Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27/17]

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby cynthia23 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:12 pm

This info about the clear visibility of the town of JT is interesting and strange. And perhaps evidence of mental confusion, of whatever origin. It reminds me, a bit, of the case we had on Skyline in 2009. I may have the details wrong, but as I recall: two men from Colorado went hiking on Skyline during the summer, and at about 2500 ft the fitter one left the other guy, Robert Liebler, behind (Liebler told him he was going back down). When they finally found Liebler, dead from heat stroke, he was just outside the fence of the Tennis Club in downtown Palm Springs--just a few hundred yards from civilization. He also, I heard, had a half-full bottle of water with him.

Ed, your story about 'border adventures' sounds fun, though maybe not the people falling into the fire!
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby zippetydude » Wed Oct 25, 2017 10:15 pm

Strange story Cynthia. Even before I saw Top Gun (many years ago) I knew that i should "never leave your wingman!" In the wilderness I don't understand how people leave friends (or children, as in the case on San G with the Boy Scout) behind to figure it out on their own. I met a future good friend for the first time on Skyline years ago when he had accidentally lost some of his water. He was lying on his back in the manzanita above Flat Rock, calmly and rationally dealing with dehydration in the best way possible. I gave him my water and, when he said he would be fine, I said that was great, and struck up a conversation with him. As we hiked together, he quickly put 2 and 2 together and, around Coffman's Crag, looked me in the eye and said, "You're not going to go on ahead without me, are you?" It was not a request, he was simply asking since he had encouraged me to feel free to do so. I just smiled and said, "Well, actually, no." He understood immediately and we became friends right then. You don't leave people at risk in the wilderness. Period. It wasn't anything poorly planned on his part, it wasn't anything great on my part. That's just how we do it in the wilderness. How is that a mystery to anyone? I've brought this up before...my first Skyline, I had trouble finding the way in the traverse, so I simply stopped. I was maybe a hundred vertical feet off the trail having followed one of the old false leads that went straight up, so I just stopped. I waited to see someone passing by who knew the route, and then I saw you on the trail. I asked you where it went, and you guided me back to the trail and a successful conclusion to my adventure. It's just what we do, right? The only mystery to me is how anyone does not understand this? Even if you're only at 2500' and your friend has water, you walk him back down. It's just how it's done. I hope I only hike with people who are committed to everyone else's success and safety. I hope I never deviate from that as my ultimate guideline as a fellow hiker. And I hope I am prepared well enough to never endanger a friend who hikes with me...whatever the danger might be.

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby cynthia23 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 10:51 pm

Yes, I agree completely Zip--no ascent or trip report or PR is worth someone's life. I'm no mountaineer, of course, but I don't understand when I read these accounts of things like the David Sharp case, where people climbing Everest passed a dying climber, 'but there was nothing we could do for him, so we went on." It's true that these people probably spent much of their lives training for Everest and wanted to summit more than anything in the world, and that at those heights people have to get up, or down, on their own speed, but for me, I would spend the rest of my life thinking not about my triumphant summit but obsessing with guilt about the poor sod we'd left to die alone. Not stating that as some extraordinary virtue on my part, just what seems to me how any normal person would feel. So yeah, the Liebler case is horrible. Maybe Liebler assured his friend he'd be fine, or seemed ok enough, but still, the guy should have gone back down with him.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 26, 2017 9:51 am

I am in general agreement with Zip and Cynthia, but there are always exceptions, in more extreme cases. I knew people who left someone to die on Huascaran, the highest mountain in Peru. Given the description of the situation I was given, I would have agreed with the decision. The leader of the group was the brother of the man left. Imagine explaining that one to your parents.

I also knew a man who left a woman to die on Shasta. They were hit by a storm in February. Came from the other side of the mountain and took them by surprise. Exhausted and suffering from hypothermia, they dug a cave in the snow and crawled in. Fred was a long-time peakbagger and a member of China Lake SAR. His companion was experienced, but not in the same class. In the morning, the storm abated. Geraldine was not able to get up and move, and clearly going to get worse, rather than recover. Fred had to decide whether to stay with her or descend for help. She was likely to die in either case. I think the decision was more psychological and physical. Was it better to have Fred with her as she was dying, or feel that he was going for help and might be saved? An agonizing decision, and one we would all hope to never face. Fred went down, suffering from hypothermia, frostbite and exhaustion, and barely making it to the car. She was dead by the time SAR reached her. I was told by people closer to Fred than I was that he took months to recover physically and psychologically. I would never question Fred's decision, he was a person of unimpeachable character and competence.

