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Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39370 08/01/14 08:30 PM
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Originally Posted By: JJ5000
please chime in on something that you THINK could have happened. Could he have gone to edge for a better look and slipped? Im lookin for any remote ideas...or maybe something that has happened to someone else in the past.


Jason, My deepest sympathies on your loss. I am far from familiar having only been once on the top, but when I was there, someone was standing on what appeared to be a rock outcropping (from my secure vantage point) trying to get a cell phone signal. Could he have been using a phone and trying to call his wife back down at Crabtree?

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39373 08/01/14 11:57 PM
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Jason, I am really sorry your dad passed this way. And so sorry, too, that you hadn't communicated with him for so long. If it is any consolation, he was out doing what he wanted to, and it appears, really enjoying life. How many other 75 year olds can do that?

As for the picture, it actually came from another website, High Sierra Topix, where it was reportedly first posted on a "California Peaks" Facebook page. You might join those groups/forums and try to get more info. Here is the link where I found the picture: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park report he was found on the north slope, at 13,100' elevation. People practically never go to that side of the mountain, because it is treacherously steep. Unfortunately, from the top, it doesn't start out that way. This is purely my speculation, but a possible scenario is this: Dawson was tired after summiting, and looking at a map, may have thought he could take a shortcut off the north side of the mountain, and head down more quickly to his camp at Crabtree Meadow. The trail goes almost 2 miles south from the summit, then winds its way down past Guitar Lake and then wanders down to Crabtree Meadows. It is definitely a circuitous route, but that is what everyone uses to get down to Crabtree.

If Dawson committed to a north-side shortcut, he could have done ok descending the first 500 feet in elevation. But after that, it gets really steep, with bare rock. He may have attempted to down-climb that, and all it would take is one slip. In his state: tired, high altitude, low oxygen, making a tiny mistake, or even stepping on a loose rock, could lead to disaster. I am only guessing, but that may have been what happened. It was a tragedy, and I am very very sorry.

Now, for some reality: Contrary to what the dispatcher you spoke with knew, others have indeed died on that slope. It is more often due to their slipping or failing to control a slide in icy conditions, but it DOES occur on the north slope of Mt Whitney. You see, there is a "Mountaineers Route" that starts down from the top on the north side. However, after descending about 400 feet, the route turns abruptly eastward, and goes through "The Notch", and descends to Iceberg Lake, just east of the summit massif.

I know of one person who successfully ascended Mt Whitney via that side, and I know a guide book reports it can be done. I looked at going up that way two years ago, and stayed off of it because it looked too treacherous. At that time, I realized the fellow who HAD climbed it did it when the slope was covered with snow in spring, so he was able to use crampons and ice axe, which enable climbers to ascend extremely steep slopes. It is too steep to climb when the rock is bare.

Jason, I hope you get through these tough times ok. Please get together with your living family members, and pass along the sincerest condolences that I can assure you everyone here wants to offer.

May Dawson Johnson rest in peace.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Steve C #39375 08/02/14 12:25 AM
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Well stated.

Maybe someone has a photo of this area and could place one of those computer generated marks on it like what was done in the Mirror Lake Slab discussions?


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39376 08/02/14 05:13 AM
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Jason, sincere condolences on your loss. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

I admire your father for tackling big mountains at 75 YO - it speaks to a zest for life and a refusal to limit the type of challenges the vast majority of people his age would not even consider, let alone actively pursue.

Serious or fatal accidents on Mt. Whitney are discussed and debated on this board and others in the hope that an instructive lesson might possibly prevent another such accident. Unfortunately, these situations often occur when a hiker is alone and there are no witnesses, so it becomes educated speculation. I think Steve's scenario is about as good a hypothesis as the limited known facts of your father's case allow. He's the senior moderator of the Whitney Zone and was actually on the north slope a couple of weeks ago specifically to document in detail a traverse that board members had been inquiring about.

I hope you can find closure to this awful event. We're all family in the mountains, and we've lost one of our own to some degree as well. Rest in peace Dawson.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39382 08/02/14 09:45 AM
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I am so so sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine how hard this is for your whole family. It's only natural to have limitless questions.

Whitney is not inherently dangerous. It's not technical. There's no boulder scrambling (at least on the section Dawson was on... Mountaineers route is much different from what I understand, but he wasn't hiking mountaineers route).
The dangers on Whitney are 1: not being prepared 2: wandering off the trail to find an "easier/more direct" route 3: altitude sickness 4: injury (of course)
I think as the investigators look more into this tragedy you may get more information. There's just no way to know how he fell. The guesses are just that... Guesses. He had to have been the last person on Summit that day, so unfortunately there probably won't ever be a definitive answer to "how".
My heart absolutely aches for you and your family.



