Why treasure hunters make poor decisions?

With a sudden increase in Fenn treasure hunter related deaths and a long history of hunters getting lost. Many will wonder why? First reason is people have been lured into a hostile environment of which many have no experience. The second is their judgement has been clouded by gold fever and inexperience.

When I wrote my book, Finding Forrest Fenn, it was initially intended as a guide to help new searchers prepare for the dangerous environment that treasure hunting in the Rocky Mountains possesses. The second audience was for the casual reader curious about what motivates a treasure hunter to get them selves into precarious situations. After engaging in the treasure hunt for two years and combining that experience with my search and rescue experience, I felt it would be advantageous for readers to understand exactly what goes on in a treasure hunters mind when on scene.

Even with 28 years of search and rescue experience and seeing all the stupid things people have done requiring them to be rescued or even die, I found myself in an situation in which defied all logic. I began to wonder: if I, with all my experience can get myself into trouble, then what is the poor soul with no experience at all getting themselves into?

Sure there are many experts out there heeding warnings about how to stay safe while treasure hunting, but that is easy to say, difficult in practice. Take Dal Neitzel a man of over 60 hunts under his belt, he will be the first to stand up and tell everyone to stay safe, not take unnecessary risks and don't go where an 80 year old wouldn't go. Yet he was the first guy to be persuaded to jump on a thin wire and be winched down into a steep mine shaft. So what happened to the preacher of logic in that case?

To understand, one must get into the mind of a treasure hunter. When I wrote Finding Forrest Fenn, I chose to make a parody of Dal Neitzel's The Shaft story, where I open my book with me rappelling down a 100 foot mine shaft (illustrated on the image in this blog post) Indian Jones style (see Sample Chapter). Actually, I put a spin (pun intended) on it with a Spider-Man theme, where I was leaping from scant to scant. It was fun writing it and added some entertainment value, but my main point, was to emphasis that no matter how rational one is or thinks they are, when one has gold fever, all common sense goes out the window.

The worst thing is no one with gold fever will ever know or admit they have it. It seems every treasure hunter has a strong desire to live out an episode of Indiana Jones and my opening chapter focused front and centre on that crazy desire. The upside to publishing my book was that it forced Mr. Fenn to reveal to the public one day after I published it, that treasure hunters should not search in mines because they are too dangerous. Maybe I should write some more books!

I experienced and wrote of the gold fever phenomenon to help treasure hunters understand in advance what can happen when one is shot full of adrenaline and their brain is deprived of oxygen in the high altitude of the Rocky Mountains. Throw in a $2000 trip, 3000 km away from home and all of a sudden, there is a strong urge to check out one more spot, climb just a few feet higher on a dangerous slope. Especially when they show up shocked to see how rugged the terrain is compares to the much gentler appeal on Google Earth. Many show up surprised to see snow on the ground well into June. Don't laugh, I did it and I have a one week course in Rocky Mountain survival training.

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