrase book.

Notes from a Big Country – No. 1 Las Vegas

I have been biding my time in a Las Vegas hotel room, trying to gather my thoughts and spend a bit of time writing. Believe it or not despite my at time poor blogging, I do like to think and type.

This is my third trip to Vegas, once was about 10 years ago and two in the past two years. Last year my trip corresponded with the start of the economic downturn, and this one in the middle of a resession. To my untrained eyes Vegas looks to have had the middle torn out of it, something that was underway last year but has been augmented with economic meloncholy.

I took a simple walk down the vegas strip last night, starting at the Sahara where I got a room for $30 a night and working my way to the high end casinos at the south end of the strip.

Ten Years ago the strip extended all the way from the Manalay Bay to the Stratosphere, by this time last year many new casino had been built, as the big corperations started to redevelop older casinos from the south end down the strip. Unfortunately for the downtown end there is about 1 mile of real estate effectively abandoned. With only partially built or vacant lots where casinos used to stand. Probably one of the reasons that a hotel room is so cheap at this end of the strip.

I imagine that it might be years before the hole torn out of the middle of the city of Las Vegas is returned to what it once was.

Last night I walk into a Denny’s, to be honest it is little more than a MacDonalds with table service. However Denny’s means a lot more to me than McDonalds. I spent many a pleasant night in the Denny’s of Florida with my family growing up on holiday, and therefore thought I’d try and relive some of my childhood again by visiting this chain.

What I found was really upsetting, before I had seen Denny’s as McDonalds with a touch of class. The burgers always seemed tastier, the fries nicer the service better. Despite being hungry I could not finish my Burger, how you can cock up a burger I don’t know but the steak sauce it was garnished with simply wasn’t up to much, or certainly didn’t agree with my palate. As for the service, I had to ask several times to have my coke refilled. The same happened with my breakfast this morning, a bottomless cup of coffee indeed, I had physically aged by the time I had my cup refilled just once.

I did carrying on up the Strip, that goes on and on for what seems like forever, and the signs are so big outside the casinos that you might think you are moments away from them but you are probably a mile out. I carried on through hundreds of thousands of tourist set at giving as much of there money to these casinos as possible to get to the Belagio, and settle down to watch the fountains in all their glory. I have put together another video that captures what happens when the sunset and Vegas along with several massive electricity generators spring to life to make the strip what it is a Disneyland for adults. I hope you enjoy it.

The Video can be found at I may be an hour before it can be view its called vegas nights, and is another stop animation.

Freakonomics: The Vicky Pollard Effect?

During my trip so far I have read a couple of books, none more intriguing than Freakonomics, a kind of renegade look at cause and effect through analyzing real life data of the obscure to find out truths rather than common held belief’s. The book touches upon why drug dealers life with their mothers (apparently it is because gangs operate under a McDonalds type economic structure, with the street dealers being on little more than minimum wage!) through to why one legal case in US history had a greater effect on crime than any of the more commonly cited reasons like more police, new initiatives, etc…

It is this case that I want to dwell on. Firstly try to ignore the morality of the issue, instead see it as a bit of conjecture. The book takes a case of Roe Vs Wade 1973. In this case it was a battle for a mother to be allow to abort her child. It lead to a legal right for a woman to have an abortion in the United States.

Levitt and Dubner argue in their book that this case lead to the a reduction in births specifically in a group of the community whose children would be of greater risk of leading to criminality. Some of reasons given are that young low income families who don’t really want a child and that unwantedness and low socio-economic factors lead to an increase in the likelihood of developing criminality.

Now take this view and look at it from a UK perspective and look at the Vicky Pollards of our generation. Mothers who seem to have developed a dependency on social handouts from government, based on child support. As such if abortion managed to reduce US crime figures will an increase in the low socio-economic birth rate, and arguably a babies for government cash eventually lead to an increase in UK crime rates?

I have sent this short piece to the Freakonomics Blog, it is pure conjecture, but an interesting question nonetheless.

Slacking Off

Well I decided that I am tired of all the driving, and have manage to get a good deal in a Vegas Hotel, so I am going to go hide from the heat and endless driving for 5 days rest before I have to start traveling back to LA to fly to South America. A holiday whilst on Holiday!

Bullock Heads off for an Adventure

I was sent this info by either a reader or probably someone from Samsung. Either way Team Annapura III features the great Nick Bullock amongst others. They have with them enough electronic goods to open a curry’s in Katmandu. Hopefully this will mean that they will update there blog more regularly than I can, unless Starbucks has gotten all the way to Nepal?

Visit their exped blog here.

Red Rocks or Bust!

The eponymous Joshua Tree
The eponymous Joshua Tree

Well I had a good boulder in J Tree, and managed to solo some easy scrambles to the tops of various peaks, before retiring to watch the sunset. A very pleasant experience indeed. It was hot there, as it is in Red Rocks. I am currently in the Starbucks just south of the Campsite, and look forward to watching the lights come up over the strip from where I watched it last time I was here, a very magican experience, I shall try and capture in in some way. Hopefully I get some of the Sunset Images from J Tree together in a mini movie when I find a few hours to work on them.

The Sun Setting Across Joshua Tree NP
The Sun Setting Across Joshua Tree NP

Interestingly last night I had to get out of the tent for a pee. Now I have seen the fat boy scout and he says to look in your shoes for scorpions, which I duly did. What the Spray Mears didn’t tell you was to also look out for the snake thinking your shoes were a good rock to hide under! I nearly jumped out of my skin, the fact it slithered under the tent after meant I was rather fearful of squashing it, although I did shake the tent for about ten minutes before  got in, anyone watch must have thought I was mad!

Oh I wished for a bend in the road!
Oh I wished for a bend in the road!
Viva La Red Rocks!
Viva La Red Rocks!