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Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
#33019 09/03/13 08:52 AM
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Fresno Bee reported this today.

Here's a link to the BakersfieldNow report.
Man falls to death at Mt. Whitney

Inyo Register report:
Torrance man falls to his death after summiting Mt. Whitney

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33020 09/03/13 09:55 AM
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Interesting premise that cell reception would be the key to saving lives...


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Bee #33021 09/03/13 10:45 AM
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It appears that idea was expressed by the pistol-carrying hiker??? Not sure how having cell reception would cushion a 200-foot fall.

On the other hand, if there were better cell reception, emergency calls would be able to communicate more information to the rescuers. It appears this fall occurred on the west side, and I am sure Sequoia N.P. is never going to install any cellular equipment in the backcountry.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33024 09/03/13 02:18 PM
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Climbers have the rare ability to gamble the rest of their lives on one step.
Joe Simpson, Dark Shadows Falling page 196

Doesn't even need to be a climber, sounds like he was just following the simple trail and maybe stubbed his toe, or placed his foot too close to an unstable edge. It's easy to do that whether ataxic or not from AMS.

I have stubbed my toe on many a trail. There but by the grace....

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Harvey Lankford #33026 09/03/13 10:37 PM
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Correct me if I'm wrong... but didn't cell phone coverage actually -cause- a SAR on Whitney in 2008 or so... some guy was so intent on his conversation (because he actually had reception) that he walked off the edge of a cliff and had to be rescued?

Depending on cell phone coverage to save your bottom in the back country is like depending on the bottle of water in your cup holder to stop a forest fire...

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33027 09/03/13 10:58 PM
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Bob R happened to be setting up an overnight camp above Trail Camp when he got word of the accident. He and his group were able to climb to Trail Crest and help the Seki helicopter locate the spot, and help with SAR communications.

Here's a picture:


His set of pictures is here:
2013-08-31 Mt. Marsh attempt and tragedy

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33031 09/04/13 09:54 AM
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Paving the trail would contribute to less falls and putting in a tram would eliminate all sorts of problems...just saying.

The trail, for the most part, is the John Muir WILDERNESS. We have gone on ad infinium about solar latrines on this trail and what it would take to get them back up and running. Wha'cha think it would take to get a series of cell towers built.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
wbtravis #33035 09/04/13 11:37 AM
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Put a tram to the top with a paved trail (with handrails) coming back down. Rename it the John Muir Wilderness Experience Theme Park.

Put cell towers on top of the new power flush toilets in each Starbucks/strip mall on the path.

Have plenty of those scooters to rent because walking is over rated......................................DUG

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
DUG #33045 09/04/13 11:11 PM
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Looking forward to the Mt Whitney Zip Line!!!


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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
quillansculpture #33046 09/05/13 08:20 AM
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^ YES


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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Snacking Bear #33051 09/05/13 11:51 AM
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I guess I'm just a softie, but I don't see the humor or the connection to a 60-yr man falling to his death. I'm having a hard time laughing about this crazy talk of zip lines, trams, flush toilets, and scooters. All this because of one guy's opinion about the value of having better cell reception? Reply to one of the cell phone threads if that's the point of this, it's been rehashed ad naseum already.

If hiking with 200 other people on a trail littered with plastic poop bags, cables on the switchbacks, to a peak with a stone hut and circus atmosphere is considered "wilderness" I feel sorry for you. Mt Whitney is an awesome and rewarding trophy hike in the High Sierra's, but if you're looking for true wilderness, keep walking. Plenty of true wilderness just beyond this special place.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kato.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Harvey Lankford #33055 09/05/13 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford

Climbers have the rare ability to gamble the rest of their lives on one step.
Joe Simpson, Dark Shadows Falling page 196

Doesn't even need to be a climber, sounds like he was just following the simple trail and maybe stubbed his toe, or placed his foot too close to an unstable edge. It's easy to do that whether ataxic or not from AMS.

I have stubbed my toe on many a trail. There but by the grace....

