learning from other people's mistakes on Skyline

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learning from other people's mistakes on Skyline

Postby bcrowell » Sun May 20, 2012 9:38 am

After following the recent long and somewhat contentious thread on heat-related risks on Skyline, I decided to comb through RMRU's public descriptions of summertime deaths and rescue missions on Skyline and take some notes. This is in reverse chronological order. I'm sure it isn't a comprehensive list. It's mostly just what I found on RMRU's site.

Mark Alexander, died 2012 May 18, age 54.
High temperature of 92 in Palm Springs. Found on Lykken Trail at 6:10 pm.
http://www.mydesert.com/article/2012052 ... rail-named

Jim Lieser, 2012 May 15, survived
High of 101 in PS. Started hiking down from the tram at 9 am. Made a cell phone call at 4:30 pm at 2500', was helicoptered out.
http://www.mydesert.com/article/2012051 ... ated-hiker
[added May 21 - Ben]

William Carroll, age 65, from Palm Springs, found dead 2009 July 19
http://www.inlandnewstoday.com/story.php?s=9619
http://www.michaelgingrich.com/mytests/Text_List.htm

Robert Allen Liebler, age 64, from Ft. Collins, CO, died 2009 July 18
High of 116 in PS. Liebler and a hiking partner had intended to start up Lykken Trail at 2 am for a c2c. They actually started up at 3:45 a.m. They got lost multiple times in the dark. At 6 am, about 3 miles in (about 2500-3000'?), Liebler started cramping, so he turned around and told his partner to go ahead without him. Liebler was found dead around noon the following day. He was off the trail, about 200 yards away from a tennis club, sitting upright, with water still remaining in his bottle.
http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local ... Trail.html
http://www.math.colostate.edu/~betten/BOB/bob.html
http://www.inlandnewstoday.com/story.php?s=9619
http://www.michaelgingrich.com/mytests/Text_List.htm
[added May 21 - Ben]

Alexander Todd Major, died 2009 may 17, age 28.
High of 105 in PS. Started up Skyline at 6 am with his girlfriend. They apparently were not in good enough physical condition for the hike, and turned around at about 4000-5000'. He died at 1:30 pm at the picnic tables (1300').
http://mtsanjacinto.info/viewtopic.php?t=1499
http://www.hikerhell.com/2009/05/man-di ... sert-hike/

2008 Sep 4, survived
Hiker didn't turn left in front of Coffman's Crag, ended up stuck in Chino Cyn. Called 911 on her cell phone, and eventually they talked her out and she exited by herself.
http://www.rmru.org/missions/2008/2008-029.html

Sean Stewart, 2000 July 1, age 32, survived.
High of 106 in PS. Started up Skyline at 10 am. Turned down Tahquitz Cyn for water. Made a signal fire, which went out of control. Rescued by helicopter.
http://www.rmru.org/missions/2000/2000-017.htm

1997 Jun 15, survived
Got lost descending Skyline, wandered into Tahquitz Canyon. Overdue to exit, RMRU found and extricated him in a helicopter.
http://www.rmru.org/missions/1990s/1997-018.htm

Mike Blotter, 1976 Aug 16, survived.
High of 93 in PS. Carrying two army canteens, intending to stay out overnight. Ran out of water at 3800'. Walked out Tahquitz Canyon while RMRU was searching for him on Skyline.
http://www.rmru.org/missions/1970s/1976-038.htm

A common denominator is that a lot of these people seem to have started much too late in the day (in addition to the risk factor of attempting Skyline in the summer at all).

I hadn't known how common it was for people in trouble to end up in Tahquitz Canyon, either because they get lost or because they intentionally decide to retreat that way rather than coming back down Skyline. It would be good to get comments from people who know about Tahquitz Canyon about whether this is a reasonable last-ditch survival strategy. Apparently there is water there, and I suppose it might have some shade, so if you're in danger of dying of heat stroke, maybe it makes sense to go there...? But it violates the rule of staying put when you're in trouble so that people can find you, and it also sounds like the majority of these people are unable to get out of Tahquitz Canyon under their own power, and have to be helicoptered out.

A lot of people got lost. Clearly anybody who's not pretty familiar with the trail should not be attempting it alone. I'm sure a lot of people doing it for the first time don't understand that it's really a cross-country route with a use trail along parts of it. They probably hear "Skyline Trail" and imagine a maintained trail.
Last edited by bcrowell on Tue May 22, 2012 8:12 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Rescue 5/15

Postby Jill G » Sun May 20, 2012 9:57 am

Here's the 5/15 rescue, highlights the danger of hiking down. These two planned to come down, but I'm posting it to emphasize Cynthia's point that it's a committed hike UP when temps are high.

