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Forum Index -> Trail Talk -> Missing PCT hiker found..
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Bernardo
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Post Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:53 pm   
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wolffie,

I'm guessing he passed by point 6952 but that he probably got there by following Glacier Creek.  I'm Fine's description of his trip from Red Pass is pretty clear to follow so I think he is reliable when he says he missed the crossing at Glacier Creek.  This would be fairly easy to do since the Glacier Creek crossing is a 90 degree turn.  The Pumice Creek crossing is straight across so there would be no reason to miss that.  Also, the climb to the ridge from Pumice Creek is much steeper.

Based on his description that he could descend to his right from the ridge he almost had to be at point 6952.  His instincts were good and if had managed to complete the descent via this route he would have made it to Milk Creek.

Possible I'm Fine route while lost.


If you want to follow his story from Red Pass to Glacier Creek check out this Map Link and view as topo.

Amazing tale of survival.  He went from in control to out of control so fast.  His mental strength saved his life.
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joker
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Joined: 12 Aug 2006
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Post Sun Dec 09, 2012 4:55 pm   
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Quite a story.

contour5 wrote:
Quote:
headlight wearing thru hikers stumble happily by my camp, oblivious to the fact that they have just traversed one of the most spectacular and riveting sections of the PCT IN TOTAL DARKNESS

This has always flummoxed me as well.

Used to see the same thing in some nice ridge camps up in the White Mountains of NH along the AT. ANd they'd be the first to bed despite stumbling in while the rest of us were mostly done eating, and the first up in the AM, passing through like ghosts. While it didn't flummox me, as I "got" the idea lf pursuing the bigger goal, it also helped convince me that I really didn't want to do a thru-hike. Maybe doing it in sections with some time to stop and enjoy, but I have put the notion of doing a thru-hike in a single year in the same bucket as mountaineering above 20K ft - I'm intrigued by the accomplishment but have no desire to achieve it myself.
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wolffie
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Post Sun Dec 09, 2012 5:44 pm   
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Bernardo, your scenario is one I considered. The "treacherous pass, sheer cliffs, glaciers, on my left", might be the notch immediately W of 6952, which would look more like a "summit" than a "pass" from the "ridge crest" SE of 6952.  And that descent ridge you propose would be on his left, not his right. (?) Also, to get to there, he'd have to descend/traverse the Pumice Ck headwall, and he doesn't mention such a difficulty.
Sounds like he was descending a headwall, either between the two main tributaries of Milk Ck, or the north side of glacier Ridge.
I'll message him to see if he can clarify, but he mentions neither map nor compass, so he still may not know where he was.
Sept. 2010, I planned the route you suggest, but traversing E, then N around the Milk Ck cirque.  Sketchy, steep, glad I didn't try.  Ptarmigan Glacier outfall likely impassable, no crossing logs that high (needed a tiny log to cross Vista Ck at 4700 once).
How do you do those neat maps?

This is the N side of the Pumice Ck headwall from the PCT at 5700; if he ascended Pumice Ck to the pass, it's off-frame to the right [Bernardo, I also wondered if he might have traversed/ascended LEFT of this headwall?]:

If he descended into Milk Ck cirque, here's what it looked like 9/7/10 from the PCT, looking S.
These look S into the Milk Ck cirque from the PCT.  I think the dark horn is Pt. 6952 (if Bernado's correct, he descended left (NE) of that:

This looks more to the right (SSW into Milk Lake cirque from the top of the Milk Ck switchbacks:

UPDATE:  Ian says he definitely missed the Glacier Ck crossing, so maybe his adventure was descending the S headwall of Pumice Ck, which probably looks like the headwall shown behind my green tent.

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Some have better things to do than walk the dog.   Some don't.
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Bernardo
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Post Sun Dec 09, 2012 6:00 pm   
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It's interesting to try to recreate what happened based on the limited information available.  If he was standing at point 6952 then the route I suggested would be to his right.  If he were on the ridge SE of 6952 it would be on his left.  This shows how confusing such hints can be.  From 6952 right could also be along the north ridge toward the outlet of Milk Lake.

I'm fine is one tough hiker so I'm not sure he would have mentioned every difficulty.  I think the key clue is that he reached a ridge and descended along a ridge to the right from there.  I don't see any place else where that is possible except from point 6952.

It's hard to see how he ends up in the Pumice Creek drainage if he ever descended a ridge heading to the right of his direction of travel.
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wolffie
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Post Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:53 pm   
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Ian ("I'm Fine") kindly gave me some details.  We were way off.  Gives appreciation for the problems facing the SAR people.
"Not 100% sure", but he thinks this is accurate.  Google Earth coordinates:
48.131296,-121.146927  spot where he first emerged at the small saddle
" I stayed on the ridge towards the Kennedy Creek side as I traversed down, describing where it was getting steeper and steeper."
48.127487,-121.15787   about where he lost the camera
48.126455,-121.161904  where he spent 10 nights
I recall that place.  From Kennedy/White Chuck confluence (Kennedy Hot Springs), an unmarked trail climbs to join the PCT, and it follows this absurdly narrow knife-edged ridge to Glacier Ck.  His bivvy was 1000' S and 600' below the PCT.  I think I remmember looking down that wicked gorge.
He did not have compass or maps, visibility was sometimes poor, sometimes clearer, so he may have had no directional orientation., and fresh deep snow cover.
I think he was looking south when we thought he was looking north.  The "treacherous pass... sheer cliffs, glaciers..." on his left may have been the pass SE of Kennedy Peak.  The ridge on his right descends WSW on the north side of Kennedy Ck., and dead-ends at a vicious promontory.
I wonder if one of them newfangled SPOT thingies could get a signal out from down in that canyon?  I feel old.  I know how to use a slide rule.  And a compass.
I carry 2 spare minature compasses, insignificant weight.  You can lose  or forget a compass, and lost people sometimes won't believe a single compass.
Something tells me he'll be back, in better weather.

