Hiker Rescue yesterday on Washington (Mt Clay)


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Not defending anyone, but it's also important to remember that every day someone does a hike or a ski or a peak in weather that someone else wouldn't, and we never hear about it as it goes off without a hitch. There isn't a hard and fast temp, wind speed, moisture content, etc. that is a clear cut "absolutely not" that is universally agreed upon. It's easy to hear of -50 windchills and unforeseen snow and think "that was dumb to be above treeline". But, maybe a sudden rainstorm that was forecasted turns out to have some ice, more wind than anticipated, etc.

I've read FB posts where someone gets admonished for going out in weather that I, personally, MAYBE don't consider that bad. I've also seen pictures of someone out and think "no way would I do that". Without everyone's resumes posted along with their obituaries and browser history from the previous 48 hours, we can only surmise what we would do, what they knew, and how prepared they were for it. Someone training for Denali or the Himalayas shouldn't be terribly concerned about below 0 temps and high winds. That's what they are training for, right?

For example, in the 70's we were caught on Bondcliff when a storm kicked in that wasn't anticipated. Yes, I realize it was more difficult to get updated weather 40+ years ago, but with the constant weather changes none are full-proof. Anyhoo, a mom with 3 kids under the age of 12 wearing Timberlane boots, jeans, and sweatshirts, some cheese & crackers, maybe an apple, and a couple cans of Coke get caught in a frigid downpour miles from their camp at the time was a laugh a minute as we sloshed and shivered our way home. That happens today, and one of us turns an ankle on a slippery root or shifting summit boulder, and it's fodder for the internet commentary. Or, which the odds bear out, everyone hustles down without issue and everyone is none the wiser. I've had dozens of similar situations where there was no issue at all and we just carried on. And I'd bet I'm nowhere near alone on that.

Of course, the closest I ever came to a weather-related tragedy I was 1 mile from the trailhead, albeit in extremely cold weather but we were on our way out when I fell into a brook and soaked about 70% of my body. I got to the trailhead with, literally, frozen clothes stuck to me. Again, laughs all around. Only the four of us knew about it. Happens 5 miles in? Maybe it turns out worse and I get to be made famous :D
I feel bad for his family. Why and what he was thinking are things we'll never figure out. if this was his first trip that went awry, it was a bad place to learn. A few scouts and I did a trip on the humid weekend we had in May, two scouts did not bring enough water and an adult felt a little dizzy so we rested and then went back to the car past a place to get water. One of the scouts regretted not getting to the summit. I told him you learned things today and that I've always learned more things on a day when things went wrong then on any where I was successful.

Before FB and we planned a few hikes here with old time members, the people I hiked with, I called before the first trip (AMC Leaders called for their winter trips back in the 90's) and talked a little about their summits and if they had ever turned around. I wanted to be comfortable with what we were going to do. I knew back then while I wasn't a hard-core Summit or bust type, I was past average. A couple of the guys had a better sense of retreat then I did.

One of those guys after we had done a few, picked up a new guy who talked a great game & talked one the Gary's (I had hiked with three at one time) into doing Ike. Gary was sensible and we discussed things. On this trip, the other guy sounded believable and they got off trail, into some steep ice & two of the three slipped. All okay, however, back at the car, the confident guy confided that he had a few winter peaks only and that his friend did all the planning and navigating. Gary was the sensible guy who should have taken charge, however, he was a really nice guy and didn't want to be the strong arm leader type. That day , he needed to be that guy.

When the weather is bad, you need to be comfortable with your limitations and strengths and really know yourself. I am like Sierra in bad weather wondering why everyone is layered up walking uphill as I am trying to manage only sweating a bit instead of profusely. I was fortunate that my first hyperthermic day took place on a November hike, early in my hiking career where the people I hiked with and myself still had a layer or two of cotton. We were just beginning to get to the slide on the Flume Slide trail and the first steep had a thin coat of ice on it we couldn't get by. Never thought for a moment to walk in the woods a little bit and go around. We just turned and went back to the car. It took 45 minutes in the car to warm up and when I realized that was a long time, only then did I think about walking around the icy rock.

On days when the weather is bad, if I had planned to go out, I prefer changing the location. If I want to feel high winds, there are a several summits were you just pop up above the trees and you can get back into cover quickly. Those are places to figure out, do I like this, does my gear work, do I have to crawl to stay out of the wind? DO I like that? How far would I crawl, At some point is that dangerous? (IMO yes but we all hike our own hike)

Again, I'm sad to see when people pass doing something I like and they like. Best wishes to his family.
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