Missing friend in Mammoth Lakes area

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Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 18, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
Klimmer...take this somewhere else...totally a distraction to the search for Matt.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 18, 2013 - 03:46pm PT
Rescue up there, Ron.
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 18, 2013 - 04:11pm PT
Norman Clyde succeeded in finding Walter Starr Jr by:
Thinking out what equipment Starr had with him;
Working from his last known location (camp at Upper Iceberg Lake, I believe now known as Cecile Lake);
Knowing he had climbed Michael Minaret previously on the trip (summit register and photograph)
Exhaustively pursuing all likely routes;
Re-searching routes that Eichorn/Dawson et. al had already searched;
Looking very closely around him;
Luck;

Known facts:
We know what Matt had with him. Principally ice axe, crampons, no significant camping gear.
The last peak he climbed was Clyde Minaret just prior to his last excursion.
He would have been well aware of the local snow and ice conditions at that time (Clyde has a 360 degree view).
Tom Cochrane's photos show very little ice and snow in the range right now.

Given these facts, I would presume he was deliberately bound for an objective requiring firm snow/ice travel at least on the approach or descent.
This should narrow the search area of most probable success to the regions above, on and beneath the snow/ice in Tom's photos.
Also any likely bivvy sites, primarily the lake shores.
There may be something to gain by re-searching previously searched locations with a different pair of eyes.
Matt COULD be anywhere out there.

Searching moats/bergschrunds should not be taken lightly. They are highly unpredictable and can be very difficult to escape even with assistance.
(a climber died in the Tetons in mid-July after falling into a moat at an opening in a snowfield. He was seen by a nearby guide (with radio), was retrieved alive in less than an hour, helo'ed to a hospital and still failed to revive).
Be careful out there.
<putting away my Nanny hat>
HighTraverse

Trad climber
Bay Area
Aug 18, 2013 - 04:14pm PT
Tom
your photo with the orange blob.
Is that a true color image or enhanced? Or false color from a converted IR image?
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 18, 2013 - 04:16pm PT
HighTraverse, et al....

As I said in my TR, it is important to NOT get myopic in this search. Yes, from the evidence of missing gear and the conversations, Matt was heading for snow and ice. However, enroute to those things, there are literally thousands of places he could have met with problems.

The reality is....the amount of time that as lapsed between July 17 and now is huge. What remains is tiny......and scattered.......and God knows where.

Searching bergschrunds should not happen. One must ALWAYS weigh the risk vs. benefit criteria.
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Aug 19, 2013 - 01:29am PT
we did minor color, ASA and exposure corrections only to improve resolution...pretty close to true (human eye perception) color

as Cragman points out, there are lots of rocks in that area with that color

it is an odd chance that this color is similar to Matt Greene's tent...which he did not carry with him...and his rain fly is grey...

the RED camera is rather sensitive to IR, which is why we use an IR filter, to prevent washing out the human sensitive color spectrum

i haven't looked into using this IR sensitivity to detect warm bodies i.e. using a visible light filter that passes only the IR...i don't have one of these in my big collection of Hoya or Tiffin filters
aguacaliente

climber
Aug 19, 2013 - 03:28am PT
Tom, the IR sensitivity in a typical digital camera detector, like a CCD or CMOS, would not be good for detecting people or animals. Its sensitivity probably only goes out to about 1 micron or less. You would need a thermal IR camera (~10 microns) to detect heat from a person. Thermal IR cameras exist, but the detector technology is different and typically much lower pixel count than cameras designed for the optical.
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Aug 19, 2013 - 01:47pm PT
sorry for the thread drift--

Dean - any more details on Sunday's 2 rescues? (edited ..)
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 19, 2013 - 02:51pm PT
Sorry Jeff...no comment, presently.
Matt J.

Trad climber
Castro Valley, CA
Aug 19, 2013 - 03:41pm PT
This may not be much help, but just in case, I climbed Amelia Earhart Peak from Lyell Canyon on Aug. 16. No sign of Matt on east or west sides of Potter Point, nor in the register.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 19, 2013 - 05:30pm PT
Thanks for chiming in, Matt J.
crusher

climber
Santa Monica, CA
Aug 19, 2013 - 06:00pm PT
//Upthread post by "Tioga":

//Aug 15, 2013 - 07:16pm PT

I've looked at the videos--he does look a lot like the person I've seen in Luther Pass/Big Meadow... but then, again, there can be a lot of people who look alike. I've seen that person wearing ball cap/hat mostly, and only once without a hat--he had receding hairline, so very high forehead, and his height appeared to be about 5'10-5'11ish.. The video doesn't show a lot, of course, and the helmet is on.

