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What happens on a search
#8074 10/05/10 05:58 AM
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This is convoluted, but I'm posting it for a couple of reasons: (1) I think this audience is curious about what goes on when we search for a lost or missing person, and (2) there is sometimes puzzlement on why we usually don't welcome outsiders' offers to help on a search. On (2), the reasons are two-fold: first is that it is difficult to integrate well-meaning but untrained people into an overall search strategy, and second is the possibility that valuable clues can be innocently destroyed.

The story starts a few weeks ago, on an attempt of Mt. Gould on a smokey day. As my friends and I were nearing Kearsarge Pass, I told them of a search in 1986 for a missing man in the area. In spite of an intense effort, nothing was found. Four months later someone came upon a dessicated arm and hand laying on the trail just below Kearsarge Pass. It was surmised that our victim had perhaps suffered a heart attack, and his remains were scattered by animals. A bear was implicated, although I don't recall why. The case was considered closed.

In 1990, descending from a climb of Nameless Pyramid, I discovered several other bones which appeared to be human. I left them there and reported the find to the sheriff, offering to go back to search for more. But the sheriff was not interested in expending resources when nothing of substance could come of it.

On the hike of a few weeks ago, it occurred to me that it might be a useful training exercise for CLMRG to go up and conduct a search for other remains. More bones, clothing, and especially personal effects like a wallet, could tell a story. So we will probably do that soon.

You can read about the initial search here: Operation 86-17; see page 6. There are a few Mt. Whitney operations in that issue that may also be interesting reading.

Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8084 10/05/10 09:54 AM
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Finding long-lost remains is always an interesting story, Bob. It would be great if you could turn anything up.

Would anyone even be interested in DNA testing if you found any bones?

This brings back memory of the German tourists lost in Death Valley in 1996, and then remains discovered in 2009:  Search for German tourists

Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8087 10/05/10 10:57 AM
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I remember that op. A park service ranger was investigating a pile of bear scat near a lake to the west of Kearsage Pass, and found a zipper in the scat. That find prompted a renewed search near the pass. His ice-axe was also found near the top of the pass. A ranger had encountered him on the trail and described him as lightly clothed for the possible conditions (I recall temps in the low twenties at Mammoth main lodge that night).

Our failure to find his body during the initial search was puzzling, since we had even employed the use of a search dog, which found nothing. The searh went as far afield as Dragon Pass, which Pat Eliot and I climbed (and renamed it Draggin' Ass Pass).

Seems a hungry ursa had feasted on the remains.

Re: What happens on a search
Bob West #8088 10/05/10 11:16 AM
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> I recall temps in the low twenties at Mammoth main lodge that night

Bob, are you thinking of the same event? I think the one Bob R is writing about occurred July 17, 1986. Does it get that cold in July?

Re: What happens on a search
Steve C #8093 10/05/10 12:03 PM
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Yes, the "Gentle Wilderness" can sometimes be unpredictable. I recall coming out of the main lodge about 9 PM that night, after dinner, and experiencing very cold conditions. A subsequent temp check showed mid twenties that night.

During one Labor Day weekend in the late 70's, it snowed several feet in the Sierras; four people died of hypothermia - two on Mt. Whitney and two at Lamarck Col.

Last edited by Bob West; 10/05/10 12:03 PM.
Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8106 10/05/10 02:50 PM
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You Bobs should write a book.That would be fascinating reading. A collection of short stories regarding real SARs in the Sierras.

Re: What happens on a search
Rod #8108 10/05/10 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted By: Rod
You Bobs should write a book.That would be fascinating reading. A collection of short stories regarding real SARs in the Sierras.

Advice: don't call the book "The TPS Report" and don't have the authors identified as "The Two Bobs." if these warnings mean nothing to you, you have not seen the movie Office Space. That may or may not be important to your life, but I stand by my advice.

Re: What happens on a search
AlanK #8109 10/05/10 03:28 PM
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Yep. I don't think my bosses were very greedy, but I rebelled and retired.. Never looked back!

Re: What happens on a search
Bob West #8126 10/05/10 08:45 PM
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AlanK I don't "get" the warning. No I didn't see Office Space.Of course maybe that warning is to The Two Bobs.

Last edited by Rod; 10/05/10 08:46 PM.
Re: What happens on a search
Rod #8127 10/05/10 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted By: Rod
AlanK I don't "get" the warning. No I didn't see Office Space.Of course maybe that warning is to The Two Bobs.
Office Space is a movie that many people found funny because it captures the absurdity of a lot of things that seem to happen in offices of all kinds. Sort of the way everyone seems to think that Dilbert is about their employer. Suffice it to say that "the two Bobs" are characters in the movie that differ in every way from our two Bobs.

Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8130 10/05/10 10:20 PM
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I took the time to read through all of the case studies. One of the lesser occurring details of decision making really caught my attention: When to stay and when to go, regarding the decision leave an accident victim, in order to protect the rest of the group from further injury (in one case, it was an overall lack of warm clothing)(the second case was more complicated, involving high altitude and food shortages, and dangerous terrain for a solo egress if one stayed behind)

I am left to wonder if the climbing buddies had huddled together for the night, would the combined warmth had lessened everyone's chances of injury(mainly, the victim with the broken ribs) I would be very hard pressed to leave an injured buddy behind, but I am loyal to a fault.

Further thoughts: perhaps due to the fact that the broken-rib climbing group was doing a face/wall, maybe they were unable to re-group effectively for the night.


The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.
Re: What happens on a search
Bob West #8146 10/06/10 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted By: Bob West
During one Labor Day weekend in the late 70's, it snowed several feet in the Sierras; four people died of hypothermia - two on Mt. Whitney and two at Lamarck Col.

See Op. 78-18 and 78-19 in Talus Pile 41

Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8148 10/06/10 12:12 PM
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OMG those are very sobering accounts with horrible outcomes. Who would have ever expected such terrible snow that early in September?
As we all know the weather in the Sierras can be wet and or snowy any day of the year.
It really is very helpful that you posted those stories Bob R. I think it is a wake up to always be prepared, have a plan and a back up plan. Thank goodness we have dmatt with his weather forecasts but as we all know that the Sierra weather is dynamic and can change dramatically in a matter of hours.

Re: What happens on a search
Bob R #8149 10/06/10 12:17 PM
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Wow, very sobering accounts. If memory serves me right 1978 was the largest California rainfall on record (at least for some parts of CA).

Alan, yes I did get that memo about the TPS reports. grin


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