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pimaCanyon
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pimaCanyon
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 11:13 am 
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Chris from Anacortes posted his account of their outing and rescue on a PCT email forum. http://mailman.backcountry.net/mailman/listinfo/pct-l

I suggested he post the story over here, he replied that he's not a member and has about 400 emails to answer today, but if I thought there would be interest and/or lessons learned, then go ahead and post his letter here.  So here it is:

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Actually, the bottom paragraph in this article IS about me. [That para mentioned a group of hikers who gone in at the Denny Creek TH.]  The first group was in fact avalanched.  We opted to leave the trail and go cross country (down and away) to avoid this very situation.  We left on a short overnight hike with a forecast of 3 to 5 inches of snow followed by rain and wind.  Perfect to test new gear.  What we got was 3 to 5 FEET of powder followed by torrential rain.  We just couldn't make it out without snowshoes.  Took 7 hours to go 1 mile.

So it ended up with 4 of us in a 2 man Sierra Designs tent for 2 nights.  We immediatly went on reduced rations and pulled together.  We had one synthetic sleeping bag.  The other 3 were down and worse than useless, everything being thoroughly soaked by this time.  I had my alcohol stove and a full Capt Morgan bottle of fuel.  We used that for cooking, melting snow, and warmth every hour during the night.  We also all had to cuddle.  BTW, I'm the 55 year old.

The first night, the snow beneth my butt kept sinking and water came in through the tent floor.  Next morning a river appeared on our left about 10 feet away.  Another appeared on our right also about 10 feet away.  We packed up and I postholed into a third river directly under where the tent had been.  Hypothermia was also a big concern along with dehydration.  I got to witness a couple of avalanches, new waterfalls, mudslides etc.  There is no way to describe the power of water in these conditions.  Unbelievable!  It takes big trees and boulders along on the first wave like nothing.  Sounds like a turbine engine on take off.

It took 3 hours to move 100 yards across the river and up 100 feet to a tree where we again set up camp.

SAR took 36 hours to reach us on snowshoes.  A helicopter made 2 passes Monday but didn't see us.  One came yesterday and we flipped our Thermorest pads at it and were spotted exactly where we told them we were.  In the meantime we had made a path to a clearing so we could get out and do that quickly when we heard them coming.

SAR arrived on foot about noon Tuesday with dry clothes, med gear and food including Gummy Bears and snowshoes.  They did first aid to my feet, and we set off.  We all walked out!

We all had adaquate gear for the conditions.  What happened was I had waterproof socks.  Unbeknownst and unexpected by me, they got full of water from postholing (above waist) and actually froze on my feet.  I couldn't get my shoes off.  This was Sunday about noon.  I had 4 pairs of dry wool socks.  Didn't help.  We chose NOT to warm them with any heat (body, stove) for fear of it happening again.  That was the right choice.

I will probably not loose any toes.  When we got out, between the 12 or 14 hikers that came in, 2 helicopter crews, 2 ambulances, command post, snow plow, sherriff, there were more than a hundred volunteers involved in this rescue.  The hospital fed me twice and I was a celebraty there because most of the staff had never seen frostbite!  Anyway, they also gave me warm IV, blankets, and hung all my clothes to dry. They also gave me morphine even though I was in no pian.  My toes felt like they had a shot of novacane.  No feeling at all.  Then they put them in 85 degree water.  Cool to the heal but OMG did it burn my toes.  This went on for several hours with progressively warmer tap water.

This morning most of the purple color, waxy appearance and white colored nails are gone.  My feet have both swelled to near twice their normal size and they hurt.  Its also very hard and painfull to walk.  Doc says it will take several days or a couple of weeks to regain normal size and feeling.  Got some good drugs though....  Taking today off work (hate when THAT happens!)

Bottom line, $hit happens, even to me!  Be prepared!  This was only a 4.4 mile and 2000' gain hike.  Don't ever wear waterproof socks in freezing conditions.  It was only about 20 degrees.  We were all warm other than me feet, although very cramped in the tent but we survived a great adventure.  Each of us had some piece of gear that contributed to group survival.  Synthetic bag, alcohol stove with pleanty of fuel. A 2 man tent, one ice axe, one set of hiking poles, 2 orange sleeping pads, one cell phone (low battery), we pooled the food and shared everything equally.  The one thing we lacked was snowshoes.  Even with them on we postholed and fell a lot on the way out.  Even the SAR team did that.

We all pulled together as a team, no one got scared, mad, or even testy.  Even moral stayed good considering..  A grand adventure!  BTW, the differance between ordeal and adventure is attitude.  That helped a lot.  Thanks everyone for your concern.  We did have to cashe some gear on the mountain.  It was just too wet and heavy to get it all down. Confidence is high that it will be there when we go to retrive it.  It's 100 yards off trail and well hidden in a rugged area.  It will probably be a couple of weeks to months before we can get back up there to get it.
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Grannyhiker
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Grannyhiker
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 1:20 pm 
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It's great that they came out so well!  And I'm so glad they were willing to give us a narrative so we can all learn from their difficulties.

