Mt Whitney Zone
Posted By: Paul What kind of search plan would you develop - 10/29/09 03:57 PM
Last night I had difficulty sleeping. My mind kept on revisiting the missing hiker, Wade. Many questions, but no answers.

I started to think about how I would develop a search plan. Where would I start the search? What areas should I concentrate on?

Thinking about the time and location and what Wade said, night was not too far off. I guess my first inclination would be to check the sign in log on top of Whitney to see if he made it. I would also head down towards Crabtree.

How would you approach the search for Wade?

PS...... if this is inappropriate, please let me know and I'll remove the post.


It's sure tough when the idea of a search and rescue transforms into a search and recovery. Makes us all shudder to think of how a few little instances could have changed the entire outcome for the current tragedy.

I imagine, Paul, that developing a search plan is something SAR groups work over and revise many times. I think there are some obvious places they could look for clues. But then what if he slipped and slid into some nearly inaccessible spot? And with all the wind blowing spin drift around, everything is coated with white.

It seems curious, though that SAR would ask Richard whether he noted any SPOT unit on the hiker. Seems like family and friends would have already told them that.
Posted By: Rod Re: What kind of search plan would you develop - 10/29/09 08:53 PM
I thought the exact same thing Steve. The family should know if he had a spot. It would take a miracle to find him alive at this point unless he is somehow equipped with food, water and winter snow clothing. It was really cold here last night into the 30's. I can only imagine how cold it has been up on Whitney this week especially at night.
Posted By: CaT Re: What kind of search plan would you develop - 10/29/09 09:46 PM
Seems like family and friends would have already told them that.

Assuming they knew. Perhaps they didn't.
Posted By: Ken Re: What kind of search plan would you develop - 10/29/09 11:50 PM
First, I'm not a SAR professional, although I am a fan, and have read many of their reports. I've discussed searches with Bob several times, when I was frustrated with what appeared to be going on (perceived inefficiency), but felt better after talking, and I understood the process better.

There are several things that need to happen simultaneously, and there are a lot of people involved. People have to call out the troops, arrangements and decisions about where to meet (pretty easy in this case), and resources put in, gear, etc. Someone needs to coordinate air. It is critical to make contact with anyone who has, or might have, first hand information, before they disappear into the ether. Even if possibilities seem remote (spot), they all need to be run down. There is almost always contradictory information, and that all has to be reconciled,if possible.

One of the main principles is establishing the PLS (point last seen), which needs to be as positive as possible, with direction of travel. This means contacting people and clearing up ambiguities.

Contacting the family: what did he have with him? What was his experience? What was his plan? Did he have backup plans?
Did he have a cell phone, EPIRB, SPOT, HAM radio?

Generally, the field general then gets out the map, and starts to look at possibilities, with others who know the terrain, to map out comprehensive search strategies.

While all this is going on, a "hasty search" team is generally dispatched as soon as they can get on the trail. They'll have radios to direct them as they go up. For example, they might split up at LPL area, to go up the trail, and the shortcut, which he might have taken. They might be asked to run over to the west of Mirror Lake, another shortcut, which is apparently a treacherous area right now, where a person might slip and fall. They'd want to check the winter route below the railing, and take a look up the "slope". They'd want to look in the summit shelter, and at the logbook for a note or clue. Of course, the first priority is to look in the places where he might be ALIVE. Careful exam of bottom of chutes will be left for after all the live potentials have been exhausted, other than quick sweeps by air, that will not consume time/resources.

Does this guy know the Mountaineer's Route? Someone is going to have to run down to Crabtree.

EVERYONE is going to be looking for tracks, and trying not to obscure any. Snow should make this easier. If there are areas that you could not get across without crossing snow, and the snow is not consolidated, and there are no tracks, not likely to have gone that way.

By now, all those things will have been done. So they are now searching the Artic Lake area, the North Fork, Hitchcock lakes area, Crabtree Area, Lone Pine Lake area, the area down to the Portal. At the base of Keeler & Whitney, east and west.

His best bet is FIRE. Fire is not now natural in the area. If he is at treeline, with fuel, this will not only keep him warm, it will be a beacon to searchers, particularly if he knows how to generate smoke.

I agree with you, Steve.
Posted By: Paul Re: What kind of search plan would you develop - 10/30/09 07:31 PM
Ken, thanks so much for your insight and it is good to have you on this board. Your opinion is most appreciated.

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