Mr. Kato was reportedly quite ill at the summit 90 minutes before his fall (according to the video interview). It seems likely that AMS played a role in his fall. It's possible that AMS started for him at the summit and he had no choice but to climb down, but it's more likely that he struggled with AMS while climbing and it worsened at the summit. I hope there's a follow up article, but they tend to get buried or dropped. Maybe the SAR report will shed some light.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
SierraNevada #33056 09/05/13 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
I guess I'm just a softie, but I don't see the humor or the connection to a 60-yr man falling to his death. I'm having a hard time laughing about this crazy talk of zip lines, trams, flush toilets, and scooters. All this because of one guy's opinion about the value of having better cell reception? Reply to one of the cell phone threads if that's the point of this, it's been rehashed ad naseum already.

If hiking with 200 other people on a trail littered with plastic poop bags, cables on the switchbacks, to a peak with a stone hut and circus atmosphere is considered "wilderness" I feel sorry for you. Mt Whitney is an awesome and rewarding trophy hike in the High Sierra's, but if you're looking for true wilderness, keep walking. Plenty of true wilderness just beyond this special place.

Rest in peace, Mr. Kato.


You don't have to get very far off the main Whitney Trail to experience TRUE wilderness. There are places close by that receive very few visitors ever - you just have to explore. Without the cell phone of course.

That thin line of trail to the top may not be a wilderness experience, but there is plenty of it close by.

And I don't see any reason to speculate why a man died. None of us reading reports and news stories have any real idea. Maybe he was sick, maybe he tripped, maybe his GOD called him home.

I don't think anyone was making light of the man's death, just poking fun at the idea of more cell phone towers.

As always, your mileage may vary.....................DUG

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
DUG #33063 09/05/13 02:28 PM
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Another hiker on the trail emailed me to say that he was quite sick before he fell. Possibly even threw up just before. The thinking is that in his weakened, dizzy and maybe disoriented state, he mis-stepped, or misjudged the edge, and fell over the edge. The spot, if I understand correctly, was maybe a hundred yards before the base of Mt Muir (closer to the MMWT/JMT junction).

I am sure we all offer our condolences to the Kato family.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33066 09/05/13 04:16 PM
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If your brain is on hiatus, no amount of technology will save you, or get you a rescue more quickly, no matter if you're in wilderness or not.


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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
MooseTracks #33072 09/05/13 05:30 PM
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Originally Posted By: MooseTracks
If your brain is on hiatus, no amount of technology will save you, or get you a rescue more quickly, no matter if you're in wilderness or not.

Well said.

To give an example from a little higher, my friend Bob S developed early HACE on Kili. It is a simple trail but he could not stay on it, he seemed coherent but just kept veering to the right - had to be escorted down where he recovered.

Ataxia (unstable/wobbly gait/balance) is considered a reliable sign of HACE, a life-threatening complication of AMS. It is a rare diagnosis on a mountain the height of Whitney, but possible. Ataxia it is said to be a sine qua non - an essential manifestation that by itself highly suggests the diagnosis. Although HACE can develop rapidly in just hours, usually it is over days or weeks and higher up, and usually by the time ataxia shows up, earlier signs have been missed, underestimated, or ignored by the climber and those around him.

The earliest symptoms of HACE and HAPE, for even the most experienced climber, can be confused with the usual discomforts of acclimatization, and a misunderstanding can be fatal.
Anatoli Boukreev, The Climb, page 78

We do not know if the unfortunate man in our case here may have had HACE, but just any degree of AMS can make you feel so bad that you get Mountaineer's Foot - can't put one in front of the other (or in the right place). For whatever reason out of many; AMS, non-AMS illness or fatigue, simple fall, whatever it was, his walk in the sky became his last. Rest in Peace.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Steve C #33075 09/05/13 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted By: Steve C
Another hiker on the trail emailed me to say that he was quite sick before he fell. Possibly even threw up just before. The thinking is that in his weakened, dizzy and maybe disoriented state, he mis-stepped, or misjudged the edge, and fell over the edge. The spot, if I understand correctly, was maybe a hundred yards before the base of Mt Muir (closer to the MMWT/JMT junction).

