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#48865 - 11/29/16 02:14 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Hobbes]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7739
Loc: Fresno, CA
Hobbes, what you are relating to is spot on. We are all familiar with the Sierra and hiking in general. The people who lost their way in the area were on the trail for the first time, and some from out of state.

I'll bet they just figured they could down-climb and hit the trail somewhere below.

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#48867 - 11/29/16 08:28 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Mescalito345]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1145
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Mescalito345
Iíve been on the Whitney main trail about 15 times, and have occasionally lost the trail near Mirror Lake. But the terrain is pretty mellow there, so Iím not understanding how a long fall is likely. Iím sure that there some drop-offs a few hundred feet away, but it seems like they would be easy to avoid, even in the dark.

There is a chute down the cliff side that someone might try to descend (from the white arrow switchback). Combine that possibility with Hobbes's post about how people tend to panic when lost in the dark, and it all adds up, starting with losing the trail.



Edited by SierraNevada (11/29/16 08:31 PM)

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#48868 - 11/30/16 09:06 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Steve C]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Steve C
SN: Nice Google Earth work!
- - - - - -

So, William, since you have posted so many times, if I get the volunteer trip set up, will you come along?

I can hardly believe the incredible negative attitude -- no wonder people you talk to ignore everything and push on. Telling people they are "dumb noobs" is a sure fire way to convince them to ignore you.

Let's see what we can do for late June or early July.

- - - - -

Seriously, I am blown away by the lack of logic used here. All we need a row of rocks as shown in the G.E. picture above at just two turns. Amazing that violations of the Wilderness Act is even mentioned. Hiker education does NOT help the hapless hiker who is trying to get off the mountain after falling behind schedule and wandering down the trail in the dark. But a row of boulders sure would.


Actually Steve, I have done quite a lot locally where comes to hiker safety. You would not know because I don't talk about it much. As far going to the Sierra, I would love to but family matters have cut down what I can do. And I would be more inclined to that time in SoCal with its problems, many of which I have fixed over the last 4 years. Why do you think I know what gets things done with the FS? Why do you think I know the Wilderness Act of 1964 comes into play here?

I love your if you disagree with me you are negative language. All I have said is to do it right rather than some willy-nilly nonsense that can cause other problems, as Bob West said. If you want to ride heard call the Volunteer Coordinator and see if you can work something out. You just don't go out with a pry bar and a mattock...believe me, not with the FS. All I have said is do something that will last and will be compliant to the Wilderness Act.

The hapless hiker should educate him or herself. There are only 297,000 death on Mt. Whitney responses at Google in a second. You are responsible for you, period. It is not the government's fault that you decided to go up the trail unprepared and unprepared is not knowing about this area after dark.

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#48869 - 11/30/16 11:19 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: wbtravis]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
The USFS can be quite responsive if one approaches them in the right way.

Every Spring, as we locals start using trails, many of us watch for potential trail problems: fallen rocks, trees, erosion, etc. Then those problems are reported, in person, to either the White Mountain visitor center or the visitor center south of Lone Pine, depending on which one is nearest the trail in question. The FS is very good at following up on those reports, and dispatches a trail maintenance crew, as soon as one is available, to fix the trail. This approach seems to work a lot better, and in a more timely manner, than writing letters, signing petitions or making 'phone calls.

Also, the various pack stations on the East side (and probably on the West side) are very good at fixing damaged trails as they begin their packing season. This work is done with the approval of the FS. Every year we see packers working to clear snow on the switch-backs below Bishop Pass; makes it safer for hikers and pack animals. They are very good at this work, and have been doing it for generations.

I would recommend that those who have concerns about the Mt. Whitney trail conditions make an appointment with the Forest Supervisor, and explain the situation as you perceive it.

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#48870 - 12/01/16 08:07 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: JPowell]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1145
Loc: NorCal
Bob and WB. I'm reposting the letter from page 2 of this lengthy thread, from the father of the deceased, Michael Powell. There is another letter going around as well to the Forest Supervisor. So Inyo is well informed at this point and some official response will probably be forthcoming to improve the trail navigation in this area. In addition, the Search and Rescue team should also be following up with Inyo NF regarding their impromptu trail work at this spot (which is NOT a violation of the Wilderness Act).

If you're truly concerned about people moving small rocks along the trail, perhaps you two could use your experience and contacts to organize a properly sanctioned trail improvement. Its probably going to happen either way, but your support would be welcome.

Originally Posted By: JPowell
All,

I have written the following letter to the managers of the Inyo National Forest.

I invite others, especially those who have lost the trail above Mirror Lake, to join me in this effort.

