jfr wrote:You know, I'm beginning to feel like Prometheus defending his decision to give humans fire...
Touche'! Well, I know, we are not going to persuade each other, but we are having a good discussion. My bottom line is that if I am going to spend a cold night in the open, I would rather have an emergency space blanket, a foam pad to sit on, and a pair of chemical hand warmers for my cold-sensitive fingers than matches and a fire starter. And I often carry them.
I was checking my memory banks for people I knew who died of hypothermia. The name I came up with was Vi Grasso. I was an active climber in the 1970's, Vi and I moved in the same circles, and were often on the same trips. A very memorable person. I dropped out in 1978 due to knee injuries.
Vi froze to death in October, 1994. Not on Denali or Everest, or even a winter climb in the Sierras. On Ken Point, a 6432' peak on the Desert Divide not far from the PCT. On the USGS topo, it is not even a name, only an elevation. When I found out about it, I contacted an old friend to see what he knew. Vi was hiking alone that day. She was in a hurry to complete the Hundred Peaks Section List, to become what the Sierra Club calls a Triple List Finisher, someone who has completed the Sierra Peaks Section, Desert Peaks Section, and Hundred Peaks Section Lists. I think a date had already been set for the celebration. She signed in on the summit. Her body was found a few hundred feet lower, huddled over what looked like an attempt to build a fire. The autopsy concluded she died of heart failure, but evidently that is common in the final stages of hypothermia.
I found it a disturbing story, and still do. Vi was a very experienced mountaineer when I knew her, and had 16 more years of experience when she died. Why did she set out on a long hike on a day with a severe storm moving through Southern California, without the clothing to make it back to her car? Given that she did, why didn't she turn back when she saw the storm approaching? The only explanation I can come up with is that Vi did have an impulsive, impetuous streak, and probably figured she could outrace the weather.
Doug Mantle has a tribute to Vi in the October 2005 Sierra Echo, p. 39.http://sierrapeaks.org/newsletters/backissues.html