Risk, Behavior, & People’s Errant Instincts

It is a constant source of amazement to me how people think that because a hiking trail is a) busy, and b) within sight of city lights, that it must be safe as a sidewalk. The straightest trail up Vancouver, British Columbia’s, Grouse Mountain — a rocky 2,400-ft vertical slog called the “Grouse Grind” by locals — meets both criteria … so it is usually a circus for search-and-rescue sorts.

Read the following press release from the frustrated folks at North Shore Search and Rescue, and then shake your head:

Grind hikers warned about the dark

HIKERS who want to climb the Grouse Grind in daylight are being reminded by North Shore Rescue that the trail closes at 5:30 p.m.

According to Tim Jones, rescue team spokesman, he and fellow rescuers had to assist no less than 17 hikers to get down the trail from below the half-way mark on Sunday – none of whom was carrying a light. “Among those 17 hikers was a six-year-old girl hiking the Grind by herself,” said Jones. “There was also a family of seven that included a 12-month-old baby and a three-year-old girl.”

Jones said he has concerns about parents taking small children on the trail and those who risk having to negotiate the trail after dark. “We’re asking parents to exercise common sense and we want to remind them that they absolutely need to carry a light and water,” Jones said. “The Grind is not a good place to be falling after dark. We’re asking parents to consider the risk they’re putting their kids at if they get stuck in the dark.”

Because all 17 of the hikers were ill-equipped, Jones said, rescue team members had to break into an emergency cache at the half-way mark of the trail to provide them with lights and light sticks.

“All of them told us that they knew the trail closed at 5:30,” he said. “but none of them had lights. These days, too many people are hiking up in daylight and finding themselves trying to get down in dark without lights,” he said.

“I can tell you that it gets very dark on the Grind by 7:30 p.m. and people are seriously misjudging the amount of time it will take them to get down.”


  1. Paul, its no different for any number of risky behaviors engaged in by Humans. Who doesn’t know that smoking dramatically raises cancer risks? Why do 1 out of 4 people still not use seatbelts? Consider the cost/benefits of doing so, versus the damage caused in even minor accidents.
    Its no surprise that the Efficient Market Hypothesis is finally being discarded. People are hardly rational, and have shown a demonstrably poor ability to assess risk . . .

  2. Why would anyone hike the Grouse Grind in the first place? It is one of the ugliet and most wretched hiking trails in the Lower Mainland. Infants and micro-humans on a hiking trail at night, forget about assessing risk, assess stupidity.

  3. Okay, folks. I think I figured a way through this.
    It’s kinda like my idea for full length mirrors and weigh scales at the the entrance to Wreck Beach (Vancouver’s ‘clothing optional’ beach).
    See, it’s more ‘efficient’ for NSS&R to post a volunteer at the narrow entrance to The Grind and have folks do a show and tell before they can pass. Think the guy at the bridge in Python’s ‘Holy Grail’. If mom or pops can show that they’ve got water or light, they can purchase NSS&R lights and water at the bottom to gain entry. Or, if some pinkos object to NSS&R’s altruistic attempts to collect beer fund, another volunteer could be posted at the top to accept return of unused safety gear (light and water). Or, NSS&R could charge rent for such renewable items used and returned (light) and charge for nonrenewables consumed (water). There’s plenty more options here – just gotta use your imaginations, kids.
    Thus, NSS&R can have a source of revenue to help sustain rescue activities and supply the emergency cache, NSS&R brings down the rescue numbers, and they can stop belly aching all the time about doing the job they’re not paid to do.
    Class dismissed.