Missing friend in Mammoth Lakes area

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east side underground

climber
Hilton crk,ca
Oct 28, 2014 - 07:44am PT
i have the utmost respect for dean and others who have put in so much effort in the search for mattew. i was thinking since so much time has passsed, maybe it's time to start over. shady rest as ground zero, where could i walk in a day with ice gear to test out gear and have a good hike. if i head south east, valentine to parachute couliar would be doable, up duck pass, to pica and ram lakes ( a nice x-country loop dropping into valentine ) would have some snow in protected gullies. southwest over blue crag (there was snow at the time of mattew's diapearance) to deer lakes ,also snow filled gullies- great skiing by the way- to the pct and back to the lakes basin another cool loop, and west to the ritter range. north leads to san juaquin ridge, not alot of snow , maybe a very low prability area. also hadn't mattew already spent time in the ritter range? would he expend that much effort to return to a area he had alredy been to? maybe yes since he would be familar with the area or wuold he chose to check out some new terrian? dean probaby knows better than anyone but mattew was fit and bold, so maybe he tried somewhere new. just throwing it out there. i just read the account of the sar for randy morgesen, he was found in a low probility area that had been searched twice before, the interestig thing is that his wife had feelings about water and he turned up in a creek, so i guess feelings are a important part of searches. just some thoughts ,stuck on the couch after surgery with too much time on my hands. good luck and be safe
CCT

Trad climber
Oct 28, 2014 - 09:55am PT
I can't make any guesses as to where Matt might have climbed, but I can speak to the conditions on the Ritter/Banner saddle last year. Our party of 4 climbed Banner not long after Matt disappeared, at the end of August. We had planned to do Ritter too, but got a late start and ran out of time.

The snowfield below the saddle was hard and scalloped. Like Cragman, we brought minimal snow gear, and found the transitions from the snow onto the unstable scree field at the top of the gully rather exciting. However, if Matt had slipped there, he would have been easily visible, given the low snow level at the time.

In several places, where the snowfield abutted the rock walls, there was a large moat, several feet wide. I don't know how deep it was, because we did not look. There is no reason that a climber attempting the saddle would have been close enough to the moats to fall in, unless they approached deliberately.

The west side of the saddle, down to Lake Catherine, was a normal-looking hard snow field interspersed with open patches of scree. Definitely not something you would want to fall down, but likely you would be able to stop yourself if you did. Very wide open, with few places to "hide."

If a person were to climb Ritter and Banner via the saddle, likely they would summit Banner first since it is much closer. The hike up Banner from the saddle is an easy class 2 or 3 scramble. The trail is used frequently, and well-marked with cairns. However, there are many small variations possible, and it would be possible to take a minor fall and end up hidden behind a block. At the time, the summit register had a lot of recent entries (sorry, no photo), which means that the route is climbed regularly by lots of different parties.

We did not climb Ritter from the saddle. The snow patch leading up to 3rd class north flank of Ritter looked hard and icy. A fall there could have been dangerous and self-arrest more tricky. A falling person could slide down the wide open snow field on the west side of the saddle towards Lake Catherine, or take a smaller ride towards the east. In both cases, the snowfield is wide open, so not an easy place to "hide."

Here are some photos from September 1, 2013. Hope this helps.


Snowfield leading up to Ritter/Banner summit from east side
Snowfield leading up to Ritter/Banner summit from east side
Credit: CCT

Transition from snow to scree near the top of the chute
Transition from snow to scree near the top of the chute
Credit: CCT

Looking towards Ritter from the south flank of Banner.
Looking towards Ritter from the south flank of Banner.
Credit: CCT
TomCochrane

Trad climber
Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey Bay
Oct 28, 2014 - 11:08am PT
you guys know better than me , but i thought sar missions were based on facts and systematic proccesses of elimination not on feelings. determine all possible secnarios, , rate the locations among the search perimeter, then search these localtions , anyone check deer lakes, ram lakes , pyrimid peak, valentine canyon, iron mt, mammoth crest, pica peak? all locations accessed from mammoth? i think it's one thing to trust your gut, but isn't that why there are sar protcols?

Some SAR cases are more fun than others. When you have done a lot of SAR cases, the ones that stay with you and haunt you are where you had the feeling to go one place and then were talked into doing something else...when if you had gone with your feelings, the person's life could have been saved...

