TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wanted | High Sierra Topix  

TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wanted

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Re: TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wante

Postby Asolthane » Tue Feb 13, 2018 10:04 pm

@maverick :

I still unsure how to get from the Dike Lakes basin to Twin Lakes Basin, without going down to the San Joaquin valley below. Is there a pass from Dike Lakes to Ritter Lakes basin? Can someone help me with this, because the line I drew is not passable as far as we could tell. Has anyone dropped onto that glacier S. of Ritter lakes, or was I meant to go down to the valley and back up to Twin Lakes Basin?

I was with a friend who has done extensive backcountry ski touring and has snow travel experience. We were carefully assessing each pass, and didn't do any snow crossings without adequate run out, nothing where a fall would have resulted in injury. It was more an accumulation of fatigue and being at the edge. We considered turning back at many junctures, though the smoke behind and below complicated that assessment. Guys, I had an escape valve in mind...I didn't anticipate the forest fire.


@almostthere All trips into the backcountry entail anxiety, for me it's more about soberly gauging risk. If I had been alone, I certainly wouldn't have continued.

@kpeter The cut foot was a total fluke, luckily I was able to patch it up in a way that allowed me to walk without pain. The wrist/hand injury was a bad contusion, nothing broke. The contusion was so bad my ulnar nerve died and I didn't regain full use of my hand for 5 months.

@lumbergh21 :rock:

@mrphil a little pedantic, but yes. Consider me humbled, I don't know how that isn't clear already! In my defense, I was told the same thing by rangers three weeks before at Kaiser Wilderness, and I had an incredible trip that was largely without snow. When people are alarmist and then you realize they don't actually know what they are talking about, it's easy to begin to take warnings with a grain of salt. Same thing happened on a trip to Desolation last June. I had an amazing trip, super fun. Found a safe place to cross Rubion, went up into the snow and did a couple miles of x-country travel with trail runners and poles. I had gotten a similar warning. Now I know that the last trip has nothing to do with the next trip, and how punishing it can get. Steeper terrain, higher elevation, etc etc etc. I am not eager to put myself in a situation like that again.

I do, however, want to complete that loop this summer!



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Re: TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wante

Postby Lumbergh21 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 12:26 am

maverick wrote:
since I can't count on help/rescue (by myself and no PLB).


Hope you will at least consider implementing our reconn form into your trip planning Lumbergh21, something is better nothing. :nod:
http://reconn.org/


I always leave a detailed itinerary with my wife. I can't always stick to that itinerary, see last year's snow, but I stick to it as much as I can. Who knows, maybe this is the year that I get a PLB of some sort for my birthday.
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Re: TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wante

Postby mrphil » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:27 am

Asolthane wrote:@mrphil a little pedantic, but yes. Consider me humbled, I don't know how that isn't clear already! In my defense, I was told the same thing by rangers three weeks before at Kaiser Wilderness, and I had an incredible trip that was largely without snow. When people are alarmist and then you realize they don't actually know what they are talking about, it's easy to begin to take warnings with a grain of salt. Same thing happened on a trip to Desolation last June. I had an amazing trip, super fun. Found a safe place to cross Rubion, went up into the snow and did a couple miles of x-country travel with trail runners and poles. I had gotten a similar warning. Now I know that the last trip has nothing to do with the next trip, and how punishing it can get. Steeper terrain, higher elevation, etc etc etc. I am not eager to put myself in a situation like that again.


Yeah, Asolthane, sorry about the preachy tone. As you could see, I went up and down with it a couple times.

In my defense, a lot of people died or got into serious trouble last year because of underestimating the conditions and their choice to keep going, and a lot more that we'll probably never know about came close. Some were really geared up well and experienced, others not, so the great equalizer was the decisions they made. To be fair, you had a lot of unforeseen circumstances and events working against you, but you had 100% control every step of the way...until you didn't. Anybody else's opinions or second-guessing doesn't mean jack. The important thing is, if you had it all to do over again, what would you have done differently, from start to finish?
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Re: TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wante

Postby gdurkee » Wed Feb 14, 2018 3:19 pm

Mistakes:
- inadequate planning
- inadequate gear
- overconfidence


Solid! Does that ever sum up every accident report I've ever written... .

Questions:
- Can you self arrest with an ice axe in slushy, afternoon snow in August?
- How much help are micro spikes in these conditions?


Ice Ax arrest: it's not easy on slushy snow. Theoretically, if it's slushy enough, the snow piling up should be enough to stop you. It's really determined by the length of the pick, depth of the slush and hardness of the underlying snow/ice. Alternative is to dig in with shaft rather than pick but, if you're travelling too fast, it gets yanked out and maybe lost.

As others have commented, the real problem is not having training or practice with ice axes -- that's true of about 90% + of people who carry them. They look cool but, without training or practice, they're pretty dangerous. On high angle hard snow, you've got to get over the axe, sink the point in to arrest. Hard to do with a pack without impaling yourself... . In almost all situations you're better off with ski poles. A number of people talk about having a good run out but the real problem is exposed rocks along the way or even just sun cups. The accidents I've seen have involved head vs. rock exposed along the way -- the run out didn't much matter. In one case, the individual slammed into a deep sun cup, hitting his ankle so hard it essentially tore off. They guy survived the night but bleeding was extremely difficult to control. He ended up losing his leg below the knee (no ice ax or particularly advanced experience among the group).

Micro Spikes: again, others here have it right. They're good on trails but, even then, not when there's much of an angle either lateral or horizontal. The strap holding them on isn't especially good, so they'd be forced off with any significant slope. Note that crampons are well secured at multiple points on the foot. For Sierra snow, on what's not normally technical terrain (e.g. steep couloir or slope over ~30 deg), is use ski poles and wait until after 10AM or so for the snow to soften up enough to kick step &/or use the slush to maintain footing and control.

Smoke: as a very general rule, I wouldn't get too excited by what seems like thick smoke. Smoke and even ash can fall 10 miles from a fire, making it seem dangerously close. Increasingly, fire crews are setting up trail blocks and either escorting people through or having a safe alternative. I'm surprised you were told to reroute over such a dangerous alternative.

Yet another thought -- again generally -- is if you have a significant wound to a foot (especially), continuing on into more remote terrain is not a great idea. The chance of infection, while maybe not huge in granite and clean water, is still there. "Pressing on" is yet another mistake most people make ahead of a serious incident (I usually call it testosterone poisoning...).

Oh. Moving boulder field. Very common on high angle moraines. Not sure where you were, but often it's either a recent moraine and not reached angle of repose, or even has ice underneath (rock glacier) and also in constant motion. Check for lichen and other indications of stability. As you found out, really dangerous places. If there's a medial moraine or sold rock, head for that.

Anyway, good learning experience since you're back.
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Re: TR and NEAR DISASTER. Beck Lakes TH Xcountry. Help Wante

Postby CAMERONM » Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:42 pm

Thanks for this post and the resulting great comments. I spent a lot of time on snow this summer and was constantly questioning the need and effectiveness of microspikes and poles vs crampons and ice axe. Each day and situation was different, but for sure I came away with the conviction that when in doubt at the start of a trip, at least carry some form of traction.
A few years ago I was in Yosemite on a beautiful clear morning and quite suddenly this cloud of smoke smothered everything. I was very concerned that a fire was raging just below me and I contemplated the possibility of jumping into the lake to not be burned up. The smoke was so thick it was very hard to breathe. I found out later that the fire was many miles away.
My only other comment is that when you are very tired and things start to go awry, pausing and making the big decisions as you did the next morning is always a sensible course of action.
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