Rescued on Register Ridge

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Sose » Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:11 pm

I love you girls! You are the toughest! I have met y'all a few times around Tahquitz and San J also road racing way back in the eighties. I'm an old school Indian known for taking less traveled routes. After surviving in spite of my foolishness much more than once, I've noted a few factors I call 3 E s. 1)Environment: This includes the mountain, weather & surface conditions, route, on ascent and descent plus alternate routes and rescue options. Hazards (wildlife and such). 2)Equipment: This includes standard gear of which so much is available now, but a more important item is You! Your knowledge and skill, your physical and mental condition. Both overall and that morning, that day, that moment! 3)Expectations: This one is the kicker! How many times have I crawled and struggled far beyond common sense to reach a goal set in the comfort of my house looking at a map! We are dedicated adventurers and explorers which gets us into trouble sometimes but also many times gets us out!
Happy trails!
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ellen » Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:50 pm

bobpickering.

Please re-read my account.

The issue was NOT deep snow/powder but VERY ICY "snow" with rime ice frozen to the top. On numerous occasions, I have post-holed up to my crotch ascending and descending various routes. Post-holing is energy intensive (aerobic stress) but not scary/dangerous.

I have never experienced such crappy/icy conditions on the Baldy/Cucamonga wilderness. Sometimes we could kick steps into powder. Most of the time, we were climbing up steep icy snow (35-45 degrees) covered with frozen rime ice. We tested each step because the rime ice would break off the top of icy snow, requiring us to change footing and drive the ice-axe pick into the snow/ice.

Regarding down-climbing: the new snow completely changed the geography of Register Ridge. If I had slipped going down in those conditions, I doubt I that could have self-arrested. This was not a matter of contacting SAR because we were "tired" -- we were caught in a terrain trap and continuing on increased our risk of death and injury.

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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby guest » Mon Jan 30, 2017 8:05 pm

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Last edited by guest on Mon Feb 06, 2017 4:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Sally » Mon Jan 30, 2017 9:53 pm

Hi Ed, I think you are wondering about the Kahtoola "almost" crampons, not microspikes. I actually own a pair. I had a choice of the aluminum ones and the steel ones. Always trying to lighten my load I chose the aluminum ones. Bad choice! I took them up Whitney in case I needed them for a predicted freak early June snowstorm. They worked beautifully, but there were intermittent patches of bare rock that I had to travel across and I dulled the points significantly. The steel ones are not that much heavier, and I think they even cost less. I would go with the steel if I were to buy another pair. Also take note, there is a bit of rather frustrating adjustment to make them fit your footwear. I went to use them with a different boot and had to go through the adjustment all over again. That reminds me, I ought to sharpen them before I take them for another spin.

Now back to the original topic. Sose, I like your "3 E's." After assessing the first two, you come to E #3. But, yep, #3, expectations, can be thwarted by numerous variables. The nature of nature is that it really IS unpredictable, even after taking into consideration all of the weather data you have collected, and your knowledge of the terrain, and your equipment and your ability to use it. This was our expectation: A ton of snow got dumped on the mountain. We expected deep powder so we brought snowshoes. We did not expect ice, but we brought crampons and ice axes just in case. We headed up, and it did not take long for us to be grateful for bringing crampons, as a thaw/re-freeze had taken place over night. The air temps had been very cold, so we were "expecting" to run into that deep powder higher up. As we ascended, the already crusty snow was becoming increasingly impaled by "bombs" of rime-ice. We came to that nice flattish, tree-clear saddle and had "the discussion," what do we do? We went up a bit and it was just as bad. We headed down, and things had actually gotten worse although we had "expected" things to soften up as it got warmer. Left and right were out of the question. Rather than make a bad situation worse by moving in either direction, we chose the safest place, that little saddle, from which to be rescued. End of story.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ed » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:06 am

The problem with the down versus up decision is that going down is generally more hazardous than coming up, unless you are rappelling down with a series of wonderfully spaced and secure anchors. And the shorty ice axes people carry today are not great for descending either. As for continuing up, if you are on rock and have done the route before, you know what it is like up there. That is not necessarily the case with snow. So it can very unclear what is the best decision.

Sally, yes, it was the Kahtoola crampons I was talking about, thanks for your advice. I have microspikes, and so far, cross my fingers, they have provided sufficient traction on the snow I've encountered on Skyline. But I have a lot of trouble putting them on, something other people don't seem to complain about. And while I am borderline between two sizes, I've tried both. I have a basic distrust of any piece of gear that might require me to leave my fingers exposed to low temperatures for an extended period of time.

