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#38043 - 06/27/14 08:33 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
I don't know: I looked at the Hiking Whitney Alone thread again, and I don't get a "just go for it" message. I think the iPod advice is a little off point, which was safety, but I see a lot more caveats and parens around things than just "in case of AMS turn back". Your first post there connected soloing with skill and experience pretty well, in fact, and others emphasized experience and skills as well.

Maybe the thread could do with some more direct references to the other threads where we are analyzing mistakes and gleaning some of the lessons from: such as: "many experienced hikers have done it safely, but even for them, there are hazards (citing recent SAR and other cases".

BTW, in the current PLB case, the hiker is reported as sick as well as lost.
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#38044 - 06/27/14 08:39 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: wbtravis
I don't see the disconnect. One is off route, the other is a hiking trail. Two entirely different disciplines. I would never recommend anyone do a new off trail route solo...heck, I will not even do a new off trail route solo. Are there risks? Yeah, we have had two people walk down to San Antonio Falls off the Ski Hut Trail in SoCal. 2 out of God knows how many thousands. Nothing is without risk...it is how you manage risk



Uh, WB, this entire thread has been about an experienced hiker on route. From the Fresno Bee story, I am not sure that hiker was off route. The reporter certainly was: Silver Peak?
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#38045 - 06/27/14 09:10 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Aki said off trail traverse...this ain't exactly trailwalking. That is what I based my reply on.

Again, how many people get lost on MMWT vs. how many hike it? Ultimately, anyone considering this has to weigh the risks. My response lists what I do on all solo hikes...not just the MMWT.

I hike Mt. Baldy occasionally the trail is ill defined through the bowl, there is the big building with solar panels on it that is one big visual clue where you need to be, yet, people end up at the top of San Antonio Falls 1,200' below. How two groups got there this year, I do not rightly know but I would not recommend against solo hiking Mt. Baldy because two group made an an error in navigation. The same holds true for the MMWT.

As long as you do your homework...map study, trail reports, perusing this and other Whitney related websites, asking questions of the experts and setting hard fast rules for yourself, doing Mt. Whitney with 200 of your nearest and dearest newest friends should be a problem. With that said, you will never eliminate risk, only minimize it.

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#38046 - 06/27/14 09:31 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1023
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
I don't mean to be silly here, but

(1) getting lost and losing the trail(even for 10 ft) are two different things. Either can be dangerous.

and

(2)a WAG sidetrip could put you in jeopardy.

There are even stories on Everest of people going 2 feet outside the tent to relieve themselves, slipping, and dying.

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#38047 - 06/27/14 09:53 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Harvey Lankford]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Not silly at all, Harvey: there are lots of risks related to MWMT, not the least of which is trying to follow certain discussions. For example, I am having a hard time following wb here: I think he has a point, but I can't find, for example, where Aki said anything like "off trail traverse".
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#38048 - 06/27/14 09:56 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
My fault...it was SN, "Here's another locator alarm case to banter about from yesterday. A solo hiker hit the Spot button because she was lost for 24hrs while doing what seems to be an off-trail traverse."

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#38050 - 06/27/14 10:06 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford


There are even stories on Everest of people going 2 feet outside the tent to relieve themselves, slipping, and dying.



My hiking buddy did Shasta many years ago. He woke up in the morning, starting his trek, and shortly thereafter discovered a body clad only in thermals. The guy had gotten up in the night.....and fell about 1,000 ft.
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#38051 - 06/27/14 10:12 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bee]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7740
Loc: Fresno, CA
> ...a body clad only in thermals. ...fell about 1,000 ft.

Mercy! I'd heard about the Everest one, but not Shasta.

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#38052 - 06/27/14 10:18 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Saltydog,

What dangers are there on the MMWT that are out of the ordinary? I hike trails all the time where rockfall is an issue, with exposure and risk of AMS for me starts at 7,500'. During the three seasons, I have not experienced any pucker moments on this trail.

There is a certain measure of safety with there being upwards of 200-250 people on the trail any given time...all permits and routes considered. To hike solo here, you must set limits. I always list mine when I suggest someone go among the masses.

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#38053 - 06/27/14 10:21 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1023
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
more musings

it would be instructional to know what the relative risks are, for example, dying on a Whitney trail hike, getting hit by lightning on a golf course, driving drunk, or tripping on the sidewalk outside Starbucks.

The latter may sound frivolous, but listen to this. I once reviewed the medical aspects of a lawsuit. Little old lady tripped on sidewalk outside mall, broke hip, months of hospital and rehab. I asked the lawyer what was the size of the hole she tripped on? Aha! he says. That is the crux of the case. Tiny insignificant hole would not trip her - she is a goldigger. Large hole any fool would see and avoid. But, sounding like the three bears story, just the the right size hole could be overlooked yet large enough to trip and fall.