As for helping other people at high altitude, two guides died in the 1997 Everest disaster because they took responsibility for their clients. Legally and ethically, it was the right thing to do. Physically, it is close to impossible.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby cynthia23 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 11:20 am

Powerful, powerful stories, Ed. These kinds of tragic stories are why, to me, I question whether high level mountaineering is really a good hobby. Not being snarky-- I honestly just think the potential cost to friends, family or self is too high to justify the return on what is essentially an abstract and symbolic achievement.

But I'd certainly never judge someone who left another in an emergency situation in which the survival of both was in question. The Everest story was so troubling because it involved people prioritizing an abstract ego goal (attaining the summit) over direct human need.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby zippetydude » Thu Oct 26, 2017 12:53 pm

Ed: I was speaking only of the obvious cases. Anyone could find themselves torn between going for help and staying to help. In those cases, I have full faith that the decision would be made based upon the perceived likelihood that the other party would survive as a result of the choice, not that the one staying or going would be better served. But I can understand the psychological suffering of second-guessing a choice if the other party died, no matter which choice was made.

Cynthia: On that Everest case, I can understand when people just have to keep on heading down to try and survive themselves, but to keep on heading up? Not me. Not you. I can't even imagine making that choice. There may be little that I could do, but simply staying with someone as long as possible before I had to go back down, even if it's just so they didn't have to die alone, would be the only possible choice.

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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Wildhorse » Thu Oct 26, 2017 2:27 pm

I came across an interesting article about the rates of murders and body dumps in the Mohave Desert. Many mysterious deaths. Many unsolved murders and the life of a sheriff in the Mohave is eerie.

All we really know for sure here is that two more bodies were found in the Mohave. And a gun owned by one of the dead. The sheriff may have more clues, and the autopsy report may confirm that the bullets that killed them came from the gun. But apparently they cannot conclusively retrace the events from the clues.

One more Mohave mystery. That they were hiking, if that word really even fits, hardly matters.

The article is good reading for Halloween.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8x9d ... nia-desert
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:08 pm

Fascinating article, Wildhorse, though not too surprising. Amazing how lazy murderers are, so many do not seem to bother digging a nice hole. The desert is ideal for body disposal. It seems like unprofessional murderers further east are always trying to sink their victims in some body of water, they do a poor job, and it bobs to the surface a few days later.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby cynthia23 » Thu Oct 26, 2017 3:17 pm

Yikes, Wildhorse! A thoroughly horrifying read. The most disquieting to me is the murder of the young man last seen in Baker. Some of those ramshackle tiny Mojave towns like Johannesburg are really, really creepy--like Texas-Chainsaw-Massacre creepy. You feel stopping in them would be very unwise.

I sometimes wonder how the indigenous Chemehuevi/Mohave people kept their sanity. Their population density even pre-contact was very low--a few thousand people scattered across thousands of empty miles of desert. No roads, no police, no hospitals, no grocery stores. Just a silent, empty, mostly waterless desert filled with sharp, spiny, plants and venomous or predatory animals and the tiny band of your relatives. I know it was the world they were born into, the only world they knew, but still ... some of their petroglyphic art is very disturbing and seems to reflect a deep sense of terror.
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Re: Young Hikers Missing in Joshua Tree Since Thursday [7/27

Postby Ed » Thu Oct 26, 2017 4:25 pm

I noticed that Barstow seemed to top the violent index rankings. When I was at UC Riverside, I had an evening MBA student who was the city transportation manager for Barstow. It was a financial cases course, and Eric was an excellent student. He liked to drop by my office to ask questions about the material and shoot the breeze. One day I peered into his attaché case, which was sitting open on my desk, and noticed a handgun, I think a 357 Magnum. I said, 'Eric, why are you carrying that?' Eric, who weighed about 280 pounds, smiled and said 'I negotiate with the Teamsters.' I never knew how serious his answer was.

How times have changed. Years later, my wife picked up an empty pineapple-style hand grenade at a thrift store, and slipped it into my attaché case. Having listened to me vent about faculty meetings, she said to put it on the table at those occasions. Not wanting a SWAT team at my office door, I kept it well hidden.
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