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Overdue Climbers

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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Please be respectful when posting - family and friends of fallen climbers might be reading this forum.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby cjolly » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:56 pm

I want everyone to know that God is real and he is good. Our party (four experienced climbers) got stuck on the needle and had to wait out the storm. Yes we saw it coming but there was no time to bail out from where we were at. We had lightning strike our bodies through the mountain twice. We had to spend the night in the gullies at about 13,700 feet due to the fog we couldn't see 10 feet in front of us. The conditions were terrible. There was rocks flying off the mountain (huge boulders). The storm came so quick and we were so high up that we decided to wait it out. I am so sorry that the two climbers passed away on the mountain. My prayers go out to there families. I do want to say to some of the people posting blogs that you should not criticize these climbers for "maybe" making bad decisions. They may have made great decisions and it still didn't work out for them. Tragedy can happen in a split second, weather can turn on you no matter what the forecast. God blessed us and surrounded us with angels on that mountain. Thank you to everyone that searched for the two climbers and thank you for being on standby to come rescue us. My wife and family members were extremely worried when they did not here from us but the rescue team and Bob especially helped them through it and they all remained calm and prayed for our return. Thanks again to God, he is real and he is good.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby cbauer10 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:05 pm

Timmy wrote:I've probably been very lucky but I generally don't attempt a 14er if there's a 20% chance of storms (or greater).


I am not sure how you climb peaks. I think I have only seen less than 20% two or three times in 10 years. It is usually the standard 20%. I am glad you have found the time though.

cjolly wrote:I want everyone to know that God is real and he is good. Our party (four experienced climbers) got stuck on the needle and had to wait out the storm. Yes we saw it coming but there was no time to bail out from where we were at. We had lightning strike our bodies through the mountain twice. We had to spend the night in the gullies at about 13,700 feet due to the fog we couldn't see 10 feet in front of us. The conditions were terrible. There was rocks flying off the mountain (huge boulders). The storm came so quick and we were so high up that we decided to wait it out. I am so sorry that the two climbers passed away on the mountain. My prayers go out to there families. I do want to say to some of the people posting blogs that you should not criticize these climbers for "maybe" making bad decisions. They may have made great decisions and it still didn't work out for them. Tragedy can happen in a split second, weather can turn on you no matter what the forecast. God blessed us and surrounded us with angels on that mountain. Thank you to everyone that searched for the two climbers and thank you for being on standby to come rescue us. My wife and family members were extremely worried when they did not here from us but the rescue team and Bob especially helped them through it and they all remained calm and prayed for our return. Thanks again to God, he is real and he is good.


Wow!!! What an ordeal. I am glad you made it. And I agree, we should not judge. I think people find it hard not to hidden behind this web posting anonymity that we think we have. We have all made poor decisions before and we learn from them. Again. Very glad you made it out with mostly just emotional scars.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Neil » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:09 pm

I couldn't believe all the people on this forum who were planning on hiking a 14er last weekend. The forecast called for storms all weekend long. To each his/her own but I certainly don't find hiking in those conditions enjoyable and I want my hike/climb to be a positive experience; not a check-off on a list.


Timmy -- I see where you are coming from for sure, but to my point above, the forecasts do not dictate the conditions and weekends like last weekend can be positive while also summiting. The key for me is giving myself the most opportune window possible. For example, I hiked Shavano Saturday and Huron Sunday and have rarely had such beautiful trips. I started at 5:00 both mornings, didn't expect a summit, and simply kept a constant analysis of the weather conditions. Every 1,000-1,500 ft. I would evaluate the skies, temps, winds, etc. Mother nature kept the window open and I thankfully had beautiful summits both days. The low rolling clouds over the ridges were especially memorable! The point is, by keeping realistic expectations, enjoying the hike without the need for a summit, constantly evaluating, getting an early start (which a surprising amount of people ignore), and learning about weather, I don't think it is unrealistic or even noteworthy to at least begin a climb based on last weekend's forecast.

I certainly don't judge and have DEFINITELY made the wrong call, but for me personally, there is a more acceptable level of risk that comes with the formula above, regardless of the forecast.
Last edited by Neil on Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Jim Davies » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:13 pm

There is a difference between being caught out on class 1 terrain and steeper stuff. I'm more hesitant to stick my neck out weather-wise if I'm going to be downclimbing steep rock. Note that all five of the 14er deaths recently have been on class 3 or harder terrain.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Neil » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:29 pm

Jim -- I agree with you generally. My approach definitely changes when climbing class 3 or higher. However, I would still begin the trip, but just take a more conservative approach weather analysis and go/no-go decisions.
"On the edge of the porch in the warm evening night
Throwing the bone for the dog I see two passing lights
Well, I wonder where that driver's bound
Is there someone, somewhere, someway out there that I've not found"
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby MountainHiker » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:39 pm

From Channel 7 webpage:

"A Texas couple apparently was washed to their deaths off 14,197-foot Crestone Needle by a "very violent" storm, the Custer County coroner said Monday."
http://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/24473412/detail.html
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby telehead » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:20 pm

CCSARCAP wrote:Custer County has begun a search for two overdue climbers in the Ellington Arete area who climbed there either Wednesday or Thursday. A male and female both in their 50's. If you were in the area on either of those days and saw or spoke to them please call us at 719-783-0442.

Thank You

CCSARCAP


Was in the Sangres all last week and sorry to hear about this tragedy. We were probably hiking through that same storm on the way up to Willow Lake. It was pounding us pretty good.