Same for a minor but wrong turn off the trail, or just a stone in the trail. It does not take darkness, AMS, fatigue, or skedaddled partners to explain any of this.

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#38054 - 06/27/14 11:21 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Steve C
> ...a body clad only in thermals. ...fell about 1,000 ft.

Mercy! I'd heard about the Everest one, but not Shasta.


Many decades ago -- ask Mike C. about it sometime (He and his buddy immediately abandoned their climb!)
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The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#38055 - 06/27/14 11:36 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Originally Posted By: wbtravis
Saltydog,

What dangers are there on the MMWT that are out of the ordinary? I hike trails all the time where rockfall is an issue, with exposure and risk of AMS for me starts at 7,500'. During the three seasons, I have not experienced any pucker moments on this trail.

There is a certain measure of safety with there being upwards of 200-250 people on the trail any given time...all permits and routes considered. To hike solo here, you must set limits. I always list mine when I suggest someone go among the masses.


Aha! First "out of the ordinary" makes no difference: they are there, and none of the discussion I have seen assumes or depends on any of the dangers being out of the ordinary - for a climb of over 6000 feet in the Sierra. But what IS out of the ordinary - unique in fact - is that 6000+ gain, combined with the highest possible elevation in the Sierra. That creates a much higher risk of things like AMS and exhaustion. Add to that its accessibility and wide notoriety, and the fact that it is all class I trail. As anyone descending on a summer day can attest, all this attracts an extraordinary number of obviously unprepared visitors. 200 other people on the trail didn't mean a thing in any of the fatalities I am aware of. 2 or 3 a year among 20,000? Doesn't sound like much until you compare it with Yosemite, yahoo central all summer, which gets 5 or ten in an average year out of 4 million visitors and a lot more wilderness miles than MW. And that includes the big walls and idiots playing around waterfalls.
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#38069 - 06/27/14 08:55 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: wbtravis]
Akichow Offline


Registered: 04/07/10
Posts: 659
Loc: SF Bay Area
Anyone remember any stories of solo hikers getting into trouble ON THE WHITNEY TRAIL? Let me repeat, ON THE TRAIL. Anyone?

I recall quite a few such stories, both from this site and the other one. It happens. Even to people who have climbed Whitney 100+. Or people who started out a day hike up Whitney with friends, but ended up lagging behind toward the end of the hike. Or a woman who experiences a seizure somewhere near Trail Camp (with no prior history of seizures), and happens to stumble into the campsite of a doctor, who stabilizes her and facilitates a helicopter rescue.

So, here's my thinking about solo hikers: the risk faced by the hiker depends on variables that are usually unknown to us. The fact that hiking Whitney solo may be "safe" for you does not mean that is safe for everyone.

If you are hiking Whitney and experience AMS, dehydration, fatigue, or cold, you may lack (or have reduced) capacity to exercise good judgment for yourself. In that case, it may be helpful to have someone there who can help you make good decisions. Who can help keep you calm if it is needed. Who knows you and your personality well enough to recognize a change in behavior that is cause for concern.

But if you are an experienced hiker, have good equipment, are familiar with the effects of altitude, have good skills, maybe even already know the mountain, then maybe you'll make good decisions if/when you find yourself solo and in trouble on Whitney, whether due to fatigue, exhaustion, dehydration, AMS, or something else. Maybe you'll recognize the situation sooner than would a less experienced/skilled/knowledgeable hiker, while the situation is still easy to manage. Maybe you'll identify a broader range of options, then would a less experienced/skilled/knowledgeable hiker. Maybe you'll have more options than would a less experienced/skilled/knowledgeable hiker because you made wise choices viz what is in your daypack. Put simply, maybe hiking Whitney solo is something that presents a reasonable risk, for you, due to all your knowledge, experience, skills, preparation, etc.

But, back to the disconnect.

We may tell a solo hiker, whose experience/skills/knowledge/equipment are unknown to us, yes, go hike Whitney solo, just turn around if you get sick. (Which assumes capacity to make such a decision, when the anecdotal evidence is that such capacity should NOT be assumed.) That person gets the benefit of the doubt. The hiker doing Whitney for the first time solo question has come up several times in the past, and so I am not thinking only of the recent thread, but also several that preceded it.

But the solo hiker who gets in trouble and hits the spot button, we may assume that person was a dolt and being irresponsible.
We seem, sometimes, to be a little quick to judge, is what I am saying, when someone gets into trouble, when again, we lack information about their experience/skills/knowledge/equipment/condition.

