Mt Whitney fatality 20150916?

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Messages 1 - 72 of total 72 in this topic
1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Original Post - Sep 19, 2015 - 11:05am PT
Is there any information on the fatality on Mt. Whitney this week? I presume it involed the party on the East Face route just before the flash snow storn hit Monday afternoon. We arrived at Iceberg Lk. just before the storm blew in. Snow blew horizontal for a couple of hours and accummulated to about 4 inches in protected areas. The mountain was obscured by clouds most of the next morning. I understand the party bivouacked Monday night, attempted to get off Tuesday, became disoriented and were forced into a second bivy Tuesday night Temperatures dropped and the wind howled all night Tuesday. Furthermore, I understand that that victim expired just as a group of climbers undertook action to assist their fellow climbers off the mountain. Certainly, without their assistance the other two members of the party would likely have expired as well. I would like to nominate the rescuers for AAC's David A. Sowles award. Condolences to the surviving party members and the victim's family.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Sep 19, 2015 - 11:09am PT
My condolences, so tragic that help was almost there. Not hard to see how you could get caught off guard with the weather we have been seeing lately. I read somewhere that September is the deadliest month for weather in the mountains.
CCT

Trad climber
Sep 19, 2015 - 01:26pm PT
I can't find any news reports about this. Anyone got more info?

There is some cell phone service in that area, and shouting would likely have been heard by the parties below. A 2-night bivy plus a death seems really extreme.
CCT

Trad climber
Sep 19, 2015 - 01:39pm PT
Wow. So this actually happened. My condolences to everyone involved.

I have always thought of Mt. Whitney as a relatively safe place for people to learn alpine skills. Cell phone access, easy routes, other parties nearby, well-trained SAR.

This is a good reminder that the mountains always deserve our respect.
1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 19, 2015 - 03:11pm PT
Cragman - where would one anticipate finding the report once it is released?
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 19, 2015 - 03:18pm PT
CCT

Trad climber

Sep 19, 2015 - 01:26pm PT

There is some cell phone service in that area, and shouting would likely have been heard by the parties below. A 2-night bivy plus a death seems really extreme.

Minimal to Zero Cell Service on the actual EF.

"Shouting"?? Have you actually ever been on the EF of Whitney when the wind is howling (40-70+mph's) and it's shetty ass conditions?

Sorry but this prevailing complacent mindset is precisely why in the past ten years Whitney has claimed over 20 lives and injured many dozens requiring SAR extractions.


FWIW: 4th July 2012 is another reminder of the complacent mindset that many these days have of Whitney and the others summits in the area. Heavy TSer's, which were NEVER in the local NWS forecast, came in and remained for three days and trapped over 78 people on the hill. Several portions of the Main Trail were completely washed out/away and Inyo SAR, China Lake SAR, NANG Chinooks and CHP Eurocopters were busy mofo's the ensuing five days plucking many of them folks from the area. Thankfully I bailed with my two clients from LBSL just after we nearly got nailed by a bolt of lightning that struck no more than 50 yards from us as it all began around 11am and got down to the PL just in time. The NFLP creek crossing just below the E-Ledges was a full on 50' wide waterfall that we actually walked under. It was the worse TS conditions I ever saw up on the hill.

Also, if a party has NEVER descended the northeast side of Whitney (Summit Hut to the MR to Iceberg Lake) before, it can be a nightmare to do so in any weather event as visibility is shetty at best and not knowing where to initiate the final 400 gully or the NF descent can be more fatal than remaining on the summit. Three people have died trying to do so the past decade. The same goes for the Main Trail. Not knowing where to initiate the walk off from the Hut can lead to getting cliffed out on the west side of the summit etc.

Condolences to the family and friends.....
CCT

Trad climber
Sep 19, 2015 - 04:32pm PT
Chief, I agree with you. Whitney presents an illusion of relative safety. When things like this happen, that bubble gets burst. When I first started doing high sierra routes, I could easily see myself in their shoes, heading up under slightly dicey conditions, or not making the decision to retreat fast enough, because of lack of knowledge and also because having so many other people around makes it feel safer than it would otherwise.

