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Loomis

Climber Lost in Whiteout on Mt Hood

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pcg's voice of apparent, actual experience gets it right here.

 

It's one thing to wish the death penalty for some FB stranger who gets himself treed - it's quite another to sit in a room full of mourning friends, as some of us have unfortunately, and think "Oh well, he screwed up and got what was coming to him".

 

Seriously, get real.

 

 

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Trying to travel in a whiteout with hazards around is dangerous. Even if you were on ZigZag snowfield below Crater Rock on south side Hood, and your altimeter told you you were safely well above ZigZag Canyon and Mississippi Head, you risk falling into a blow hole or falling off a three foot wind slab. Either could result in serious injury simply because you can't see where you are falling.

 

 

I can attest to that. Not 10 minutes from paradise, coming down from muir in a complete whiteout, I walked right off a small cornice. Did not see the drop off at all till after I fell down the 5 feet and was looking back up at my partner. Was funny at the time but it showed how bad things can get in a complete whiteout.

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I've been trying to resist responding to this post, but I have something to add that someone new to mountaineering should consider, especially if you have checked off "navigating in a whiteout" as something you think you can handle.

 

In my experience you cannot navigate safely in a true whiteout in an alpine environment. On a flat surface with no hazards maybe, but in a total whiteout, when you can't see your feet, you can become so disoriented that vertigo sets in and your brain will basically lose its reference on life as you know it, making it even impossible to stand without falling. This is a terrifying experience. If you are in a cold stormy environment, then hopefully you have the mental fortitude to keep it together and the skills and equipment to safely hunker down and wait it out.

 

Trying to travel in a whiteout with hazards around is dangerous. Even if you were on ZigZag snowfield below Crater Rock on south side Hood, and your altimeter told you you were safely well above ZigZag Canyon and Mississippi Head, you risk falling into a blow hole or falling off a three foot wind slab. Either could result in serious injury simply because you can't see where you are falling.

 

IMO this guy would have died had he not called SAR, so calling SAR was the right thing to do at that point, from the standpoint of ensuring his own personal survival. Had some SAR personnel perished during the rescue effort then you could second guess that decision. There is no question he made several mistakes that got him to that point.

 

Re. GPS, I have one and seldom use it, but when I've used it I was glad I had it. I consider a non-electronic map, compass, and altimeter to be mandatory. I regard GPS as an emergency device to fall back on if I should become disoriented. If I become disoriented I have made a mistake, so I regard GPS as a "fix" for doing something I shouldn't have done. If you stay oriented to the terrain and you are familiar with the terrain or have a good hard copy map, you will not need GPS. If you are unfamiliar with the terrain and are staying oriented to a map on a GPS then you are traveling on borrowed time.

 

Oh yes... I'm grateful to have survived my mistakes w/o calling SAR or being hung out to dry on CC.

 

 

Thanks, pcg. I've felt uneasy about claims that reorienting yourself out of a disoriented position in a whiteout with just a map and compass is "basic," but didn't really have the experience to back up my misgivings. So what you say is reassuring to hear.

 

I mean, I've been trying to imagine being in a total whiteout, disoriented, with only a map and compass. Sounds terrifying. You can't locate anything to sight and get a bearing, there are no landmarks, you're not really sure where you are -- hell, how can you even tell which direction the slope is running when you can barely see your feet (if that), or tell if you're staring at fall line, or just an irregularity? Without an altimeter, I can imagine not even knowing which way is up.

 

And that's just standing still. I couldn't imagine trying to walk in those conditions, falling over, trying to estimate how much my course changed after getting back up...ugh. I think it would be time to just dig in, no? Or sit down and die. :(

 

"Fuck him in his fucking ass" sounds totally unreasonable, I'm glad that my instinct proved correct.

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I regard GPS as an emergency device to fall back on if I should become disoriented.

 

That's a fine sentiment, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it; however, I've also found that a GPS can be a lot faster to use than a map/compass combo, especially if you're retracing a recorded track. And, since speed is safety, I think a GPS for typical use is not a bad idea.

