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1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Have an interesting or epic climbing story? Post it here.
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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby Fisching » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:20 pm

The problem lies within executing the stated objectives for many in the "I want to learn from mistakes made in accidents/incidents" crowd.
There is definite value in learning from climbing accidents and deaths
There is so much value in analyzing things that go wrong and so much to learn
I like the idea of an analysis thread, people learn from past mistakes
We can learn from accidents
The lessons learned are quite often the most basic and simple lessons of mountaineering, so why would it have any benefit to the experienced? It doesn't
I believe discussing these accidents is important from a learning standpoint.
I do firmly believe that all can learn from accident analysis, not just newcomers,
Many of us feel there are valuable lessons to be learned from the tragic experiences of others.
I believe that every accident has something the other people may learn from and can help avoiding their own accidents
I believe that every accident has something the other people may learn from and can help avoiding their own accidents
This should be a conversation about maintaining respect and finding a way to learn lessons too
As long as it's done in a respectful fashion, and there isn't an excessive amount of wild speculation, analysis and learning is a healthy and important thing to do
It's natural for people to analyze a tragedy and learn from it
I respect the OP's personal wish, but when I die, please analyze the incident thoroughly and see if anything can be learned from my mistakes
But if I do die in the mountains, if there is a lesson to be learned that might save somebody else, then I want the story told
IMO, that would go to some of the courageous posts by family and friends of the deceased who have signed on to SHARE details of a tragedy so OTHERS can learn and possibly avoid the same combination of mistakes/bad luck.
Maybe I have more faith in people truly wanting to know what happened so they can learn and apply
As with many things like mountaineering, you aren't always given a second chance to learn from your mistakes... and that's where learning from others' is important


Those quotes span from the last three years of the annual Redundancy Department of Redundancy discussion on the validity of accident/death threads. Now, I think it's safe to assume no one is against this idea of "learning from mistakes" (if there is, I haven't met them). While that idea can get unanimous agreement, the practical application of "learning from (the) mistakes (of others)" is ugly. Steve's point about "critics believing they take such-and-such a precaution will never allow X event to happen to them" and "how the person performing the analysis can always explain how they would have prevented the accident" rings truer after some of the posts in this thread. I'm having trouble finding the "learning" in this thread as it seems to be a continuation of critiquing the actions of Suzanne Young and Connie Yang.

A few, including myself as I have yet to attempt Keplinger's Couloir, were still left confused even after reading their detailed account. To me, that demonstrates the difficulties which exist when trying to learn from a 3rd person account of an incident; accidents resulting in death take that to a whole new level as the event timeline is lost with the deceased. It's all the more reason why if a person wants to do analysis for the sake of learning to focus it on personal experience; there's far more takeaway and substance when relying on a personal, first-hand experience rather than the account of another climber.

So tell me, please, because I don't see it, what are you "learning" from this "analysis"? I'll even start it:
- Reflecting on one's own experience is the most worthwhile & rewarding analysis because of the full picture of a 1st person account.
- Based on the report of the Ms. Young and Ms. Yang, anyone considering Keplinger's Couloir in the near future needs to take extra precautions (or maybe consider a different route) given the effect the torrential rain had on the route's terrain. The stability is a definite unknown.

If you're the type of person who, "understand(s) that learning what happened can help," and you, "always learn from mistakes," please follow up with something you learned that is more substantive than this:
BHallDDS wrote: Yeah, what still gets me is the decision to ascend into Keplinger's with the weather the way it was. ... If you were truly "experienced in the backcountry" you'd at least talk about bail outs that right?
rickinco123 wrote:They needed to head toward the homestretch which is fairly obvious and well cairned.
rickinco123 wrote: Having been on Keplingers, I would have turned back in this situation, especially after getting in there and seeing how rotten that ravine is. From their story, it does not seem to me they did an excellent job either assembling their beta or understanding it.
rickinco123 wrote:Keplinger's is such a natural line. Even in poor conditions they should have been able to find it and if conditions were that bad they could not find the couloir, it was a definite no go...... at my risk acceptance level.