I am burdened with three such cases where such a deep feeling proved correct. In two of those cases I let someone talk me out of doing the right thing. The first time as a teenager with the Idaho SAR team, I was tracking someone through a blizzard in the Owyhee Mountains and adults talked me into stopping for the night, fatigued from 24 hours of tracking, even though I knew the trail was fresh. Another time with the Inyo County SAR team, the person had actually managed to signal me at dusk by dropping a stuff sack into the wind off a cliff into Schober lake, but the IC ordered me by radio that I was on the wrong lake, and sent me on an all night fruitless search that nearly claimed my partner from hypothermia. The helicopter coming in for us the next morning accidentally spotted the lost person within a few yards of where I had been ordered to abandon the tracks in the blizzard. The third case in the high Sierras on a high school field trip, my son risked his life to bring two drowning classmates from the middle of Granite Lake at 9000', barely making it to a small rocky island. While he was using the last of his strength to drag the smaller kid up onto the rock, the larger kid disappeared. I was running and swimming towards him and had a choice to either climb up out of the water over the rock in warm sunshine or continue swimming around the rock in icy water, where I would probably have come face to face with his drowning classmate. I talked myself out of the right choice, climbing over the rock to reach my son. We didn't find his classmate until it was too late....right where I would have been swimming...

I can't count the number of cases where gut feelings helped save someone.
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Oct 28, 2014 - 11:45am PT
Thanks for the gruesome but useful accounts serving your point, Tom.

I agree too, and it's not news at all that there is more than one form of logic. Certainly more than one form when trying to hypothesize a victim's location. Fuzzy Logic---we have all heard about it--- is one such form, quite a bit more complex than mundane deduction or induction, where many values and probabilistic functions are used to form smart guesses. I would think that an army approach might get to the target no matter what if enough time, personnel, and materiel are applied, but then how blunt can we get? Meanwhile more complex approaches are to be respected, to wit, Chuck's experiences he relates.
east side underground

climber
Hilton crk,ca
Oct 28, 2014 - 12:06pm PT
you experinced sar pros know better than me.........cheers
crusher

climber
Santa Monica, CA
Oct 28, 2014 - 01:15pm PT
Dean has also spent a lot of time with Matthew's Dad, learning about Matthew - his past, his personality, his patterns. If anyone has any kind of gut feeling as to what Matthew may have been thinking or wanting to do that day, it's probably Dean.
east side underground

climber
Hilton crk,ca
Oct 28, 2014 - 01:34pm PT
if you read my post above , i said just that, just putting out some other secnarios for discussion, that all. cheers
Peter Haan

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, CA
Oct 28, 2014 - 02:14pm PT
east side, no one is debating you. What you contributed it important.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Oct 28, 2014 - 05:31pm PT
Some quality discussion here....thanks, all.

Regarding my "feelings" which I shared in my last TR.....

I have had occasion in past years where a "feeling" played a major role...case in point.

We were on a joint mission with YOSAR, searching for an elderly woman with Alzheimer's Disease. She and her husband, and another male friend, had hiked in from Mono Village into Northern Yosemite....ending up in lower Big Slide Canyon, at Doe Lake. On their day to start coming out...she disappeared.

When my partner and I received our search assignment, I turned to him and said, "Ya know, Bruce....I think we have a GREAT chance of finding her, as our search area is the ONLY one that is downhill from the PLS....and an elderly subject in that condition is going to take the easy line."

We were flown in to an LZ and descended into Paiute Canyon, then began working our way UPHILL towards the PLS.

My partner was struggling with keeping up with me, so I was constantly having to stop and let him catch up. We were searching the creek bed, which was largely dry and boulder-strewn. There was no trail in the canyon, so the creek bed would have been the easiest line, in spite of all the boulders.

At one point, as I was waiting for Bruce to catch up, I was standing in the middle of the creek bed watching as the NPS helo came overhead from upstream, heading down towards Smedburg Lake.

As the helo began to disappear far below me, I suddenly had that "feeling" come over me.....and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. Though totally alone, out loud I said, "She's here....I just KNOW it."

I turned upstream, hopped up on one boulder........and there she was, lying face down in an 8 inch deep crystal clear puddle amongst the rocks.

