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Man Can't Win

A wife dies through her own choices, her husband gets blamed either way.

By Lee Tydings  |  April 29, 2015

The Manchester Union Leader sponsored a lively discussion of the death of Kate Matrosova, a hiker in the White Mountains of New Hampshire last February 15, President's Day.  According to the Boston Globe, her husband dropped her off for a hike at 5 AM and was supposed to pick her up after she'd hiked to the top of four mountains named for men whose memories the holiday honors: Madison, Adams, Jefferson, and Washington.  The hike should have taken 4 to 6 hours.

The first mile or so of her hike was in a valley where trees blocked the wind.  About another mile from the end of the valley, she hit the "Help Me" button on her Personal Locator Beacon around 3:30 PM.  Even in the cold and deep snow, she should have been able to cover a mile every 2 hours; high winds kept her well behind schedule.

The Search and Rescue teams were unable to find her Sunday because of 70-120 MPH winds, snow, and bitter cold.

She had known the forecast, Ober [a Fish and Game rescue coordinator] said, but forged ahead. "This was her plan. She wanted to accomplish it.  The weather didn't seem to faze her that much."

Conditions were so bad that it took some of the world's best mountaineers two hours to travel a quarter-mile; they had to turn back.  They found her frozen corpse on Monday.

Mt. Washington isn't the only "killer mountain."  The Asahi Shimbun reported on Tanigawadake, which is feared as "ma no yama" (treacherous mountain) on which 800 people have died since 1926:

Motoo Iwasaki, who runs a mountaineering school, said, "Know the mountains and know yourself, and you will be safe on 100 mountains."

The mountains exist just as they should in nature. We humans are wrong to call them "treacherous" for accidents we cause ourselves.

Her Husband's Dilemma

The Union Leader's discussion centered on the question, should Kate's husband have let her make her hike?  He was savaged on Social Media for letting her put her life at risk, but what should he have done?

Her husband was not a mountaineer and didn't know much about winter hiking.  She was highly experienced and had the proper equipment.  The temperature was low and the predictions called for both snow and wind, but not until later Sunday, after she planned to finish her hike.

The "4 peaks" hike gives bragging rights among the outdoor community particularly when done in winter; this was one of her longstanding dreams.  She'd prepared with lesser hikes, she had all the right equipment, and she'd taken time off from her job.

One of the SAR people who went after her said she weighed less than 100 pounds.  Her husband could have thrown her in their car and driven her back to base, but then what?  He'd have been savaged on social media for being an overbearing male chauvinist pig.

The only way a  man can protect his wife without her cooperation is to inflict incarceration on her.  Without the benefit of hindsight, should he have dragged her back to base?