learning from other people's mistakes on Skyline

General Palm Springs area.

Postby bcrowell » Mon May 21, 2012 1:33 pm

HikerLinda wrote:I think a few years back, 3 college professors from Colorado started out on Lykken and did 2 of them die?


Thanks for the info. I googled it and edited my OP to add a description of how they died.
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Re: Rescue 5/15

Postby bcrowell » Mon May 21, 2012 1:42 pm

Jill G wrote:Here's the 5/15 rescue, highlights the danger of hiking down.

Thanks for the info. I've edited my OP to add this.
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Postby bluerail » Mon May 21, 2012 1:56 pm

The morning the profesor from Colorado died, Fern and I had talked to him on the trail...you end up feeling somewhat responsible and neglegent.

I had thought only one of them had died though, the second body was not his partner.
Last edited by bluerail on Mon May 21, 2012 2:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby bcrowell » Mon May 21, 2012 2:03 pm

soulcamp wrote: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.


Aren't there already signs and warnings all over the lower part of Skyline?

The age of the internet is really different from the era I grew up in. When I first started hiking and backpacking, basically the only way to find out about stuff was by word of mouth. Today, people hear about a hike like Skyline or C2C on the internet, and that impersonal source of information makes it harder for them to evaluate the risk. They make a plan to do the hike on a certain day. When they show up at the art museum at 8 am in July, and it's going to be 105 in Palm Springs that day, they're already mentally committed to doing the hike. I don't think they're likely to cancel the hike at the trailhead because of information they get at that point.

By coincidence, I have a student who had mentioned to me in the spring that he was thinking of going out to PS, riding the tram up, and hiking to the top of San J. Nice kid, 18 or 20 years old. Ran 6 minute miles in high school cross country. Last week I mentioned San J to him, and he said he and his friend hadn't done the tram-hike, but were now thinking instead of doing C2C in the summer. I told him that was extremely dangerous, and that people died all the time on Skyline in the summer. His reaction was, oh, wow, I didn't know that -- thanks for telling me.
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Postby soulcamp » Mon May 21, 2012 3:01 pm

bcrowell wrote:
soulcamp wrote: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.


Aren't there already signs and warnings all over the lower part of Skyline?


I don't think a warning is enough. Everybody sees the warning signs and thinks, "Oh, I'll be fine."

Also, statements like "Be sure to bring enough water" is just ridiculous.

I'm thinking a piece of paper with a lot more detailed info specific to Skyline. Starting with something like "The Skyline trail is 9.5 miles with over a MILE AND A HALF of vertical elevation gain. The average time to reach the top for experienced hikers in good condition is 6+ hours." That alone might be enough to let some people know this isn't going to be a stroll up a hill.

But beyond that, I think we could come up with a list of risks specific to Skyline, a detailed preparation/planning guide, and instructions for what to do if you run into trouble. Perhaps a list of comparisons to other hikes - distance, altitude, and time to completion. Basically a "Skyline Hiking Guide" in printed form for those who don't know about this website. Print a few dozen out and stuff them in a box each week at the trailhead.
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Postby zippetydude » Mon May 21, 2012 3:26 pm

That might be a good idea, but it would take a committed and sustained effort to make it happen more than just a couple weekends. Still, I like your idea of giving specifics instead of just warnings. People used to joke about the "Death Sign" (before it was stolen) because it kind of overstated its case. Finding out real information like the average time and correct amount of water to bring could be helpful.

This would be especially true in light of something bcrowell said. He made a very good point that people are already mentally committed once they get to the trailhead. That's true. I personally would be resistant to simply skipping the trip, but I would be very likely to go ahead and carry those two extra water bottles that I wasn't sure I'd need, or start immediately and hike steadily instead of lounging around for a while and walking over to Starbucks for a little caffeine pick-me-up before getting going. In other words, cutting down the chance of a rescue (or recovery) is a great goal by itself, and may be much more achievable than convincing people to give it up entirely. After all, every one of us that has done Skyline must be rather unwilling to blink in the face of adversity or we never would have made it that crazy trail in the first place.

