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#15158 - 06/15/11 11:30 PM SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7583
Loc: Fresno, CA
From: Sequoia and Kings Canyon News Releases
Quote:
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release
June 15, 2011

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Initiates Rescue of Woman Who Had Been Trapped in a Creek Under Snow for an Extended Time

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' staff initiated a search-and-rescue for a woman who had been pulled from the creek at the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park on Tuesday, June 14, 2011, at 5:15 p.m. The 52-year-old woman (who is from Squaw Valley, CA) left the Farewell Gap Trailhead on a solo day hike to train for an ultra-marathon. She hiked up Farewell Canyon and crossed Franklin Creek on a snow bridge.

On her way back to the trailhead, the snow bridge collapsed underneath her, and she fell into the creek. She was swept downstream under the snow for 30-40 feet, where she found a spot to stop herself. She stood up in the creek under the snow with no access to the surface. Using her hands, she dug through approximately 5 feet of snow and created a small hole at the surface. She threw her backpack out of the hole, where it was seen by another party who went to examine it and found the woman under the snow nearby.

The woman was hypothermic and incoherent when the second party pulled her out of the creek, as she had been trapped in the creek under snow for over 3 hours. One member of the party went back to the trailhead for help. The remainder of the party provided assistance in warming the woman. Upon notification of the incident, the park helicopter (with a medic) and a ranger (on foot) were dispatched to the scene. When rangers arrived, the woman declined evacuation or medical assistance. She was assisted to the trailhead by a ranger.


Please Note: Anyone interested in visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks should be aware that there is still quite a bit of snow at higher elevations (7,000 feet) in the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains this year, and conditions are expected to last well into the summer due to record snowfall this winter followed by a very cool, wet spring. Rivers in the parks have not crested yet and will do so later than in normal years. Visitors to higher elevations face conditions more similar to late winter or early spring than would be expected at this time of the year. Many trails that normally open in June are still completely covered by snow, and many creek crossings are not passable. Park visitors interested in accessing higher elevations are encouraged to modify their trip plans accordingly.

-NPS-

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#15161 - 06/16/11 03:02 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Steve C]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1559
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Quite a story. In addition to her own heroic self rescue effort, Her first responders must have done a truly fine job. Any recovery from that level of hypothermia is not easy in the field.

A real and all too common challenge for SAR/EMS crews: The patient who is incoherent to the point of obviously needing assistance but just coherent enough to be able to refuse.

Thanks for posting, Steve: you know I am looking closely at beta on my HST itinerary, especially at creek crossings west of Kaweah Gap. SEKI has been warning of treacherous snow bridge crossings. Wonder if there are any creeks this size in the Whitney area that might pose similar conditions? Wallace, Tyndall?
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#15165 - 06/16/11 04:39 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: saltydog]
Bob R Offline


Registered: 10/27/09
Posts: 129
Loc: Ridgecrest, California
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Wonder if there are any creeks this size in the Whitney area that might pose similar conditions? Wallace, Tyndall?
Yes, there are quite a few all around. Just look for conditions.

Several years ago I was descending the Whitney Trail about this time of year, solo. After passing Trailside Meadow, there is an opportunity to glissade the steep slope down to Mirror Lake. I have done that quite a few times, and decided to this time in spite of the snow being soft and melting fast. There was a good sized stream under the snow now.

About halfway down there is a rimaye (similar to a crevasse or bergschrund, but with snow on only one side and rock on the other) a few inches wide. Gravity pulls you toward it, and I was using my ice ax to try to steer around it. Unfortunately, I got too close and the snow collapsed, and I fell into the rimaye. My first thought was of injury to my back and head striking the rocks, and then of being swept along like the Squaw Valley woman.

Well, after a vertical fall of about 10 feet, I did bounce down in the stream about 40 feet and stopped, miraculously unhurt. But I was very worried about being able to get out. The "cave" was big enough to stand up, so reaching up to dig out wasn't an option. And the thought of descending into the dark abyss was abhorrent.

So I looked at climbing back up. But the slope seemed to exceed 45 degrees (it probably didn't), rocky, and there was a vertical wall at the end where I had fallen through. All with this stream rushing through, and I was somewhat drenched by now.

Long story short, I was able to climb back up and negotiated the wall to get out into the light again. The only casualty was loss of my Tilley hat; it had gotten swept down by the stream. I went back after the snow had melted, hoping to find it on the shore of Mirror Lake, but no luck.

Another time I was descending the North Fork below Lower Boy Scout Lake, south of the stream since that was still the preferred route. Here there was no stream below me, and I was with others. I stopped about 8 feet down, and with the help of friends, was able to get back up.

-----

By the way, the streams are flowing very full now. I took this picture on June 7:

14 There will be a lot more water soon

I didn't have a camera yesterday--8 days later--but the water extended to the bottom of the picture, and the stream covered the lower several inches of the main log. More than in this picture from June 18, 2009:

05 The logs

EDIT: By the way 2, the mosquitoes are out, at Whitney Portal and above.


