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#617 - 11/06/09 01:45 PM The Windows
RichardK Offline


Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 79
Loc: East Coast Florida
Edit: subject changed from "What happened to Mr. Brunette?"
(Let's give the topic some rest ...two more weeks)

The loss of Wade Brunette certainly struck a nerve in the Mt. Whitney community. But, I am yet to see any explanation of how he actually came to his end. According to Richard Piotrowski's Smugmug gallery for his October 31 hike, Mr. Brunette's body was found at the base of Mt. Muir. Since he took the much discussed pictures of the recovery, I assume that this location is correct. To me, this fact means that he fell from one of the "windows". He was described by the last group to see him as laboring and breathing heavily. I can't imagine that he boulder scrambled up to the ridgeline in that condition. That leaves only the "windows" as a place where you could fall to the east. Then, there is the matter of the abandoned pack. The coordinates of N 36 33.8 W 118 17.6 are at the "point" of the first switchback past the John Muir Trail junction heading towards the summit. What if Mr. Brunette decided that the weight of his pack had become too much. He stashed it a bit off trail so it would be out of sight and continued towards the summit. He picked the "point" of the switchback because it would be easy to recognize on the way back. Unfortunately, he did not return.

This is all conjecture on my part, but it seems to fit the facts as I know them. Or I could be totally off base. Any thoughts?


Edited by Steve C (11/06/09 09:31 PM)
Edit Reason: subject change

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#618 - 11/06/09 02:18 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: RichardK]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
That is about as good of a guess that anyone can make. There has been no information released and no one here that I know of has any inside information.Someday they may release an official report from the supervisory agencies.All we can do is conjecture.I am sure he was suffering from some degree of AMS and it will be hard to determine what caused what sequence of events to lead to this tragedy.

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#619 - 11/06/09 02:18 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: RichardK]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 578
Loc: Manchester, NH
I would urge we not speculate on the cause of death. Most likely an autopsy will be performed, and those results are often made public. In addition, SAR units sometimes write up accidents reports assessing the probable causes leading to the accident and make those public. At this point it's a bit early even for trained SAR staff who were onsite to create likely scenarios, much less outside observers. These accident scenarios have a pattern - let's wait for the process to play itself out.

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#621 - 11/06/09 04:20 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: KevinR]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
No one has speculated on cause of death yet. My speculation of cause of death will most likely be due to injuries from a fall.I think it is reasonable to assume that. I don't think that is wrong to assume or disrespectful of the family or the continuing investigation.
I think what is being asked and one can't help but speculate is what events may have lead up to the ultimate tragedy.I don't think it is wrong to wonder and even talk about what may have happened. We must make sure that we qualify what we say with this is my speculation and I have no personal knowledge of this.What posible harm can come from wondering what happened?
It ultimately may help us be able to prevent someone else from the same tragedy.


Edited by Rod (11/06/09 04:22 PM)

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#622 - 11/06/09 05:07 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: Rod]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 578
Loc: Manchester, NH
Rod - let me clarify a bit. I certainly agree that discussing accidents is most beneficial - once we have the facts. Once we know all the details of how he passed, they'll be an opportunity for thoughtful, respectful discussions of how others (including ourselves) might be able to avoid a similar situation. But, my experience on other BB's is that speculation immediately after an injury/rescue almost invariably is inaccurate to the actual causes, and can be hurtful to the individual/family. Again - such a discussion is premature, in my opinion.

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#624 - 11/06/09 05:24 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7191
Loc: Fresno, CA
I have my own thoughts about the cause, too, but I think I'll wait.

Wade's daughter Michelle last wrote in her blog here:

Quote:
Thursday, November 5, 2009
What Happened?
We'll never know exactly what happened or why. The SAR team with search dogs found Wade on the eastern slope of Mt. Whitney, where he had fallen from a great height, probably on the Sunday that he set out. It seems that after he left his pack, he climbed back to up to the ridge in an attempt to come back down the route he had come up. The end was quick, and Wade didn't suffer.

The blog also says they're having a memorial Nov. 22. Maybe we should hold off until after that...

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#625 - 11/06/09 05:50 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: Steve C]
KevinR Offline


Registered: 11/03/09
Posts: 578
Loc: Manchester, NH
Without speculating about the possible impact of wind on Mr. Burnette -

The wind on Sunday in the Indian Wells Valley where I live (about an hour south of Lone Pine) was westerly with regular gusts in the 30's, and on Monday increased to the 40's and sometimes higher. Winds in the valley are not always indicative of what conditions are in the Sierra, in my experience.

I've not participated in any discussion re: the chance of wind blowing someone through the windows. However, I have frequently hiked in windy conditions, and know that wind speeds between 30-40mph will buffet you around, and frequently cause staggering. Knock-down speeds don't usually occur until the 50-60mph, and anything much above that makes standing/forward motion very difficult. Have been knocked done by wind many times, and it's dangerous and demoralizing.

Personally, I'd never go anywhere near the windows on Whitney in 30-40mph westerly winds unless it was an emergency, and then only on my hands and knees. Depending upon the wind direction, one might also have to contend with the Bernoulli effect near the windows.

