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Thread: Three hikers missing on Mt. Whitney

  1. #16
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    If the summit hut wasn’t there, this probably would have turned out much differently.

    I’m thinking this group was underprepared for the conditions they were likely to encounter and continued ascending into worsening weather just to summit.
    Okay. Agreed. Happy they found the hut. The entire group seems to have been on a "City Slickers" type adventure quest, with the low and high point stuff, which, I'm sure, added to these 3 being compelled to summit.

    Good Karma out to the other two.
    Dead Last > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start

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  2. #17
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    3. The summit hut is locked off season, maybe year round. They had to have broken it to get out of the weather. Their supplies consisted of a day pack (unclear as to what that consisted of). The hut had a food stash inside that kept them fed for the (4 days ?) they were there. They probably didn’t have the necessary clothing to spend a night on the mountain much less (4 nights?).If the summit hut wasn’t there, this probably would have turned out much differently.
    Craig - I'm not sure the room on the western side of hut (the one to the right of the register box) is locked during the off season, or even has the capability to be locked. I know that snow frequently blows in there, sometimes nearly filling the room. I believe there is a smaller room, to the left of the register, which is kept locked by the USPS and contains emergency gear. I do know that when I was last there (Sept 15th), the door handle on the larger room was nearly falling off.

    Personally, I rarely go into the room when I'm up there - it's just too damn cold.

  3. #18
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    The other two hikers walked out safe. Took a long route to avoid bad weather-
    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-...nclick_check=1

    One thing Ed Viesturs said in his book, as I recall, was that he knew when to turn around and come back down, that summiting wasn't as important as going home. Not those exact words, but something like that.

  4. #19
    Senior Member Craig's Avatar
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    It appears one of the 3 hikers texted his GF when they arrived at the hut telling her they were at the hut and needed food, water and warm clothing. That explains why the others in their party jumped in their cars and left the TH once they returned.

    Apparently SARs knew they were in the shelter. Probably no outrage in Cal. on this one. If an outer-stater did this in NH....

    On a side note:

    I have been following the story of a missing hiker in CO. He disappeared in the Holy Cross wilderness 4 weeks ago without a trace. In a lengthy thread on 14ers, “CCSARCAP” posted the following stats from a book called “Lost Person Behavior”.


    One day after a person is reported missing his/her chances of being deceased is 50%
    Two days 74%
    Three days 83%
    Four days 92%
    Five days 100%---Although there have been mentioned a few miracles
    I found these stats very interesting.
    Enjoy your best

  5. #20
    Senior Member Chip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomD View Post
    The other two hikers walked out safe. Took a long route to avoid bad weather-
    http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-...nclick_check=1

    One thing Ed Viesturs said in his book, as I recall, was that he knew when to turn around and come back down, that summiting wasn't as important as going home. Not those exact words, but something like that.
    Thanks, that's great news.
    Dead Last > Did Not Finish > Did Not Start

    * ALL STANDARD DISCLAIMERS APPLY: IIRC. YRMV. IMHO. FWIW. HYOH. NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED, ARE MADE
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  6. #21
    Banned Kevin Rooney's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    ...Apparently SARs knew they were in the shelter. Probably no outrage in Cal. on this one. If an outer-stater did this in NH....
    SAR knew they were in the shelter as one of the hikers had sent a text msg via cell phone to family who in turn relayed it to SAR. Apparently SAR had them texted with the combo to the lock on the door where emergency supplies are kept.

    In California, SAR is under the jurisdiction of the local county sheriff who coordinates the efforts with various SAR units in the area, including staff from the USFS and USPS as appropriate. In this case, the Mt Whitney Trail starts in US Forest Service jurisdiction, but at Trail Crest, about 2.1 miles from the summit, it enters the US Park Service jurisdiction. Typically, counties own at least one helicopter which is used mostly for crime and fire control duties, but it's not unusual to request assistance from National Guard units as well, as was done in this instance. Using helicopters for law enforcement, fire control and SAR is routine in California, and calls for charging victims is rare. Keep in the mind the physical scale of the state. For example - Inyo County, where Whitney is located - is by itself the size of New Hampshire.

    From what I read, most SAR units in California are vocal in their opposition to charging for rescues & recoveries, on the basis that charging for such is poor public policy.

    Finally - to give you an idea of what the weather is frequently like on the California 14-ers - here's a clip of today's forecast from Howard Sheckter, who's based in Mammoth, just north of Whitney. It's usually not this windy on the peaks, but it's not an uncommon forecast when there are strong storms, as is the case now for the next day or so.

    HIGH WIND WARNING THROUGH TONIGHT FOR GUSTS TO 80 MPH ALONG THE EASTERN SLOPES AND 145MPH OVER THE CREST LATER TODAY.

  7. #22
    Senior Member Mohamed Ellozy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TomD View Post
    One thing Ed Viesturs said in his book, as I recall, was that he knew when to turn around and come back down, that summiting wasn't as important as going home. Not those exact words, but something like that.
    That may be the origin of a saying we often use in the AMC hiking courses:
    Reaching the summit is optional.
    Returning to your car is not.
    With winter approaching, and many VFTTers contemplating the 48 in a single winter, this saying is worth pondering.

  8. #23
    Senior Member Craig's Avatar
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    Interesting, thanks for the info Kevin.

    After viewing their summit video, I was left wondering what went wrong that they couldn't get down.
    How long does it take to get from the hut to the switchbacks where presumably it's a bit sheltered from the wind?

    George Durkee's comment on the Whitney Portal seemed to be right on point.

    I'm left wondering if we (hiking community,SARs etc.) are indirectly enabling this type of behavior by not decrying it.
    Enjoy your best

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