Rescued on Register Ridge

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ed » Thu Feb 02, 2017 10:42 am

bobpickering wrote:They couldn’t find the Fresh Air Traverse...


The above is the kind of thing I can rant and rave about. I do rant and rave about people who are unprepared for what they are doing, who make dumb decisions, etc. At the same time, I have a keen appreciation of how excellent climbers enter bad situations. I am also a person who after virtually every trip finds a 'mistake' I made, or a lesson to be learned, or something to improve on. And I am 75.

Congratulations on Cathedral Peak being your first ascent. You were surely adventurous. Why didn't you go over and solo Eichorn's Pinnacle? I am joking of course, not being sarcastic.

I think we understand each other better, though still not quite in agreement.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby whatmeworry » Fri Feb 10, 2017 1:19 pm

I haven't looked at this thread for a while and there has been a lot of good discussion. Unfortunately, we're continuing to see incidents (the accident w/fatality near Islip Saddle last week and the recent death on Baldy) that, IMHO, share some common root causes.

The high levels of accessibility to our local mountains increases the risk that winter hikers will find themselves in mountaineering situations. These hikers may or may not have the equipment to manage the conditions and almost certainly do not have the winter mountaineering skills to manage conditions once those conditions become significantly less benign. They may lack the experience to even recognize when that line has been crossed. These conditions almost always reduce the margin of error and contribute to the accidents.

I'm very glad that things turned out well for Sally and Ellen, but I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned here and in some other incidents (e.g., Zip's avalanche while snowshoeing) if we are in a position to look for them.
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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Hikin_Jim » Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:53 pm

In my experience (as a hiker, not a mountaineer), perfect knowledge is never to be had. One does the best that one can, based on weather reports, trip reports, and one's experience.

To wit: Last weekend, I did a quickie loop from the tram. It was a tad icy. I opted to ascend the Sid Davis route and descend via the main Round Valley trail. The Sid Davis route follows the north side of a small creek and therefore has southern exposure. My reasoning was that because of said southern exposure, the snow would be softer going up the Sid Davis and then as the day progressed, the snow would soften on the main trail. I assumed, based on past experience, that a route would be well tramped down from Tamarack Valley (where the Sid Davis route goes) to Round Valley (where the main trail goes). I was wrong. I found no evidence of a tramped route. However, I had brought a topo map, a compass, and a GPS. Sufficiently prepared, I had no difficulty making the traverse from Tamarack Valley to Round Valley although I did ascend 100 vertical feet too high at one point on the traverse when I tried to follow some tracks (instead of breaking trail) hoping they would lead to Round Valley. We did have a nice lunch spot to ourselves though. :) As we descended the main trail, I found that I had been correct; the trail had softened during the day -- just as it normally does.

But what if the day doesn't go as expected? What if instead of softening, the trail had iced over? I think that's what I'm reading about Ellen and Sally's case -- and I think that the snow was not only icy but unreliable too (in sense that it wouldn't hold them; the surface would break off). Were I in a situation where a) the conditions changed in a manner I did not anticipate and b) the snow was unexpectedly unsafe to descend, I also might find myself stranded and in need of a bail out.

For the future, were it I, I might check my elevation progress more regularly. Maybe then one could decide to turn back earlier? Maybe. Dunno. Again, changing conditions cannot always be anticipated. By the time one realizes that one cannot descend the way one came (even though they had thought with good reason that they could), one may already be fairly far along on a route and have few options.

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Re: Rescued on Register Ridge

Postby Ed » Mon Feb 13, 2017 11:53 am


Thanks for your thoughts and report. You make me feel a little better about Saturday. I set out from the ranger station for the peak, confident of making it. What could go wrong? I had done the Sid Davis route two weeks before, and a couple of times before that. Distance visibility was poor, but near visibility was fine. The snow was hard packed on the trail, and softer off of it. Somewhere in upper Tamarack Valley, the tracks I was mindlessly following began to fizzle out, except for one pair of snowshoes, more recent. And those tracks began to show signs of their maker being uncertain of what he was doing. When I did not break out of the timber at the expected time, I knew I was too far south. The traverse over to the route looked like it might be some work. Somewhat disgusted with myself, I decided to return to the tram station, and have a relaxing afternoon at home.

No danger, and Ellen and Sally would not have had the slightest problem with the same conditions.
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