Bob, sounds like you all have had a busy week. I'm the one (Travis) that called in that situation with the 2 hikers just off Broken Hand Pass last Saturday/early Sunday AM. Had heard that one of the went blind? What finally came of those two guys?

Just want to express my gratitude and amazement of your teams response. You all are amazing!
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby tommyboy360 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:32 pm

Mark A Steiner wrote:As Nick pointed out (above, sorry I missed the entire quote), these things can approach almost unnoticed if you are on the wrong side of the hill.


I took this photo of the needle and the arete just last week. This picture was taken @ 10:39 am from the western slopes of Humboldt. Watching how fast the clouds built to the west of the Crestones was an incredible experience.

crestones.jpg
crestones.jpg (160.93 KiB) Viewed 2836 times
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Wish I lived in CO » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:45 pm

I guess I'm a little confused when this happened, although it seems no one knows for sure. It seems some are saying that the violent storm occured on Friday (6" rain in one hour, rock and mudslides, etc.), but the news report (yeh, I know don't trust the news) indicates: "Nordyke suspects the deadly plunge occurred Wednesday afternoon when the couple was hit by one of a series of monsoon storms that drenched the area daily last week."

I summited Kit Carson and Challenger on Wednesday. On my way down it started to get darker at noon, started to sprinkle at about 1:45 pm and was "raining" by 2:15 or so. I took down my tent at Willow Lake in a medium rain and headed down the trail. It stopped raining around the switchbacks on the headwall - maybe 3:30 or so. I can't recall if there were thunder bolts or not. To me, it seemed like a normal afternoon shower, albeit slightly early, but not too unusual.

It seems based on the above that Friday's weather was much worse. It was my original plan to go over to the Crestones on Friday. I was in Salida on Thursday and hemmed and hawed on Thurs. about going back over that way to the Crestones on Friday, but decided that Thurs. afternoon not to go after the calm I felt after a prayer for direction - immediately after praying getting back to my wife came to mind along with a few scripture verses that suggested not going.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby MtHurd » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:48 pm

Having done Ellingwood Ledges myself, I can't imagine a mudslide happening higher up on the route. I guess it is possible with that much rain but it would be more likely lower on the route. Perhaps they were at the beginning of the non-direct route (not directly on the ridge, to the left of the photo above) which is not too far from Broken Hand Pass and the mudslides they had there. Maybe they were trying to descend and were almost down when the mudslide occured. We'll never know I guess.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby highpilgrim » Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:54 pm

coloradokevin wrote:I think it is always important to remember that YOU are the weather forecaster when you are on a mountain. A lot of folks get hung up on forecasts, seasonal weather patterns, and times of day. These are certainly useful considerations, especially during the planning stage of a trip. I've bailed on more than one climb (before it started) because of a really bad forecast, and I've often planned my start times around the weather pattern I'm anticipating.

However, a weather pattern is simply a trend; it is not a guarantee, for good or for bad. What you see from the trailhead, and while you are on the mountain itself, is far more important than the information that a guy in a suit gave you on the evening news the night before. Don't be afraid to make the tough go/no-go decisions for yourself! When all is said and done, the appropriate decision is usually self-evident.


Great post.

Nothing wrong about hiking and climbing in iffy weather. We've had some remarkable climbs in fog, mist and light rain. The issues are recognizing the increased risk associated with being out in the wet conditions, understanding the type of weather you're in and not putting yourself where there is no reasonable way to retreat. Knowing when to back off is a skill that has to be worked at.

Having said that, sometimes you just get caught. Like when it's bluebird above you on the east side of a ridge and the front's coming from the west. Maybe you notice the wind start to change, maybe you see your barometer/altimeter change unexpectedly, maybe you just get a little rumble as it approaches from your blind side. If not, you're just busted and stuck till it's over. Or in this case washed down the arete.

In all the time I've ever spent in the mountains I've never seen an alpine lake looking like south colony in that pic earlier in the thread. That picture, and the one of Broken Hand pass with the huge erosion gulley speak to the violence and fury of that storm. I can only count my blessings that I wasn't caught off guard like those poor climbers were. I cannot fathom how miserable their position had to be on that face with that much water coming down. It pains me just to think about it.

May they rest more peacefully than they passed.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby kenike » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:14 pm

I'm confused by the whole Wednesday thing, too. Granted, I wasn't out that day, but we have a pretty clear view of when the storms build straight out our front window and it was later in the day that it happened. Friday, however, was the crazy violent day. We drove through it all the way up Bighorn Canyon, into Buena Vista, then on over Cottonwood Pass. There were waterfalls and rivers in places we've never seen before and certainly not in the "normal" washes....BIG waterfalls and rivers. Then we kept an eye via cell phone on our place in Pueblo West because of a message I received from a friend. That was the night Pueblo and PW had flash flooding from all the rain.

*IF* I had to make a guess, I would've said Friday.....but since none of us were there, I guess there's not any real way to tell. They may have made very, very wise decisions, but these things are building so fast this year that it very easily could've been a surprise to them. Not that it really matters now.

Fact is, I was out washing my 4Runner a bit ago and all I could think was "man, I hope we don't hear of another accident, or more climbers cliffed out and waiting up high because of how fast this storm that just passed built up! We had severe lightning from it, too, which means it was a literal hell on top of a mountain in it.

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