So YES, feelings sometimes can play a part....even from the very start.

In Matthew's case, when I arrived at the Ritter/Banner glacier two weeks ago, it was something different that I felt. To me....it was something in my spirit....as if Matthew himself was speaking to me. I was simply overwhelmed with a sense of his spirit.....it just spoke to me in that sense.

And as I said.....I don't know exactly how to explain that, but I trust it.

Also, as was stated above....because this case had SO little to go on, standard SEARCH practices pretty much go out the window. I truly feel what has served me best, is getting to know Matthew through his family, friends, and colleagues.

Knowing the man makes it a bit easier to choose the mission.

Regards,
DR
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Oct 29, 2014 - 04:57pm PT
The forecast has not changed.....significant snow is due in to the region by later Friday, which will put an end to the search season for this year.

I was unable to secure a partner this week, so did not get back out.

I will be spending the coming months finishing my book, as I recently was given permission by Matthew's family to include his story as my closing chapter.

It's been great that SO many here have kept Matthew's case at the forefront, in spite of no new news.

Never forget....this type of case is not a sprint, but a marathon.

Peace,
DR
SplitPants

Social climber
LA
Oct 30, 2014 - 06:48pm PT
Thanks for the update Dean. Hopefully next summer you can find Matthew and write a nice Epilogue when your book goes to print. Good on ya as always. I am sure Matthew's family and friends greatly appreciate all you have done.

Instincts are so important I know mine have saved myself a couple of times. Sometimes the "feelings" one gets.......one just knows........

Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Nov 1, 2014 - 11:41am PT
Thanks, Brooke....

I'm already working on the chapter about Matthew....and am purposing to have a final edit ready by the first of the year.

I suspect the search zone received a foot of snow last night....honestly, I wish I was up there, just for the beauty of it all.....but I am already anxious for the Spring.....and more searching.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Nov 9, 2014 - 06:47pm PT
Writing about this kind of stuff is such a rollercoaster for me....such a powerful subject....and so many difficult paths traveled over the years. Focusing on one case, brings back so many memories that cloud a good share of a lifetime.

Gets me rather melancholy.....and sometimes questioning whether these mountains are really worth it. What they can take from us can be so damn devastating.

Guard your lives....the mountains are not worth the ultimate cost....
crankster

Trad climber
Nov 9, 2014 - 06:56pm PT
I image Matthew heading out on the last day of his life thinking it was a day in the mountains, like so many other days before. No cause for alarm, just a day in search of adventure in the high alpine. He gave little thought, I suspect, as do most of us, to what an accident would do to others, much less himself.

What went wrong, we will know someday, I trust. That will help.
Psilocyborg

climber
Nov 9, 2014 - 07:10pm PT
You are wrong cragman.....its worth it. You know why? It couldn't possibly be any other way. Whatever happened is the only way it could have happened.
Alpineholydog

Trad climber
Spring Tx
Dec 12, 2014 - 02:51pm PT
Has there been any information as to how Matthew's Camp was found by the caretaker of the campground? Was it disrupted or pretty well "tucked in" like he left it to go on his hike?

He stays in our thoughts...
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Dec 12, 2014 - 03:01pm PT
Matthew's camp was in order, the way he left it.
Alpineholydog

Trad climber
Spring Tx
Dec 13, 2014 - 06:32am PT
Thanks Cragman. I think he went for Ritter Banner as well. It just makes sense given his equipment.We have been up to Nydiver and the whole area leading up to the east facing chute the last 2 years always w him in mind. Glad you made it out ok after searching that chute and east part of the saddle. Very dangerous area for sure.
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
Jan 19, 2015 - 10:29am PT
If this 'winter' keeps going like it has been, I'll be back out in the search area very soon.

Good for searching.....devastating for our environment and the state of our State in general.

: /
Cragman

Trad climber
June Lake, California....via the Damascus Road
May 23, 2015 - 04:28pm PT
Spring is finally here...and so is the weather!!!

My first search of the year has been postponed now TWICE due to snow and rain this month....such a WEIRD year this has been!

Based on the forecast, I'm now hoping for week after next.

The following pic taken minutes ago...yet ANOTHER cloudburst!

Credit: Cragman
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