This is a terrible tragedy. It could have been me a few years ago. Heck, maybe it could still be me today. That's why it's so eye-opening.
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 19, 2015 - 08:03pm PT
Burch...

Flash flood came down just as we were coming out of the lower E-Ledges. Water was poring down all the walls in the lower section of NFLP Creek below LBSL. The shet happened faster than I could have ever imagined it would. Had no choice but to move fast... really fast once we got to the crossing. It was pretty gnarly.

In hindsight I would have considered taken that route if I ever thought it would have gotten as bad as it did. My primary concern was the lightning and getting out of the completely open and very vulnerable area between LBSL and UBSL.

Word after the fact was over 6.3 inches of rain fell from 11am through 5pm the following day.
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Sep 19, 2015 - 08:10pm PT
That is an astonishing amount of water in that time frame.
Fudgefudge

Sport climber
NM
Sep 19, 2015 - 08:25pm PT
Several of us were camped at Iceberg Lake over this period and we never heard any shouting or whistles. We saw them start the climb, but after the storm rolled in, we could never spot them on the rock. Keep in mind, there were low clouds, and lots of wind and rain noises. My partner and I started the East Buttress climb a few hours before these guys and we just made it back to camp when the real snow started falling. We all had no idea where the three were. All of us were concerned and I have FULL FAITH that we would have tried to attempt a rescue had we known that they were in need. Perhaps we might have been able to hear whistles blowing an SOS, but I really don't know. We could hardly hear shouting between campsites over the storm.
My deepest condolences to those involved.
MikeL

Social climber
Seattle, WA
Sep 19, 2015 - 09:40pm PT
My sincerest condolences.
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
Shetville , North of Los Angeles
Sep 20, 2015 - 08:47am PT
The East Face is not a good place to be in a storm and i imagine having snow-covered lower 5th class rock would be slow going...I remember a story about Chuck Wilts having bad luck whenever he attempted doing that route because of bad weather...
StahlBro

Trad climber
San Diego, CA
Sep 20, 2015 - 09:34am PT
Very sad. Condolences to everyone involved.

I have been caught in a storm on the east face. It can be pretty brutal. When we started it was beautiful, but clouds quickly started developing below us, and once we were above the Shakey Leg, we were enveloped. We only had one jacket because we were going light. The other two were in T-shirts. Poor planning.
It started snowing hard when we hit the granite staircase, and route finding became serious business in the whiteout. The belayer used the jacket while the leader poked around and the third just sat there and shivered. We had a hell of time communicating, and had to actually us rope tug signals at one point.

When we finally topped out we were borderline with hypothermia and passing the jacket around. When we found the hut there was a bunch of boy scouts there, and we must have looked like sh*t because they started backing away when they saw us.

Managed to get down the mountaineers route without trundling on each other, but it was dicey.

Never take anything for granted. Things can get bad in a hurry.

Stay safe everyone.
CCT

Trad climber
Sep 20, 2015 - 10:07am PT
It's shocking just how fast the weather can change up there.

Last year I got caught in a monsoon rainstorm hiking on White Mountain. In half an hour, it went from beautiful to freezing cold rain and hail. We had our jackets, but other parties were in shorts and t-shirt, some with young kids. The storm was not in the forecast at all, and it happened unusually early, around 9am. I can't imagine what that would have been like under more technical conditions. And it sounds like the weather on Whitney was even worse.

Stay safe out there, everyone.

@fudgefudge: It was obviously a really tough situation. You did the best you could with the limited information that you had. That's all any of us can do.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 20, 2015 - 10:18am PT
So, RJ, you sayin' I wasn't too bright to head up the E Face wearing only painter pants, a
cotton T-shirt, and a cotton wind shell?
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
Shetville , North of Los Angeles
Sep 20, 2015 - 10:30am PT
Reilly...Beings that you were probably on top before lunch , i would say no...When i did it with 2 friends , i missed the fresh air traverse and followed these more interesting vertical cracks...Shaky legs..? Being rookies and not wearing painters pants , it took us 12 hours...
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Sep 20, 2015 - 10:51am PT
So just how cold did it get mon and tues nights, anyone know the numbers?
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Sep 20, 2015 - 10:57am PT
At 9000' it was about 40F, maybe a little cooler, but not counting wind chill.
clarkolator