Edited by Bob R (06/16/11 09:21 AM)
Edit Reason: EDIT

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#15169 - 06/16/11 09:03 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bob R]
CMC2 Offline


Registered: 11/04/09
Posts: 160
Loc: CO
SPOILER ALERT FOR BOOK The Last Season by Eric Blehm. It has been a while since I read the book BUT:


As I posted on the WPSMB this reminds me alot of what happened to Randy Morgenson. But unlike this lucky lady, there was no one around to help him after his plunge through snow and ice into the creek.

I think my friend Ranger Bob R used one of his 9 lives on the account of his lst drop of 10' and then the 40' drop down the creek.

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#15172 - 06/16/11 10:31 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: CMC2]
GandC Offline


Registered: 03/21/11
Posts: 252
Loc: SoCal
The Last Season was EXACTLY my first thought when I read that report that Steve posted. It can happen to anyone, even the most seasoned backcountry veteran like Randy Morgenson.

GREAT book, by the way. One of my favorites. I probably read it once or twice a year.
_________________________
One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson

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#15189 - 06/16/11 03:59 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: GandC]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I thought about this last year when about this time when I was contemplating some of the snow bridges in my area (Sierra North) Is there some sort of protocol when evaluating snow bridge integrity?

(this is sort of like the seasonal opposite of Tree Wells)
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#15190 - 06/16/11 04:09 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: saltydog]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: saltydog
SEKI has been warning of treacherous snow bridge crossings. Wonder if there are any creeks this size in the Whitney area that might pose similar conditions? Wallace, Tyndall?

please see
http://postholer.com/journal/viewJournal.php?sid=f90d28e7f9841d23fc2382948e9e46af&entry_id=23540

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#15191 - 06/16/11 04:12 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1015
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Bee
Is there some sort of protocol when evaluating snow bridge integrity?

Bee, send a volunteer heavier than you, otherwise we will have another frozen Bee cartoon picture.

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#15222 - 06/17/11 05:10 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Steve C]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
In the eastside, all creeks are running fast and furious. I've checked Bishop Creek, Convict Creek, Piute Creek, Pine Creek and McGee Creek; all high and dangerous. Snow bridges above 10,000 in those drainages.

Road to Mosquito Flat in Rock Creek is still closed, but the good news is the Pie in the Sky Cafe is open!

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#15245 - 06/17/11 03:26 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bob West]
wagga Online


Registered: 10/07/09
Posts: 2243
Loc: Humbug Reach (Pop. 3)
'Twas our Sierra Club Tehipite Chapter's fearless Outings Chair.

"Some of you may have figured out who this was from the article in the Bee. Yes, it was Marcia with another death-defying tale to tell. She does say that it was only two feet of snow she dug through though and not five feet. She is doing fine and wanting to go back and get her hat. She does have some minor frostbite and lots of bruises."
_________________________
Verum audaces non gerunt indusia alba. - Ipsi dixit MCMLXXII

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#15252 - 06/17/11 07:44 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
hike500 Offline


Registered: 03/11/11
Posts: 52
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Yes, it's called common sense. Kind of like crossing a crevice on a glacier, you don't do it unless you are roped off. Come on Bee

Originally Posted By: Bee
I thought about this last year when about this time when I was contemplating some of the snow bridges in my area (Sierra North) Is there some sort of protocol when evaluating snow bridge integrity?

(this is sort of like the seasonal opposite of Tree Wells)
_________________________




“Any thoughts of guilt, any feelings of regret, had faded. The desert had baked them out.” - Stephen King



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#15256 - 06/17/11 07:53 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: hike500]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: hike500
Yes, it's called common sense. Kind of like crossing a crevice on a glacier, you don't do it unless you are roped off. Come on Bee


Well, um, thanks for the advice -- I feel so much better, now.

Perhaps I was a bit vague; my query was in regard to any visual cues that a bridge may be weakening. I am not that experienced, thus, trial & error is very unappealing at this point.

I will keep your advice close at hand should I decide to wander over any glaciers/crevasses.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#15260 - 06/17/11 08:22 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
hike500 Offline


Registered: 03/11/11
Posts: 52
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
You ask for advice and you will probably get it! Glad you feel better. As for a visual clue, there aren't any, fresh snow can cover up a weak bridge or one with holes in it. I didn't realize you weren't an experienced hiker, sorry if I came off like you were.

Originally Posted By: Bee
Originally Posted By: hike500
Yes, it's called common sense. Kind of like crossing a crevice on a glacier, you don't do it unless you are roped off. Come on Bee


Well, um, thanks for the advice -- I feel so much better, now.

Perhaps I was a bit vague; my query was in regard to any visual cues that a bridge may be weakening. I am not that experienced, thus, trial & error is very unappealing at this point.

