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Zeta Male

"Accidents in North American Mountaineering 2007"

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tauntaun-sleepingbag.jpg

 

It's probably heavy and not very warm, but oh would you score some style points to pull this puppy out of your pack at the bivy.

 

My favorite thing so far this week, good job Tomtom :tup:

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While it is not yet a real product, apparently ThinkGeek is actually trying to get LucasFilm to grant them a license to produce this thing. So if you want to whip one out at the next bivy (or rope-up), head on over to ThinkGeek and express your interest...

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Just popping in for a moment.

 

I don't know how this thread'll ever make 50+ pages without more attempts at comedy and related exhibitions of one's Photoshop skills. What an achievement that will be.

 

I didn't start the thread as a critique of the climbing abilities of the the deceased nor as a commentary on their common sense nor on the inadequacies of anyone reading this who has made similar mistakes. I started it is a place where knowledgeable climbers and other outdoor explorers could leave a record of their impressions of any obvious mistakes made by the party in question so that less-experienced climbers could learn from them and hopefully develop habits that will lead to their avoiding repeating those mistakes. Again, I'm not sure how useful re-visiting the 70+ pages of hypothesis/speculation and "Our prayers are with the climbers and their families" remarks generated at the time of the accident is; I'd like to focus on the revised edition of the accident report submitted to ANAM (noted on page 1 of this thread), which doesn't appear to have been done before at this web-site.

 

I don't think we have to worry about offending friends of the deceased anymore in here given the passage of time, so critical comments about the climbers' progression and decision-making aren't inappropriate.

 

I'd also like to avoid insensitive, blanket condemnations of their performance give that mountains and their weather can be terribly, unreasonably unforgiving of the same kind of foolishness that in ordinary daily life results in little more than a mildly amusing story over a round of beers among one's friends at the brewpub. In other words, declaring "This bunch of climbers were just a bunch of idiots - they weren't Northwesterners so what do you expect? What more is there to discuss?" isn't very useful to the project at hand.

 

I realize the armchair climbers participating in this thread aren't faced with the physical conditions the climbers faced, but that's an advantage of such an exercise as the one attempted by starting this thread - the climbers' decision-making can be discussed and deliberated in calm circumstances without the overwhelming obfuscation of the deteriorated elements, in the hope that any lessons learned herein will be retained in times of difficulty.

 

So, can we please try to keep the wankage in here to a minimum?

 

Accordingly, again I am much appreciative of the weather links and related discussion herein in particular; those, along with helpful advice for interpreting them properly, would seem to be good candidates for permanent preservation in a prominent place somewhere on this web-site (the high- and low-temperature info one gets when one clicks on "Weather" under "Articles and Resources" isn't real impressive).

Edited by Zeta Male

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dunno zeta, i feel as if the group-brain has pretty properly already processed this one - that said, i've never seen the ANAM write up and would like to peruse it if some one would purty please post it :)

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Zeta, thanks for just "popping in". When you start a thread about a subject, unless you want to try to babysit and keep everyone on topic, its going to evolve into something that you might not have thought of. In this case, it looks like everyone wants to try to be funny instead of discussing something they felt they had already discussed. And truth is, many have here. Also of note is that while there are a few "armchair climbers" here (I prefer "deskjockey" myself), there are also some people that climb alot more than you have and could actually could give you some useful insight.

 

That said, it doesn't even appear that you have read the ANAM 2007 that is in question? Why don't you go buy a copy (the money goes to a good cause!) and READ it! There you will find an analysis that is done as well as can be with the actual information at hand. Those folks do a great job. Then, if you do have any SPECIFIC questions that are not answered there after you do this, then come back and ask them here.

 

It will be much smarter than coming here and asking a group that has already rehashed and rehashed this issue.

 

 

As for the rest of you, spray is done in this thread.

 

Thanks.

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ivan-

On the first page of this post, andrewb posted this link to the ANAM report form.

Since it didn't underline in his post, I think many here may have missed it. It is the "raw data" form that ANAM uses to compile their reports, and was submitted by Jeff Scheetz of PMR.

 

Porter-

Zeta Male himself found and posted a link to a revised version of the report found on tradguy's website, Traditional Mountaineering. That link is in ZM's second post to this thread, so I do believe that ZM has indeed read the report.

