Sports Illustrated 1965; Grand Teton rescue

Search
Go

Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 1 - 20 of total 22 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Happy Idiot

Trad climber
Santa Fe
Topic Author's Original Post - Feb 13, 2013 - 09:11am PT
Here's a two-parter, so pour yourself a cup of joe (or crack open a poptop, depending on your time zone).

I apologize in advance for the relatively low-rez images. These articles were particularly difficult to scan, because these issues of the magazine were bound together in a thick cloth binding (about 6 months' worth of magazines). This led to two problems. One: the depth of field from the scanner's viewpoint was skewed due to the offset distance from the scanning lens. And, two: the spines of the magazines were deeply sewn into the cloth binding, so the inner margins of many of the pages were not able to be clearly visible. I tried photoshopping some, but it didn't help much.
Still, I think with some good reading glasses, some patience, and some interpolation based on context, >95% of the article will be comprehensible.
<Edit>: See crock's post below for a link to the online text.

The incident described here was also in Sinclair's "We Aspired."

Part One: 72 Hours of Terror

Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Happy Idiot

Trad climber
Santa Fe
Topic Author's Reply - Feb 13, 2013 - 09:12am PT
Part Two: Night of the One Eyed Devils

Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
Credit: Happy Idiot
crock

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 13, 2013 - 09:26am PT
Some years ago, Jennie actually posted links to the on-line version of these fascinating stories:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbing/thread.php?topic_id=790139&msg=792282#msg792282

Whew! I'm glad I missed that trip!

The scans are interesting, if harder to read, in that the format and style of the magazine provides an interesting historical context. Thanks!

And I remain, even after studying this event several times, somewhat mystified by the decisions the guides made that led them into this awful situation.
Splater

climber
Grey Matter
Feb 13, 2013 - 12:24pm PT
The scans are fantastic! I like how they show what Sports meant at the time, which can be seen in the table of contents, the drawings, and the ads. It was an era when people actually participated in sports and not just tailgating and fantasy leagues, before celebrity sports heroes and millionaire college coaches.
Patrick Sawyer

climber
Originally California now Ireland
Feb 13, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
The ads alone are great. Good thread.

But a tragic story.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Feb 13, 2013 - 01:40pm PT
somewhat mystified by the decisions the guides made that led them into this awful situation

I think you mean the "trip leaders", i.e. Ellis Blade. He was not a professional guide. Definitely his decisions that created the disaster, and he didn't have a realistic view of the capabilities of the people in his group.
crock

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 13, 2013 - 04:22pm PT

Definitely his decisions that created the disaster, and he didn't have a realistic view of the capabilities of the people in his group.

I think people were much more likely to follow authority back in the '60s. Or, to be more precise, much less likely to challenge it.

But I don't think you can really explain his decision making as following from misunderstanding his group's capabilities. After all, he left them behind.

I think he was blinded by some internal struggle.


jogill

climber
Colorado
Feb 13, 2013 - 04:45pm PT
I think people were much more likely to follow authority back in the '60s. Or, to be more precise, much less likely to challenge it

Not really. But I don't remember the psychological complexities of that particular group - they may have been less willing to think for themselves than , say, climbers from California at the time. I was there earlier that summer, but only heard about this catastrophe from Pete Sinclair later.
crock

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 13, 2013 - 08:11pm PT
In an attempt to encourage further input, let me address the two comments made above.

Clint writes:
I think you mean the "trip leaders", i.e. Ellis Blade. He was not a professional guide.

Now Pete Sinclair, in We Aspired, writes:
The leader of the party, Ellis Blade, was himself not an Appie but a hired expedition leader.

In Not a Place for People, he and Al Simpson write:
The leader of the party was Ellis Blade, not himself an Appie but a recognised leader. Blade was not really what Europeans would regard as a guide. Americans do not hire guides in America, they hire authorities.

To tie this in with jogill's remarks:
There have always been rebels and conformists, and certainly a party that would look for structure and actually hire someone to lead them up a mountain would be more likely to conform to authority than, say, the Camp 4 crowd. And hiring and agreeing to follow someone can also make a group more compliant.

I think the unwillingness of anyone to challenge Blade was an important part of the crisis - and when he was finally confronted, he did back down.

Blade had experience in the Tetons. It looks like he spent the summer of '54 there with Bill Cropper, earning mention in The Climber's Guide to the Teton Range, (pp. 308 and 305 in the Third Edition) for routes on Symmetry Spire.

Of course there can be no real resolution of this question now, especially without Ellis Blade himself, but perhaps his fear of the very tangible danger of descending is what blinded him to the absurdity of his decision to continue up.
Alan Rubin

climber
Amherst,MA.
Feb 14, 2013 - 10:08am PT
This is really getting a bit into minituae here, but I may be able to contribute a little to the discussion. I came into climbing only a few years after this incident. In fact I have a clear memory of hanging around at the Jenny Lake Ranger Station as a relatively novice climber when Pete Sinclair (then chief climbing ranger and a very charismatic guy) came rushing into the ranger station holding a copy of Sports Illustrated saying, "the second installment is out---and (facetously)it's all about me!!!". That was how I came to read the articles and first learned of the accident/rescue.

