Mt Whitney fatality 20150916?


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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.

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

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.

Trad climber
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"

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.

Brock Wagstaff

Trad climber
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.

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.

Sport climber
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.

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.


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.

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.

Social climber
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...

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


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

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.

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.


Trad climber
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

Gnome Ofthe Diabase

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

Trad climber
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.
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