Title: People Hunter: Thirty Years Chasing Down my Fellow Man
Author: Hal Lillywhite
This is the second book I have read by Hal Lillywhite while the first one was informative as this one is more entertaining detailing his accounts as a Search and Rescue officer. This subject interests me greatly as we hear about Search and Rescue operations on the news a lot and I have always been interested in the inner workings of these kinds of operations.
In the first chapter: What an Introduction to SAR! Hal Lillywhite talks about his first search and rescue mission despite his inexperience he agrees. This particular mission would turn into the largest mountain search in U.S. history, he also talks about the emotional load he felt from the concerned parents. I loved how Hal details these accounts in a chronological order but they are exciting enough to be rivetting. He talks about how on the first night of the search two of the climbers were found but the extreme weathers conditions made it too dangerous to continue the search that night. As the weather conditions improved more people were found but not all survived the extreme conditions on the mountain. By the time the rescue mission was over a few of the rescuers were extremely disheartened as 9 people lost their lives but their ray of hope was a small few they rescued made full recoveries. Lillywhite also talks about the aftermath of the rescue and how the subsequent investigation lead to significant improvements in search management and operations. I also liked the images Lillywhite to shows a more realistic view of what Hal is talking about.
In the succeeding chapters Lillywhite discusses the dangers and potential outcomes on unplanned hikes on the snowy mountains which led to a pair of women getting lost and not being discovered for four days as they had no idea of what to do in an emergency in the snow. This first section of the book has some great stories in it, most of them are quite complex even if they appear simple on the surface. I also liked the fact that we learn even extremely simple and everyday things like weather changes and nightfall can be disastrous in mountain rescues and can put major relays on missions. The sixth chapter heading; A Body or a Patient? caught my eye straight away. Lillywhite has an uncanny story-telling ability and can make even mundane and repetitive processes seems absolutely rivetting.
This book was extremely refreshing to read this after reading Lillywhite’s political book; A Dictionary of Polspeak and it allows the readers to learn more about the author and basically get inside his head. We also learn that its not just ordinary people who can lose their lives during rescues the rescuers are also at risk. Lillywhite talks briefly about a friend he lost when he was on an avalanche class in Canada. Lillywhite also talks about how the smallest things like a man passing out in a toilet can cure the low morale issues from recovering more bodies than live people. It is slightly devastating to read about how many bodies these rescuers recover and it makes us worry for the authors and others mental states and how they coped with the after effects of their work. I really enjoyed reading about the animal rescues as well as the people rescues and how this was one of the first times that a SAR team had been called out for an animal rescue as well as a human rescue which despite the situation was very entertaining to read. Lillywhite has clearly lead a rich and exciting life and has enjoyed what he has done with it.
Lillywhite has also suffered personally from his work as one of the bodies he was sent to recover was the son of his cousin although he did not know it at the time. While Lillywhite talks in detail about his job he talks very little about what happened afterwards and I was interested in learning more about this. Did any of the rescuers have to seek treatment for mental issues like depression or PTSD? I think if this had been included in more detail the book was have been astounding not just great. We also learn some rescues can have happy endings but for the rescuers it can be extremely confusing and frustrating trying to figure out why people do certain things like not lighting fire in the night or not signalling a passing helicopter. Lillywhite was extremely good at his job and enjoyed it but the way the book is written it feels a little lifeless and is missing the emotional side of these tales rather than just the technical sides.
One reoccurring theme that caused a lot of these accidents is ignorance. People are hiking ill-equipped for the terrain and many have little to none in ways of experience. In some cases people had just seen the view and decided to go walking with no equipment, the wrong clothing and with no idea of their location as shown in chapter 14. As we cross over the halfway point in the book I am really enjoying reading about the authors’ experiences and trails but I feel the booking is lacking something emotional that would make it 10x better in the eyes of the reader.
We learn about the various kinds of rescue and what they involve in great details. Lillywhite also provide tips of sorts for people going out hiking the two main ones being wear appropriately clothing and equipment and always inform someone of where you are planning to go. Although you really should not hike without suitable experience. We also learn a lot of external factors influence and can hinder the rescues like weather, human psychology (an example of this is chapter 20) and unexpected occurrences like spreading crevasses.
As we come into the final section of the book I felt the book started to become a little repetitive but it was still amazing read. Overall I liked this book which was a surprise as I don’t read autobiographical books that often but I found this book to be very informative and it made me really want to climb a snowy mountain one day. I would recommend this book to anyone that like autobiographical books, books centered around nature or people who just want to read something different to what they normally read.
This book was sent to me for review consideration by the author
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