However as a climber mostly active in the midwest (Devil's Lake) and the Gunks at the time I was well aware (and became even better informed later) of the highly structured, almost militaristic, approach to climbing followed by many climbing organizations from the end of World War 2 through to the early '60s. While this approach was national in scope---I know that some on here have previously described incidents with some of the Sierra Club rock-climbing sections during this era, for example, it was particularly noticeable in the midwest and northeast. For anyone interested in this I really recommend Yankee Rock and Ice by Guy and Laura Waterman for their description of the "Conservative Tradition" in climbing during that era.

A key component of that tradition was the exalted role the "The Leader" and the almost invariably highly complex (yet very subjective)way that only a very few climbers in such organizations achieved such "status". In the AMC of that era the ultimate accomplishment was to be titled "Unrestricted Leader". Though I never met Ellis Blade I did know, though only slightly, Lester Germer who was a member of the party involved in the accident. My understanding was that Blade was such an "Unrestricted Leader" and by Club policy, tradition, and the prior experiences of the members of the party his word was to be followed without being questioned.It was also my understanding that he had led prior AMC climbs in such a capacity.Another major contributory factor in the accident, which also was a direct result of the limited number of individuals who made it through the process to become leaders, was the extremely large size of the party which attempted the climb. A large number of particpants on a major club outing with only a few "qualified" leaders resulted in too many people for a climb of that nature (or any technical climb in my opinion). Again, while the AMC was the organization involved in that particular epic, it could well have happened to parties from most of the nation's organized climbing groups of the day--from college outing clubs to national organizations.

This approach was already "under attack" and crumbling even by the time of the Grand incident--most notoriously through the actions (and the very existence) of the Vulgarians in the Gunks, but more quietly but just as effectively in many other areas across the country. The shear increase in the number of people who came into climbing in the '60s, as well as the attitudes of that time, quickly overwhelmed the highly structured approach in most areas of the country.Interestingly the AMC's initial response was the creation of a Safety Committee that tried to impose even more rules and structure, but that effort was doomed to falure.
jogill

climber
Colorado
Feb 14, 2013 - 02:03pm PT
Nice, Alan. Thanks
crock

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 15, 2013 - 11:59am PT
Alan,

Thanks, that really provides some basis for the way the event unfolded.
Brian in SLC

Social climber
Salt Lake City, UT
Feb 15, 2013 - 01:26pm PT
Wow, interesting history and perspective.

Thanks!
tradmanclimbs

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
Feb 16, 2013 - 05:33am PT
Al. that was well written and informative. Trancending Summits by gerry Roach covers the subject of the structured groups of the day and how the old guard was perhaps power hungry and incompetent..
justthemaid

climber
Jim Henson's Basement
Feb 16, 2013 - 06:58am PT
Fascinating read. I hadn't heard the story before. Appropriate that it have it's own thread with the original art and advertising. Those rescuers get the badd-ass award of the 20th century.

Lots of interesting turns. The bizarre hubris of Blade. It's obvious that people were deferring to Charles early on (co-leader Smith asks Charles to intervene and stop the expedition rather than confront Blade himself) . The unwillingness of the experienced members of the group to challenge the authority figure. The insanely dangerous rescue. The delusional kid trying to kill everyone on the way down. Smith's odd detachment and death was.. a bit strange and sudden.. suspicious even (in my mind). Good stuff. When's the movie coming out ;)?

Thank you for taking the time to scan it.
Jennie

Trad climber
Elk Creek, Idaho
Feb 16, 2013 - 01:31pm PT


Great posts on this thread.

I'm suprised more tragedies haven't taken place on the Otter Body Route. The easy guidebook rating might invite climbing but the summit register pages from the past show few ascents (I saw very few signs of passage when I climbed it)

Easy in ideal conditions, I can understand rain,snow and ice turning it into a deadly netherworld. Rockfall coming down from the rotten gully west of Second Tower can be frightening even in dry conditions.

My father told me Stephen Smith's body was interred under the upper lip of the Otter Body snowfield...but twenty or thirty years later was recovered and sent home to family.

Gripping story every time I read it...
crock

Trad climber
The Windiest Mountain, Wyoming
Feb 16, 2013 - 02:03pm PT
Jennie,

I wonder if your father knew Ellis Blade, or perhaps his climbing partner in '54 Bill Cropper, and if so if he ever had the chance to ask them about this incident?
SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 16, 2013 - 05:38pm PT
Oh boy. What a white knuckler.

Susan
hobo_dan

Social climber
Minnesota
Feb 16, 2013 - 05:55pm PT
I couldn't read the print but if its what I think then check out the piece from Pete Sinclairs book: We aspired

SCseagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
Feb 16, 2013 - 06:02pm PT
Hobo, go to the links Crock put in his post. You will then get links to SI archives web and easily read version.


Susan
Messages 1 - 20 of total 22 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
 
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks


Try a free sample topo!

 
SuperTopo on the Web

Review Categories
Recent Trip Report and Articles
Recent Route Beta
Recent Gear Reviews