Inyo SAR on Mt. Whitney

Posted by: Whitney Zone

Inyo SAR on Mt. Whitney - 07/28/07 02:22 PM

Posted by janice, 07-28-2007
Story here...

http://www.ksrw.sierrawave.net/site/content/view/95/48/


Posted by Ken, 07-28-2007
Wow. Obviously a couple that did not know "hiking Whitney 101", and caught by their ignorance.

Hypothermia, altitude illness, and although is wasn't mentioned, I'm sure dehydration. We'll have to look for the report by Inyo SAR.

So here is my question: What can WE do to reduce the incidence of such things? I've thought about this a lot since last summer, when I interviewed so many people that were obviously not adequately prepared.

I've written a note to Inyo NF, suggesting that they have a link on their Whitney information page to this discussion board. It is such a marvelous source of information, so far beyond any guidebook. Fred's compilation to the left tells people SO much, and collectively we have very current information updated, and Dennis with the great weather info.

I'd like to think that we've prevented some real epics in the "shoulder season" when people were tending to go up and get themselves into technical trouble.

I'm wondering what else could be done?
_________________________
Good judgment comes from experience,
and experience, of course, comes from poor judgment.


Posted by Steve C, 07-28-2007
> I'm wondering what else could be done?

Amazing as it may be, I think there are still large numbers of people who do not use the internet. I am guessing that even if the INF mentioned this site on their trail permit reservations, you would still have lots of people who would skip it.

I wonder if a non-profit "Whitney Association" web site might be easier for INF to embrace and reference.


Posted by Ken, 07-28-2007
I dunno Steve. I think that there are certainly people who do not use the internet much, but I would guess that most have access, and that the crowd that would want to climb Whitney might be a more "internet friendly" group, although I have nothing that supports that supposition. But at any rate, that is what WE do, eh? So I guess I'm thinking of the low-hanging fruit, first.

While I was looking at the Rainier site earlier today, I noticed that they directly link to SAR activity. Mike, the guy who is the Chief Ranger there, and is also in charge of SAR on the mountain, has told me that he definitely thinks that information helps to educate folks.

I'm wondering, what if we added another feature topic: What Goes Wrong on Whitney? If carefully edited as Fred has done, it could bring together several topics related to problems, that are repeated again and again?


Posted by Steve C, 07-28-2007
...the crowd that would want to climb Whitney might be a more "internet friendly" group, although I have nothing that supports that supposition.

The one experience I had: At the top of Half Dome, a young woman was sitting near my group talking with her friends about doing Whitney as their next big hike. So I was just curious and asked if she ever visited the Whitney message board. I got a sort of blank look and a "No, never have" reply. I just think there are a lot more like that out there.

I'm wondering, what if we added another feature topic: What Goes Wrong on Whitney? If carefully edited as Fred has done, it could bring together several topics related to problems, that are repeated again and again?

I think that is an excellent idea -- but it is up to Fred, of course. It would make it a good feature topic. But unfortunately, it would still never be seen by many Whitney hikers.


Posted by BeachAV8R, 07-28-2007
Quote:
When three volunteers with Inyo County Search and Rescue arrived at the Whitney Portal trailhead, they met many hikers with similar reports, including the sick woman's husband who said that his wife, Mary Jane, was still high up the trail being tended to by other hikers.

Hmm..I'm wondering if that should read "ex-husband"... wink

Until death..err..I mean dehydration, altitude sickness, or fatigue..do we part...


Posted by banks, 07-28-2007
Originally Posted By: Ken
So here is my question: What can WE do to reduce the incidence of such things? I've thought about this a lot since last summer, when I interviewed so many people that were obviously not adequately prepared.


While I think linking to the website is a good idea, there will always be a group of people that don't want help, don't need help, know it all, etc. There are plenty of resources that are easy to find that should make the "whitney experience" an enjoyable one. The fact that people can't put in a little bit of effort into researching their trip shows me that they will probably not put in the time to make their trip a fun and safe one. The more information, the better, I just don't know if it is going to have much of an effect.