Originally Posted By: JJ5000
thanks saltydog. I will fwd that pic to the investigator and see if he will mark where they think he fell..for closure I reckon. Anyone that is familiar with Whitney and the dangers of climbing it, please chime in on something that you THINK could have happened. Could he have gone to edge for a better look and slipped? Im lookin for any remote ideas...or maybe something that has happened to someone else in the past. Im not finding much on the net about past fatalities other than most are due to lack of preparation.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Snacking Bear #39384 08/02/14 10:57 AM
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Thank you for the cross-post!

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Spice4Life #39385 08/02/14 11:11 AM
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Thank you for all the info. Dawson was my brother. Jason and I , both want to learn as much as possible

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Steve C #39386 08/02/14 11:17 AM
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Thanks Steve c. This post clears up a lot of questions. Dawson was my brother. Just trying to make sense of it all. Thank you!

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39387 08/02/14 01:18 PM
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Jason, please accept my condolences for your loss. Steve's post expresses how we all feel better that I could have said it.

Steve's description of the North Slope is accurate. I just want to add a bit of information to what he said. My guidebooks rate it class 2-3 in difficulty (where 1 is walking on a trail and 5 is technical roped climbing). I climbed it in September 2002 on my way from Mt. Russell to Mt. Muir and back to Mt. Whitney. There are several black water stains on the rock in saltydog's photo, and I probably went up near or to the left of the leftmost water stain. There wasn't much snow, but I found a lot of loose rock. I thought the route I chose was more like class 3 and 4, though there are probably easier ways up. Much of that slope is rotten rock, making it fairly dangerous and unpleasant. As Steve said, a tiny mistake could lead to disaster.

Jason, you've invited us to say what we think could have happened, and I'm going to guess that fatigue and altitude led your dad to try a "shortcut" back to camp that didn't work out. I won't speculate on where your dad was found. The authorities can give you more accurate information than I can.

I wish you and your family well.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
SEKI News #39392 08/02/14 08:43 PM
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Steve C, Bulldog34, Spice4life, bobpickering, tollermom...thank you for your condolences, well wishes and prayers. Thank each of you for the information you took the time to type about the mountain too. I have been trying to educate myself about Mt. Whitney, the various trails and their difficulties..all from my home far away in East Texas. You guys have been extremely helpful in my attempt to recreate what might have happened. I have so much confidence in yalls knowledge and expertise (just from reading your in-depth posts about the mount) that it has given me comfort at least knowing what probably happened instead of always wondering. Also, because of this site and all of yall that have been so helpful, I now have a copy of probably one of the last pictures taken of him. WOW! What a resource you all have been. This site as been more of a comfort to me than any other single thing since this has happened. There definitely seems to be a true brotherhood amongst backpackers.

Cant thank you guys enough.

Jason

Last edited by JJ5000; 08/02/14 08:54 PM.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39405 08/03/14 11:52 AM
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There is more information on Mt. Whitney routes here.

Last edited by bobpickering; 08/03/14 11:55 AM.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Steve C #39406 08/03/14 03:37 PM
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Huh! old guys? How old is Old? I dont feel old! So make the rule on young! My condolences to the family!

Last edited by Krishna; 08/03/14 03:38 PM.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Bulldog34 #39414 08/04/14 08:18 AM
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Originally Posted By: Bulldog34
Jason, sincere condolences on your loss. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.

I admire your father for tackling big mountains at 75 YO - it speaks to a zest for life and a refusal to limit the type of challenges the vast majority of people his age would not even consider, let alone actively pursue.

Serious or fatal accidents on Mt. Whitney are discussed and debated on this board and others in the hope that an instructive lesson might possibly prevent another such accident. Unfortunately, these situations often occur when a hiker is alone and there are no witnesses, so it becomes educated speculation. I think Steve's scenario is about as good a hypothesis as the limited known facts of your father's case allow. He's the senior moderator of the Whitney Zone and was actually on the north slope a couple of weeks ago specifically to document in detail a traverse that board members had been inquiring about.

I hope you can find closure to this awful event. We're all family in the mountains, and we've lost one of our own to some degree as well. Rest in peace Dawson.


I don't know what can be learned from this...since I cannot get my head around where or how it occurred.

Is there a map available showing where this occurred?

I do know from personal experience bad things can happen when you are fatigued in the mountains.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
wbtravis #39428 08/04/14 06:43 PM
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WB: You're a long time poster here, right? You've summitted once or twice? From the summit hut, go NW about 500 yards. That's where it happened.


Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
JJ5000 #39434 08/05/14 07:28 AM
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Thanks for the information about the mountain and the possible scenarios on what happened to Dawson. Dawson has been an extremely close friend of mine for nearly 30 years. Although I haven't seen him in a while, Jason is also a good friend.