Regardless of the takeaways, it's worth remembering that no amount of preparation, learning, and gear can entirely mitigate a situation from occurring on a mountain. It's a hard lesson to accept, especially first-hand, but it's vital.To finish, I'll take a quote from Kris from last year:
crossfitter wrote:Accidents are often the culmination of a series of mistakes, poor judgement, and/or bad fortune. Understanding the mentality of how one ends up in an accident is vastly more useful than memorizing a list of do's and do-nots.
Last edited by Fisching on Fri Sep 20, 2013 10:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby MonGoose » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:33 pm

I'm very thankful that the ladies made it down safely and I greatly appreciate the written account of their adventures. After reading their story, it is apparent that they made one or two mistakes to get themselves into a very serious situation and then they did a number of things right to get themselves safely down the mountain. I'm impressed with their toughness and courage in the middle of a crisis. To me, this story highlights the difference in mindset between backpacking and mountain climbing. Checking the weather forecast 5 days in advance is acceptable when backpacking in the summertime in Colorado (camping primarily below tree line). On a long backpacking trip, you just tend to expect bad weather somewhere along the way and you're prepared to handle sunshine, rain or snow. Climbing a 14er, however, requires an up-to-date weather forecast as a lot can change in 2-3 days (let alone 5). The worst backpacking conditions are very different than the worst 14er conditions. Think about the number of 13/14er Search & Rescues each year versus the number of backpacker rescues.

"... a 7-day backcountry hike, a recommended loop from Backpacker Magazine that circles Rocky Mountain National Park, with the last three days partially off trail. ..."

I'm not sure if this means the proposed Backpacker Magazine route went off trail or they took 3 days off trail themselves? I suspect these ladies brought a backpackers mindset into a 14er climbing situation, which unfortunately, coincided with a 100 year storm. In the end, it was their experience and good decision-making that enabled them to get out of the situation safely. I'm glad this story had a happy ending and thank you for sharing your adventures with us, Suzanne and Connie.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby JROSKA » Fri Sep 20, 2013 9:31 pm

rickinco123 wrote:Their beta, and therefore preparation, were sub par, their insistence that freezing rain, snow and then rain is some crazy weather event on Longs shows they did not learn a lot, and their failure to seemingly understand where they even were after the event is astonishing. Yeah I guess 2 engineers who work for a gear company brought gear, at least they were somewhat prepared. . . . . It is quite a feat they got out unscathed but I am not impressed by their decision making.


Not sure that I'm quite as harsh in my analysis, but I can see your point on the "preparation" aspect of it. My route-finding, while improved, still is below-average, so I can’t really criticize somebody about that. I focus on how they initially handled the weather (since I feel like I do a decent job of that myself). They seemed to be going off of a "persistence" forecast for Longs, which doesn't seem like something that's really feasible for a 5-day period on Longs Peak. I'm used to one-day trips, two at most, so I understand that it must be very difficult to assess weather for the length of their trip. However, I remember very clearly that by the middle of the previous week, Denver forecasts were calling for a big front to pass through on Monday (Sept. 9). I remember it well because I was literally counting down the days until the 95-degree heat would be out of my life for the year. As early as Wednesday that week, the cold front was on the horizon for Monday, with drastically lower temps following, not getting much above 70 degrees in Denver, with monsoon conditions returning. We all know that a Denver-area forecast like that, at this time of year, can often signal more ominous things up on Longs. Not necessarily winter conditions, and no one can predict the extreme weather we had, but they should definitely have been on-guard for rapidly deteriorating weather after Monday the 9th, and this information was accessible on their departure date of Friday the 6th. It doesn’t sound like they expected that at all.

I think my breaking point would have been, as they describe it, waking up to a driving rain on Wednesday the 11th. It sounds like conditions since Monday hadn’t been great, so witnessing conditions like that, much worse than before, at 6 or 7 am, that’s when I’d say “this just is not normal, something is wrong, I’m heading back down”. Instincts have to kick in there. It’s hard to tell, but it seems like once they began to struggle with route-finding in the poor conditions, they were perhaps a bit slow to admit “this just isn’t happening”. I can usually make that decision in a few seconds, it should not be drawn out for hours.

I’ve noticed that a few people have remarked “the gear saved them”. Yes and no. It kept them afloat (like a life-raft), but it seems clear that even with the gear, they were probably not going to survive another 24 hours up on that rock ledge. What saved them was their mental and physical strength, skill and determination, to get off of the mountain in adverse conditions. That, and a little help from above, by changing the precipitation to all rain to melt that ice, and give them a window of opportunity. Gear was important, but without those other aspects, they would not have made it because it’s doubtful that any rescue attempt would have been able to happen until late that following weekend at the earliest.