 

Zeta Male-

I am at a loss to comprehend why you continue to press for commentary on this accident. As has been opined by several already, many of us here feel that we have already said our piece on this event. We beat this thing to a horrible death in at least three different threads over two years ago. The ANAM report is out, and there's really not much more to say about it that hasn't already been said a hundred times before. At least, not until the other two bodies show up (if they ever do) and provided they surrender additional evidence of what occurred up there.

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Just an FYI for the Hood geeks:

 

I was wasting time in Frd meyers a few days ago. A book about this disaster is out. I thumbed the pictures.... hood, snow... disaster scene.. helicopters... sad people, a note... and a bunch of words I didn't bother with.

 

But like I said, if you're really into this kind of thing, you might need to spend some time reading this fine piece of literature.

 

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(if you're refering to a lengthy discussion in the "tauntaun thread", I skipped it so I'm rehashing here...)

 

Actually, one of the pictures was of this "Y" symbol and I happened to read it's caption (honest, I'm not into this kind of crap!) The caption said something to the effect of "this y symbol was originally thought to be a sign to rescuers of 'we went this way' or 'we're ok', but ended up being the cords of a descent anchor.'

 

maybe you already knew that. I'm not going to go read that thread.

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ah, yes, i did miss that - the meat of the entry then in the ANAM was this i suppose:

 

8. Narrative Description of Accident:

This high profile accident received national media coverage for more than a week. It utilized high

technology search tools such as airborne thermal imaging, unmanned drones, and cell phone localization.

The writer has attempted to limit conclusions on facts and observations obtained through interviews and

correspondence with on-scene rescuers. However, until more clues are uncovered with the melting

snowpack, some uncertainty remains. Presented here are the most probable scenarios consistent with all

known facts.

On December 7 three experienced climbers (Kelly James, 48, Brian Hall, 37, Jerry Cooke, 36) drove to the

Cooper Spur winter trailhead and hiked the ski trail to a planned high bivouac but changed their plans,

enjoying the comforts of the warming hut at Tilly Jane campground that night . Other visitors at the hut

described the group as well equipped for their climb (stove, fuel, bivy gear, shovel). On the way from

Hood River they left a note at a USFS ranger station with their plans to climb the North face Gully and

descend the southside route.. On Friday, December 8 the group continued from the hut, caching bivouac

equipment on the spur or lower Eliot glacier, and summiting late in the day. From the summit faint

tracks led down the upper portion of the Wy'east route (ridge above Steel Cliff) several hundred yards

before turning East down the fall line. About 500 feet below the crest the party constructed a 3-person

snow cave, providing shelter and rest while waiting for better visibility before continuing their descent the

next day (Saturday). After travelling approximately 300 yards from the snow cave the party reached the

upper couloir of the Cooper Spur route ( north face couloir route merges here also). At this point , they

may have recognized their previous climb and thus the starting point for the descent of the Cooper Spur

route. At this exposed 50 degree slope, they placed a snow anchor (two pickets and webbing) and dug a

belay/rappel platform adjacent to a rock outcropping. It appears that a falling accident(s) involved two

climbers (Hall and Cooke). The searchers found two ice tools, two short pieces of 7.5 mm climbing rope

(about 40 ft) , a single glove, and a foam pad on the belay platform.

On Sunday December 10 the party failed to meet friends waiting at Timberline Lodge and the Hood River

county sheriff was notified. Later at 3:45 PM James placed a four minute cell phone call to his wife in

Texas indicating that he was in a snow cave near the summit while his two companions were descending

the mountain to seek assistance. The call ended abruptly (possible battery failure?) causing concern.

Sensing distress, James' wife called authorities to report the incident. The content of the call was

described as "disorganized" and was "not good information" according to a sheriff's deputy. Eight days

later James was found deceased, lightly clothed in the large snow with minimal equipment (no sleeping

bag, no bivy sack, no insulating pad, nor stove). The cave did contain his backpack, cell phone, ice tool,

crampons, harness and belay/rappel device. A subsequent medical examiner report stated that he died of

hypothermia, but no other injuries were discovered. The other two climbers were not found and are

presumed dead.

