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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 dstaley » Mon Aug 02, 2010 5:17 pm

I was climbing with Dave Pneuman, and would like to offer a couple of insights/observations into the accident and storm:

1) the storm was not your average thunderstorm. rockfall and debris flows were everywhere. In addition, even nearby slabs were like waterfalls. Even though the arete was not in a debris flow track, there would have been sufficient water to easily rip you from a stance. Remember, it only takes a foot of rushing water to move a vehicle...

2) the storm may not have caused the fall. Dave and I saw the headlamps of the party early (5am or so) on the Arete. I am guessing it was them because they passed our camp on their way up the trail around 4AM. It looked as if they were already 600 - 800 feet up the route on the 4th class sections by then. We heard rockfall about an hour later (around 6AM). We heard three separate rockfall incidents, each within very close proximity to the Ellingwood Arete. I would reason that if the party could move that quickly through the 4th class terrain at the bottom, they might very well be able to finish the few 5.7 pitches long before noon, when the weather quickly took a turn for the worse. It is plausible that the rockfall we heard long before the storm was somehow associated with the accident.

3) Getting back to this being not your average thunderstorm... I am a research geologist who studies debris flows in Colorado and California. An event of this magnitude is not your typical day in July. Usually, debris flow producing storms are fairly isolated. For example, a 1999 storm in the CO front range produced debris flows within an approx 15 square mile area. In 2007, debris flows were triggered in the Chalk Creek valley, around the town of Alpine, and in the nearby Cottonwood Creek drainage. The Friday storm was quite unusual as we are seeing reports of debris flows at the Crestones, near Aspen, and a colleague of mine was nearly killed by a debris flow in Chalk Cliffs (on the south flanks of Mt Princeton). This was a very good size storm in terms of both magnitude and spatial extent. It will be interesting to see what they estimate as the recurrence interval of this storm.

4) CJolly: That must have been quite an experience. Glad to hear you made it out OK. We were near Brokenhand Pass, and that was bad enough. I cannot imagine what you must have gone through on the Needle.

5) Hats off to all SAR folks.

6) My condolences to family and friends.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby TomPierce » Mon Aug 02, 2010 6:11 pm

A lot of discussion about weather in this thread, but if the coroner believes the deaths occurred on Wednesday (I think I have that right...) then that, coupled with the firsthand reports that Wednesday's weather was fairly normal (ie a non-epic afternoon thunderstorm) then it's pretty hard to conclude that Friday's storm of epic proportions was related to the accident.

While some may subscribe to the "accidents just happen" philosophy, I personally think it's absolutely critical that climbers rigorously analyze accidents. Not to cast figurative stones at the deceased; we all make mistakes in the mountains, me too. But IMO the trick is to avoid making the big ones.

FWIW I've done the route twice, and did each one with a different finish (the Head Crack and the newer righthand finish). There are no vertical sections if you're on route, and if you did the Direct Start there's an easy exit about halfway up, the Indirect Start (it comes in from the left). If Dstaley's report is indeed them, then they were under way by 6AM, well before any weather materialized. So they seemed to be doing fine by early morning, but both fell and landed in an area where mud/silt would have deposited. What that suggests to me is that, because tandem deaths of a rope team are extremely rare, they probably were roped together for the initial pitches and then remained roped and simul climbed up the relatively easy but terribly exposed sections above. One climber falls, perhaps on slick grass or mud due to the recent rains, then the other goes as well. Possibly one was "spotting" the other for a difficult move. The only place on the route that fits for their resting place is the natural funnel at the base of the Direct Start; it's nothing but a deposit area for falling rocks and soil. Take a look at benners' trip report on the route from a year ago, it sort of makes sense. Dstaley's report of hearing rockfall several times that morning in close succession could have been them falling and dislodging rocks.

Yes, all speculation but it makes far more sense than to attribute these deaths to a storm that happened two days later. Regardless, condolences to the friends and family, and thanks to the local SAR.

-Tom

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby MtHurd » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:18 pm

TomPierce wrote:A lot of discussion about weather in this thread, but if the coroner believes the deaths occurred on Wednesday (I think I have that right...) then that, coupled with the firsthand reports that Wednesday's weather was fairly normal (ie a non-epic afternoon thunderstorm) then it's pretty hard to conclude that Friday's storm of epic proportions was related to the accident.


The coroner did not conclude that they died on Wednesday, the captain of Custer County Search & Rescue, Bob Pruiksma estimated that they had been dead several days. His estimates could have been wrong.

CCSARCAP wrote:Lots of damage on the approaches to Arete and Brokenhand Pass due to heavy rainfall.


This is why I speculated that they may have been on the lower sections of the route and based on my experience with the route.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Alpinista » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:41 pm

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.


Ummm... so the logical conclusion of your statements is that God likes you better than he liked them??? Or he was too busy saving your butts to worry about them??? Or...???? But then again God created the storm in the first place so...??? Maybe to test your faith and the Texas couple were collateral damage??? An interesting conundrum; good things (your butts being saved) are attributed to God, but bad things (the storm which killed (perhaps) two other people) was a random tragedy. Or perhaps Satan did it... and your omnipotent God was powerless to stop him????