November 14, 2016

Ed Armenta, Forest Supervisor (earmenta@fs.fed.us)
Paul Fuselier, Acting District Ranger (pfuselier@fs.fed.us)
Inyo National Forest

Dear Mr. Armenta and Mr. Fuselier,
As you already know, my son Michael Powell died in a tragic hiking accident on October 18, 2016.

This accident is disturbingly similar to those of John Likely in June of 2014 and Shyam Das in August of 2012. I've been reading the accounts of experienced Mt. Whitney hikers on the thread discussing Mike's accident at http://www.whitneyzone.com/Ö/Fallen_Hiker_on_Monday_10-17-1Ö

From what I've been able to surmise from talking with Mike's hiking companion and reading about that location on the trail, I'm estimating that they lost the trail while descending in the dark (in the area of 36.567484 N; 118267251 W) and, while looking to find the trail, wandered out to the dangerous cliff area above Mirror Lake.

As discussed on the Whitney Zone website, this part of the trail is difficult to navigate on descents, especially in the dark, and has fooled even experienced hikers.

I am writing to ask you to take a look at this part of the trail with an eye toward improving the trail marking of the switchbacks in this area; there needs to be better visual cues (cairns, small signs) to guide hikers to keep them on the trail and away from the cliffs.

I appreciate your attention to this request and I ask to be kept informed of actions taken by the National Forest Service in this matter.

Sincerely,
James C. Powell, Jr.

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#48871 - 12/01/16 11:09 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: SierraNevada]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 135
Loc: The OC
First & foremost, the FS should place a (metal) sign warning people to turn back at the point were so many have lost the trail (including myself).

Secondly, it would be fairly trivial to drive in a handful of cable linked stakes/poles (similar to the Cables) on that same part of the trail in order to provide some kind of direction reminder. However, unlike the Cables, they wouldn't have to perform any real physical function; rather, they could be 2-3' high like a golf course barrier.

Thirdly, if the FS can build large obelisk monuments to Kek (praise be Kek) on Langley, a few well placed directional reminders above Mirror would be fairly easy in comparison indeed.

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#48872 - 12/01/16 12:40 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: SierraNevada]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
The final decision on your project will be in the hands of the USFS. Perhaps this thread will resume next Spring if and when the FS decides what to do.

Sorry, no help from me on this. I've stated my case on this and have no desire to get on board with your cause. Good luck.

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#48873 - 12/01/16 02:18 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Hobbes]
saltydog Offline


Registered: 02/03/11
Posts: 1565
Loc: Valley Ford CA!!!!
Hobbes:

Pretty sure the "Kek" Cairns are NPS, if they are the ones I am thinking of: route markers on the west slope? Inyo may have a different view and budget for such things
_________________________
Wherever you go, there you are.
SPOTMe!

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#48874 - 12/01/16 04:54 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: saltydog]
dbd Offline


Registered: 11/09/09
Posts: 212
Loc: San Diego
Originally Posted By: saltydog
Hobbes:

Pretty sure the "Kek" Cairns are NPS, if they are the ones I am thinking of: route markers on the west slope? Inyo may have a different view and budget for such things


NPS tries to limit damage by concentrating use. From the alternative selected in their Wilderness Stewardship Plan:

Issue:
"The Mount Langley area is being impacted
from social trailing and opportunities for
solitude in this area are decreasing."
Action:
"To address the social trailing and resulting
resource damage, Class 1 trails would be
constructed to the summit of Mount Langley from
Army Pass, and from Soldier Lakes to the Mount
Langley Trail. Informal trails would be
rehabilitated."

The cairns are there to protect the slopes from the people (as an alternative to limiting the number of people), not to protect the people from the slopes.

Dale B. Dalrymple

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#48876 - 12/02/16 09:38 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: dbd]
Hobbes Offline


Registered: 03/28/14
Posts: 135
Loc: The OC
You are correct, NPS side.

Still, the fundamental question remains: do we serve the government, or does the government serve us? Thankfully, that question is answered in the preamble:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

I cannot quite grasp why some defer to language that is meant to be interpreted, rather than followed in rote manner. In other words, we need to look to intent. The '64 act was designed primarily to prevent the kind of development activities being planned like Disney's proposed ski resort.

It was not crafted to prevent common sense, low impact measures to protect both people and nature. To argue otherwise, to hide behind the true meaning of the law, could easily be construed as just a cover for serious social impairments.

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#48878 - 12/03/16 06:44 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Hobbes]
RichardK Offline


Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 96
Loc: East Coast Florida
Originally Posted By: Hobbes
Still, the fundamental question remains: do we serve the government, or does the government serve us?


What happens when one of us wants the government to serve one way and the other wants the government to serve a different way? Somebody will pout that the government isn't serving the people when they really mean that the government isn't serving them the way they want to be served.