I didn't notice many details--whatever I noticed back then I forgot by now, like the tent and the car, if there was one (backpackers like to stay in this camp sometimes, it's a primitive camp near Tahoe Rim trail). That person was in site #1 or 2 (these are back to back sites), and the tents in one of these sites tend to be way back where you can't see them. No facial hair. Sites #1 and 2 share one parking spot there, so you can't tell whose cars are parked, actually.

Ok something is bothering me. Tioga - did you see this picture of Matt?
Check the hairline (a little bit of "recession") - just wanted to revisit this because it was sort of nagging at the back of my mind.
Credit: crusher
crusher

climber
Santa Monica, CA
Aug 19, 2013 - 07:59pm PT
Thanks Tioga.
tdg119

Social climber
Northampton, PA
Aug 19, 2013 - 08:01pm PT
I am not a hiker but I am athletic and have played organized sports. When I was out with Matt, it was clear he is a professional. Like a baseball player, or anyone in the game, he gets in the zone when he's out there. He doesn't stop to look around, he is focused. His every step is precise, calculated, and intuitive. He would not appear to wonder aimlessly, or look around at the views. Unless of course he wants to stop and take in all in (usually for about 10 minutes while he eats, then it's back up and moving again). -Ron Minto
crankster

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aug 19, 2013 - 08:27pm PT
Tiffany,
I saw this on High Sierra Topix. Is it accurate?

"Climbs he did in prior days:

Unicorn peak
mammoth crest
Clyde minaret (verified with reg signature)
Dana couloir
north peak
palasades v notch-
reigeluth minaret"
tdg119

Social climber
Northampton, PA
Aug 19, 2013 - 08:38pm PT
Crankster,

This info came from Tom Davidcock and Matt's friends - I can't say but I'm sure they will confirm.

Saw on the visit Mammoth FB page it's raining and storming...hoping it will uncover some clues. I know nothing of hiking (to those extremes)...just been trying to bug the ol' detective to trace the loction of those last calls/texts. Frustrated by lack of response.
crankster

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe, CA
Aug 19, 2013 - 09:36pm PT
Thanks, Tiffany, we are all thinking of you and your family and hope Matt is found soon.

Knowing what Matt climbed helps paint a better picture. He'd obviously been picking off classics of the Sierra from Mammoth north to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite NP. The Dana Couloir and North Peak (he probably climbed one of the couloirs on the north side) are moderate snow & ice climbs. The one exception is the V-Notch Couloir in the Palisade's. This is south of Mammoth and is a more serious climb than the others. Presumably, he had a partner.

Given the lack of overnight gear, I'd agree the probability is he headed to the Ritter/Banner/Minarets area. And, of course, the lack of a car.

However, he could have gotten a ride to another trailhead from someone not following the news, someone from a foreign country perhaps.

His gear list is the result of his friends going through his gear and eliminating items from memory. It's possible he might have had a sleeping bag liner or bivy sack they were not aware of. This would expand his climbing objectives.

He will be found. Hang in there.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 19, 2013 - 09:53pm PT
Very VERY heavy rains here now for the last few hours....WONDERFUL for the environment....not so good on the search effort.

: /
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Aug 19, 2013 - 10:40pm PT
I suspect Ritter and Banner may get a dusting of snow tonight....it is pouring here and presently 55F....gonna get chilly when this clears.
mattyj

Mountain climber
Truckee
Aug 19, 2013 - 11:29pm PT
I'll try to limit my speculation and keep this to facts as much as possible. I'm including photos for context; if they're too distracting from the thread let me know and I'll turn them into links instead.

The basic itinerary was: hike in on Sat, climb Banner and Ritter via the saddle and descend the SE glacier on Sun, hike out Monday. This was a previously scheduled training with my bay area SAR team, and although the primary goal for these kinds of trainings is to build mountaineering experience and learn to work in small teams in an alpine environment, we kept our eyes open as much as possible. Besides, absent any further information about Matt's plans, summiting the peaks seemed like as good a search plan as anything else.

On the way in, I tried accessing the cliffs above shadow creek from the trail only to discover that Cragman and Delhi Dog ain't no fools, it really would be dangerous to try and peek over the edge. I crossed upstream near the outlet of the lake and backtracked to the far side, which gave me a good view of the cliffs. There are two main pools; I was able to get right up to the lower one but the upper one would probably require rope access. Regardless, looking down from both sides gave me pretty good coverage. I didn't check further downstream; if the river were strong enough to flush Matt out of that area I wouldn't have seen him. The bases of the waterfalls were also impossible to check due to turbulent water and would be dangerous to enter now; perhaps worth a visit in late fall when the water levels have receded further.

Looking down to the base of the cliffs.
Looking down to the base of the cliffs.
Credit: mattyj

After setting up camp at Ediza, we headed up to the pond at 10k and spent an hour and change glassing the cliff band below the Ritter glacier. We were right near the pond's exit; I'm by no means implying that our search was exhaustive, but if anyone wants to put in more binocular time it might be most productive to pick a different perspective.

