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Mt Whitney Multiple Injuries June 10 2018

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 8:42 am
by Cy Kaicener

Re: Mt Whitney Multiple Injuries June 10 2018

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 11:16 am
by Ed
I am always puzzled by what they leave out. Did the 'hiker' who fell have crampons, an ice axe, and self-arrest training? And the borderline between hiking and climbing is becoming too blurred, in a dangerous way.

Re: Mt Whitney Multiple Injuries June 10 2018

PostPosted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 7:22 pm
by zippetydude
What a strange, tragic, and confusing story!

They refer to the chute as a "dangerous shortcut" but it is my understanding that the trail is not even an option when there is still this much snow present. The phrasing kind of makes it sound like person writing the report thought the people were taking an irresponsible risk to me, but how else do you do it in the winter?

Also, at first glance I had the impression that the woman who fell traveled 500' and then hit the other hikers. This seems vanishingly unlikely, so I would guess that she probably hit them almost immediately and the three fell the bulk of the distance rather than the other way around.

Finally, not to question SAR, but I am genuinely curious why it took 2 1/2 hours before the first responder could get to them. We're not talking about lazy slouches wandering on in to get to work, these are dedicated people who do a great job. I would have thought that 30 minutes or so would have been the target, or at least during the first "golden hour". Maybe the winds were insane and the helicopter just had to make a judgment call and stay out of the turbulence until it was safe enough to go in without adding to the victims.

In any case, I hope the severe injuries turn out to be less than permanent. I respect anyone getting out and exploring the beauty of nature, and accidents, while inevitable, are no less regrettable.


Re: Mt Whitney Multiple Injuries June 10 2018

PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:24 am
by Ed
I'm not surprised that it took 2-1/2 hours. In fact, that seems like good time to me. Inyo County SAR seems to be a typical volunteer SAR outfit, so I'm sure that it takes time to get organized.

Another thing missing from the report was how the accident was reported. Can you make a cell phone call from this area? Or did someone have a PLB or SPOT?

When I dislocated my shoulder crossing a stream in the Wallace Creek area around 1974, I don't think we gave much thought to calling for a rescue. It would have taken a day for somebody to run down to Whitney Portal, and another day for a team to reach us. And then what could they have done? Nobody was certain how high a helicopter could operate. Since I had two legs and one arm, we hiked out, which took two days. We camped around Wallace Lake that night; trekked over Russell-Carillon Col the next day; camped at one of the Boy Scout lakes the second night; and then beat our way down the North Fork of Lone Pine Creek the last day. While I rested on Russell-Carillon Col, the rest of the group climbed Russell. Then the drive back to LA, and the next day an appointment with a doctor who misdiagnosed it. The pain was the most intense 24/7 pain I have ever experienced, and it was eleven days before it was properly diagnosed and reset. If it happened to me today, I would be asking for a gun to take the easy way out. I am a total wimp now, and not ashamed of it.

Re: Mt Whitney Multiple Injuries June 10 2018

PostPosted: Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:16 pm
by SoCalJim
Wind/weather was a significant factor in the SAR response, not to mention the distance and location. I've done critical care interfacility transport as a nurse, helicopter and fixed wing. No scene response experience, but learned a lot from other flight crew members about some of the factors involved in emergency response situations. You can't just tell the chopper "go there" and everything falls into place seamlessly. Weight is a major consideration, more so the higher you go, which is why they had to fly in the team members one at a time. In the backcountry, you can't just dial 911 and expect an ambulance or helicopter within a few minutes. Part of the risk of activities in the wilderness. Incidentally, since I'm retiring at the end of the month and plan to spend a lot more time in the great outdoors, I just bought a Garmin Inreach satellite communicator with GPS which works anywhere in the world that the device can "see" the satellites. $375 on sale (regularly $450) and requires a subscription service with variable cost and can be deactivated when not using. It's too bad these devices aren't more affordable so that every party in the backcountry can quickly send an SOS.

The "chute" is the only viable route on the main Whitney trail until the switchbacks on the regular trail melt out, which should be soon. It's not what might be considered expert level of difficulty, but for those who are not experienced in snow and ice travel and not using appropriate gear (which would be crampons and ice axe for most people), it is a serious hazard which produces injuries every year and, occasionally, deaths. Unfortunately, some people poo-poo the seriousness of the route and don't realize that they're in over their head until it's too late.