9. Analysis of Accident: What knowledge and techniques will help prevent future accidents?

Photographs retrieved from a camera found in the snow cave suggest that the party was on the face late in

the day due to the longer approach caused by the lower, comfortable hut stay. The pictures also indicate

that the party was travelling light, suggesting an equipment cache below the start of the gully. The

absence of a summit photo also suggests summit arrival after dark. From footprints found on the summit

area, it appears that the party could not find the start of the southside descent route (rimed rock formations

known as the "pearly gates") due to poor visibility (snow spindrift or ground /fog) or the loss of daylight

They ended up descending the upper Wy'east route. After several hundred yards, the group decided to

descend the Cooper Spur route instead. This decision was likely prompted by the milder winds

experienced on the easterly (leeward) exposure. After leaving the windy crest, they dug a large snow

cave, seeking shelter and awaiting a break in the storm. Faint tracks suggest that at least one climber

explored the area below the cave (top of black Spider couloir system) probably looking for a safe descent

route. Winds did not drop significantly until about 5 PM, so it is likely they remained in the cave until

Sunday morming. They probably left the cave about 7 AM Sunday to continue their traverse/descent via

the Cooper Spur route. At the anchor site, two pieces of cut rope, ice tools, one glove, and steep terrain

all suggest a catastrophic falling accident. A small avalanche could also produce the same effect.

The initial scenario carried by the media involves the intentional separation of the party at the snow cave.

James, presumably in a weaker state was left behind while Hall and Cooke descended to get assistance.

This corresponds with the message James gave his wife. However, it is difficult to explain why a 911

call was not placed since there were at least two phones in the party. Leaving a fellow climber behind is

a desperate act, and an obvious admission that a self-rescue was not possible. The snow cave was later

shown to be cell phone friendly, at least for James' phone. Another inconsistency is the foam pad found

at the belay/rappel anchor site. It seems unlikely that both Hall and Cooke would intentionaly leave

James lying on a snow cave floor without the very important insulating pad. The absence of any

physical injury of James also does not support the "injured climber left behind" assumption, although he

could have suffering more than the others from exhaustion, hypothermia, or altitude sickness.

A different scenario which may better fit the facts supposes that the entire party left the snowcave seeking

the Cooper Spur descent. At this point, the climbers may have optimistically expected self-rescue, so no

911 call was placed. A belaying or rappelling accident, avalanche, or perhaps an unroped fall by Cooke

and Hall could have left James stranded at the belay/rappel anchor. High winds, hard ice surface

conditions, or unstable snow may have caused such an accident. As the sole survivor, James would be

emotionally distraught, perhaps irrational, and may have forgotten his insulating pad as he returned to the

snow cave.

The weather experienced by the party was predicted. During the approach, the party enjoyed fair

weather. While on the North face on Friday the climbers experienced cold temperatures (as low as 15

degree F) and no solar heating for the entire ascent. Winds were estimated at 10-20 mph. Very early

Saturday morning brought colder temperatures, several inches of snow, and higher winds. Later in the

day summit wind estimates picked up to 35 mph sustained. On Sunday morning the temperatures

increased to about 20 degree F and the winds abated to about 20 mph. However, the arrival of a second

storm front in the afternoon raised summit winds to about 45 mph sustained. Since the arrival of the first

storm on Friday night, it is likely that the summit was engulfed in ground fog with very limited visibility.

On late Sunday a severe storm system hit the mountain preventing searchers from approaching the

summit for a full week.

The route conditions during this climb are believed to be good. Aerial photographs taken one week later

(after the major storm) suggest that there was adequate consolidated snowcover and sustained sub-freezing

temperatures needed to cement the volcanic rock and provide purchase for crampon points and ice tools.

By succumbing to the comfort of the low hut, the party burdened themselves with an additional two hours

of approach on their technical climbing day. This put them late on route and should have caused them to

re-evaluate their situation, possibly deciding to abort the summit. Retreating from high on this route

would be difficult and would involve many roped pitches of downclimbing or rappelling, which is slow

even for a party of two. Once committed, proceeding to the summit was likely viewed as the fastest way

off the route. The fault in this logic is that getting off the mountain can be much harder than completing

the ascent route.