Well, people see these issues differently. That is what makes for a discussion board.

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#38070 - 06/27/14 09:51 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Akichow]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Akichow


But the solo hiker who gets in trouble and hits the spot button, we may assume that person was a dolt and being irresponsible.



.....or "stupid"

Why do I seem 'fixated' on that word? Because every time there is a rescue/incident, there always has to be at least one mention of "stupid people" etc, etc.

Nice post, Akichow.

My own selfish reasons for not liking to hike alone? I carry more than my share paranoia and neurosis, and the more experience my buddy has, the less aforementioned psychological affliction I suffer.
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#38073 - 06/28/14 06:02 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Akichow]
Bulldog34 Offline


Registered: 11/12/09
Posts: 1255
Loc: Atlanta
Excellent post, Karin. As I've mentioned, I do a lot of solo hiking so I have to be careful in offering advice to others. This is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor, and so many factors come into play with individual experience, fitness levels, personalities, phobias, etc. As I've come to know Whitney and developed a comfort level with the trail, I'm sure I've been guilty of underestimating dangers or challenges that don't register very high on my radar screen but may be significant to others.

Before my first attempt at Whitney in 2009, I did a lot of research on the mountain. This site didn't exist and the WPS was going through a transition with its first-timer materials. Ultimately, I found the best scoop on the pages of wbtravis' Mt. Whitney website. I used a lot of Bill's suggestions and information - which were laced pretty heavily with good, common-sense cautions and warnings - as my guide for that first trip. Solo trip, I should point out.

I had been above 14K' several times in the years prior, with no ill effects. The year before I had even traveled from essentially sea level to above 14K' in less than 24 hours, with absolutely no acclimation and no issues. I had this (admittedly ridiculous) idea that altitude didn't affect me. I was overconfident - and that first trip up the MWMT brought me back to earth with a hard crash.

I cruised up the mountain to Trail Camp feeling great, but by the time I stopped at the switchbacks spring to refill water a headache had started. By the time I hit the cables it had morphed into by far the worst headache I had ever experienced. Then came the nausea and sleepiness. Not fatigue necessarily, but sleepiness - I just wanted to lay down and go to sleep, and to hell with the consequences. I began to tremble and became unsteady on my feet (Harvey's oft-mentioned "mountaineer's foot"). I was not that far from Trail Crest when I yakked for the first time. I sat down somewhere around the 75th switchback and took stock of my situation. In the space of a single hour I had gone from feeling fine to becoming a huge liability to myself.

I admitted to myself that, yes, I really was suffering AMS and needed to turn back. I had invested a couple of grand and a lot of training in this attempt and really didn't want to go home defeated, but I made the decision to call it a day and descend. I had promised my wife I would take no chances. Now, here's the thing: I got up from that rest stop and ostensibly acted on my decision. Fifteen minutes later I realized I was still ascending the switchbacks. My mind had made the logical decision to turn around but my body had subconsciously acted on its own and kept going up. It was at that point that I began to think that maybe I shouldn't be alone.

I really did do an about-face at that point and - very, very slowly - walked my way out. It had taken me about 4.5 hours to climb from the Portal to Trail Camp. Trail Camp to the Portal lasted about 5 hours at the snail's pace I was moving. I typically jet downhill but, aside from the physical challenges I was experiencing, I was extremely concerned about my decision-making and went super-slow. That sudden awareness on the switchbacks that my mind was semi-scrambled had rattled me badly.

By the time I reached Outpost Camp I was feeling better (and, yes, I had to backtrack on the slabs after missing that hairpin left we've been discussing). By Lone Pine Lake most of the symptoms had disappeared. I was feeling well enough by the Portal to have a burger and a beer. I told my story to Doug and the first thing he asked me was where I had spent the previous nights. When I said Lone Pine, I got the friendly acclimation lecture. And I took it to heart. Based on that personal experience, whenever I advise anyone on their first Whitney attempt, or any other first try at altitude, I probably overemphasize acclimation.

Although that was my one and only experience with the perils of AMS, it has stayed with me ever since. Yes, it was the worst I've ever felt in my life, but the mental circus I went through is what still scares me to this day. Most people who know me would describe me as level-headed, logical, practical, and not given to taking unnecessary risks in the mountains. The fact that I would do something so stupid (for you, Bee) as succumb unconsciously to summit fever chills me when I recall it. What if I had not had that moment of clarity and turned around? The potential scenarios go from bad to worse.

That same trip I did a few pre-Whitney warm-up hikes in the Cottonwood area and ran across a group with a teenage boy who was suffering from altitude symptoms. They decided to press on while keeping an eye on him. I remember reading in the Inyo Register the day after I had come down from Whitney that this boy had eventually died from either HAPE or HACE. For me, that put the exclamation mark on the dangers of altitude, which I had been somewhat ambivalent about before.