Posted by Tim Moore, 07-28-2007
Although I've done the Mountaineers Route several times, I just did the Main Trail this past Monday thru Wednesday.

While the article doesn't mention it, the conclusion that I make is that this couple were day hikers. When I was up there earlier in the week, I was surprised by many of the day hikers ... while many were well prepared with large day packs and appropriate clothing on ... there were just as many that had cotton t-shirts, cotton pants, water bottle in hand, a maybe something warm around their waist. Quite frequently, they would apparently discard their warm clothing by the side of the trail during the mid-morning warmth only to pick it up on the way down but obviously not with them when they would need it most.

We even met day hikers who were intending to go to the summit that were only 30 minutes out of the Portal at noon.

While I don't know if these descriptions fitted this unfortunate woman, I'm surprised that something like this doesn't happen more.

I don't know what can be done to properly warn people. There are apparently people who find out about Mt Whitney, apparently get permits, but have no clue about what can happen to them.


Posted by Seh, 07-28-2007
The solution is simply charge a $ 250 permit fee this would solve many of the problems on the Mountain.

Posted by VersatileFred, 07-28-2007
Originally Posted By: Steve C, Ken
I'm wondering, what if we added another feature topic: What Goes Wrong on Whitney? If carefully edited as Fred has done, it could bring together several topics related to problems, that are repeated again and again?

I think that is an excellent idea -- but it is up to Fred, of course. It would make it a good feature topic. But unfortunately, it would still never be seen by many Whitney hikers.

Ken,
What did you have in mind for the layout, if we add another feature topic on horror stories? Are you suggesting building a table of links to previous threads organized by topics? That should be fairly easy to do if we can accumulate a list of links for each topic. If that is kind of what you had in mind, do you want to help collect the links?

Here is my first cut at possible topics:
  • Lightning
  • Hail
  • Wind
  • Ice
  • Snow
  • Hypothermia
  • Altitude Sickness/AMS
  • Dehydration
  • Group Separation
  • Darkness/Drained Batteries
  • Injury
  • SAR

_________________________
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers

Posted by Ken, 07-28-2007
Steve, I'm hoping that if the Inyo links to us, more people will see the info. I'm positive that a lot of people look at the official website, that have no idea that we exist. Maybe not, also, but it seems pretty low in work, for potential high return.

Fred, I'd not actually thought about it that way, but it might actually be the easiest. Of course, I'll be happy to help in any way. I had been thinking more in terms of "distilled wisdom" type of topics, but I'm not wedded to that.

I was thinking of a general heading along the lines:

Why people fail on their climb! or
How to have trouble on your hike!
Half of climbers fail--WHY??

or something that will catch people's eye.


Posted by VersatileFred, 07-28-2007
Originally Posted By: Ken
I was thinking of a general heading along the lines:

Why people fail on their climb! or
How to have trouble on your hike!
Half of climbers fail--WHY??

or something that will catch people's eye.

To me, distilled wisdom would fit best on the Inyo NF web site as one of their tidbit paragraphs. That way people visiting the site will see it first thing.

Our site is best suited to people who want first-hand information, with actual cases where people got into trouble, etc. That is where a collection of links would come in handy. Certainly, we could beef up the topics to be more eye-catching like:

* Do I need to worry about lightning?
* Has anybody slipped off the trail?
* Will I get altitude sickness?

That is how I would approach the main topics. We could put the main topics in a table at the beginning of the thread and include links to separate sections like the Orientation Notes. Each section would then be used to expand on the topic and provide a list of links to related threads.

Does that sound better?
_________________________
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers


Posted by ExPro, 07-29-2007
The problem with trying to use this as an advice board is there are so many different opinions as to what to do or not to do; I would point to a recent thread titled "Sandals or shoes." If people can't come to a consensus on maybe the most important piece of equipment that you use, why would there not be as much variability in other advice, which of course would translate to confusion for the novice. If hypothermia is a risk factor, how can anyone suggest that wearing sandals as your only pair of shoes is even an option? If we are going to have an advice section for novices on Whitney, lets have a little less of personal preferences and beliefs and err more on the side of caution. Anybody who doesn't believe this doesn't remember the MR "discussion" from early last summer. When they've done it once, maybe they'll have a little more experience to make their own choices. So if a link is put up, it should be to a specific thread, as has been mentioned, not the discussion board in general, where there is so much variability in advice.