I am sure we all offer our condolences to the Kato family.


I can appreciate that you got decent gouge Steve, but really, it's all speculation.

It's a sad thing to die in the back country yet I think it's sad when people die crossing the street.

I don't think poking fun at the cellphone suggestion was intended to show disrespect. I know I meant no disrespect, but I'm the kinda guy who laughs at a funeral an treats it as a celebration of life. I hope there is one heck of a party at my funeral..................................DUG

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
DUG #33077 09/05/13 07:53 PM
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Originally Posted By: DUG

You don't have to get very far off the main Whitney Trail to experience TRUE wilderness. There are places close by that receive very few visitors ever - you just have to explore. Without the cell phone of course

Agree. Point is, the Whitney "Zone" is a specially designated area that should not be confused with true wilderness. Responsible management of high impact areas like Whitney (17,000 people a year) and Half Dome call for special rules and tools to keep them available to the public without ruining them.

If cell coverage happens to extend to these popular areas, that's probably a good thing overall, but nobody is calling for a cell tower on the summit or paved trails or flush toilets or zip lines. Even the article said that better cell phone coverage would not have saved him nor accelerated a rescue. This thread just got a bit off topic and I'm sure nobody meant disrespect.

Based on the reports, AMS seems quite likely to have played a role. True, we don't know for sure right now, but it seems on point and a valuable reminder to discuss AMS regardless. Harvey's expert comments make it a good teaching moment.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Harvey Lankford #33079 09/05/13 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford


The earliest symptoms of HACE and HAPE, for even the most experienced climber, can be confused with the usual discomforts of acclimatization, and a misunderstanding can be fatal.
Anatoli Boukreev, The Climb, page 78


A simple, eloquent statement.

Bob R has an excellent documentation of this long-term, overlooked early signs of HAPE in an account of a Denali expedition. One of the participants became lethargic over time and I believe that he even had a slight cough; the others misinterpreted it as failed conditioning (if I remember correctly)

Our resident Geek might bee able to dig up this most excellent article somewhere in our archives.

As an afterthought, I will mention that I just got over my 5th(!) episode of pneumonia, but yet, I still missed the early signs. Our lost comrades did not have 5x to blunder.


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Bee #33083 09/06/13 12:18 AM
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Originally Posted By: Bee
Bob R has an excellent documentation of this long-term, overlooked early signs of HAPE in an account of a Denali expedition. One of the participants became lethargic over time and I believe that he even had a slight cough; the others misinterpreted it as failed conditioning (if I remember correctly)


Here you go. It's in Bob Rockwell's web library:
  Ordeal on Denali   Notes by the members of the CLMRG 1992 Expedition

It's 20 pages of intense reading! Mention of the developing HAPE condition begins near the end of the 9th page:
Quote:
We were all tired from the effort of the 2500' gain. But, after retrieving the cache, Tom was surprisingly fatigued. We didn't know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a major turning point in our expedition.

It's a harrowing story. Close calls, dangerous falls, narrow safety margins, frostbite. Things could have easily turned out far worse.

Bottom line, though, is that HAPE can creep up on unsuspecting parties. With dangerous results.

keywords: Rockwell Denali Expedition HAPE

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
SierraNevada #33090 09/06/13 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Originally Posted By: DUG

You don't have to get very far off the main Whitney Trail to experience TRUE wilderness. There are places close by that receive very few visitors ever - you just have to explore. Without the cell phone of course

Agree. Point is, the Whitney "Zone" is a specially designated area that should not be confused with true wilderness. Responsible management of high impact areas like Whitney (17,000 people a year) and Half Dome call for special rules and tools to keep them available to the public without ruining them.

If cell coverage happens to extend to these popular areas, that's probably a good thing overall, but nobody is calling for a cell tower on the summit or paved trails or flush toilets or zip lines. Even the article said that better cell phone coverage would not have saved him nor accelerated a rescue. This thread just got a bit off topic and I'm sure nobody meant disrespect.

