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Erik Gearhart

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About Erik Gearhart

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  • Birthday 03/17/1969
  1. Out of control dogs at the Coulee

    I'm with Lucky on this one. Unleashed dogs don't belong at crags or campgrounds. And places like Sunshine Wall, etc., with single file trails and climbers often on routes below, make a wandering dog a threat, not a mere inconvenience. I know, I know. Your dog is awesome. And you (dog owner) probably are, too. But after stepping in a couple of huge piles of dog crap this weekend--and having had plenty of my food stolen out of my hand/pack by crag dogs in the past, always responded to by an owner's smiling apology (but never my sandwich back, interestingly)--we need to ask dog owners to remember that campgrounds and crags are not off-leash areas.
  2. Injured climber at Vantage yesterday?

    Interesting point about hiking and risk: most accidents in outdoor programs (like NOLS, etc., which does detailed risk management audits of its hundreds of thousands of user days) occur during hiking. Not climbing. Climbing--with skilled and knowledgeable climbers--racks up far fewer accidents (even per user day) than hiking and backpacking. So what is going on at the Feathers, whose short and well bolted (well, at least closely bolted) routes would seem to be make up one of the most risk-controllable crags in WA state? Probably has something to do with the legions of inexperienced climbers there.
  3. An ode to Frenchman Coulee

    Thanks for bringing this up, MM. This weekend (3/28-3/29) I counted over 130 cars on Saturday eve. It is unsustainable. I wonder whether one way to help is for the various "commercial/organized" groups (like Mountaineers, Boeing Climbers, YMCA, Seattle Climbing Meet Up, Whitman/other college groups, and private school groups) to perhaps make a shared calendar or something so they all know which group is going to be there. Most of these groups love the Feathers, but the Feathers cannot accommodate more than one of these big groups, really. How about a voluntary limit of one or two organized groups, max? Even better? What about all of these groups making a pledge for "no weekend use"? And even a group size limit? Some of these organized groups often bring 30 or more people--and over a dozen cars. Imagine them confining their semi-commercial use to week days and promising not to bring more than 15 or so people (less would be even better). I often lead organized groups to the area, and I would be willing to adopt these changes.
  4. Injured climber at Vantage yesterday?

    I was guiding a group 10 feet away from this accident scene. One of my students saw the victim fall--he was soloing the newer (and much chossier) bolted route just to the right of the chimney behind Satan's Pillar. My student reports that the victim was near the top--the fall was approximately 20 feet onto uneven talus and boulders. I heard what sounded like a loud object slamming to the ground and people screaming. I ran around the Pillar to see an approximately 40 yr old, white male crawling on the ground with clearly visible fractures to his lower left leg (at least two unnatural angles and protusions to his lower tib/fib) and blood coming from his hands. The victim said, "Both my legs are broken." Someone who arrived earlier than me was the first responder; he told the victim to sit still, then began an initial survey. By the time I drew closer, the victim's friends arrived, one of whom identified themselves as a nurse. 911 was called by multiple people. Another man and I both identified ourselves to the nurse as First Responders, offered our assistance if she wanted it, then backed a few yards away since a crowd had now formed around the victim. I overheard that a climber who was a doctor arrived shortly thereafter. Things looked pretty bad. The victim went from alert and pink to confused to low voice responsive and quite pale within about ten minutes. EMS arrived approximately 20-30 minutes after being called. I sure hope the best for the victim and his friends. The Feathers/Frenchmen Coulee area seems to have a disproportionate share of climbing accidents and fatalities. While this incident involved soloing, it seems that I see something terrible every year there. Several factors go into this, I think, including abundant seemingly beginner-friendly bolted climbs that may seem to beginners to be "just like the gym"; pretty awful rock; massive overcrowding; and large group trips led by questionably experienced leaders--trusting beginners tie into ropes set by friends/strangers with no idea of the mess they are tying into. Please check yourselves and your friends-and perhaps strangers, too, because a casual weekend walk through the Feathers will usually reveal a myriad of strange anchor set ups and other unsafe climbing practices.