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Postby Florian » Mon May 21, 2012 3:31 pm

bcrowell wrote:Aren't there already signs and warnings all over the lower part of Skyline?


There used to be a warning sign up above the first junction. It disappeared about a year ago.

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Postby bcrowell » Mon May 21, 2012 6:43 pm

While we're all brainstorming about possible constructive things to do, here are a few possibilities:

Donate money to Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit: http://www.rmru.org/donate.htm

When you head up Skyline, bring an extra half-liter of water with you and leave it at the picnic tables, rescue 1, or rescue 2. Most people who die on Skyline actually seem to die at very low elevations, such as the picnic tables or even lower. If leaving water at the picnic tables, we need some way to make sure that people know it's there, and that it's there for emergency use by anyone who needs it. Unless something more organized happens, I'm planning that the next time I do Skyline (in the fall), I'll bring along some kind of makeshift sign sealed inside a freezer bag, and duct-tape it to the end of one of the picnic tables.

Seems like it would be a good thing to either replace the stolen "you will die sign" or put up something similar at the trailhead. Who has to be involved to make this happen? A private property owner? State park rangers? If there was agreement in principle on doing it, I'm sure we could pass the hat and collect enough money to make it happen. (I'm sure the rangers are low on both money and time due to the state budget dysfunction.) If it prevents even one helicopter rescue, it will have paid for itself many times over.
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Postby pdforeme » Mon May 21, 2012 9:14 pm

Having failed on a hot day.....my 2 bits.... i had tons of water, but in our descent (we obviously survived), I needed a bit of shade far more than water. I know its unrealistic, but i would put huge value of any form of shade. (on our descent into >100F we got into a logical hiccup in that it was hotter as we descended, but would be far worse had we stayed put (at 3000 feet). I guess I should have packed an opaque tarp.
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Postby cynthia23 » Mon May 21, 2012 10:12 pm

Thanks OP for posting on some of the many people who've died on Skyline. I'm going to add a few I remember just offhand: the same summer the 28 year old guy and the college professor died coming down Skyline, another guy who was wandering around up there (he seems to have been mentally ill) also died of heatstroke. His body and the body of the college professor were found almost on the same day. I happened to talk to one of the PSMP who had found the bodies and he said they were burned almost black (they were caucasian men.) The paper mentioned that both bodies had to be soaked in brine (i.e. rehydrated) in order to get usable fingerprints. The professor actually made it back down but died outside the fences of the Tennis Club where he was found the next day. Probably he was too delerious to call for help.

I"m not giving these details to be lurid but to impress upon people how horrific it is to die of heat stroke. Apparently your brain literally cooks. They say you have horrific hallucinations. I can't imagine a worse death--really.

There are also people who've died of hypothermia (I think it was in 05 that a man tried to climb up and got caught in a storm. He was found dead at 4500) and falls (I think it was in 03 or 04 that a man slipped on the ice at the traverse, hit a rock and died.) A man was found a few years ago at about 1800 who had died from a fall from a rock the previous year (no one had found his body at the time.) There is also a homeless man who I am pretty sure is dead up there somewhere around the shady slope (some on the board perhaps remember "the hunt for Crazydude") Emin found a cave above Dry Canyon the guy had apparently been living in. I'm sure there's more we don't know about.

These are all the deaths on Skyline, in the last ten years, that I can remember off the top of my head. I'm only counting deaths above the picnic tables. I'm not really counting the fairly numerous people who die on the lower portion, i.e. The Desert Museum, although perhaps I should. There are deaths there every few months, from some combination of heat/heart attack, which will probably turn out to be what killed the guy who died on Friday afternoon.

As for rescues, I literally can't remember how many there have been. Two of my close friends have been rescued from Skyline (on separate days, both fell down the traverse ice.) As a local who reads the paper, it seems to me that there is one or two pretty much every other week, on average. My 'favorites' have been the numerous groups of Marines who keep getting rescued. 8)
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