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Thinker

Now YOU TOO can solo Mt. Rainier.

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pardon the cross post from the climbing section, but this was just too good to pass up.

 

The story from this web page talks about a couple of recent accidents related to solo travels in the wilderness, and then goes on to quote Gator about solo climbing on Mt Rainier.

 

The kicker is the link at the end of the story that directs readers to the webpage where they can fill out their very own application to solo Rainier. It should be a fun next few months on the hill......

 

U.S. National - AP

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Thu May 8, 1:45 AM ET Add U.S. National - AP to My Yahoo!

 

 

By COLLEEN SLEVIN, Associated Press Writer

 

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - It's been three years since Vito Seskunas had to drag himself five miles on his backside in Grand Teton National Park after breaking his ankle on a solo backcountry ski trip.

 

 

AP Photo

 

 

 

Unable to carry his gear, he survived by rationing three Nutri-Grain bars over four days and eating snow. He wasn't rescued until he got within 100 yards of his car.

 

 

His greatest fear wasn't dying. It was the thought of never again wandering the wilderness alone — a passion shared by an elite group of outdoors lovers with the skills and the nerve to test themselves without a net.

 

 

"It's the freedom to do demanding things in a demanding environment," said Seskunas, 56, an administrator at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center at the University of Maryland. "Of course, the thing that goes along with that is the responsibility to get yourself out of any trouble you get yourself in."

 

 

The perils of going solo were highlighted by the recent story of Aron Ralston, the 27-year-old from Aspen who chose to amputate his own arm after becoming pinned under a 800-pound boulder in Utah's canyons.

 

 

While there's an unwritten rule against going it alone in the outdoors, enthusiasts and rescue volunteers say there's no reason to stop those with experience from soloing.

 

 

That is, as long as they take precautions such as leaving an itinerary, when they're due back and where their car is parked. They should also consider doing a trek a little less difficult than what they would do with a group.

 

 

Ralston, a former rescue volunteer, failed to leave plans for his fateful trip, something his family says he deeply regrets.

 

 

But Ralston's ability to figure out his options — and calmly pick a way to free himself, no matter how gruesome — is an example of the concentration and determination usually found in soloists, said Mike Gauthier, lead climbing ranger at Mt. Rainier National Park in Washington State.

 

 

"Everyone is always blaming the world for their problems," he said. "But when you are solo climbing, or solo kayaking, there are no excuses. It was your decision to get in the water and it's your responsibility to figure out what to do."

 

 

Gauging the number of people who go skiing, backpacking and mountaineering solo is difficult because the range of activities is so wide and because permits are not always required, especially for day trips.

 

 

The National Park Service does require permits for the 11,000 climbers who attempt 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier each year. About 30 of those on average are soloists, who must fill out an application detailing their outdoors experience. Of those, all but about 10 stick to popular routes, where help would be relatively close at hand, Gauthier said.

 

 

Some soloists simply strike out on their own because it's hard to coordinate schedules — especially for mid-week adventures — or because they can't find anyone else at their skill level who wants to do the same things they do.

 

 

All seem to enjoy the heightened beauty of the outdoors without anyone to distract them, said Charley Shimanski, a 17-year veteran mountain rescue volunteer in Colorado's Front Range and education director for the Mountain Rescue Association.

 

 

"The classic soloist is more dialed into that passion for solitude, and the peace that comes from being alone, than they are with some death-defying drive to push themselves right up to the limit," said Shimanski.

 

 

Of the approximately 80 rescues his group responds to each year, he estimates that between 10 and 15 percent involve soloists, most of whom have gotten lost. The bigger problem, he said, is experienced people in groups who don't have the right clothing and gear.

 

 

In recent years a soloist has died or gotten seriously hurt about every other year on Mt. Rainier. Overall, the mountain claims two to three lives per year, Gauthier said.

 

 

 

 

 

Maryland skier Seskunas finally felt physically up to venturing out alone again this winter. And he still usually refuses his wife's pleas to take along a cell phone, because it violates his quest for self-sufficiency.

 

He took the phone once, but that trip failed to make him a believer. "I was standing right there on a ridge and I couldn't even get a signal," he said.

 

___

 

On the Net:

 

Mountain Rescue Association: http://www.mra.org

 

Mount Rainier National Park Solo Climb Request:

 

http://www.nps.gov/mora/climb/solo.htm

 

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I really don't think that an article on a Yahoo News webpage is going to be the cause of numerous solo accidents on Mt. Rainier.

 

Climbing Magazine #221 ran an extensive article on the history of free solo rock climbing in North America. In issue #222, they got hammered by letters from irrate climbers who didn't see the article as valuable.

 

I guess I just have a hard time with all the people who are overly judgemental about soloists. First, the history of free soloing in America is an important part of overall climbing history. Second, most soloists know exactly what they are getting themselves into whether they are climbing a glacier or an ice climb or a rock, they tend to be experienced people who understand the risks they are taking. Third, as long as the solosit is not damaging another person's experience they have every right to climb in the manner that they wish and should not have to deal with others giving them crap while they are trying to climb...

 

You might be able to argue that if a soloist fell near another party that this would result in ruining that party's experience. In other words, they would have to help with a rescue... Sure, you could make that arguement, but how many of us have actually had to rescue soloists? I've seen quite a few, and I've been involved in a lot of rescues over the years...but I've never had to rescue a soloist.

 

I just don't think that articles in Climbing Magazine or articles in Yahoo News are going to result in a major soloist revolution...