climber
Sep 20, 2015 - 11:19am PT
So sad to hear this. We did the East Face Saturday, hiked out Sunday. We had several good conversations with parties that were hiking in Sunday. Each and every one of the people we met were filled with energy and excitement. Heartfelt condolences to family and friends, and best wishes for peace during this difficult time.
1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 20, 2015 - 11:26am PT
Standing water (in the gravity filter) had ice on it. So something around 32 F. Did not carry my anemometer, but would estimate wind speed at 30 mph on Monday when snow started falling. That would be a wind chill of about 15 F. Tuesday nigh/Wednesday morning was a bit colder and gusts were, on occasion, much stronger.
High Fructose Corn Spirit

Gym climber
Sep 20, 2015 - 12:17pm PT
Thanks for the feedback. I hope surviving members will post / contribute to the Accidents in NA Mountaineering annual.

The devil's in the details.
rottingjohnny

Sport climber
Shetville , North of Los Angeles
Sep 20, 2015 - 12:26pm PT
not being acclimated to altitude or the climate could have something to do with the fatality...?
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 20, 2015 - 12:37pm PT
HFCS... 24-28 degs F with a steady 40-60mph west to southwest wind at 14,200 Mon/Tues eves/nights on White Mtn. Do the math for windchill and you get something hovering in the range of 0 to -5 degs f.

Now add blowing snow and ice to mix for Whitney (14,505') and that is pretty much the same conditions they had on the summit.
1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 22, 2015 - 11:55am PT
As much as we now know:

"Good Morning,

There was a fatality in the Mt. Whitney area on 9/16/2015. The cause of death is under investigation in conjunction with the Tulare County Coroner's Office.

Dave Fox
Sequoia District Ranger
Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks"
JEleazarian

Trad climber
Fresno CA
Sep 22, 2015 - 01:48pm PT
Sad news. My wife and I watched "Everest" in 3D IMAX on Sunday. I was explaining to her how climbers died of hypothermia on the last pitch of the Nose. It all comes back to mountains making their own weather. I've been lucky a couple of times. . . after that, I've been a lot more careful.

My deepest sympathy to all affected by this tragedy.

John
Brock Wagstaff

Trad climber
Larkspur
Sep 22, 2015 - 02:45pm PT
Not sure what the exact conditions were in the Whitney area, but this photo was taken at 3pm on the same day that the three climbers made their first bivy. We were just above Shepherd Pass, and it was very cold and windy that night after dropping 2-3 inches of snow during the afternoon. Also cold and windy for most of the next day. An unplanned bivy (or two) would have been marginal to say the least. Condolences to all involved and to their families.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Sep 22, 2015 - 02:55pm PT
Sad to see this.

My condolences to the climber's family. I've been so close myself.
niccast

Sport climber
Portland
Sep 23, 2015 - 06:21pm PT
A friend of mine was involved in the attempted rescue. 3 men intended a day hike but something happened (I'm not clear on details) and they'd been stuck up there for 3 days and 2 nights prior to my friend and her companions stumbling upon them. As they'd only intended to do a day hike they had way too little food and water and 'protection' (shelter/warm clothes) for what ended up happening. My friend and one of her companions (a nurse) attempted to revive the dying man unsuccessfully. Very shortly after my friend had arrived a guide and his 2 clients also arrived. The guide had a SPOT and sent out an emergency message. A helicopter was dispatched and got the other 2 men off the mountain. The men's only 'shelter' was a flimsy emergency reflective sheet which the surviving men said was quickly destroyed by the wind/weather. Take away points my friend, well, took away from the experience was to carry more food and water and 'protection' then you think you'll need, have a sturdy bivvy (the thin reflective sheets are useless), and she's also considering investing in a SPOT should a similar situation ever happen to her. She also said that the man who died was older than the other 2, she thinks he was sort of their mentor, and she thinks he sacrificed food/water/clothing to give the younger 2 men the best shot at survival.
Edit: all of the above information is second-hand. It is what my friend told me the following day when I met up with her in Tuolumne.
10b4me

Social climber
Sep 23, 2015 - 06:27pm PT
A friend of mine was involved in the attempted rescue. 3 men intended a day hike but something happened (I'm not clear on details) and they'd been stuck up there for 3 days and 2 nights prior to my friend and her companions stumbling upon them.