I still do a lot of solo hiking, but since that episode I've never gone above 12K' alone, and I make damn sure I and my family get really good acclimation before doing so. My daughter was 11 when she first went up Whitney, and my wife and I watched her like hawks. She's always handled elevation well but when she began to slow down noticeably as we passed the windows, we stopped, took stock of the situation, and decided to turn back. That was a tough call with the summit hut in sight, but I've never regretted the decision. She said she only had a mild headache and could go on, but she was stopping to rest every 15 minutes or so after cruising up the switchbacks like a trooper. Her safety was absolutely Job One and it was getting later in the day than I liked. Also, Rob from the Crabtree ranger station had warned us about dangerous icing on the 97th switchback above the chute if we weren't back over it by the time the sun went off of it (this was the heavy snow year and the chute and trail above it was still heavily packed in July).

I had also exercised questionable judgment in even heading up Whitney that particular trip. A few days earlier I had suffered a shoulder injury during a technical climb of Cathedral Peak in Yosemite, and was still in an arm sling the day before we loaded up packs for Whitney. In retrospect maybe not the greatest decision, even though it presented no real difficulties for me during the trip. One little thing going wrong where I really needed the full use of that arm, and the story could have been quite different.

I try to keep these things in mind when discussing someone else's first attempt at Whitney or offering an opinion on someone's bad luck on the mountain - but I also know that if I had the opportunity to do Whitney solo next week I'd likely talk myself into it pretty quickly. Thanks, Karin, for shining a light on this inconsistency in some of our posts. I could certainly be more consistent in my opinions, and I'll try to bear your points in mind in the future.



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#38078 - 06/28/14 08:45 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bulldog34]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1023
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
time for a mountaineering literature musing....

One may pass beneath a tottering serac nine times, to be buried by it on the tenth.
Eric Shipton, Upon That Mountain, page 42

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#38079 - 06/28/14 08:48 AM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bulldog34]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Another key fact has emerged throwing light on the particular dangers of hiking solo on MWMT, and I think tragically makes Karin's point. It also says a lot to me about the relative importance of the fact that the trail is crowded. Steve has posted a video, from Inyo Sheriff's office, which reports that on his descent, John Likely appeared so fatigued that one group of hikers offered him help. He refused the assistance. There is not one other report of anyone seeing him between the cables and where his body was found.
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#38090 - 06/28/14 04:23 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: saltydog]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I am going to throw this recent experience that I had into the conversation(recent as a few hours ago)

I drove to a wooded gated community that I had been to several times before, and on my way out, I got "lost" amongst the few roads that encircled a fairly small area. I called a friend of mine and told him that I could not find my way out of this #$%&^*!! little revine. I was having trouble thinking straight. Finally, my buddy asked me when was the last time I ate? Oh, yeah....yesterday at 5:00pm (It was now 1:00pm the next day) Deprived of food, I could not even make simple decisions about how to exit a small community with limited choices.

I can only imagine what it would be like to add fatigue, cold, darkness, AMS etc to the mix.

I eventually made a complete loop of the community and by default, found the exit.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#38091 - 06/28/14 05:56 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Bee]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1023
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Bee
I I was having trouble thinking straight. Finally, my buddy asked me when was the last time I ate? Oh, yeah....yesterday at 5:00pm (It was now 1:00pm the next day) Deprived of food, I could not even make simple decisions

Bee, take a look at my new post earlier today, especially the second case - neurological impairment on Whitney

Neuro cases on Whitney

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#38092 - 06/28/14 06:25 PM Re: Musings on Searches and Trails [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I may have to re-think this whole topic/discussion, Harvey.

I was not at altitude, nor did I even have to put forth any physical effort, yet, I could not make a simple decision as whether to turn left or right on a very simple course (after 5 minutes, I could not remember how to backtrack to begin at the house that I had departed) Quite frankly, I was getting ready to pull over and knock on someone's door for assistance.

How did this all happen? I ate an early dinner and fell asleep soon after (not feeling 100% from excessive exercise all week) I overslept breakfast & had to make a meeting that was only supposed to take a short time. At 1:00pm (20 hrs after my last meal), I left the meeting feeling fine, until I entered the "Labyrinth".

My basic decision making skills were shot.

Applying this whole episode to the trail leads me to believe that yes, something very bad can happen to a seemingly rational individual under somewhat "normal" conditions shambling along not in the backcountry, but a trail.

For a little history, I have a reputation for being able to go inordinate amounts of time without eating, but it looks like I hit the wall(unintentionally) at 20hrs
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