It appears that they gave an honest, up-front description of what happened, how they got into it, and how they got out. I give them credit for that, because given that they work for a gear company, it would be tempting to leave out certain details or change the story. Or not tell it at all. And the strength that they exhibited to get themselves off of that mountain, without getting hurt, in those conditions, is something I can’t comprehend, it’s remarkable. And for those who continue to worry about criticism, and view these two women as “fragile little flowers” that might be hurt by our words, please remember – they got themselves off of Longs Peak, during one of the worst weather events to ever hit the area, and lived to tell their story. I think they are strong enough to deal with the things people might say about them here.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby rickinco123 » Fri Sep 20, 2013 11:29 pm

Forget about the forecast, I am referring to the weather that was happening at the time. Having been in the area they climbed 4 weeks earlier, what amazes me is their choice to start up that part of the mountain in those conditions and keep continuing. If that crap gets wet it is a clear no go. That side of the mountain is really rotten, it either needs to be done dry or with snow ( and its not really a fun way to go when dry). I am amazed they made it out uninjured. My partner and had clouds build the day we went and a mist including a little snow in late August. We decided if it started drizzling and we were only half way we would turn around. If we were beyond that we were going to go down the other side of the mountain and hitch hike back to Wild Basin. The fact they went indicates to me they are either huge risk takers or are inexperienced with alpine environments. Their comments on how surprised they were about the weather supports the latter conclusion. Again, on a crowded mountain, they were the only 2 stuck up there.

I like the comments from Mongoose above, I think that is a great analysis.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby JROSKA » Sat Sep 21, 2013 1:12 am

Fisching wrote:So tell me, please, because I don't see it, what are you "learning" from this "analysis"?


I always try to learn from something like this by actually putting myself into the situation being described. Sometimes that's difficult, because maybe it's a type of terrain that I've never dealt with, but I usually feel like I can relate to a reasonable degree. As you and others have mentioned, there's no way to know what mitigating circumstances someone might face high up on a mountain. Most of the 14ers I've done have been very mundane experiences, but every now and then, a circumstance comes up where I've needed to make a very quick, and firm, decision. You never know when something like that will pop up, but you have to be ready for it when it happens.

Some people refer to looking into someone else's experience "armchair analyzing", that's fine. But I think that looking deeply into a first-hand account like this, putting myself up on that mountain, living the same experience, and analyzing how I would handle it, I do think that it's mental practice for the real thing. It's certainly not the waste of time that the term "armchair analyst" implies. In reading their account, I can tell exactly what my feelings would have been upon starting out, when I would have begun to become uneasy, and the precise point where I would have said "that's enough". And even though I couldn't really relate to camping on the rock ledge, analyzing their decision-making there (ie, head down as soon as the rain melted the ice coating) was still helpful. It's all information that could be useful sometime for me in the future. I have no idea when, or if, I will ever need to use it. But again, when an unexpected situation occurs in the mountains, decisions often need to be made very quickly, with no hemming and hawing. That requires a lot on the sub-conscious level, without a lot of thinking, and trusting your instincts. Gaining information, analyzing, processing, even judging - it's all adding to the database that might help me to deal with some future, unknown, situation, and that's a good thing.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby snowboardinco » Sat Sep 21, 2013 3:19 pm

DeTour wrote:
snowboardinco wrote:The main lesson I am taking away from this(although the weather doesn't sound like something I would ascend longs in, I'm sure I'm a p**sy for that in MP world) is something I have heard before and already practice to ensure. And that is a complete non reliance on battery operated technology. The girls mentioned several times not knowing where to go due to a lack of a functioning GPS. This is not a critique on them because they did a lot of things very well. But more of a critique of technology in the wilderness. Orienteering is a basic skill no mountaineer/hiker/climber/nature walker/ bird watcher should be without. Again not criticizing the women because getting your bearings on top of an unknown mountain in a snowstorm is damn near impossible no matter how many summits you have.

You're still spewing misinformation when you should just apologize for arrogantly bashing them big time in the original thread, based on inaccurate assumptions. They mentioned that they didn't have the assistance of a GPS. That's completely different than "not knowing where to go" without one. Stating that one tool which might have helped was unavailable does not mean they were helpless without it. For all we know their orienteering skills might far exceed yours. I don't have firsthand knowledge of the Loft route, but isn't that Clark's Arrow exit considered a bit tricky to find in good conditions, much less in deteriorating weather?

I think it's time for you to man up and repeat these words after me: "I .... was ..... wrong."



Shut up Troll, no one cares about your self righteous ass. I offered a valid critique of many peoples strategy not just the women in this story. I also stand by everything I said in the previous thread, except they ended up not putting SAR members lives at risk. Something that is also extremely valid considering Colorado was using SAR teams from the surrounding states to cope with the ongoing flooding and I was concerned a rescue on longs would hamper rescue efforts of people not voluntarily putting themselves in need of rescue. Also review the account from the women, while they may not have used the exact phrase "we didnt know where to go without a GPS" they mentioned multiple times that navigation would be difficult or dangerous without their GPS. The fact that a GPS was ever considered a viable navigation tool for these women shows a lack of orienteering skills. Who on earth spends hundreds of dollars on a tool that can be dropped, broken, get wet, run out of batteries, "malfunction due to cloud cover"(as these women stated) when basic orienteering skills can suffer none of these fates. Who is spewing misinformation now?? suggesting that these east coast women who rely on technology have better orienteering skills then someone who has never used one and has never been lost. If they were so good at orienteering why didnt I hear the phrase "topo map" used once in their account?? A hand drawn map from a ranger?? Seriously, maybe you are right Detour, maybe they are far superior at navigating then myself. Maybe they know how to discern topographical features from hand drawn non scale maps. I wish someone would teach me that amazing backcountry skill!!

