[at-l] 1500 foot fall, accident & rescue White Mtns, near AT

RockDancer rockdancer97 at comcast.net
Fri Apr 9 10:01:39 CDT 2010

Well, the gist of this email is that I want to make life easy on myself today. 

A summary of many comments is the lack of effective training for self-arrest, and the continued inappropriate behavior of heading out to the PCT or CDT or elsewhere armed with an ice-axe, inappropriate crampons and feeling safe out there. It's inappropriate whether or not you've had a course in self-arrest. Here's a link provided by another hiker:

David Spring's article "What's Wrong with Traditional Avalanche Courses." http://davidspring.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=48&Itemid=56  He explains why the most experienced die the most. It's a long article and covers even more than what has been mentioned.

In August, 1995 I hiked the high Sierras to the west of Mt. Whitney. On a 5-day loop we were camping at 8000+ feet and going over 10,000 foot passes. We went by partially melted lakes surrounded by snowy slopes. Our trek took us on some 20+ degree slopes, with nothing between us and the melted water, about 100 feet below us. We cut steps with our ice-axes, tied ourselves together, thought about it and then untied. Instead of belaying each other across the danger we each undid our pack belt and used our ice axe as a foot support across the span. (This involves planting the ice axe on the downhill side and stepping close to it for support). We had decided that sliding 100 feet into the water would be a problem, but more of a problem if one of us slipped and dragged the other in while tied together. No problems but it was problem-solving on the fly. I've had similar dilemmas in the Whites in Winter even when carrying rope, using crampons and facing a snow-chute that we want to cross. This stuff isn't for the novice.

My other comments are about recent deaths and injuries in the Whites due to over-confidence. A few years ago 2 (or perhaps 3) were killed in the Great Gulf, at least one of them because he went to help the first victim. I won't be able to look this one up anytime soon. Every Winter we have deaths in the Whites, many in the avalanche-prone backcountry where more and more head to test themselves against the snowpack. 

I'm glad the article stimulated some chat. As an older hiker (perhaps a retired one) it's great to hear of hikers taking the dangers seriously.

Arthur Gaudet (RockDancer)
Rockdancer97 at comcast.net
"The pellet with the poison's in the flagon with the dragon."

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