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View Full Version : Gray Knob caretaker gets lost in winter storm



ExploreTheEast
10-28-2006, 11:00 AM
This is a link to Cameron Martindell's blog (http://www.offyonder.com). He's been the Gray Knob cabin's caretaker since summer, and his most recent post about getting lost in a whiteout was something I wanted to share with everybody. Just an example of how people with endless outdoors experience can still get lost and into trouble, I guess.

Cameron's site - www.offyonder.com - get's updated a few times a month on average. He certainly gets around, with 2006's adventures including the Whites, sea kayaking in Washington, rafting the Colorado thru the Grand Canyon, hiking in New Zealand and Australia, and a few months spent at the South Pole in Antarctica.

Edit: I first posted as "almost gets lost in winter storm," but let's face it, he was lost! lol

grouseking
10-28-2006, 11:23 AM
Its amazing where your mind can travel when you think that you just have to go downhill. I know in my only experience in severe winter weather, thats what I did briefly, and we almost went right over the edge. This was a cool story and should be a humbling reminder no matter how experienced one thinks he/she is.

grouseking

sli74
10-28-2006, 11:27 AM
Wow !!! We just met him a couple of weeks ago. Glad to hear he's okay with a story to tell.

sli74

DougPaul
10-28-2006, 12:47 PM
Its amazing where your mind can travel when you think that you just have to go downhill.
Downhill often points in far more directions than does uphill...

Doug

Cath
10-28-2006, 06:16 PM
As Cameron said "I continued down instead of returning to the last known cairn."

Also, brushing the rime/snow off a section of the cairn's on both the downhill & uphill sides is like a beacon in low visibility.

Glad that he only spent about an hours time wandering off trail.

lattinhill
10-28-2006, 10:42 PM
Yes, he does seem to have a penchant for adventure. We were at Crag on the night after the " Flags on the 48 " when the storm blew through. We were all in agreement that he would'nt show up on a " dark & stormy " night like this. But show up he did, complete with a detailed description of his visit to all four places ....done in " Pirate Speak " !

Dave

Bob Kittredge
10-29-2006, 03:11 PM
Did I miss something? I didn't see any mention of a compass.

I once ate lunch on Jefferson in the fog and had to whip out my compass to make sure I was heading down in the right direction.

bunchberry
10-29-2006, 08:56 PM
Cam is a good friend of my husband's from college (former roommate)...I knew that he was up at Grey Knob but I haven't been able to get up there myself. So glad he's doing well up there and that many of you have been up to say hello! He does have years and years of winter experience (along with years and years of many other incredible experiences--check out his website!) but even so, anyone out in those conditions has to be careful! A good reminder for when I do finally get back up north.

-katie

sapblatt
10-30-2006, 07:54 AM
Cam is a great guy - bobby and I talked with him at length when we stopped by Grey Knob in early October while overnighting at Crag for two nights. His Antarctica stories were very interesting - loved hearing about the three mile running route they did at the south pole that allowed them to run through all 24 time zones in three miles.
Very glad to see that he is OK - and it is a very sobering reminder of what can happen out there.

giggy
10-31-2006, 04:57 PM
met him this past weekend - nice guy.

he doesn't drink so don't bother bring up any booze for the caretaker this winter!! bring some other goodies if going to grey knob.

Woody
10-31-2006, 07:33 PM
Gig,

He just didn't want to drink with you! :D

sli74
10-31-2006, 11:07 PM
met him this past weekend - nice guy.

he doesn't drink so don't bother bring up any booze for the caretaker this winter!! bring some other goodies if going to grey knob.


I don't think he will be the caretaker up there this winter. When we were talking to him he was telling us about a tour he is going on this winter, giving slideshows and talks. They were interviewing potential caretakers I think, right Al?

sli74

Al Sochard
11-01-2006, 02:19 AM
The RMC changes caretakers four times a year - just like the seasons
Cameron is leaving this weekend with our new caretakers starting the winter shift. This winter there will be two caretakers that rotate on/off every week till the end of March when the spring caretaker starts for a two month stint

Typical year schedule
Fall - 1 caretaker Sept, Oct (11 days on/3 off) with fillin
Winter - 2 caretakers Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar (7 on/7 off)
Spring - 1 caretaker Apr, May (11 days on/3 off) with fillin
Summer - 2 caretakers June, July, Aug (11 on/3 off)

What would be your favorite season to be a caretaker? :rolleyes:

giggy
11-01-2006, 07:41 AM
I stand corrected - sorry - I thought cameron was the new (winter) one.

sorry for the confusion. :)

Chip
11-01-2006, 10:16 AM
Downhill often points in far more directions than does uphill...
Doug
"Foolishly, now that I look back at it, I continued down instead of returning to the last known cairn. Even the tracks I had just impressed on the snow moments ago were starting to wash away in the wind. Suddenly I was where I wasn't supposed to be. I didn't know if I had missed the trail to my left or to the right. My brain had one message for me: DOWN!"