?
Alpamayo

Trad climber
Davis, CA
Sep 23, 2015 - 06:46pm PT
I almost had a similar fate in 1997 on the Diamond on Long's Peak. I managed to just lose my finger tips to frostbite. My partner was less lucky. He lost all his fingers and toes. I sympathize with how this can happen and has been close to happening to people over the years. Condolences to the families and friends of those lost.
crankster

Trad climber
No. Tahoe
Sep 23, 2015 - 06:58pm PT
We can discuss the mistakes this group made at a later date. For now, I offer condolences to friends and family who are suffering due to this terrible tragedy.
neebee

Social climber
calif/texas
Sep 23, 2015 - 09:36pm PT
hey there say, all... this is awful... i just saw this...

:(


very for family... my condolences to all involved... :(
and prayers, to face the future without loved ones...
1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 24, 2015 - 09:46am PT
3 men intended a day hike but something happened

overwatch

climber
Sep 24, 2015 - 11:53am PT
Sounds like the deceased epitomized "So that others may live". Deepest respect.
healyje

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Sep 24, 2015 - 02:21pm PT
Got caught in a brief, but remarkably cold, out-of-the-blue storm on Cannon in late August one time while in t-shirts. It basically went from perfect to total suckage in under five minutes. Learned to treat east faces with a lot more respect after that.
WanderlustMD

Trad climber
New England
Sep 24, 2015 - 06:14pm PT
Ugh, this is lousy news. Sincere condolences to all involved, and a sobering reminder that things can happen to anyone regardless of circumstances.
dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
Sep 24, 2015 - 11:56pm PT
I'm sorry to hear about this, very sad.

We were in the Palisades and camped at Third Lake. It rained all day Monday and most of Monday night and was very, VERY windy, gusty though, not continuous. Tuesday morning we could see snow at maybe 11500 on Temple. It remained VERY windy, howling gusts just above us we estimated at 60 mph at times. It was not a good time to be up high.


1Oldman

Trad climber
NM
Topic Author's Reply - Sep 25, 2015 - 07:42am PT
After multiple inquiries to a variety of agencies, here is the "official word" on the incident.

We did have a case on 9-16 involving a 45 year old male. The cause of death was ruled as an existing cardiac condition.

Lt. Rob Schimpf
Tulare County Sheriff's Department
Patrol Services
(559) 636-4691
rschimpf@co.tulare.ca.us

Gnome Ofthe Diabase

climber
Out Of Bed
Sep 28, 2015 - 05:58am PT
larryhorton

Trad climber
NM
Sep 28, 2015 - 06:05pm PT
Nice photo, Gnome!


Unaware of the difficulty of getting a backcountry permit, and unable to obtain one on a day's notice, my wife and I arrived at Whitney Portal for the first and only time, in the summer of 1990. We each had a plan. She decided to bag it. I decided to solo it. 'It' being the East Face of Whitney.

I chose light and fast, although I hadn't been doing much climbing except for a handful of classics in Tuolumne the previous week. Didn't have a map, didn't know the terrain, but I had read a route description from the old Climber's Guide to the High Sierra, 1965 edition.

Left Whitney Portal at dawn, telling my wife not to worry for 48 hours. Made a beeline for the East Face, and was blown away by the fast and exquisite terrain. On reaching Iceberg Lake, I encountered a lone camper, a young fellow who was pretty determined to find the spare end of a rope going up. I didn't have a rope, and told him I was equally focused on doing this alone.

It wasn't until I scooted across the Fresh Air Traverse that I recognized the congratulatory whooping and hollering from the kid down at the lake. He'd been watching me all along. Glad I hadn't known that... but he was far enough below that his voice didn't reach me until I was across. Was one of the sweetest communications I've ever received.

Ran into a couple of moves higher that were more than anticipated, but the whole climb was sublime. Summit was covered with people milling aroundóby then it was pretty chilly and windy, but lovely weather.