 

Jason

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Jason, I agree with the points you made. However, it's not limited to an obscure yahoo news page. It's all over the media. I have no problem with experienced climbers who make an informed decision to climb solo. I do have a problem with mainstream media that promotes such activity without understanding the rammifications of their actions.

 

a short list of the media outlets that have picked up the AP story:

 

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Atlanta Journal Constitution, GA - 11 hours ago

By COLLEEN SLEVIN. GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP)--It's been three years

since Vito Seskunas had to drag himself five miles on his backside ...

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Macon Telegraph, GA - 11 hours ago

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - It's been three years since Vito Seskunas

had to drag himself five miles on his backside in Grand Teton ...

 

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

ABC News - 5 hours ago

It's been three years since Vito Seskunas had to drag himself five miles on his

backside in Grand Teton National Park after breaking his ankle on a solo ...

 

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Newsday - 11 hours ago

By COLLEEN SLEVIN. GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. -- It's been three years since

Vito Seskunas had to drag himself five miles on his backside ...

 

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Guardian, UK - 11 hours ago

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) - It's been three years since Vito Seskunas

had to drag himself five miles on his backside in Grand Teton ...

 

 

Elite Climbers Go At It Alone Amid Danger

Tuscaloosa News, AL - 11 hours ago

By COLLEEN SLEVIN. Vito Seskunas is seen, Wednesday, May 7, 2003,

in Catonsville, Md. It has been three years since Seskunas had ...

 

 

 

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Thinker,

 

I'm not arguing that there have been many articles about elite climbers soloing alone. I just don't think Jim Bob Joe who sees this type of material is going to suddenly decide that he's going to solo Mt. Rainier...

 

I don't mean to pick on you... I'm mostly annoyed with those who have recently been so judgemental about soloists. When this guy got hurt in Canyonlands I guarantee that thousands of so called outdoors people who have been car camping once or twice in their lives were shaking their heads and saying "he shouldn't have went alone." I don't think these recent events are inspiring people to solo, but they are inspiring people to be overly critical of soloists.

 

Jason

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Agreed Jason, Last winter some dumb fuck snow shoers decided to tell me off because I was soloing McClellan Butte.

"Your on your own?"

YES...

"Dont you think that is dangerous?"

NO...

"Do you climb on your own alot?"

Several times a year...

"you really should not be out on your own"

OK...

"your the type of person we end up reading about on in the newspaper"

Thanks for the vote of confidence. Have a nice day.

 

This week I have had so many conversations with the people at work along the lines of "You dont climb on your own do you?"

 

I now know that the correct answer to this quesiton is "No of course not. Why would I do that?" This answer saves a lot of bullshit conversation with people who I only talk to because I have to see them at work.

 

 

 

 

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They were worried about you "soloing" McClellan Butte?!?!?!?!?

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Jason, I think we're of the same mind. My main objection to the story is the fact that the link to the solo climbing ap is likely tagged at the end of every one of those accounts. (I know it was on the ABC news website I looked at.) You won't find me bashing experienced climbers who want to solo...in fact, I consider more than a few of them friends. Where I am vocal is when someone without the depth of experience to objectively assess the risks for themselves (i.e. your average newspaper reader) is encouraged or inspired to give it a go.

 

Peace bro...see you on the hill.

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Jason_Martin said:

 

You might be able to argue that if a soloist fell near another party that this would result in ruining that party's experience. In other words, they would have to help with a rescue...

 

Jason

 

I think equally as likely is.... If some one from another party fell (or got injured) near a soloist, wouldn't that compromise the soloist experience.

 

When I first soloed Rainier, I was frustrated with the beerocracy of the permit process. But upon further reflection, I think it was reasonable, painless and once the permit was issued I was able to climb any route I choose. My quest for the pure fulfilment of climbing a mountain for the first time solo was not hampered. I have the experience and knew what I was getting into. I think the vast majority of alpine soloist have the judgement and forthought required.

 

I have no idea of the stats, but I'll bet a smaller proportion of soloist need rescue than groups. The storm that caught me on Rainier did indeed precipitate a rescue ( and recovery) of a party of four but I summited and got down safe and sound.

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Jason_Martin said:I just don't think that articles in Climbing Magazine or articles in Yahoo News are going to result in a major soloist revolution...

 

They're probably not going to cause a big increase in the number of soloists, no. For the most part these articles reinforce peoples stereotypes regarding climbers as irresponsible - and reinforce the belief they shouldn't have to pay for rescue. Here's a nytimes articel along the same lines

http://www.tribnet.com/sports/story/2619402p-2664712c.html

 

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Jason

I have no idea of the stats, but I'll bet a smaller proportion of soloist need rescue than groups. The storm that caught me on Rainier did indeed precipitate a rescue ( and recovery) of a party of four but I summited and got down safe and sound.

 

 

i don't know of any hard stats, but i'd go on record as saying that many soloist have needed help. SOME soloist are indeed highly skilled, others are merely folks without partners who really don't know what's up. many folks (probably quite a few on this web site) still think that climbing rainier is an easy walk... though it MAY be an easy walk up, it sucks to be alone and messed up on the upper mountain.

 

anecdotally, i can recall at least five major accidents with soloists. that said, some of my best moments on the mountain have been solo.

 

as for the bureaucracy, it can be painful. thanks for hanging in there with the NPS. i know that they try to help soloist out as best they can given the current laws.

 

mike

 

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So Mike, I'd be curious how many solo applications you deny? Are you the one who makes the decision? What tips the scale when you deny one? I've never seen the application; any way to post it here?

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careful this memorial day. last one was a little tragic on rainier w/ the unsettled weather/inexperience combo.

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