Thanks to everyone, by the way, who advised me on my plantar fasciitis problem. I acquired a prescription for two tubes of the Voltaren recommended by Zip. The first tube took care of about 80% of the problem. I decided to hold the second tube in reserve and work on longer term solutions. I applied myself to Hiking Jim's stretching exercises, but stretching exercises and I have a long history of failure. I ended up settling on standing bare footed on a Bosu ball for 15 minutes a day. Sort of combines suggestions made by Guest and Cynthia, I think. I do it while watching the evening news. A good balance exercise, when the news starts disturbing you.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby zippetydude » Tue Jan 31, 2017 7:57 pm

BTW I didn't interpret bobpickering's post to mean that anybody screwed up or made a mistake. He seemed to be really trying to zero in on finding the potential lesson that might help any of us in the future. If we look closely at Ellen's description of the conditions, I bet each of us will be extra cautious if we find ourselves on that type of snow/ice conglomeration. I've never encountered it like that, so the experience is an eye opener for me. This doesn't imply that "mistakes were made."

By way of comparison, a few years ago, a climber in Forest Falls fell to his death - I believe it was in front of his climbing companion. When interviewed, the companion said, "The really tragic thing is that he didn't make any mistakes. He was doing everything right."

At the time when I read it, I thought, "Well, something went wrong. He's dead."

I wasn't being sarcastic. Something went wrong. Sometimes, you just have to hope you live through the experience so you will have the understanding of a truly extraordinary circumstance that you could not reasonably have anticipated. That way, in the future you might be able to anticipate upcoming hazards, and even better, you might be able to tell others what to look for so that they might avoid the danger as well.

Perhaps if the climber had survived the fall he would have been able to detail what specific twist or turn in the climb led to his losing traction. In his case, we will never know. In the case of Ellen and Sally, they did not make that one last fatal mistake. It is precisely because they were level headed enough to call for help that they are still here to warn us about an unusual set of conditions that we very well might encounter. I, for one, will be much more careful when I come across anything similar. I chalk this one up as a win for all, including SAR, who in my experience unanimously voice the joy of bringing people back down alive. :D

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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby bobpickering » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:30 pm

Ellen, you are right about your first post mentioning the ice. However, it wasn’t clear that you didn’t consider it safe to descend. The second paragraph gave the impression that it was slow progress, rather than danger, that led to the decision to wait for a rescue.

I was hoping that my first post might help you realize that you should have turned around before you passed the point of no return. One of the cardinal rules of mountaineering is not to get yourself into situations you can’t get out of. Leaving the helmets in the car wasn’t your biggest mistake. Unfortunately, Ed and Zip choose to validate your decision making. They may be your friends, but they aren’t helping you avoid your third rescue.

This whole story strikes me as a classic case of going into the wilderness, encountering conditions that were above your abilities, continuing up anyway, and then calling for a rescue when you couldn’t get back down.

I’m definitely the odd man out on this site. But there are a bunch of guys on summitpost having a field day with this. These guys are serious mountaineers who know their stuff. One of them set a record for climbing all the California 14ers. One day-hiked every peak on the Sierra Club SPS list. One did the entire Kaweah Ridge, car to car in one day. Another is an absolute legend, with a bunch of first ascents to his credit. If you can get past the ridicule and sarcasm, you might learn something from what they have to say. http://www.summitpost.org/phpBB3/rescue-on-register-ridge-mt-baldy-t81657.html

Stay safe.

Bob
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ed » Wed Feb 01, 2017 10:52 am

bobpickering,

I don't think I am 'validating' Ellen and Sally's decisions. But I am certainly not criticizing them. And it is thanks to Ellen's detailed account that we can have an informed discussion of this rescue. If you think people on this discussion board are rather supportive of Ellen and Sally, it is because they are familiar with their many very impressive trips.

Bad situations and accidents can happen to very experienced people. I made a list some time ago of people I knew who died mountaineering. It was fourteen people, thirteen of whom I had climbed with. Two were professional guides. That does not include people I did not know who were with them, or who died on trips with people I knew. And I was an active mountaineer for only about six years, before I was stopped by knee injuries incurred running. Two of them were people whose judgment I questioned, and who I decided I did not want to climb with again. But they were still better climbers than I was. Their deaths left me with no sense of having been proven right. Rather, with a sense of it could have been me.

Consider the death of Patty Rambert on Darwin (the heading below says Mendel, but I think it was Darwin). Said to be an experienced and safety-minded Sierra Climb leader, who fell to her death while descending after a decision to retreat, due to snow conditions. See the second post below.

http://www.highsierratopix.com/communit ... f=14&t=650

I read the comments you indicated on SummitPost, they did not seem particularly well informed to me. I think I met Miguel once on the summit of Baldy, and chatted with him about climbs in the Sierras. He is right that there are many people running around on Baldy in the winter who don't belong there. But not these two girls.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ed » Wed Feb 01, 2017 5:40 pm

bobpickering wrote:My take is that what goes up must come down. If you climb up something, you must be able to climb back down it, or you must be SURE that you can make it to an easier route that you CAN climb down. It’s that simple.