We were mostly focused on the cliffs at the center right of this pictu...
We were mostly focused on the cliffs at the center right of this picture.
Credit: mattyj

We got an early start the next morning and mostly hauled butt up to the saddle and then the summit of Banner. Given the thunderstorm risk, the plan was to get up Ritter as quickly as possible and then take our time on the descent. The snow chute is starting to develop a gap and may be pretty tricky in another month or so.

It's hard to see from the photo, but at this point it looks like the glacier stops well short of Lake Catherine. I say looks because I wasn't able to get a perfect view. Given the rock deposition on it I wouldn't necessarily expect a falling climber to slide all the way to the lake, but a month ago, who knows.

Credit: mattyj

The summit didn't have a good view of Banner's SE glacier, but by moving right a bit I was able to get a decent view of the base. I think I eliminated Tom Cochrane's orange object as a rock; I'm certain that I saw an orange rock but not 100% clear whether it was in the same location as his pic. I also glassed the glacier for a bit and didn't see anything out of place. The white parts were easy, but a body on the dirty/black areas could have escaped my notice - I had limited time as we were in a hurry to get up Ritter. For what it's worth the glacier is also seriously crevassed - it looks like it belongs in the Cascades not the Sierra - and hopefully if Matt realized this he would have stayed off of it. Most/all of the seasonal snow has melted off, but if anyone does want to search that area on foot I would still strongly suggest being roped and rigged for crevasse rescue.

My view of the banner glacier.  Red oval marks the spot where I though...
My view of the banner glacier. Red oval marks the spot where I thought Tom Cochrane's orange rock was.
Credit: mattyj

The snow chute to the saddle doesn't have significant moats. We didn't search the moats at the top of the catherine glacier, but: 1) the moat at the base of the route is very narrow and shallow. If it stays like that along its entire length - a big if - it's unlikely that a body would land in it. We practically had to squeeze into it when taking our crampons off, and a bouncing object would probably have sailed right over the top. And 2) the top of the snowfield was getting very icy. We brought soft soled boots and lightweight crampons; in order to safely search the the moats I would have wanted stiff soled boots and nice step-in crampons, at a minimum.

I'd hoped to spend more time in the talus fields up top, but the t-storm system was really starting to brew when we hit the summit so we booked it down to the base of the Ritter glacier. My climbing partners headed back to camp while I spent about two and a half hours searching the bench/slab area immediately below the glacier and glassing some of the heavy rockfall areas on the glacier itself. Only find was a blue non-collapsible trekking pole, which is likely unrelated to Matt.

As a note, there is a tremendous amount of rockfall on the glacier itself. In the photo below, the circled area looks like talus but is really rockfall on top of ice. I probably counted 4 rockfalls in the hour I was up near the base. Even if you moved quickly through the area it would be possible for your number to simply come up short. Matt could have been struck by rockfall up there, but hanging out searching every dip and crevice on the glacier would have an unfathomably high risk/reward ratio.

Ritter SE glacier
Ritter SE glacier
Credit: mattyj

The top of the SE glacier is serious terrain. Even ignoring the risk of searching the bergschrund, access would be difficult and the glacier itself leads nowhere; it's hard to imagine a set of circumstances that would make Matt (or anyone) decide to climb to the top of the thing.

The only places where I thought I had a decent chance of finding Matt, and am therefore reasonably certain he isn't there, were shadow creek and the banner glacier - and then, only in the white parts.

The one bit of speculation I'll engage in is that most people I know who would do Ritter and/or Banner in a day - and granted, that's not many - would never dream of carrying mountaineering boots in their backpack. Gore trex trail runners or light hikers, mini gaiters and some aluminum strap-ons. Obviously I'm hesitant to project that onto Matt's mindset, but every time I looked up at the glacier below Minarets, I found myself thinking "now that looks like the sort of serious terrain I'd want real boots for".

On the way out we bumped into a pair from Mono SAR that was hiking in from Agnew on yet another search. You guys stay busy - I'm sure it's overwhelming at times but I know some bay area folk who would appreciate having that kind of callout volume. They gave us directions to the CP and asked us to fill the guys there in on our efforts, which we did, whatever benefit that will bring.

It's easy to get caught up in a thread like this and start to think it's some sort of official last word, that arguments and decisions made here somehow have bearing outside of ST. Obviously that's not the case, but sometimes it feels that way emotionally. Keep that in mind when arguing about particular tools, the benefits of aerial photography, etc.

Edit: I forgot to add that the reason I mentioned this was a SAR training is that we were wearing our team t-shirts, and all manner of people asked us if we were out there searching for Matt. We tried to explain that we weren't doing so in any official capacity - easy for rumors to start flying - but the point is that everyone out there knew he was missing. Kudos to his friends and family for keeping the awareness up, people have gone missing with only a fraction as much attention.
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