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Some have better things to do than walk the dog.   Some don't.
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Bernardo
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:12 am   
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Thanks for this updated information.  Really interesting and worth studying.  It all fits together now.  I think the first rule of searching is don't ignore any possibilities.

He was smart to eventually backtrack.   Ignoring equipment issues, the fateful decision was made at Point A.  If he had retraced his steps there, he would have been better off.  If he had managed to descend Kennedy Creek, he might have seen his own foot prints on the PCT!


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Yana
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:16 pm   
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Bernardo wrote:
I think the first rule of searching is don't ignore any possibilities if you have unlimited resources and perfect weather and conditions.

Fixed it for you.

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PLAY SAFE! SKI ONLY IN CLOCKWISE DIRECTION! LET'S ALL HAVE FUN TOGETHER!
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wolffie
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:27 pm   
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I'd say the "fateful decision" was deciding not to bring map & compass.  I found that shocking.  My speculations on his whereabouts assumed he had a compass and directional orientation (although I did note the absence of directions in his account).  I never thought of looking S of Glacier Ck.
I'd assumed even ultralight PCTers would have a tiny compass  and cut-down maps.
A plug for old-fashioned emergency gear:  a mirror weighs little, and they once accounted for many air-search rescues.  Whistles (3 blasts, 1 in reply); he was within earshot of the PCT, had there been any traffic.  A safety-orange vest weighs little and has uses beyond hunting season.  Bright tent?
The lesson I'm taking is:  Look for my blind spots.  What unrecognized mistakes am I making?  What could I do better?  I go solo, no SPOT, no satellite cell phone.  Haven't reevaluated my emergency or first aid kit in a long time.  Don't carry much emergency food.
I found out last Sept. how quickly a fine trip can go bad.

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Some have better things to do than walk the dog.   Some don't.
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RumiDude
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 4:16 pm   
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I have found that many thrus do not carry topos but instead carry copies of pages from the PCT guide book.  They are often completely unaware of surrounding features which the guide does not reference. They often don't know the names of places, just the mile designation, i.e. mile 2105.4 campsite, etc.  I don't know if any of this applies to I'm Fine, just an observation from meeting and talking with thrus.  YMMV

Rumi

--------------
“This is my Indian summer ... I'm far more dangerous now, because I don't care at all.”

"I didn't mean to kill nobody ... I just meant to shoot the sonofabitch in the head. Him dying was between him and the Lord."
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Opus
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Joined: 04 Mar 2006
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 5:30 pm   
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That is true, very few thrus had maps that showed anything more than a few miles off the trail.  I used Halfmile's maps, as did many other hikers.  They were accurate and very useful for anything on trail but if you found yourself way off trail they had no info.  They did have a lot of notes and also alternate maps for common exit points and detours though.  In the vast majority of conditions that is all that is needed.  The trail is well marked and easy to follow overall.  Hiking early season or very late season of course that's different.

A lot of other thrus with iPhones used Halfmile's app that just relayed milepoints and features based on GPS, no actual topo information.  Others used Guthook's app that also included photos.
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Slugman
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 6:20 pm   
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Lots of maps would be needed for the whole trail and environs. I guess someone could treat maps like food, have a re-supply, toss the old ones.

I wonder if something like a Kindle would be good for this? Kindles weigh what, 5 ounces, (some models?) and will hold several books, right? Can they hold, and display, lots of maps? Then you need batteries......I guess the GPS has the same limitation, the batteries.

The real problem seems to be that through hiking the PCT is hard, really hard, and it takes a lot of care in what is brought, and even more in what is not. And bringing maps for finding your way out if lost, at any point along the trail (since people who get lost don't choose when it happens) seems like planning for failure, which people don't like to do.

Anyway, I wouldn't be too hard on the guy, what happened to him sort of goes with the territory, as a possibility, anyway.

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I get a warm and fuzzy feeling whenever I see parents taking their kids on backpacking trips, while at the same time wishing they would go away - Slugman

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wolffie
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Post Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:21 pm   
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I hope I don't sound hard on him.  I am critical, insofar as I want to learn from his experience.  I did make many of his mistakes once, getting separated from my canoe AND my gear for a night with almost no clothing (if you try this at home, kids, do it in August).  My future mistakes will be different, unless I spot them now.
Getting into that situation required some big mistakes.  Getting out of it required some big correct decisions, with some help from improving weather.  He did what we all hope we can do -- he got himself out on his own power.
The decision to stay put initially sounds right.  That's what they tell you to do.  I've heard, "It'll take 3 days to find you... if anyone knows you're missing."  Eventually, staying put made less sense, and active escape proved better.  Sounds like extrication required some life-threatening climbing on cold, wet, icy rock, a very scary accomplishment particularly if he doesn't have a rockclimbing background.
I'll be tempted to check that place out sometime.

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Some have better things to do than walk the dog.   Some don't.
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