I'm wondering what weather forecast they looked at and when.  Starting last Wednesday, the media were forecasting "the storm of the century."  This much hype should make one have second thoughts, or at least check a number of different forecast sources.  The National Weather Service was being too conservative, but the private weather services were going all out.

The methods of keeping gear dry described in this article sound a bit like overkill, but in these conditions would have been really helpful.

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May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view.--E.Abbey
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Quark
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Quark
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 1:37 pm 
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NWAC archive for weather, which would have been what they read to base their decision.

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"...Other than that, the post was more or less accurate."

Bernardo, NW Hikers' Bureau Chief of Reporting
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Snowbrushy
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Snowbrushy
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 1:40 pm 
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the Larch wrote:
I suggested he post the story over here, he replied that he's not a member

Maybe he should read NWHikers.Net for info. on weather and socks   smile.gif.
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UnderfootRambler
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UnderfootRambler
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 1:47 pm 
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This is the group in question-  http://backpackers.meetup.com/114/calendar/6803238/

From their trip description-
Never been winter camping before? Great! This easy is the trip for you.

I have a lot of experience with this trail and really it is more of a day hike. This will be the perfect overnight to try out your new winter gear and probably not have to deal with much snow. I can't speak for the other organizers but for me this will probably be the easiest overnight I do all winter so grab your spot early.


Never underestimate the winter weather of the northwest. I don't understand why they only had one 2-man tent for a party of 4.

Sounds like a miserable experience but I'm glad they made it out okay.
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Snowbrushy
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 2:01 pm 
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I'd share my big socks with 'Lisa'   winksmile.gif .
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dicentra
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dicentra
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 2:31 pm 
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Apparently this isn't the first time this group has ran into trouble.  shakehead.gif   I hope they've learned something...

http://backpackers.meetup.com/114/calendar/?eventId=6443876&action=pastdetail

http://backpackers.meetup.com/114/messages/boards/view/viewthread?thread=3607100

ETA: this was getting lost "on purpose" but from the photos, it doesn't look like they were prepared for the weather.
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car68
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car68
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 3:09 pm 
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Nice to read the rest of the story.  I started this rescue on Sunday and was in fact on the 3rd helicopter attempt at rescue on Tuesday.  The wind was brutal and no way to get them, in fact we barely got out.  Between this rescue, the avalanche at Snow Lake and going south to rescue flood victims it has been a very long week.

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I'm the guy 911 calls.
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canadug
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canadug
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 4:15 pm 
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I am glad you all made it out ok.  Things happen and at least you had a few key itmes with you.
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Bergschlawiner
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Bergschlawiner
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 4:37 pm 
Well equipped?
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The may have been "well equipped" however the lesson learned is that snowshoes are essential for any backcountry trips at this time of year.

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Bergschlawiner
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SlowWalker
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 5:03 pm 
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Quote:
We just couldn't make it out without snowshoes.

Survivorman would have made a pair of snowshoes from branches and shoestrings.  I'm just sayin...

Quote:
We all had adaquate gear for the conditions. 

Clearly not.

Quote:
A grand adventure!  BTW, the differance between ordeal and adventure is attitude.  That helped a lot.

It ceases to be a "grand adventure" when you call for help and get a hundred people involved in your rescue.   shakehead.gif

I hope they make a very large contribution to each organization that was involved in their rescue.

Can anyone tell where they actually were?  He said it took 7 hours to go a mile, and later he said it was a 4.4 mile hike.  Either they didn't make it to Melakwa Lake, or it must have taken them 30.8 hours to get there. uhh.gif

Also, not sure how this fits in with figuring out where they were.  They were on a different trail from the first group. 
Quote:
The first group was in fact avalanched.  We opted to leave the trail and go cross country (down and away) to avoid this very situation.

Do you think it means they stayed along the creek to the headwall and off the trail up to Hemlock that switches back up the hill side before Hemlock Pass? i.e. not crossing the log to the east side of the creek at the flat area above the falls.

Quote:
Bottom line, $hit happens, even to me!  Be prepared! 

Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.  Take responsibility for putting yourself and many others in harm's way.
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Gabigabs
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Gabigabs
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 5:55 pm 
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Quote:
A grand adventure!  BTW, the differance between ordeal and adventure is attitude. 

It ceases to be a "grand adventure" when you call for help and get a hundred people involved in your rescue. 


ditto.gif

To me the whole article feels like a bunch of bragging. Couldn't find a single word of "Thank you" to anybody involved in their rescue that would feel like the author really means it.

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Life is simple... Eat, Sleep, Hike!
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wildernessed
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wildernessed
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 6:10 pm 
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banghead.gif  mum.gif
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Jason Hummel
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Jason Hummel
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 6:22 pm 
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I don't like to badger anyone, but I'll say this, reading the above story makes me cringe on many different levels.
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GeoTom
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PostWed Dec 05, 2007 6:24 pm 
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If you look on their site, there is a thank you to SAR.

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