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#48881 - 12/03/16 04:08 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: SierraNevada]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Bob and WB. I'm reposting the letter from page 2 of this lengthy thread, from the father of the deceased, Michael Powell. There is another letter going around as well to the Forest Supervisor. So Inyo is well informed at this point and some official response will probably be forthcoming to improve the trail navigation in this area. In addition, the Search and Rescue team should also be following up with Inyo NF regarding their impromptu trail work at this spot (which is NOT a violation of the Wilderness Act).

If you're truly concerned about people moving small rocks along the trail, perhaps you two could use your experience and contacts to organize a properly sanctioned trail improvement. Its probably going to happen either way, but your support would be welcome.


As I said to Steve, I do my bit in SoCal and do not have the time to spend in the Sierra because of family issues.

Bob West just told you how to get things done. Why don't you either stop in WMRS or call the volunteer coordinator and tell him you want to volunteer for any work on the MMWT in the Mirror Lake area.

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#48882 - 12/03/16 04:11 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Hobbes]
wbtravis Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1253
Loc: Corner of Jack Benny and Roche...
Originally Posted By: Hobbes
First & foremost, the FS should place a (metal) sign warning people to turn back at the point were so many have lost the trail (including myself).

Secondly, it would be fairly trivial to drive in a handful of cable linked stakes/poles (similar to the Cables) on that same part of the trail in order to provide some kind of direction reminder. However, unlike the Cables, they wouldn't have to perform any real physical function; rather, they could be 2-3' high like a golf course barrier.

Thirdly, if the FS can build large obelisk monuments to Kek (praise be Kek) on Langley, a few well placed directional reminders above Mirror would be fairly easy in comparison indeed.


Nothing you suggest for will be done. This area is governed by the Wilderness Act.

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#48883 - 12/03/16 07:26 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: wbtravis]
Bob West Offline


Registered: 11/13/09
Posts: 828
Loc: Bishop, CA, USA
WB. Is this the paragraph in the Wilderness Act to which you refer?

"c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."

After years hiking on the East side of the range, I am aware of sections of many trails that could be considered dangerous, but have no permanent cables or walls for the protection of hikers. And I hope it never happens. Trails have been rerouted to avoid dangerous rock fall zones or in order to protect areas of overuse, but those activities don't violate the Wilderness Act.





Edited by Bob West (12/03/16 07:38 PM)

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#48888 - 12/05/16 10:14 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: Bob West]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7739
Loc: Fresno, CA
Just found this! With all the other political news, this one barely gets noticed...

Want To Build Trails? New Law Bolsters Volunteerism



Quote:
President Obama this week signed a sweeping bill that will improve nearly 120,000 miles of national trails with volunteer labor.

The National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act is a bi-partisan effort to expand volunteerism within the U.S. Forest Service. It also aims to make federal lands more accessible to the public.

The new law requires the Forest Service to develop and implement a strategy to increase the number of volunteers working on trail maintenance....

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#48889 - 12/05/16 01:56 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: SierraNevada]
JPowell Offline


Registered: 10/27/16
Posts: 5
Loc: California
I received a written response from the Forest Supervisor. I thought it was a good letter. Mike's accident (and others in the same area) was reviewed by NFS and Inyo SAR. At the Supervisor's request, the site was visited by the NFS trail coordinator and Whitney wilderness ranger; while there, they added more rocks to the berm. The letter further indicates staff will revisit the site soon after the snow melts to "determine if there is something that could reasonably be done to reduce confusion along this section of the trail."

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread.

Jim Powell

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#48890 - 12/05/16 02:03 PM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: JPowell]
Paul Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 192
Loc: Santa Clarita, CA
Hopefully they visit the site at night when most, if not all the accidents occur.

As pointed out in earlier posts, the area in question seems to be a problem for hikers descending at night, after a long day of hiking.

These hikers are usually in a zombie state from exhaustion.

paul

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#48891 - 12/06/16 05:49 AM Re: Fallen Hiker on Monday 10-17-16 [Re: JPowell]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1145
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: JPowell
I received a written response from the Forest Supervisor. I thought it was a good letter. Mike's accident (and others in the same area) was reviewed by NFS and Inyo SAR. At the Supervisor's request, the site was visited by the NFS trail coordinator and Whitney wilderness ranger; while there, they added more rocks to the berm. The letter further indicates staff will revisit the site soon after the snow melts to "determine if there is something that could reasonably be done to reduce confusion along this section of the trail."

I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread.

Jim Powell

Thank you, Mr. Powell, for following up during your time of immeasurable grief. Your effort has already made a positive impact toward preventing future disasters at this confusing and dangerous section of trail. Rest assured, more will be done to complete a reasonable trail improvement and there will be plenty of volunteers if needed.

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