Long story short, given different circumstances, perhaps the most memorable day I've had in the mountains, could have easily turned into the nightmare experienced by the folks who inspired this post. I especially resonate with the unpleasant scenario of negotiating the summit plateau in a whiteout, looking for the unknown trail in totally blind weather.

That day, I was just starting to drag a bit as I made it back to the campground as full dark descended. Another day might have proven very different.

As it was, I drove to Santa Fe and spent the next four years studying Oriental medicine. As we drove through Death Valley at its peak, the Soviet Union was coming unglued. Interesting times.
Rosamond

Trad climber
Truckee, CA
Sep 29, 2015 - 11:35am PT
Sad to hear. But every single autumn, somebody dies of exposure somewhere in the sierra because folks don't take autumn at elevation seriously.
enjoimx

Trad climber
Yosemite
Sep 29, 2015 - 12:25pm PT
Cool post LarryHorton!! Sounds like a sweet day in the mountains
phylp

Trad climber
Upland, CA
Sep 29, 2015 - 03:37pm PT
^^^^ Ditto, LarryHorton. Good story.
Psilocyborg

climber
Sep 29, 2015 - 04:38pm PT
Down parka, hat, gloves, rain shell should weigh in at 2 lbs. max. Why not??
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 29, 2015 - 04:51pm PT
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
Maestro, Ecosystem Ministry, Fatcrackistan

Sep 25, 2015 - 07:46am PT
I'm super curious - what was the weather report for 9/16 as of, say, 9/13? Do any ;of you who were up in the mountains that day happen to know? Was it totally unexpected? Or forecasted?

40% Chance of TSers and Snow mix above 10K for the entire Eastside them three days.

I was fishing at 10K' 32 miles north of Whitney on that exact day and was expecting per the local NWS Area Forecast and got Gropple, wind and temps in low to mid 40's....

Gene

climber
Sep 29, 2015 - 05:01pm PT
Hey Eastsiders,

What is your most reliable WX source for the Sierra?

Thanks,
Gene

Vitus

Trad climber
California
Sep 29, 2015 - 05:03pm PT
It is easy to get complacent about the weather in sunny California. Many years ago, in mid July, I climbed the East Face of Whitney with a friend. At 6:00 AM we were in tee shirts at Iceberg Lake enjoying the clear blue skies and warm weather. I packed a full shell suit and extra layers in my day pack. My friend looked at me like I was crazy. I insisted he pack extra layers much to his disgust. I had too many recent close calls with the Sierra weather to let my guard down.

While climbing the Giant Staircase clouds came streaming around from the southwest. Nice photo opportunity!


In twenty minutes we were enveloped by a snow storm. We wiped snow out of the holds on mostly 4th class climbing. We reached the summit in a whiteout. We wandered around in the whiteout and finally found the stone hut on the summit. Thirty minutes later a couple came through the door in shorts and tee shirts shivering. They were on the East Buttress. Luckily my shell suit kept me warm and I loaned my other layers to the couple. Three hours later the storm abated leaving about eight inches of powder snow on the summit.

Fast forward fifteen years of perfect Sierra weather. My son and I did the South Lake and North Lake loop through Evolution Valley during August with a southern flow of moisture coming up from Mexico. We got soaked to the skin and almost hypothermic going down into Le Conte Canyon. I thought the thunderstorm would be over quickly so we just wore our shell tops and neglected to cover our packs or wear our shell pants. The intense storm lasted four hours. Complacency almost ruined our trip. Everything inside our packs was soaking wet. Some lessons require repeated self inflicted beatings before sinking in!
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 29, 2015 - 05:07pm PT
Gene...

I have been relying on NWS Reno for over 14 years that I have lived on the Eastside (Crowley/Bishop). I know the forecasters from my days as a Weateher Observer at MML Airport and they are pretty good and accurate.

http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lat=37.52937379999999&lon=-118.36344539999999&site=all&smap=1&searchresult=Chalfant%20Valley%2C%20CA%2093514%2C%20USA#.VgsohmtM2e2

http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=REV&issuedby=REV&product=AFD&format=CI&version=1&glossary=1
steelmnkey

climber
Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Sep 29, 2015 - 05:10pm PT
Amazing the difference a month can make.