While experienced climbers are capable of surviving weeks in snow caves if they have appropriate

equipment (extra food, stoves, bivouac gear), such equipment may slow the speed of approach ascent and

retreat. This may cause an increase in overall risk to the climbers when timing or a time limitations are

necessary to safely complete a climb. Winter climbing conditions can be particularly difficult due to the

short days, low temperatures, frequent and long duration storms. For this particular accident, it appears

that all of the bivy gear was cached below the technical route and did not contribute to the survivabilty of

the party. "Travel light" practicioners assume the risk associated with delaying action of injuries or

storms. It appears that James was only able to survive in the snow cave for 3-4 days with his minimal

equipment.

Climbers carrying cell phones are not always capable of reporting distress situations, especially in

wilderness environments lacking urban cell coverage. In this case, the cell phone message appeared to be

too late and non-specific to be useful. Also, radio-location of cell phone signals was not precise enough

to be helpful. For those climbers who feel the need to rely on high technology, a Personal Locating Beacon

(PLB) will provide fast and accurate location information to relevant authorites. Alternatively, a GPSassisted

cell phone (called Enhanced E911) could also help in situations where only a single cell tower is

accessible.

10. Additional Comments:

As a direct consequence of this high profile search, the Oregon state legislature is proposing bills whcich

mandate electronic signalling devices (Personal Locator Beacons, Mountain Locator Beacon, GPS

receiver with cell phone/ two-way radio) for all climbs above 10,000 on Mt Hood. Most local rescue

personal and climbers encourage the use of such equipment, but do not believe its use should be required.

For this particular accident, the stormy weather delayed reaching even know locations in the summit area,

so electronic signalling would have not likely affected the outcome.

Note: Local weather data was provided by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center

Late Note: Several organized searches were conducted the following summer. A very large equipment

cache containing sleeping bags, bivy sacks, stoves, extra clothes, a shovel, a backpack, and other equipment

was found in the hut where the party stayed. Effectively all of their survival equipment was left

behind early on the approach. The upper sections of the Newton-Clark and Eliot glaciers were searched

by air and ground teams but no additional clues to the fate of the two missing climbers were found.

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thanks for posting that Ivan. Seems like a good write up.

The full report can be found at the link I posted above and in andrewb's post on the first page. Ivan made the right calls on the contributory factors to the accident. I would add "inadequate equipment/clothing", since it seems the party cached most/all of their bivy gear, stove/pot, etc. at the TJ hut.

 

FYI: In reviewing the "raw data" form originally posted by andrewb and comparing it word-for-word (yes, I'm bored at work today) to the "revised" report on tradguy's Traditional Mountaineering website, I find absolutley no differences. So I do not know why Speik (tradguy) refers to his version as "revised."

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Well, Doug, I wasn't going to be the one to say it... :whistle:

 

And has Porter has decreed above, I think "spray is done in this thread." ;)

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I am at a loss to comprehend why you continue to press for commentary on this accident. As has been opined by several already, many of us here feel that we have already said our piece on this event. We beat this thing to a horrible death in at least three different threads over two years ago. The ANAM report is out, and there's really not much more to say about it that hasn't already been said a hundred times before. At least, not until the other two bodies show up (if they ever do) and provided they surrender additional evidence of what occurred up there.

Because, using your own time frame as a reference, the ANAM report wasn't out yet "over two years ago" - they're not published until August of the calendar year following the accident, which would put the discussions you refer to as having occurred in mid-May, 2007 at the latest. The accident was in December, 2006. Furthermore, one of the most succinct commenters in this thread said that even he had not seen the final ANAM report much less discussed its particulars, so I thought it worthwhile to start the discussion - of that report, not the 70+ pages of time-of-the-accident forum commentary: that contains a whole lotta chaff (kinda the problem with the internet in general).

 

The purpose of this thread was to follow up on the ANAM report and have an informed discussion about its (presumed to be most authoritative) particulars and conclusions.