Based on the reports, AMS seems quite likely to have played a role. True, we don't know for sure right now, but it seems on point and a valuable reminder to discuss AMS regardless. Harvey's expert comments make it a good teaching moment


Sorry, if you are offended.

However, Mr. Kato death should be used as a learning experience for all who are going to these elevations for the first time. Bad things can happen here regularly. One of those things is summit fever, which appears to be complicit in Mr. Kato's death.

I think the talk about Mr. Kato's death should be frank and brutal...when necessary. I do not want a repeat of Mr. Kato's death. However, one thing Mt. Whitney seems to be is a re-run. It is the same accidents over and over, only the names change.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
wbtravis #33100 09/06/13 12:27 PM
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I was hesitant to write, but in the spirit of avoiding future accidents, I do it anyway. We saw the group coming down on our way up. We even exchanged a few words with him. It was a little confusing what he said, but I blamed it on the language issue. We probably had another 30 minutes up to the top and stayed around 40 minutes on the top before returning back. The accident must have happened about 10 to 15 minutes before we were back at the accident area. Everyone tried to get a cell phone signal, people were crying, it was a very emotional situation.

My point is, the group was probably 1½ hours ahead of us and it was probably less than 2 miles along the ridge to where he fell. So someone in the group might have been in bad shape by then. We didn’t walk that fast, but the group had almost 1½ hour longer than us for these 2 miles (or less). Also, we left the summit because the weather turned bad and it started suddenly to hail. Lasted probably 20 minutes. Ground was covered with hail. It stopped probably 30 minutes or more before the accident happened so the weather was probably not an issue, but I don’t think anyone was sitting around and having a lunch break during that time, hence the speculation what took them so long on that stretch of the trail. One of the more likely explanations is that someone in the group was very exhausted and had a very hard time walking back.

The warning is probably that there is no quick way down if you get altitude sickness close to the top. For the less experienced (like us), it was quite a stretch from the top of Mount Whitney back to Trail Crest. From there, you can make easier headway. But from Mount Whitney to Trail Crest it is only 700 feet in altitude difference and it can take you hours, especially when you are weak, exhausted, and suffer from altitude sickness. And from my personal experience, it is the most difficult and dangerous part to walk (rocky, uneven trail, high altitude, already exhausted, exposed cliffs..). So if you don’t feel good at Trail Crest on your way up, be very careful if you continue. There is not an easy way to go lower fast once you are on top of Mount Whitney, especially if you already suffer altitude related symptoms on your way up or if you are already completely exhausted, but continue going up past Trail Crest. Don’t get carried away with your ambition to make it to the top no matter what.

I obviously don’t know if that is what happened. All this speculation might be wrong and he just had really bad luck and tripped. We saw the group later walking down, still trying frantically to find a cell phone signal (like many others that tried to help), so it was really not the time to ask what actually happened. But just in case, I wanted to add it as a warning for others that go up for the first time.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
wbtravis #33154 09/09/13 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted By: wbtravis
Sorry, if you are offended.

Sorry WB if you think I was offended. I'm not on board with making jokes about zip lines when someone has died, but I've got nothing to be offended about. Family and friends might be offended, but I'm just pointing it out.

As I wrote to DUG, "This thread just got a bit off topic and I'm sure nobody meant disrespect."

Hopefully, we'll learn more about what happened and it will be another teaching moment. Dan's description and advice for first timers going beyond Trail Crest is spot on. Harvey's, and Bob's and other AMS expertise is always good even if it wasn't the prime cause in this case.
[/quote]

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Dan2076 #33156 09/09/13 04:31 PM
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Thanks Dan, you convey a cautionary tale for all of us.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
SierraNevada #33157 09/09/13 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Hopefully, we'll learn more about what happened and it will be another teaching moment. Dan's description and advice for first timers going beyond Trail Crest is spot on. Harvey's, and Bob's and other AMS expertise is always good even if it wasn't the prime cause in this case.