A buddy and I did the East Face "old guy style" (none o' that car 2 car sh*t) in mid August and it was pretty amazing how warm it was up at Iceberg Lake at night and almost hot on the route. I think it was like 105 down in Lone Pine then, though.

Condolences to the friends and family of the fallen.
Tony Bocanegra

Trad climber
Rancho Cucamonga,Ca
Sep 29, 2015 - 10:38pm PT
Here is a pic taken from the Summit of Russell on Sept 15th. I planned on heading up Whitney on the 16th but scraped my plans and headed home early after a longer than anticipated day on Russell's snow covered East Ridge. My condolences to the family and friends.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
Sep 30, 2015 - 08:12am PT
From The Kaweah Commonwealth:

Wednesday, Sept. 16: Rangers managed a search-and-rescue and death investigation for a Mount Whitney hiker:
After reaching the summit of Mount Whitney (elevation 14,505 feet), David Hulting, 45, of Whittier was hiking down the trail and at about 13,500 feet elevation when he collapsed and died. Park rangers transported the victim off the mountain where he was then taken to the Tulare County Coroner's Office. After an autopsy, the coroner determined that Hulting had a pre-existing medical condition and had died of natural causes.
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 30, 2015 - 08:44am PT
Interesting synopsis.

Sadly, my Client that died at 10.2K' on the approach to Langley several years back had pretty much the same media statement back at his home front.

The reality after the fact was that he had absolutely no business being anywhere near that altitude nor signing up for the specific event that ended in his tragic death. He too had "pre-existing" health issues that he was warned about by both his physician and direct family prior to getting on the trip but did not disclose that info to the org he was climbing with that hired us for this particular climbing event. His actual cause of death was HAPE due to those health issues.


Again, condolences to the family and friends.
Hoots

climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Sep 30, 2015 - 09:35am PT
Right. So I was told the full story by a colleague, the guide who found the party wandering around on top, and no matter what pre-existing medical condition you might have, spending THREE days ascending the EF in gnarly conditions has got to be seen as the main culprit.

This season has seen more overnight/unplanned bivy/very late return to camp ascents of the EF and EB than I have witnessed before. Lots of people getting in over their head. I mean, there always are, but it seems like it has really picked up this year. If nothing else hopefully this unfortunate accident can wake a few people up to the importance of solid judgement and decision making in the mountains, even if they are CA mountains...
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 30, 2015 - 09:44am PT
This season has seen more overnight/unplanned bivy/very late return to camp ascents of the EF and EB than I have witnessed before. Lots of people getting in over their head. I mean, there always are, but it seems like it has really picked up this year. If nothing else hopefully this unfortunate accident can wake a few people up to the importance of solid judgement and decision making in the mountains, even if they are CA mountains...

Good and very accurate post, IMO.


Thanks HOOTS for being... brutally forthright.
CCT

Trad climber
Sep 30, 2015 - 10:05am PT
If I follow this correctly:

A party ascends the East Face of Whitney. Due to bad weather, they bivy for two nights on the route. People at the base know that they started the climb, and did not return to their tents, but cannot see their progress on the route itself due to bad weather.

On the third day the party tops out. One of their members perishes after they are on the summit. They are then found by a guide who activates SAR.

What a terrible tragedy!

10b4me

Social climber
Sep 30, 2015 - 10:46am PT
This season has seen more overnight/unplanned bivy/very late return to camp ascents of the EF and EB than I have witnessed before. Lots of people getting in over their head. I mean, there always are, but it seems like it has really picked up this year. If nothing else hopefully this unfortunate accident can wake a few people up to the importance of solid judgement and decision making in the mountains, even if they are CA mountains...

when I climbed the east face(many years ago), we started off in sunny weather. The clouds moved in, and we heard thunder, but there was no lightning, and no rain. We topped out above the clouds, and descended the MR.
Back at camp we could here people talking on the east face. We looked up and saw four or five people hanging out on the Washboard. This was late in the day, clouds were lowering, and it was getting colder. Don't know what happened as we hiked back to the car.
Dapper Dan

Trad climber
Redwood City
Sep 30, 2015 - 05:07pm PT
I'm wondering why they didn't seek shelter in the little cabin on the summit after they summited? Every time I've been up on Whitney (6 or 7 times) , the cabin door has been open ...
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Sep 30, 2015 - 06:08pm PT
I'm wondering why they didn't seek shelter in the little cabin on the summit after they summited? Every time I've been up on Whitney (6 or 7 times) , the cabin door has been open ...