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#626 - 11/06/09 05:53 PM Re: What happened to Mr. Brunette? [Re: Steve C]
Rod Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 660
Loc: Santa Clarita, Ca. USA
RIP Wade . Yes we can wait to discuss.I'm glad he didn't wonder around lost for days and glad he didn't suffer.God Bless the family and thanks to all SAR personnel. We are so lucky that they are there for us in a moments notice.

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#627 - 11/06/09 06:19 PM "The Windows" [Re: Ken]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
I do not wish to discuss Wade, but I would like for someone to explain/expand on what "The Windows" are, please. I need to understand where they are, how they are situated as per Mt. Muir, how they are a part of summiting Whitney, and what is "the fear factor".

I have been to Thor, but never climbed Whitney.

b
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#628 - 11/06/09 07:36 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
RichardK Offline


Registered: 11/06/09
Posts: 79
Loc: East Coast Florida
Bee - The "windows" are a series of spots between the John Muir Trail junction and the summit where there are steep drop offs on both sides of the trail. The west side drop off is, maybe, 60 degrees to vertical. The east side is essentially vertical. The trail here is about 6 to 8 feet wide - as wide as an average sidewalk. These spots, three or four in number, are like 10 feet long. They generate a certain amount of fear among newbies, but are really nothing to worry about. However, if you wandered close to the east edge and stumbled for some reason or got hit by a sudden blast of wind, you could go over the edge.

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#629 - 11/06/09 07:45 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: RichardK]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Thank you, Richard. Does this area become a problem/obstacle during a winter/snow traverse?

b
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#632 - 11/06/09 08:26 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
MooseTracks Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 582
Loc: Bishop, CA, United States
Bee,
The windows themselves are not much of an obstacle when traversing the ridge in winter. Instead, what becomes trickier are the traverses around the many chutes that line the ridge running to the west. It is steep snow, occasionally without much purchase, and a long ride down to the shore of the Hitchcock Lakes.
I don't have the best pics: you might check GigaMike's albums.
-L cool
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#656 - 11/07/09 08:43 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
Karen R Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 7
Loc: Torrance, CA
Bee,
The Windows area has a wider path than the Devil's Backbone Trail on Mt. Baldy--you've probably done that one. It didn't bother me a bit (in summer conditions), but I think it could be very trecherous when icy/snow, freeze/thaw conditions. The exposure (down) is even steeper than the Devil's Backbone...a bad ride to the bottom. You don't want to use that "E" ticket (there...I'm dating myself).
_________________________
Karen R

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#657 - 11/07/09 08:46 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Karen R]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7191
Loc: Fresno, CA
Karen, actually Bee is a central Cal person. Yosemite is more her back yard.

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#658 - 11/07/09 08:58 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Steve C]
Karen R Offline


Registered: 11/02/09
Posts: 7
Loc: Torrance, CA
Opps...should look at the geography. Mt. Baldy/San Antonio is sort of a So Cal Pilgrimage. Well Bee, the offer's out there...when you're training up for Whitney, Mt. Baldy is a great way to do it. Until (or if) we get rain/snow, the Devil's Backbone trail's a good one--late Spring too--hotter than hades in the summer. Although I'm a bit jealous that Yosemite is so close for you. Send me a PM and we can arrange it if you can make your way to the 'hood.
_________________________
Karen R

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#660 - 11/07/09 09:23 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Karen R]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
The elevation is nowhere near Whitney, but the ridge of Cloud's Rest (in Yosemite) is only a few feet wide towards the summit, so I have experienced a little of what it is like to hike on a narrow path (sans the dramatic chutes, etc.)

B

PS, I will let you know when I am heading to your neck of the woods, Karen!


Edited by Bee (11/07/09 10:43 PM)
Edit Reason: reply to karen
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#661 - 11/07/09 09:27 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
CaT Offline


Registered: 09/24/09
Posts: 694
Loc: Blacklick, OH (formerly SoCal)
Bee,

If you can do that short but narrow section of the ridge as you are about at the summit of Cloud's Rest (coming from the east, that is), then you should have no problem with any of the windows on the Main Trail of Whitney. I've done both. I actually was more cautious on that small section of Cloud's Rest than I ever was anywhere on Whitney (summer hiking conditions assumed).

CaT
_________________________
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracle of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
- Lyndon Johnson, on signing the Wilderness Act into law (1964)

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#662 - 11/07/09 09:29 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
VersatileFred Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 130
Loc: SoCal
Bee,
Bob R took some pictures of the main windows with a trekking pole lying across the trail for perspective. Unfortunately, he lost his original online photo album and I don't remember if he restored any to his Flikr collection.

Fred

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#664 - 11/07/09 09:44 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: CaT]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Yes, CaT, I came up from Sunrise Lake Trailhead-- it gets pretty skimpy up there.

Fred, I will ask Bob R about the pictures.

b
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#666 - 11/07/09 09:58 PM Re: "The Windows" [Re: Bee]
VersatileFred Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 130
Loc: SoCal
Bee,
I found them in his Flikr album In Transit. See the image at http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2109/2440472678_57b7258fe8.jpg

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