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#190884 - 12/15/09 12:45 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor]
James_Van_Artsdalen Offline

Registered: 09/13/07
Posts: 449
Loc: Texas
Originally Posted By: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor

So the groups aim was actually for the summit getting to the summit around or just after daybreak in the morning after a 7 or 8 hours arduous climbing in the dark,

I believe this is a common tactic.

The point is to do the difficult and dangerous parts in bright daylight, especially with sunlight shining *down*. That's usually the parts near the summit, both before and after. Since you want a margin for error you start on a track to arrive well before noon local time. Under no circumstances do you plan to get to the summit at noon: you'll have no dwell time, no rest before the descent and less margin for error.

The first and last parts of the climb are usually not risky or arduous, so it's not a major issue to do them by flashlight. The idea is to plan everything around the most difficult parts and to make sure those parts are done under best possible conditions.

If conditions at lower elevations don't permit a nighttime hike then that means a multi-day expedition - the schedule at high elevations is not shifted to accommodate such.

PS. If their intent was to watch sunrise from the peak that's a different matter.

#190890 - 12/15/09 02:22 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: James_Van_Artsdalen]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
Departures on climbs just after midnight have been standard strategy on snow covered, glaciated peaks since the mid nineteenth century. It gets you off the route before avalanche and rock fall from sun warming makes travel dangerous. "Dark" is a relative concept, even on a moonless night, on snow and at altitude. A candle lantern was used for years to cover this kind of terrain.

There is even a standard saying for this strategy, attributed to the famous French alpinist, Gaston Rebuffat (who was renowned for his lyrical description of abominable, beastly bivouacs in the mountains)- "you will always regret starting too late, you will never regret starting too early"

It has worked for me....
Geezer in Chief

#190892 - 12/15/09 02:25 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: Teslinhiker]
Pete Offline

Registered: 02/20/09
Posts: 1372
I took a look at photo's of the mountain, combined with detailed relief maps last night. It's very hard to put together an analysis given the sparse facts. Here's one possible take on the events ...

It looks as though the trio tried the ascent on the Reid Glacier Route of Mt Hood. Given that they had previous mountaineering experience, this route selection makes some sense. This route is harder than the standard route. They were roped on the ascent at some point (according to photo's recovered). They seem to be doing well in the pictures.

My guess ... and it's a big one ... is that they did succeed and make the summit area of the mountain. But it took a lot longer then they planned, and somehow one of them became injured or sick at the top of the mountain. The three of them then dug a hasty snow cave, and the strongest team member (Mr Gullberg) decided to descend back down to get help. In order to move quickly, he did the descent with light gear and no ropes. However, he was overtaken by darkness and the storm, and therefore attempted the descent under very difficult conditions. He may have tried to re-trace his ascent route. Or just as likely he may have tried to go down the ridge on the side of the Reid Glacier. The ridge would be a safer choice if there was any avalanche danger. Unfortunately, that ridge starts out with reasonable downwards slope, but becomes risky and steep a little lower down on the mountain. A fall from the ridge (or a fall from the headwall) would place his body at about the location where it was discovered.

If I was S&R, I would try to get a team onto the summit area to probe the snow near the summit for a snow cave. But this may not be possible if clouds and winds do not cooperate on Tue morning. Frankly, it will be very difficult for the remaining 2 climbers to survive, if they don't have much fuel. They will be unable to melt snow to get drinking water, or provide any kind of heat from external sources. The combination of cold, low oxygen, fatigue, and dehydration is very harsh.

Just some thoughts ... and could be wrong given that few facts have been reported by the media.

My prayers to the friends and family members involved.

other Pete

#190893 - 12/15/09 02:50 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: Am_Fear_Liath_Mor]
Dagny Offline

Registered: 11/25/08
Posts: 1916
Loc: Washington, DC

Hopefully the two climbers are snuggled up in a snow cave. Continued sympathies for their loved ones who have to keep hoping and praying.

Anyone here ever built and hung out in a snow cave for any amount of time?


Officials with Portland Mountain Rescue and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office are expected to make an announcement at 10 a.m. about future search efforts.

Conditions on Mount Hood remain treacherous. Dave Elson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Portland, said the forecast calls for 50 mph winds and heavy, steady snow.

"It's pretty crummy this morning," he said.

He said searchers may get a break in the weather -- as they did Monday morning -- about 11 a.m.

Overnight, Government Camp got about a foot of snow. Temperatures in the upper elevations plunged into the teens. That area of the mountain also was pummeled by strong winds overnight.

The risk of avalanche remains high. The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has issued avalanche warnings for today on Mount Hood.

#190902 - 12/15/09 04:04 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: Dagny]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
Yes, they are marvelous! Quiet, well insulated, and calm. The base temperature is about 32F, usually much better than outside temps.

They can be time consuming and difficult to dig, but there are procedures for handling that. That would be a major problem in this specific circumstance on Mt. Hood. You also need the right conditions and appropriate depth of snow. A vent hole or two is essential.

I spent a couple of nights in Arizona in one, and also in Alaska on Denali. On the standard route on Denali, snow caves were preferred over tents. They were dug early in the season, and were usually continuously occupied for the duration.

And then there was the makeshift cave I tried to dig in an emergency. The snow was deep, but too fluffy and unconsolidated to hold a roof, so a tarp had to do. Not as warm as it could have been, but barely adequate.