Place is an ice box, ice on the floor freezes the door open and can coat the stone bench inside.
The Chief

climber
Down the hill & across the Valley from......
Sep 30, 2015 - 07:35pm PT
And... that stone hut is the WORST place to be on this planet during a TSer. There's even WARNING signs all over it telling you so.
Radish

Trad climber
SeKi, California
Oct 1, 2015 - 10:54am PT
Your right about the hut Chief! People have gotten struck by Lighting inside! And I'm not sure they made it out!
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
Oct 1, 2015 - 10:58am PT
Sadly there have been deaths in the hut from lightning.
Jon Beck

Trad climber
Oceanside
Oct 1, 2015 - 11:52am PT
I was on the summit in late 80s or early 90s and recall seeing a crew putting in lightning rods, I believe it was in response to multiple lightning strike deaths in the hut. Has there been deaths since then?
Ryan-G

Mountain climber
San Diego
Oct 1, 2015 - 08:57pm PT
i believe a number of people died in the hut in the mid to late 90's. This tragedy brings to mind a recent post on Mountain Project about going lite alpine climbing. A number of people suggested just a wind shirt for Sierra alpine in summer. Although I have no idea what the party in question was carrying gear wise, the weather event, I think, points to the fact that carrying just a wind shirt, even in the Sierra, is very risky. Yes, 9 out of 10 times you might move faster, which ups safety, but that 1 time when rain gear/insulation is necessary could result in tragedy. Again, not to say that this team wasn't prepared, but the weather event itself is a good reminder, for me at least, that carrying that extra 16oz of insulation/weather protection may save your life one day, even if it results in you climbing routes 30 minutes slower 9 out of 10 times. My condolences to the families and friends of all involved. Let's climb safe, even if it is E Face of Whitney.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Oct 1, 2015 - 09:16pm PT
points to the fact that carrying just a wind shirt, even in the Sierra, is very risky.

CAN be risky. It CAN be risky to go get something out of your car in shorts and flip flops if it is snowing outside and you accidentally lock yourself out. It CAN be risky to bring light layers, but just as in all things, black and white does not exist and people have to use their best judgement. I've done 14'ers with a water bottle and a pocket of Gu and was safer than many parties carrying the whole kit and caboodle. Prevention beats preparedness sometimes.
Ryan-G

Mountain climber
San Diego
Oct 1, 2015 - 09:27pm PT
CAN be risky. It CAN be risky to go get something out of your car in shorts and flip flops if it is snowing outside and you accidentally lock yourself out. It CAN be risky to bring light layers, but just as in all things, black and white does not exist and people have to use their best judgement. I've done 14'ers with a water bottle and a pocket of Gu and was safer than many parties carrying the whole kit and caboodle. Prevention beats preparedness sometimes.


Don't know how to quote but, in reply:

Yes, I guess, everything can be risky. Including driving to work. I get your overall point, but I'm not sure how carrying 160z of potentially life-saving safety equates to "prevention". Would 16oz really make or break your getting up and off a route safely? If so, you're probably climbing at a way higher level and limit than 99% of us. I too have been up multiple 14s with nothing but a wind shirt or less. I almost spent a night on N Ridge of Darwin 100ft below summit with nothing. Fear of hypothermia got me to solo the rest in running shoes...I was 25, and haven't made that mistake again.

I get "prevention" but I don't think 16oz is in that equation. Experience, good sense, good conditioning, mentally and physically, are all in there...but not cutting 16oz that may save you in the Black Swan event.

And, I'm just going to guess, might be wrong, but that by doing "14ers" with just GU and water bottle you mean hiking? No rack, rope, partner? yeah, well, hiking a "14er" is a little bit different than climbing one. I hiked a 14er butt naked once!
clinker

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, California
Oct 1, 2015 - 10:10pm PT
. Yes, 9 out of 10 times you might move faster, which ups safety, but that 1 time when rain gear/insulation is necessary could result in tragedy.