Palm Springs police rescued a hiker after he became overwhelmed by the heat and couldn't walk anymore, police said Monday.

The hiker, identified as Jim Lieser, and his friend started their hike down the Skyline Trail from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway about 9 a.m. Sunday.

Lieser called his family about 4:30 p.m. and said he was “distressed from the heat and unable to walk any farther,” Sgt. Marc Melanson said. He was at about 2,500 feet.

The family called 911, and the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue Unit was sent to rescue him, with help from the California Highway Patrol.

The volunteer rescuers airlifted Lieser to a landing zone on the ground level in Palm Springs, treated him for dehydration and took him to a nearby hospital.

Police issued a reminder Monday for hikers to be cautious as the temperature continues to climb.
Last edited by Jill G on Sun May 20, 2012 10:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby Nick-SJM » Sun May 20, 2012 10:01 am

bcrowell,

Thanks for the information. Of course, this is only part of the story on Skyline. Any self rescues, rescues by other hikers, rescues by Palm Springs Mounted Posse (not actually on horseback up Skyline), rescues by the State Park, rescues by the County Sheriff's helicopter without RMRU asistance and others that I have forgotten to mention, do not show on the RMRU website.

As far as Tahquitz Canyon (and Long Valley Creek canyon- that's where John Donovan died) can be very dangerous. Lots of "dry" waterfalls (steep cliffs) and terrible vegetation. Not a good idea to go down it.
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Re: learning from other people's mistakes on Skyline

Postby Florian » Sun May 20, 2012 12:44 pm

bcrowell wrote:Mike Blotter, 1976 Aug 16, survived.


I know Mike. He's the older brother of one of my best friends while growing up in Palm Springs.

-Florian
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Re: learning from other people's mistakes on Skyline

Postby bcrowell » Sun May 20, 2012 1:02 pm

Florian wrote:I know Mike. He's the older brother of one of my best friends while growing up in Palm Springs.

It would be interesting to know how the heck he made it out of Tahquitz Canyon solo, unprepared, and without ropes.
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Postby skunkboy » Sun May 20, 2012 9:55 pm

Howdy Florian. Yeah I know Mike and Tom too. All I can say is that those Blotter's are a wild bunch. Bcrowell, the canyon can be walked/scrambled from Ramon/Mesquite all the way up to where Tahquitz creek splits, with one branch going up to Long Valley, and the other heading up to Carumba Camp. From that point it gets really steep. The creeks go up huge waterfall rock that require good climbing skills. If you don't have them, you'll wish you had a rope. The canyon walls around the creeks are covered with a Tarzan like jungle of mesquite, that you either crawl under, over or through. If you were dying of thirst on the Skyline in 105 degree heat, Tahquitz could look like Shangra-La to you, but if you hit wrong, you could be in a world of hurt, if not the entry portal to your next incarnation.

Pat
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Postby bluerail » Mon May 21, 2012 12:00 am

that list isnt complete either, there was another heat related death of a man from colorado that had retreated back down into the heat..maybe others too that I'm not thinking of.
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Postby HikerLinda » Mon May 21, 2012 9:15 am

I think a few years back, 3 college professors from Colorado started out on Lykken and did 2 of them die?
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Postby Felipe de España » Mon May 21, 2012 11:43 am

Reminded of some old sayings from friends who have passed
on into the big campsite in the sky;
"Mother Nature doesn't forgive one's mistake."
"Don't make your poor planning; my crisis."
and the classic
"You play, you pay." :shock:
Don't get me wrong. I am saddened to hear of another lose of
life no matter what the environment or low cal (local) is. Just saying,
Come on people, getting to the TOP is only half way. You still have
to come down.
Be safe/Be Prepared
See ya at the top!
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Postby soulcamp » Mon May 21, 2012 1:07 pm

From what I can tell, almost all of these rescues or deaths were caused by simple mistakes (starting too late, trying to hike down, getting lost) that could have been avoided if they had been better informed.

If we really want to cut back on unnecessary casualties, I think a better approach might be to create an informational flyer about hiking Skyline (risks, preparation, contingencies) and post it at the trailheads.
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