 

Of course, this isn't an excuse to not practice orienteering skills.

Edited by Alan Trick

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Oh yes... I'm grateful to have survived my mistakes w/o calling SAR or being hung out to dry on CC.

 

+1

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I can attest to that. Not 10 minutes from paradise, coming down from muir in a complete whiteout, I walked right off a small cornice. Did not see the drop off at all till after I fell down the 5 feet and was looking back up at my partner. Was funny at the time but it showed how bad things can get in a complete whiteout.

x2, only in my occasion the cornice failed, sending me flying down 10 feet or so and kicking off a wet-avalanche which i rode down on top of, all in sight of my big brother, who'd never worn snowshoes a day in his life :)

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...... I've felt uneasy about claims that reorienting yourself out of a disoriented position in a whiteout with just a map and compass is "basic," but didn't really have the experience to back up my misgivings. So what you say is reassuring to hear.

 

Yeah, except no map. It would have ripped out of your hands and blown into the next county had you been able to get a hold of it to begin with. Hard enough to pull out a compass that's on a cord around yer neck and get a bearing in those conditions. None of us were there. That dude was, and a dying phone might even made a different outcome had it been charged. We all like to think what would we do if we were Joe Simpson, would I have cut the cord on my buddy....

 

meh. Better to be alive than not.

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I can attest to that. Not 10 minutes from paradise, coming down from muir in a complete whiteout, I walked right off a small cornice. Did not see the drop off at all till after I fell down the 5 feet and was looking back up at my partner. Was funny at the time but it showed how bad things can get in a complete whiteout.

x2, only in my occasion the cornice failed, sending me flying down 10 feet or so and kicking off a wet-avalanche which i rode down on top of, all in sight of my big brother, who'd never worn snowshoes a day in his life :)

x3. Off a cornice in a whiteout. We spent the rest of the day fishing.

 

wapta_30.jpg

 

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Talking about white outs and cornices, if you know cornices are around look for a break in the snow structure that is the transition from the windward to leeward side. No guarantee you will see it but a feature to know about as it can help keep you on the right side. It helped me stop my partner as he walked up on to a cornice and was about to continue into the void and take a 200' roll on the north side of Rainier.

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i always bring it but have yet to find a use for my compass

1286226467fdwx6r.jpg

 

I bet I can clarify the people who use a 'simple compass' to easily navigate during shitstorm whiteouts:

wapta_30.jpg

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very innovative :)

 

if you can manage to continually piss the entire time you're descending, that might be night to establish 3d :rawk:

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Now there's some excellent advice. Just pick a direction and go down! You'll eventually hit a highway - or the bottom of the North Face, Willis Wall, or Adams Icefall.

 

If we could only bottle and sell this wisdom.

 

 

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i can see it now:

 

so the dude decides to continue with his blind descent, stumbling along, and actually does cornice and die.

 

peanut gallery:

 

"man, what an idiot. he should have just stayed put, maybe even called a rescue. jeez, a rescue would have been less expensive than a body recovery."

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The guy was not on the summit of Hood, they said he was at 10,000 foot level from what I heard, is this incorrect? It has not been a big snow year, its not a dangerous crevasse or cornice area, even in a white out. The one sulfur vent hole is all. If you go down from there and keep moving, common sense tells you 3 things:

1) You might get out of the cloud bank and be able to see

2) Going down is supposed to be where you are going.

3) Keeping moving also keeps you warm. Stopping and waiting is where you start to freeze.

 

Sorry, I don't have allot of empathy for some guy who goes up solo in winter unprepared, and calls Mountain Rescue and Facebook and sets down and waits to get led out. Whatever. he jepodizes all of us, as it is frivolous events like this that cause the funding for rescue services to be put into question.

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as it is frivolous events like this that cause the funding for rescue services to be put into question.

 

not following the logic. would seem like if there were no rescues or poorly done rescues, then the funding would be in jeapardy. Simple and high publicity rescues like this would be encouraging for even more financial resources.