Edited by hikermor (12/15/09 04:07 PM)
Geezer in Chief

#190912 - 12/15/09 05:02 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: hikermor]
clearwater Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/19/05
Posts: 1142
Loc: Channeled Scablands
I have a friend who survived the Mt Hood tragedy with the high
school group in the 80's. What it boiled down to is that coastal
volcanoes can have very sudden, extreme weather that is not
predictable. Occasionally true blizzard conditions with wind chill at -50 F. and white-out can happen in just a couple of hours. Even SAR cannot go out with any amount of equipment and
function or even survive.

So we have a mountain that is nearly a walk-up, near a large population center, with generally good weather that thousands
of people climb each year. Once in a while a mind blowing storm
occurs and if folks are out in it, the roll of the dice --

Note the other thread on all the people stranded on
when conditions turned bad. Are they any less irresponsible
than these climbers?

I say, if not for the grace of God, there go I.

Edited by clearwater (12/15/09 05:21 PM)

#190915 - 12/15/09 05:18 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: hikermor]
clearwater Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 03/19/05
Posts: 1142
Loc: Channeled Scablands
Originally Posted By: hikermor

And then there was the makeshift cave I tried to dig in an emergency. The snow was deep, but too fluffy and unconsolidated to hold a roof, so a tarp had to do. Not as warm as it could have been, but barely adequate.

If you have time, pile up the snow, then wait a few minutes,
the moved snow will consolidate enough to shovel out
and make a firm roof.

Just like how avalanche debris or the snowplow berm sets up
after moving.

#190938 - 12/15/09 08:14 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: clearwater]
hikermor Offline
Geezer in Chief

Registered: 08/26/06
Posts: 7151
Loc: southern Cal
Tried that. Good in theory, but in practice, it didn't work. It was a very cold night (well below zero), resulting in minimal consolidation. I was also exhausted after fifteen hours of solo climbing - talk about young, foolish, and lucky!

Edited by hikermor (12/15/09 08:15 PM)
Geezer in Chief

#190939 - 12/15/09 08:17 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: clearwater]
Mark_F Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/09
Posts: 714
Loc: Kentucky
Joining late, a few thoughts (my $.02):
1) With regards to comments about the locator beacons, reread the article.
"Strovink said the three climbers were well-equipped and experienced but were not carrying a locator device. Search leader Rollins said a locator device would not have helped in this rescue."
'This is not a case where beacons would have made a difference,' Rollins said."
2) With regards to Sue and Ben and others who have spent entire careers rescuing the "bozos" of the world, a few thoughts. It is easy to get burnt out and become very negative over the course of one's career, especially with regards to the "bozos" you encounter. Everyone is guilty of it. I have been in insurance for a little over seven years now and already have similar attitudes towards the people who are t0o stupid for insurance or just shouldn't be driving. Ours are knee-jerk reactions to what may at first appear to be stupid situations, but often turn out to be ordinary citizens who have made a bad decision or just run into really bad luck. Everyone is guilty of making not so good decisions and having bad luck, like the people who ride around on motorcycles with no helmets (organ donors we call them), the person who has three accidents and a speeding ticket in one year, the folks who still drive around without a seat belt, or in this case, experienced climbers who thought they could get in and out before being caught by bad weather or unfortunate circumstance (maybe you will admit to yourself a time you went on an unexpected hike without your survival kit or pack "just this once" because you knew the terrain and figured nothing would happen). That doesn't make them bad people or any less worthy of our assistance than anyone else. However ...
3) It still seems they should have made some better decisions (like turning back or not going in the first place), or at least been more prepared. As others have mentioned, we can only speculate that they were thinking in and out, one day hike and climb so no additional gear required. I am not a mountain climber and not sure how much room the gear appropriate for the climb would take but it is fairly easy to assume they had room for some emergency gear as well. For all we know they may have been carrying some. That said I am sure we would all be appalled at the number of climbers who tackle Mt Hood every year without so much as an emergency blanket, bivy or survival kit. On the other hand, we don't really have any evidence to show that they were not so equipped. Again we can only speculate.
4) As with any good thing, in this case Personal Locator Beacons and Search and Rescue, there will always be people who will abuse and take advantage of the services. As I like to say often to get through the day, you can't fix stupid. However, the services are invaluable to those who end up truly needing it. To those who now serve or have served in any capacity related to SAR, many thanks for protecting and serving and putting your lives on the line for those in need of assistance. Please don't be discouraged or disgruntled by the "bozos" of the world.
5) With hopes and prospects dwindling I add my positive thoughts that perhaps the other two climbers are huddled somewhere nice and warm awaiting rescue.
6) Lessons learned:
- make better decisions
- be better prepared
- Luke Gullberg, the hiker that was found, should have had a note on his person describing in detail the events that had transpired and the location(s) of the other two hikers. Generalized, if you go for help and leave someone behind, don't assume you will make it and have a detailed note on your person.
- If forced to take shelter out of sight of rescuers, mark it somehow
I suppose I could go on but I won't. I am also wondering if any thermal imagery would be helpful. Just a thought.
Uh ... does anyone have a match?

#190941 - 12/15/09 08:21 PM Re: Hikers Stranded on Mt. Hood [Re: Mark_F]
Jeff_M Offline

Registered: 07/18/07
Posts: 665
Loc: Northwest Florida
Originally Posted By: Mark_Frantom
... Everyone is guilty of making not so good decisions and having bad luck, like the people who ride around on motorcycles with no helmets (organ donors we call them)...

We call 'em "donorcyclists".

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