Yes, agree with SN that Dan's description suggests that hypothermia, fatigue, and/or a simple slip on wet or icy rock was more likely than rare HACE.
Until we hear more (if we ever do) this may the last post on this sad story.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
SierraNevada #33171 09/10/13 07:08 AM
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Sierra Nevada...I am very serious about safety in the mountains. My so-called zip lines point out the absurdity of thinking something can be done, say like adding solid cell coverage in either SEKI or in the Whitney canyon.

The only sign that ever made any sense on the trailhead patio cover said "People Die Here". Unfortunately, that did not meet Chamber of Commerce political correctness standard.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
wbtravis #33173 09/10/13 07:55 AM
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Originally Posted By: wbtravis
My so-called zip lines point out the absurdity of thinking something can be done, say like adding solid cell coverage in either SEKI or in the Whitney canyon.


And the absurdity is amplified by thinking that having solid cell coverage would hasten rescue efforts or speed the process of gathering SAR personnel.

GPS coordinates of every cross-country pass. Guidebooks detailing every last step of a route. SPOT devices that track your moves, and allow the "outside world" to watch with rapt fascination and pseudo-concern over your activities. The incorrect assumption that such devices will actually "keep you safe". How much information must we spoon-feed the masses to maximize safety?

I might suggest that the information overload fosters a false sense of security out, and up, there. The idea of "it's just a trail" pervades all thoughts, and the brain shuts off to basic warning signs that there's something wrong either in the surroundings or inside the body. That, coupled with this insane summit-fever idea, ends up driving many over the edge.

Literally.

I am sorry for the loss of this man.


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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
MooseTracks #33174 09/10/13 09:00 AM
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Laura,

I, too, hate to see someone lose their life for any reason in the mountains.

As someone who has witnessed a climbing accident and called out SAR. I know what can go wrong in a call out...like the Angeles National Forest not having the pertinent map so I could give them the UTM grid where the accident occurred.

I carry my GPS all the time now because it can help get people help a bit earlier, if something goes terribly wrong. I'm not a gram counter.

A SAR friend sent me an article that states people take their phones and tablets into the wilderness thinking this gives them license to do more than their skills allow, which ultimately cause more work for our SAR units.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
MooseTracks #33177 09/10/13 09:46 AM
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Laura, I agree. No amount of technological crutches (cell phones, Spot, radios, etc.) will prevent accidents on Mt. Whitney or any other mountain.

Mt. Whitney has a repeating history of fatalities and will, no doubt, continue as long as people feel the need to climb the highest peak in the lower forty-eight. Whitney is not Disneyland; it is a big, often dangerous mountain.

Age, health, AMS, etc., while possible contributing factors to the man's sad death, even the young, healthy, strong and experienced have been killed on Mt. Whitney.

I recall a futile search on Whitney by CLMRG and Inyo SAR which ended in the discovery ten days later, by French mountain guides, of the young man's body on a ledge near the base of the Aiguille Extra. He was found with his camera still hanging from his neck. Cause: carelessness...not his age, health, or AMS...he slipped.




Last edited by Bob West; 09/10/13 09:49 AM.
Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Bob West #33180 09/10/13 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted By: Bob West
I recall a futile search on Whitney by CLMRG and Inyo SAR which ended in the discovery ten days later, by French mountain guides, of the young man's body on a ledge near the base of the Aiguille Extra. He was found with his camera still hanging from his neck. Cause: carelessness...not his age, health, or AMS...he slipped.


I remember this one, in September 1979. See pages 8 and 9. And, Bob, you are mentioned on page 7.

While he may have slipped, years later I learned details about this young man's life. They bring forth other possible explanations. Nevertheless, his death was very unfortunate, as was Mr. Kato's and all the others.

Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Bob R #33657 10/05/13 06:52 PM
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This is a shame and sad to learn about.

My condolences to Yukio Kato's family and friends and my he Rest in Peace.

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