Dawson was an extremely intelligent person as are Jason and his brother who have both posted here. 27 years ago, he hired me as an instructor and IT person at Texarkana College. We have worked together since.

He is a man of high moral values who expected the same of those around him. He also was a person who didn't buy into the usual view of how things were to be done. I didn't always agree with his ideas, but as he respected my views, I did his. He was a very good man and a great friend who will be greatly missed.

His physical condition was that of a much younger man. He was athletic. In the early to mid 90s, he and I, who both had quite a bit of basketball experience, played anyone who challenged us in 2 on 2 basketball. We never lost a game. We never turned down a challenge. We played kids who were much better than us. That shows his commitment to finish what he started.

Dawson was a pioneer in his field. He once told me to enjoy the real world, the computer world is not real. He was extremely happy about this hiking trip. A lot of people will miss him.

I hope that I haven't done wrong by posting this information here. I just wanted the folks here to know more about Jason's father and my good friend. Thank you for giving me an insight into what likely happened. Thank you for your kind responses and help for Jason.

Jason, I tried to return your call yesterday. I will call again today.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Jmac88 #39435 08/05/14 07:53 AM
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JMac, thanks so much for posting and sharing. Your comments are most certainly welcome. It sounds like Dawson was quite an outstanding friend and athlete.

I am sorry he's gone, and sorry for your loss, too.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
wbtravis #39436 08/05/14 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted By: wbtravis
I don't know what can be learned from this...since I cannot get my head around where or how it occurred.

Is there a map available showing where this occurred?

I do know from personal experience bad things can happen when you are fatigued in the mountains.


My takeaway is that anywhere along the north slope of Whitney requires caution, even in dry summer conditions. I know very, very few people ever head here, outside the Final 400 on the Mountaineer's Route and/or the Easy Walk-off, but if I ever had the urge to do something in this area outside of those two, Dawson's experience would spring to mind immediately.

The only good reason I can see to be on this slope would be the Muir-Whitney-Russell-Carillon traverse. Below is a snippet from a TR on SummitPost that might be helpful in understanding what happened with Dawson.

"The north slope descent was much more difficult than expected, steep and loose, with intermittent cliff bands and polished slabs. Patient route finding kept the difficulty in the 3rd-4th class range. There were many relicts of past rappels left on the slope, we found a servicable #2 Camalot, and an old ring piton, along with many rotten slings. The descent to the base and the subsequent crossing of the basin to the base of the South Face of Mt. Russell consumed an additional hour and fifteen minutes."

Whatever his reason for being on it, descending the north slope of Whitney appears to be serious business. If I'm traveling unroped on a slope that has clear indications of Class 5 use, I'm rethinking my route really, really hard. We'll never know if he failed to appreciate the terrain, didn't notice the old abandoned pro, got ledged out, slipped on loose scree/talus, was in the dark - whatever. So many possibilities and combinations. There's not a lot of difference between a wet polished granite slab and ice. The exact location of his recovery might help unravel some of the mystery, but probably not much.


Last edited by Bulldog34; 08/05/14 08:45 AM.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
Bulldog34 #39437 08/05/14 08:41 AM
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Now, I have the picture I needed. The question that will remain unanswered is the why. I understand this is a "shortcut" but if you are fatigued the last place you want to be going through an unknown class area.

These "shortcuts" for the most part are more fatiguing and take longer...that has been my experience over the years.

I am assuming Mr. Johnson has enough experience to recognize this.

Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
wbtravis #39438 08/05/14 08:51 AM
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Tired, hungry, impending darkness & and an anxious family member awaiting word

These are not conditions that promote normal, rational people to make normal rational decisions -- it does not apply.

TO the family of Dawson: consider this thread as an honor to his memory, and feel free to share whatever information, memories, etc. you would like.


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: Missing Hiker in Sequoia National Park
wbtravis #39440 08/05/14 09:02 AM
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Given that there's just no logical reason for someone camped at Crabtree to be on that slope, other than attempting a descent shortcut, that's the reason I think the scenario Steve offered is probably the most likely. If John Lively's fall a few weeks back was for the reason the INFS believes, both summer fatalities on Whitney this year could be due to attempting to shortcut the trail.

I've taken some spontaneous shortcuts and been happy with the result, and I've taken others that left me wondering what in the hell I could have possibly been thinking. Either way, ascending or descending, it's almost always steeper and more intense work than staying on whatever established route.

Fatigue, hypoxia, impending darkness - I'm afraid we'll never know the "why".

And, regarding the TR quote I posted above on the north slope, I just want to point out that this was an experienced climber and mountaineer who had to exercise patient route-finding just to keep the descent in do-able 3rd/4th-class range. To me, this speaks volumes about the danger of that slope.

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