Criminal Climbs

THE MAIL

To the Editors of the Crimson:

Both Ms. Simon's recent article, "Disobedience a la Thoreau: The Case of Gus Yates," and the letter published March 6 entitled "Selfishness," miss the point of Gus Yates' recent ascent of Mt. Katahdin. Mr. Yates did not set out to endanger the life of anyone. In fact, on my many outdoor trips with Mr. Yates I have been extremely impressed with his concern for the safety of the trip members and the preservation of the environment. He is, however, a very individualistic and independent person.

Our government was established to provide for the general welfare of the people while allowing for the individual freedom which differentiates the United States from many other nations. It was not established to prevent individuals from trying the limits of their capabilities.

Something which affects many members of the population, such as health care, is a legitimate object for government regulation. However, the regulation of an act which would affect only the individual involved, such as mountain climbing, is ridiculous. Mr. Yates neither needed nor wanted rescue parties to be sent out. They were sent out because he had violated a regulation established by the people through their elected representatives or the laws of nature.

In this case Mr. Yates was not in any way destroying the environment on Mt. Katahdin. The multitudinous inexperienced summer visitors do far more damage. The restrictions were supposedly designed to protect his safety. What risks he can or should take is a matter which Mr. Yates, not the park, should decide.

Mr. Simons states that Mr. Yates could have climbed unimpeded "in any one of countless mountain ranges." The fact is that the most spectacular ranges in our New England area--the White Mountains, the Green Mountains, Mt. Katahdin, and the Adirondacks--are all regulated. To have climbed a mountain which was not regulated and was also difficult enough to provide him with a challenge, Mr. Yates would have had to travel to the Rocky Mountains.

This restriction on an act which does not affect the safety of the general public is both unjustifiable and wrong. That Mr. Yates now has a criminal record because he climbed a mountain is ludicrous. Mr. Yates succeeded where few others could have. His act should serve as a symbol of the wrongness of a system which arrests people for climbing a mountain. Frank L. Lowenstein '82