I am SO confused.

Of course, trying to apply logic to fundamentally flawed propositions is probably the first mistake.

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby TomPierce » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:48 pm

Barry Raven wrote:The coroner did not conclude that they died on Wednesday, the captain of Custer County Search & Rescue, Bob Pruiksma estimated that they had been dead several days. His estimates could have been wrong.


Barry: I respectfully beg to differ based upon the coroner's statements to the media, click the link:
MountainHiker wrote: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


-Tom

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby NickJ » Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:58 pm

Ummm... so the logical conclusion of your statements is that God likes you better than he liked them??? Or he was too busy saving your butts to worry about them??? Or...???? But then again God created the storm in the first place so...??? Maybe to test your faith and the Texas couple were collateral damage??? An interesting conundrum; good things (your butts being saved) are attributed to God, but bad things (the storm which killed (perhaps) two other people) was a random tragedy. Or perhaps Satan did it... and your omnipotent God was powerless to stop him????

I am SO confused.

Of course, trying to apply logic to fundamentally flawed propositions is probably the first mistake.


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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby paully » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:01 pm

TomPierce wrote:
Barry Raven wrote:The coroner did not conclude that they died on Wednesday, the captain of Custer County Search & Rescue, Bob Pruiksma estimated that they had been dead several days. His estimates could have been wrong.


Barry: I respectfully beg to differ based upon the coroner's statements to the media, click the link:
MountainHiker wrote: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


-Tom


I would say that's open for interpretation. It says '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 would hardly call that an official statement. He may suspect it based on hearing reports that there were monsoon rains in the area that day. And maybe there were, but there seem to be many who dispute that claim.

Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby bergsteigen » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:07 pm

Last Week:

tommyboy360 wrote: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.
Image


On Sunday 8/1, from below the Arete. Numerous mudslides were visible:

Image

We happened to be descending from Bear's Playground on Sunday, and saw the recovery effort by Custer SAR. We knew something serious had happened when a helicopter landed near the lakes, and a large team approached.
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby CCSARCAP » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:09 pm

I hope Muliple posts don't come through as we are having severe storms.

The information below comes after interviewing the subject's family and thus I believe a accurate time line. This is the information that has been sent to the local paper by me. Thanks. Bob Pruiksma aka CCSARCAP
Approximately 1630 on Saturday, July 31st CCSAR was notified that a couple had missed a Friday evening flight to Dallas Tx. The report was that the couple, Duane and Linda Buhrmester from Plano, Texas had planned to climb the Ellingwood Arete either Tuesday or Wednesday of this past week and would arrive in Dallas on Friday evening.

A sherrif's deputy had earlier found the subject's car parked at the upper lot on South Colony Road. Family members had given CCSAR a description of the couple's tent which they had found early Sunday morning.

Twenty one members of CCSAR responded along with three members of the Douglas SAR Team who happened to be climbing in the area and meet up with one of our five teams..

From information given to CCSAR the couple had planned to climb Ellingwood Arete most likely on Tuesday. The weather in the Sangres this past week has included very heavy rains, hail and lightning. The subjects were found in a rock/mudslide. Mr. Buhrmester was found 11 am. and his wife shortly thereafter.

From the www.14er.com site of this past week:

We summited then attempted the traverse. We bailed just above the Black Gendarme due to wet conditions / no rope and went down to Cottonwood Lake. About 200' before the S. side of Broken Hand pass the rain cut loose. It probably rained 6" or so in an hour mixed with hail and extreme lightning all around us hitting the Needle and Broken Hand Peak. There were torrential debris flows coming down everything in the cirque with boulders the size of cars coming down most every gully. As we waited it out, we hoped no one was still up on any peak in that area. We were glad we weren't in the S. side descent route. We probably would not have survived. Once it stopped and we made it over the pass, the whole N. side of the pass was wiped out. I thought it ironic when I saw several " Restoration Area, Keep out " signs half buried by rocks and mud.

Flight For Life was on standby and airlifted the subjects to CCSAR Base in the afternoon. Bodies were given to Holt Mortuary from Florence, Colorado.

Mr. Buhrmester, 57 had a Phd. in Psychology and worked at the University of Tx. Dallas. His wife, Linda 57 was a child care provider who worked from home and over the years had taken care of hundreds of infants and toddlers.

CCSAR would also like to thank the Wet Mountain Fire District for providing two trucks and a half dozen members to standby during three helicoptor landings.

Submitted by Bob Pruiksma
CCSAR Captain
Bob

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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Matt » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:11 pm

We knew something serious had happened when a helicopter landed near the lakes, and a large team approached.


Good one.
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A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. -HDT
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby bergsteigen » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:13 pm

del_sur wrote:
We knew something serious had happened when a helicopter landed near the lakes, and a large team approached.


Good one.


Thank you captain obvious! =D>
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Re: Overdue Climbers

Postby Moboy56 » Mon Aug 02, 2010 9:14 pm

another tragedy in the colorado mountains. what is the number of people killed, year to date? does anyone know? my heart goes out to the families, RIP.
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.”
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