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as it is frivolous events like this that cause the funding for rescue services to be put into question.

 

Did you ask the rescuers who actually went up there if they thought it was frivolous or do you just have a really good view from your armchair?

 

"He was in a pretty rocky area about halfway up Crater Rock with a lot of cliffs and cliff bands around him," one rescuer said. "So it was probably a good place for him to stay put."

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Now there's some excellent advice. Just pick a direction and go down! You'll eventually hit a highway - or the bottom of the North Face, Willis Wall, or Adams Icefall.

 

If we could only bottle and sell this wisdom.

WTF are you talking about? He was on a South side of Mt Hood. 90% of that can be done on skis by fairly competent skier. There are no crevasses besides one bergschrund, which by now is buried. Quit giving this asshole excuses. He is a dumb fuck, who was unable to cope with consequences of his actions. Post like yours just encourages publicity seeking assholes to continue such actions and behavior.

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The guy was not on the summit of Hood, they said he was at 10,000 foot level from what I heard, is this incorrect? It has not been a big snow year, its not a dangerous crevasse or cornice area, even in a white out. The one sulfur vent hole is all. If you go down from there and keep moving, common sense tells you 3 things:

1) You might get out of the cloud bank and be able to see

2) Going down is supposed to be where you are going.

3) Keeping moving also keeps you warm. Stopping and waiting is where you start to freeze.

 

Sorry, I don't have allot of empathy for some guy who goes up solo in winter unprepared, and calls Mountain Rescue and Facebook and sets down and waits to get led out. Whatever. he jepodizes all of us, as it is frivolous events like this that cause the funding for rescue services to be put into question.

 

agree. having a mental back-up plan for white-out or if you lose your map and compass (or gps doesn't work) is essential - as is knowing the basic topography of the area (where drainages lead, where the nearest roads are, major cliffs, etc). I think the "wait and hunker down" philospahy of being lost in the woods only works if you can survive the wait, and continuing on will just make you more lost. I think many hood fatalities could have been avoided if the person, or party just simply went downhill. At least being lost in the forest is better than being lost on a glacier or snowslope.

 

Finally, if you have a rope, and know how to set-up improptu rappells, you can get off the top -regardless if it's the quickest way to you car.

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i expected a lot more wisdom from someone who had timetraveler in their name.

 

and really suggesting people who have found themselves in over their heads climbing are publicity seeking assholes? I am pretty sure amateur climbing is not done for publicity since it means about shit all to most people except other climbers and 'pay for it-my taxes!!' knee jerkers. Case in point go to any news story that reported on this rescue and see if anyone is still commenting. Nope! Everyone would have much better luck getting publicity by submitting videos of you getting kicked in the nuts to americas funniest home videos or posting them on youtube. proof? go find a funny youtube video from a year ago..and refresh the hit count--people are still watching and commenting!

 

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...correction. There are crevasses in White River Canyon. Some sizable ones. When I was a pup, I'd go lap Wyeast from the lodge and at times could be quite mentally taxing crossing White River to the other side depending on what the snow conditions and how much visible light there was. Cough * solo * cough * stupid. I would think that this is the worst time of year, especially if you couldn't see. A bit of snow but not enough to make a blind pitch into the void safe......

 

Dude might have been up at the Wyeast headwall as that's about the elevation isn't it, and perhaps that was what he thought was the "cliff" he mentioned in the article. There are no crevasses there, but there are plenty below further down.

 

None of us were there. There are a shitload of factors that undoubtedly weighed on his mind. Exhaustion, dehydration and physical factors which we, at our keyboards sipping a latte, may not be considering. I'd give the guy the benifit of the doubt on that.

 

Starting up knowing the weather was coming in, on the other hand..... :grin: ...meh, glad he's safe. As far as endangering rescuers, I always (when young, no one ever calls me anymore, which is a good thing:-) ) enjoyed the invitation to head up in shite conditions. It's voluntary and good times.

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