Posted by josh, 07-29-2007
Originally Posted By: ExPro
"Sandals or shoes." If people can't come to a consensus on maybe the most important piece of equipment that you use, why would there not be as much variability in other advice, which of course would translate to confusion for the novice.

so true


Posted by Sierra Sam, 07-29-2007
Originally Posted By: banks
While I think linking to the website is a good idea, there will always be a group of people that don't want help, don't need help, know it all, etc. There are plenty of resources that are easy to find that should make the "whitney experience" an enjoyable one. The fact that people can't put in a little bit of effort into researching their trip shows me that they will probably not put in the time to make their trip a fun and safe one. The more information, the better, I just don't know if it is going to have much of an effect.

Banks-

I think you have it exactly right. I work up in Yellowstone as a volunteer backcountry ranger each summer. Many times, a group will come in to get a permit for a backcountry trip and it is clear that they are are not prepared or equipped for the trip. When the ranger tries to educate (or even dissuade them if they think it will be dangerous), they just ignore it. You can tell the difference between experienced outdoors people who ask good questions and then listen to and act upon the information and inexperienced ones who ofter don't listen. It is the latter group that we will often have to help or even rescue a few days later after they do exactly what they were cautioned not to.

Should an effort be made to give people the right information before they head up Whitney - of course. Will a significant number of them never read, hear or listen to it? I believe so. The best that we could expect to do is help the people in the middle of the pack, but there will always be a significant number of people who still get into trouble - trouble that was easily avoidable f they had taken the time to learn about the hike. In those situations, the hikers on the mountain will continue to make a big difference by providing the help when people get into trouble.


Posted by VersatileFred, 07-29-2007
Originally Posted By: ExPro
If we are going to have an advice section for novices on Whitney, lets have a little less of personal preferences and beliefs and err more on the side of caution.

That is why I was hesitant to push the direct advise. My focus would be on specific cases where things went wrong. While people will still have their own opinions on what to suggest, it is hard to dispute that there was a problem.
_________________________
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers


Posted by romanandrey, 07-29-2007
Fred,

seems to me the most important topic is missing: attitude.

Not sure how to exactly express this, but people's mindset or mentality is the key ingredient, in my opinion, in avoiding a fiasco or worse. Do you have a plan? Are you flexible? Will you be on the lookout for surprises? Are you willing to turn back if your plan goes awry?

A checklist of all possible hazards is useless if the person carrying it doesn't actively look for and assess the risks.

Andy


hmm... I like the word 'mindfulness'. Maybe that best captures the concept?
_________________________
SierraDescents


Posted by VersatileFred, 07-29-2007
Originally Posted By: romanandrey
Fred,

seems to me the most important topic is missing: attitude.

Not sure how to exactly express this, but people's mindset or mentality is the key ingredient, in my opinion, in avoiding a fiasco or worse. Do you have a plan? Are you flexible? Will you be on the lookout for surprises? Are you willing to turn back if your plan goes awry?

A checklist of all possible hazards is useless if the person carrying it doesn't actively look for and assess the risks.

Andy


I agree that attitude is an important topic and that it is hard to express in a meaningful way. See my responses to Half Dome incident and Climbing Rules. They are both based on attitude issues.
_________________________
Orientation Notes for Whitney First Timers


Posted by romanandrey, 07-29-2007
I knew I'd seen something on this subject recently but just couldn't place it:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/adventure/survival/skills/index.html

Here's an article on survival, with emphasis on *perception* - our tendency to ignore or otherwise not see what lies beyond our expected model of reality within any given set of circumstances.

Relevant, I think, and extremely interesting.
_________________________
SierraDescents


Posted by Steve C, 07-29-2007
Fred, the subject of glissading into icy conditions might be a good addition.

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