Not trying to sound like a bad ass here, but maybe you should get some first hand knowledge before you start acting like you know what you are talking about "I don't have firsthand knowledge of the Loft route, but isn't that Clark's Arrow exit considered a bit tricky to find in good conditions, much less in deteriorating weather? " They had no reason to ever go past clarks arrow and were looking for the wrong landmark if they were indeed looking for the arrow(sounds like that is still in question). They had two half way decent options for getting down and clarks arrow had nothing to do with it.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sat Sep 21, 2013 6:24 pm

This topic just keeps on giving!

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby BeastoftheEast » Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:15 pm

snowboardinco wrote:
DeTour wrote:
snowboardinco wrote:The main lesson I am taking away from this(although the weather doesn't sound like something I would ascend longs in, I'm sure I'm a p**sy for that in MP world) is something I have heard before and already practice to ensure. And that is a complete non reliance on battery operated technology. The girls mentioned several times not knowing where to go due to a lack of a functioning GPS. This is not a critique on them because they did a lot of things very well. But more of a critique of technology in the wilderness. Orienteering is a basic skill no mountaineer/hiker/climber/nature walker/ bird watcher should be without. Again not criticizing the women because getting your bearings on top of an unknown mountain in a snowstorm is damn near impossible no matter how many summits you have.

You're still spewing misinformation when you should just apologize for arrogantly bashing them big time in the original thread, based on inaccurate assumptions. They mentioned that they didn't have the assistance of a GPS. That's completely different than "not knowing where to go" without one. Stating that one tool which might have helped was unavailable does not mean they were helpless without it. For all we know their orienteering skills might far exceed yours. I don't have firsthand knowledge of the Loft route, but isn't that Clark's Arrow exit considered a bit tricky to find in good conditions, much less in deteriorating weather?

I think it's time for you to man up and repeat these words after me: "I .... was ..... wrong."



Shut up Troll, no one cares about your self righteous ass. I offered a valid critique of many peoples strategy not just the women in this story. I also stand by everything I said in the previous thread, except they ended up not putting SAR members lives at risk. Something that is also extremely valid considering Colorado was using SAR teams from the surrounding states to cope with the ongoing flooding and I was concerned a rescue on longs would hamper rescue efforts of people not voluntarily putting themselves in need of rescue. Also review the account from the women, while they may not have used the exact phrase "we didnt know where to go without a GPS" they mentioned multiple times that navigation would be difficult or dangerous without their GPS. The fact that a GPS was ever considered a viable navigation tool for these women shows a lack of orienteering skills. Who on earth spends hundreds of dollars on a tool that can be dropped, broken, get wet, run out of batteries, "malfunction due to cloud cover"(as these women stated) when basic orienteering skills can suffer none of these fates. Who is spewing misinformation now?? suggesting that these east coast women who rely on technology have better orienteering skills then someone who has never used one and has never been lost. If they were so good at orienteering why didnt I hear the phrase "topo map" used once in their account?? A hand drawn map from a ranger?? Seriously, maybe you are right Detour, maybe they are far superior at navigating then myself. Maybe they know how to discern topographical features from hand drawn non scale maps. I wish someone would teach me that amazing backcountry skill!!

Not trying to sound like a bad ass here, but maybe you should get some first hand knowledge before you start acting like you know what you are talking about "I don't have firsthand knowledge of the Loft route, but isn't that Clark's Arrow exit considered a bit tricky to find in good conditions, much less in deteriorating weather? " They had no reason to ever go past clarks arrow and were looking for the wrong landmark if they were indeed looking for the arrow(sounds like that is still in question). They had two half way decent options for getting down and clarks arrow had nothing to do with it.


"Not trying to sound like a bad ass here,"

No, not even close. You just sound like a dumb ass. ... Now go back to sleep already. Keep your lame butt in bed.
The beast is in all of us. And so is the best.

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby snowboardinco » Sat Sep 21, 2013 10:55 pm

Going back to bed because beastoftheast is scary looking. See you all on Longs tomorrow whomever is going up!

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Re: 1st Hand Account of Women Stuck on Longs

Postby BillMiddlebrook » Sun Sep 22, 2013 6:42 am

I suppose I should lock this one, too...
Only SNOW will end the madness

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