Bob,

I took a look at your climbing resume, and it is impressive. For that reason, your statement above puzzles me, because although it is technically correct, you surely understand the problems. For one thing, descending a route is generally more hazardous than ascending it. I don't have any statistics at hand, but I am willing to bet that more people die going down than up. For another, many routes simply do not have a safe, assured down route in their DNA. That is certainly true of some of the classic climbs I have done. For example, on the East Face of Whitney, after you have done the Tower Traverse, there is no turning back. You are, as climbers say, 'committed'. You have 80% of the climb left to do, including the most difficult pitch, but re-crossing the Tower Traverse is virtually unthinkable. On North Palisade by the U-Notch Couloir route, the most dangerous part of the climb is the last, descending the couloir to the Palisade Glacier. Black Kaweah and Devil's Crag are not even difficult, but they are quite dangerous because of the loose rock, and assuredly more dangerous going down than up. And so on.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby bobpickering » Wed Feb 01, 2017 11:29 pm

Ed, thanks for that last post. I think it helps move this discussion in a more productive direction.

I prefer to be brief, but I’m afraid this response is a little long. My apologies.

I climbed my first peak in 1987. I was hiking in Yosemite with my girlfriend (now my wife of 28 years) when I decided to explore a nearby peak. I didn’t know the name of the peak, and I didn’t know anything about routes or difficulty ratings. I scrambled up and was defeated by the summit block. S**t! When I traversed around to get a photo, I discovered what might be a way up. I checked it out. I had no rope, cell phone, or Spot to rely on. There was nobody around to help me if I screwed up. I realized the obvious: If I went up, I would have to climb back down. Well, I went for it and made it back down. The next day I learned that I had climbed a class 4 route on Cathedral Pk., whatever that meant.

I was hooked! Unfortunately, my girlfriend was terrified of anything over easy class 3, so I ended up doing a ton of scrambling alone. I constantly reminded myself that I would have to climb back down anything I went up. That just seemed obvious to me.

When you start up a mountain, there are only five ways the story can end:
1. You climb back down the way you went up
2. You descend some other route
3. You get rescued
4. They recover your body
5. They never find your body
This is the basis of my previous statement that you said puzzled you: “If you climb up something, you must be able to climb back down it, or you must be SURE that you can make it to an easier route that you CAN climb down.” In other words, if you don’t ensure that the outcome is option 1 or option 2, it will be option 3, 4, or 5.

You are absolutely right that climbing down is harder and more dangerous than climbing up. But this isn’t some closely guarded secret that only elite climbers know. You know it. I know it. Ellen and Sally know it. Responsible climbing means keeping this in mind every time you go out. If you can’t get yourself off the mountain, somebody else is going to have to risk their lives to do it for you, and I count that as a failure.

You mention several climbs I want to comment on. I was planning to climb Whitney’s East Face with a partner back in 1997. When we got to Iceberg Lake, there was considerable interest in a party of three climbers on the East Face. They couldn’t find the Fresh Air Traverse, and they were bailing off the route. It took them forever, but they managed to descend the Tower Traverse and make it back to camp at dark. The next morning, my partner had AMS, so I ended up soloing the East Face. I wouldn’t want to reverse the Tower Traverse, but I think I could have done it back in those days. The funny part is that if I had done the East Face a day earlier, I could have started up as the other party was descending, and I would have summited and beaten them back to camp.

My first time on the U-Notch Couloir was to descend it. I had soloed the V-Notch and then traversed over Polemonium and up the chimney to North Palisade. I downclimbed an easier route to the U-Notch and climbed down to the glacier. The couloir was more snow than ice, and the downclimb wasn’t too bad.

I’ve never done Devil’s Crag, but I’ve done Black Kaweah. It’s a dangerous place with all that loose rock. We had to be super careful, especially on the way down.

I’ve climbed down couloirs on Langley, Gannett (WY), Checkered Demon, Bloody, Norman Clyde, Feather, Darwin, Emerson, Red Slate, Middle Teton (WY), Gilbert, Thompson, and Humphreys. Climbing down snow and ice is sometimes a dicey proposition, but it is certainly doable.

You pointed out that a bad outcome doesn’t automatically mean that there was a bad decision. That’s true, but bad decisions usually do accompany bad outcomes. Equally important, a good outcome doesn’t guarantee that there were no bad decisions. I’ve been climbing 30 years with a 99% success rate and no rescues, but I’ve made my share of stupid mistakes. Most of those stupid mistakes came early, but I still make them occasionally. The point is that I try to identify and admit those mistakes so I can at least avoid repeating them.

Bob
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