So should he have gone back up higher into the storm to relocate the last cairn and trail or did he do the right thing by heading down into the trees ?
Hint: This reminds me ALOT of a discussion held here about navigating fog in same area. (http://www.vftt.org/forums/showthread.php?t=13852&page=1&pp=15)

DougPaul
11-01-2006, 10:47 AM
Downhill often points in far more directions than does uphill...

"Foolishly, now that I look back at it, I continued down instead of returning to the last known cairn. Even the tracks I had just impressed on the snow moments ago were starting to wash away in the wind. Suddenly I was where I wasn't supposed to be. I didn't know if I had missed the trail to my left or to the right. My brain had one message for me: DOWN!"

So should he have gone back up higher into the storm to relocate the last cairn and trail or did he do the right thing by heading down into the trees ?

A judgement call. There are pros and cons to either strategy. There is no single hard and fast rule that will always get you back home in all situations.

Given the caretaker's general location, down could have led to a wide range of locations, some of which included technical terrain and/or a rather long and difficult bushwack. Simple down would have been a dangerous strategy. Simple up would have led to non-technical terrain and might have found a trail or known point, but offered no protection from the weather.

In this case, the caretaker realized that he was in a region bounded by trails and if he contined in an appropriate general direction he would hit one. If he wrenched a leg while bushwacking, he might still be there. Or if he had followed the oft repeated advice to stay put, he might also still be there. By applying some local terrain knowledge, some good decision making, and luck on his side, he got out without undue difficulty.

My comment about downhill was a simple observation that simply following a blind compulsion to go downhill is often not a good strategy when lost in that region (or in many other high places).

Doug

Chip
11-01-2006, 11:00 AM
My comment about downhill was a simple observation that simply following a blind compulsion to go downhill is often not a good strategy when lost in that region (or in many other high places).
Doug
I agree and appreciate the reponse. I made a similar remark in that fog navigating thread - which did lead to alot of good discussion - but my suggestion of heading back up to relocate the trail was pretty much dismissed as the wrong move.

ChrisB
11-01-2006, 11:35 AM
This situation brings up an aviation analogy for me: VFR vs IFR

In flying, visual flight rules (VFR) apply in conditions when you can see where you are going. Iinstrument flight rules (IFR) apply in poor/minimal visibility.

Bad wx above treeline can often impose IFR, or rather IHR (instrument hiking rules!), where reliance on (and faith in) instruments such as a compass, GPS, and altimiter is mandatory.

In the caretaker's case, a GPS with familiar waypoints programmed in and Trackback activated, would have made this a routine jaunt. A calibrated altimiter could also have assisted in approximating a map position.

I read somewhere that Chauvin Guides have done a Northern Presi Traverse in low visibility using the waypoints they publish on their Website.

If I fly solo above treeline in winter, I hedge my bet with a bit of technology.

cb

DougPaul
11-01-2006, 12:09 PM
If I fly solo above treeline in winter, I hedge my bet with a bit of technology.
Local knowledge (as it is called in the nautical navigation game) can be a big help too. The caretaker recognized specific land forms like a cave and knew the general layout and trails in the area.

As another example, when hiking along a trail on Monadnock in ~10ft visibility, I have recognized several rock formations and knew exactly where I was.

Doug

DougPaul
11-01-2006, 12:50 PM
I agree and appreciate the reponse. I made a similar remark in that fog navigating thread - which did lead to alot of good discussion - but my suggestion of heading back up to relocate the trail was pretty much dismissed as the wrong move.
I often backtrack if I realize that I have just lost the trail. The sooner one backtracks, the better. If I have gone a long way since I last knew I was on the trail, I may or may not go back, depending on a variety of factors.

Doug