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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
SierraNevada #33090 09/06/13 08:21 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 11:27 AM
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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 02:17 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.
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Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Dan2076 #33156 09/09/13 03:31 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 04:05 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 06:08 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 06:55 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 08:00 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 08:46 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 08:49 AM.
Re: Man fell to death on Mt Whitney trail
Bob West #33180 09/10/13 10:29 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 05:52 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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