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Rafting death poses theme-park question

BUENA VISTA, Colo. - What's fair? That has long been the question in outdoor pursuits. Mountain bikes in wilderness areas? Permanent bolts on rock faces to improve safety?

Most people that climb Mt. Everest use supplemental oxygen. But Reinhold Messner, the famous Italian mountain climber, championed what he called "by fair means," twice summiting the mountain without oxygen.

Now, that same question is being asked in connection with a hidden but dangerous water feature in Colorado's Arkansas River. The Summit Daily News explains that at higher volumes of water, the obstruction called Frog Rock gets washed out, posing no threat. But at flows below 1,000 cubic feet per second, as are common in late summer, an underwater sieve becomes dangerous.

Several people died there a decade ago, so river rangers posted signs alerting rafting guides how to avoid trouble. They thought they had taken care of the problem. But again this summer, a 23-year-old rafting guide from Breckenridge died. Her body still has not been recovered and is believed to be lodged within the underwater rocks.

Should the rocks in the river be rearranged to gut the danger? The Daily News reports support for the change, but also opposition.

"How many people have fallen off one of the climbing faces at Rocky Mountain National Park or Yosemite?" asked Stew Pappenfort, senior ranger in the Arkansas Headwaters Recreation Area. He said the general opinion in the rafting industry is that "we don't take wild places and turn them into Disneyland scenarios."

But it's not an absolute. Checking with other river managers, he finds some features in both U.S. and Canadian rivers have been altered "for public safety."

River managers, however, also are assessing what liability they may incur if they modify the river flow - and the alternative results in injury or death.


Tibetans return

RED CLIFF, Colo. - Many people in the post-World War II ski industry spent time at Camp Hale, a valley at 9,300 feet near what later became Vail. The valley was used to train the 10 th Mountain Division.

But although most of the buildings were quickly torn down after the 10 th Mountain soldiers left in 1944, sporadic use of the camp was made for another 20 years. Most intriguingly, the Central Intelligence Agency clandestinely trained several hundred Tibetan guerillas there in the 1950s and early 1960s. This was after China had invaded Tibet, forcing the Dali Lama to flee across the Himalaya and into India.

After being trained in sabotage, the guerillas were parachuted into Tibet or filtered across the border to harass the Chinese.

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