Mt Whitney East face 1981 was my first time up from Iceberg Lake via the East Face. Two of the six of our party tried a variation, got in over their heads, and didn't top out until the next morning.

The other four of us decided to bivy in the hut and wait for our friends. This consisted of sitting on our ropes laid out on the ice covered bench and taking turns sandwiched in the middle away from the cold wind blowing through the door. It was my first unplanned bivy, with no sleep, good stories and very cold compared to anything I had experienced at 16 years old.

Our friends on the face spotted a pack on a ledge beneath them and were able to retrieve it. The contents helped make their night on the face bearable. A father/son team had dropped it and were happy to get their pack and film back.

My attitude toward the mountain has varied. A cheeky sub-4hr ascent from Portal up the Mountaineers Route, to the time we trained, and in the best shape of our lives and had our asses handed to us by the altitude. I learned to respect the mountain.

Over the last 3 1/2 decades I have seen the mountain change, the summer snow and ice have pretty much gone, but still on our latest trip up the trail I noted a slightly blue hiker descending in Birkenstock's, a t-shirt and shorts on a windy afternoon. One of my four brothers, Chris woke me up at 10:30 that night saying he could't breath. We broke camp in 10 minutes and started to head down taking turns with his pack. After about 20 minutes he started hallucinating and had no clue where he was, then it started raining. He was in bad shape, ended up in the hospital with a collapsed lung. I was scared we were going to loose him on the way down.

Chris was the fourth person I had helped evac off the mountain. The altitude alone is enough to kill you. Add weather and bringing no emergency gear and you could be neck deep in trouble fast.

The mountains collect tolls at their own whim, evade what you can but your not going to get out scot-free every time.
10b4me

Social climber
Oct 2, 2015 - 11:47am PT
Back in October(2008) my buddy, and I went in to climb the SE face on Emerson. We slept in the parking lot at North lake, and woke up to bluebird skies.
this was three hours later.
needless to say, we didn't get on the route.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Oct 2, 2015 - 10:11pm PT
The East Face of Whitney with its moderate rating, located in an area renowned for good weather and close to a large population base will continue to attract climbers who are prepared for the ascent if all goes well. Unfortunately, mountains worldwide that look so inticing on warm sunny days become traps at the slightest whim of mother nature.

Look at the records on such moderate peaks as Mount Hood and Mount Washington. Tragedies like this will serve as warnings for some but go unheeded by many.
apogee

climber
Technically expert, safe belayer, can lead if easy
Oct 2, 2015 - 10:17pm PT
There was a lightning-related death in the early 90's in the Whitney shelter that resulted in a wrongful death suit against the NPS, saying that shelter was an 'attractive nuisance', that somehow lured this unsuspecting human being to his demise.

Prior to that incident, there was no grounding system on the shelter, nor that warning placard on the door. However, the NPS had documented in the past that this shelter (built for astronomy purposes decades earlier) did not have any such grounding system. When the legal counsel of the shockingly departed discovered this, the case was pretty much sealed against the NPS.

Thus the current grounding system, and placard on the door.
Myles Moser

climber
Lone Pine, Ca
Oct 2, 2015 - 11:44pm PT
Drop it.
GDavis

Social climber
SOL CAL
Oct 5, 2015 - 09:26pm PT
I don't think a simple wind shell is enough to make substantial differences in the back country during severe storms as compared to several other items just as compact as a rain shell that can collectively weigh less than 16 ounces - a space blanket, compass, map, headlamp and pair of gloves / hat, to start.

I get that rain shells are helpful, but so are so many more myriad of things. Should they have had one? Probably. Whatever happened it sounds like a rain shell is not enough to have fixed the myriad of issues.
clarkolator

climber
Oct 6, 2015 - 09:00am PT
So sad. These were the guys I met at Lower Boy Scout Lake when I was hiking out. They were really psyched.

We talked about the route, how my partner and I took forever to find the Fresh Air Traverse, and where to go when you get there. I mentioned that our 30 pound pack made following miserable, and the guy who later died gestured to his pack, which was visibly larger than his companion's packs, or mine for that matter. He said "See how big my pack is? I'm making a point about how important it is to carry everything and be prepared!"
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