 

I understand that there was a lot of discussion (as well as a lot of other less salient commentary hopelessly intertwined over 70+ pages) generated at this web-site at the time of the accident and subsequent body search; I came hear looking for a discussion of the more authoritative final ANAM accident report. Having found that report and referenced it early in this thread, I looked forward to obtaining informed commentary from experienced climbers on it so that less-experienced climbers can learn from it, especially since the sequence of events resulting in fatalities sometimes begins in the planning and research stages (or lack thereof). I've found some of what I was looking for but there's always room for more.

 

Of course, those who operate climbing-dependent businesses might get irritated with people continuing to discuss things that tend to put a damper on their income, but I don't give a rat's ass about that.

 

See, the thing about internet forums is, is if you're tired of a topic you can just move on to something that interests you more or is a better expenditure of your time (assuming there is such a thing), without becoming exasperated as to why people who want to discuss something continue to do so. In the end it's all just a bunch of photons emanating from a computer screen - those that don't interest you won't hurt or otherwise affect you and don't require any of your time.

 

I was hoping to go through the ANAM report and number the paragraphs or each line of the report for reference purposes, post it in here and then identify (by paragraph or line no.) things the climbers should have handled differently, with the expectation of generating concurring or dissenting responses but I'm not sure when I'll get around to doing that. I'm also curious as to what any Hood County Sheriff's report had to say about accident - I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a hold of that.

 

I think what this web-site needs is a permanent catalog, by date and location, of accidents resulting in fatalities or hospital stays of overnight or longer duration, a link to the resulting ANAM report and any additonal authoritative reports, and an opportunity for the informed commentary on each accident generated from that to be maintained. The at-time-of-the-accident-generated commentary, at least in highly-publicized cases like this one, tends to contain too much hearsay, hypothesis and melodrama for subsequent benefit.

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Also of note is that while there are a few "armchair climbers" here (I prefer "deskjockey" myself), there are also some people that climb alot more than you have and could actually could give you some useful insight.

I know this - that's why I started this thread here instead of at some other web-site.

 

I didn't bring up the "armchair climber" phrase to denigrate such contributors; I said it in response to someone who was critical of the usefulness of their commentary.

Edited by Zeta Male

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I am at a loss to comprehend why you continue to press for commentary on this accident. As has been opined by several already, many of us here feel that we have already said our piece on this event. We beat this thing to a horrible death in at least three different threads over two years ago. The ANAM report is out, and there's really not much more to say about it that hasn't already been said a hundred times before. At least, not until the other two bodies show up (if they ever do) and provided they surrender additional evidence of what occurred up there.

Because, using your own time frame as a reference, the ANAM report wasn't out yet "over two years ago" - they're not published until August of the calendar year following the accident, which would put the discussions you refer to as having occurred in mid-May, 2007 at the latest. The accident was in December, 2006...

ZM-

I know full well when the accident occurred, and also when ANAM comes out. Please read the highlighted portion of my statement above again. Everything that we here as a group discussed, speculated, opined, and beat to death over two years ago was succinctly stated in the ANAM report that came out subsequent to our hashing and rehashing. The report contains nothing new that we hadn't already been over many times before. As such, the report stands on its own merits, and nothing more need be discussed. Those that seek to glean some secret nugget of climbing-related lore from the accident can read the report and come away just as informed as they would (perhaps even more so, avoiding the "chaff" as you say) by participating in any lengthy rehashing of the event on the internet, IMHO.

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If Zeta wants to ask about something you feel you answered two years ago, nobody here is compelled to repeat their prior posts. Meanwhile, suggesting somebody go back and read through all the nonsense in that original Mt. Hood thread in an effort to gain a rational analysis of the matter is, at best, less than helpful.

 

I understand your point, Sobo, that there may be little new that can be said of the matter. I also agree with the idea that asking for a thoughtful or sensible discussion on cc.com may border on wishful thinking sometimes, but beating a dead horse, rehashing old arguments, and complaining when the other posters do not discuss something in the manner we feel is appropriate is pretty much normal on cc.com and just about any other Internet bulletin board.

 

 

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Yeah, Matt, I would have to concur with all of what you said. I'll leave it up to Zeta to take this thread where he wants to from here. I said my piece(s) 2+ years ago; I do not need to repeat them.

 

ZM-

I hope that you get the response that you are looking for in this thread. Good luck. :wave:

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