I will keep your advice close at hand should I decide to wander over any glaciers/crevasses.
_________________________




“Any thoughts of guilt, any feelings of regret, had faded. The desert had baked them out.” - Stephen King



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#15262 - 06/17/11 08:51 PM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: hike500]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I am your typical trail walker who rarely encounters anything technical, other than a few log crossings, etc -- rarely any snow. (however, this year, it seems unavoidable)

The avatar is actually a lift of an image that appeared in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Sierra magazine. They did an illustration of a 30-year-old story of a ski accident that I had.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#15264 - 06/18/11 02:00 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7583
Loc: Fresno, CA
It is sobering to think how impossible it is to evaluate the safety of a snow bridge. Since they melt out from bottom up, there is sometimes NO way to judge. There could be 3-4 feet of snow supporting the bridge, or just a foot--not enough to support much of anything.

Randy Morgensen, an experienced backcountry ranger died. Now here, a Sierra Club hike leader was fortunate to be rescued. With just a couple of different twists, the outcome could have been disastrous! Bob R's experience could have, too!

Here are some ideas:

  • Check how close you are to where the stream exits (or goes underneath) the snow. Closer to the that point, the thinner it would be. But due to unseen undulations in the terrain, there could be thin spots far from the point.
  • Maybe it would be possible to use a hiking pole to probe the snow to determine how thick it is.
  • When hiking alone, best policy would be to avoid them completely. Of course that may be impossible to do.


Thinking back, I once tried to collapse a snow bridge over a small stream. This was a small stream, so no danger to me. I thought by stomping near the edge I could get it to collapse without my going in, and it would leave the crossing open so other hikers could see and cross more safely. Unfortunately I went in with the snow, and ended up with a wet boot.

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#15272 - 06/18/11 08:27 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
hike500 Offline


Registered: 03/11/11
Posts: 52
Loc: Phoenix, AZ
Thats actually why I moved to Phoenix, got real tired of the snow and like hiking year around on clear trails. Now this year I am taking my son and have to buy two pairs of crampons and two ice axes, ouch!
_________________________




“Any thoughts of guilt, any feelings of regret, had faded. The desert had baked them out.” - Stephen King



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#15274 - 06/18/11 09:04 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Steve C]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Steve:

Thanks for posting. I had just logged on to do exactly that.

Everyone: take this stuff very seriously. There have been assorted discussion of trips where I don't think people recognize the real dangers right now, in spite of repeated warnings from very experienced people. But for skill and pure luck, this person would have died.

The same danger exists when crossing snow on the margins of lakes. Huge slabs break off into lakes well into the summer. Stay well away (100 feet) of anything sloping into and overhanging a lake.

Everybody stay safe. Rangers aren't going in until late next week.

George
_________________________
None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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#15278 - 06/18/11 10:34 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Steve C]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
Quote:
Originally Posted By: hike500
Yes, it's called common sense. Kind of like crossing a crevice on a glacier, you don't do it unless you are roped off. Come on Bee


Well, um, thanks for the advice -- I feel so much better, now.

Perhaps I was a bit vague; my query was in regard to any visual cues that a bridge may be weakening. I am not that experienced, thus, trial & error is very unappealing at this point.

I will keep your advice close at hand should I decide to wander over any glaciers/crevasses.


Bee's question was very reasonable. To add to Steve C's advice, I don't believe common sense or being roped covers a real solution. There's no good way to tell and very few hikers carry ropes that would hold a belay.

I usually pound on snow bridges with both ski poles and, at the edge, with my foot. Best is to continue upstream where it's not just a snow bridge, but an entire field of snow (though that appears to be the case in this incident). I step very cautiously and softly. The woman here carried a long stick, on the theory that if it gave way, the stick would catch her on either side. Not bad, but it didn't work. But that shows she was worried. Not to second guess, but if you're that worried, an extended search for a better crossing might well be in order.

Finally, try to cross only in the morning -- to about 10 AM. Hard to follow that advice, but afternoons are going to be the most dangerous as the snow melts and sags.

g.
_________________________
None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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#15281 - 06/18/11 11:56 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: George]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Thank you very much George.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#15314 - 06/19/11 10:25 AM Re: SeKi Rescue: Woman falls through Snow Bridge [Re: Bee]
George Offline
Woodsy Guy

Registered: 10/22/09
Posts: 202
Loc: California
One more thought which I just posted on another thread, but will repeat. Make sure your waist belt is unbuckled and shoulder straps semi-loose if you go in and have to dump your pack quickly. This is for anything over water -- log crossings, wading, snow bridges. Have a Plan II, know what your run out is and, if it's rapids, white water or cascade, maybe you don't want to be there... .

thanks,

g.
_________________________
None of the views expressed here in any way represent those of the unidentified agency that I work for or, often, reality. It's just me, fired up by coffee and powerful prose.

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