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TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

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TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Jimr » Thu Jul 26, 2012 1:08 pm

We hit the trail going up valley and blasted through the bramble vines to the other side. The trail soon became choked with debris, but it didn’t matter. We left trail and headed North to the rendezvous point. One of the sheriffs called back to me and said, “hey Jim, there’s your friend”. He pointed to a large clump of poison oak. I think the sheriff behind me appreciated that I had a fair amount of bushwhacking experience. As I moved through and loaded up a branch, I reached back and handed it to him rather than letting it fly back on my way past. He thanked me and we soon hit the evacuation site. One of the sheriffs suggested I put my camera in my pocket for pictures on the way out, so I did. After a short pre-flight instruction on how to approach and exit the helicopter, we were soon strapped in and off. The helicopter circled around and around, gaining altitude and I was pleased to get several shots off. Soon, we were headed over the upper forest toward Wishon Reservoir. I leaned over to my son and told him to look at all of the forest he had traveled. He did a good job. We landed and were led out of the helicopter. As we walked together down the path, my wife was running up the other side in tears. She didn’t know who to hug first, so I offered her our son. She hugged him tightly, then hugged me. We both cried and I whispered in her ear, “I’m so sorry, I had to put you through this. We were safe the whole time. It was the only way to get our son out safe. I got our son out safe baby, I got him out safe.” I think this pic sums it up pretty well.
photo-18.JPG


As we recapped our adventure to our family, and theirs to us, the sheriffs brought our packs back to us. As the sheriff set mine down he exclaimed, “man, this is a heavy pack! Charlotte, when you get home, throw away ALL of Jim’s gear and buy him some new gear. He should not be carrying a 60 lb pack anymore. I made a pact with my wife. I will take a year off from my large trips and we will work on buying me new gear.

My sister still had their motel room in Shaver Lake, so we went down to the village to get a shower and a meal before leaving for home. Getting out of the car, I passed a man on the way up to the motel and said hi. He looked at me and said hi, then saw my sister and lit up. “Any news?” My sister pointed at me and said, “here is one of them”. He lit up and told me how relieved he was that I was safe. He told my sister she could have the room for the rest of the day at no charge so we could clean up and rest a bit before traveling home. The people of Shaver Lake were very supportive to my family. They took it very personally. My wife introduced me to everyone we came in contact with and they were all relieved that we were safe. My sister and brother-in-law were so taken by Shaver Lake and the community that they want to make a trip up often, just to relax and enjoy the community.

My wife could not say enough about how wonderful the Fresno Co. SAR team performed and kept her abreast of everything. The incident leader never once mis-lead or appeased her. She quickly gained confidence in their abilities, concern and honesty in the whole incident. The incident leader took his radio everywhere, even to the bathroom. My father was so impressed with the SAR operation that he donated,,, let’s just say the number has a comma delimiter in it. My wife and I have committed to make an annual donation as well, for many years to come.

My wife thought I was crazy, but I had to go to work on Tuesday to take care of some things. I was emotionally exhausted and itching my arse off, but I had to go. About mid-day, I realized my cell phone needed recharging, so I plugged it in and several message alerts came in. I recalled that my wife said she called often, sometimes, just to hear my voice when all seemed lost. It was chilling to hear the escalation of fear and worry in her voice as the messages quickly went from please call me, I’m getting worried to I’ve called and reported you overdue, where are you? I love you, oh, where are you. Finally, at 2:30 am and again at 4:30 am just to hear my voice once again. I broke down and went home.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby maverick » Thu Jul 26, 2012 4:31 pm

Wow quite an experience Jimr, great thing that you stayed put, and had left
a very good itinerary back home with your wife. Happy to read that you and
your son made it out with only minor scrapes though psychologically both, but
especially your son may be effected for quite some time.
Thank you for sharing you ordeal, and hopefully others who read this will learn
from your mistakes, and from the things that you did correctly!
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Jimr » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:18 pm

Thanks Mav,
It's amazing the resilience of kids. A couple of days of gaming and he's no worse for wear. Last night, he even talked about the next trip. I thought I'd lost a hiking partner for good, but as long as I bring freeze dried dinners, he's in.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Troutdog 59 » Thu Jul 26, 2012 5:25 pm

I also wanted to thank you for sharing your harrowing adventure with us Jim, especially the details. Many of us would not share such a story, but I believe as Mav said that sharing so honestly may hopefully teach the rest of us something that can help us in the future. What appeared to be a trailed hike turned into a misadventure that could happen to any of us. Your preparedness (detailed itenary at home) and level headed thinking was the key to your being OK, and it is often the mental part of such ordeals that are hardest to handle. Your ordeal was all over the news here in Fresno, but I was not home to hear it. I mentioned your story on here to my wife last night and she said she heard about it while I was gone on my trip. I'm truly glad you and your son are OK Jim.

Sincerely

Jeff Pyle
If you stand in the light, you get the feel of the night, and the music that plays in your ear......
In your mind you can hear, a voice so sweet and clear, and the music that plays in your head......
As it flows up from the ground, taking all that hear the sound, close your eyes, it’s about to begin.

R. Trower
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Electra » Fri Jul 27, 2012 7:26 am

So glad to read of your safe ending to a memorable and challenging trip. Thanks for sharing this with us and hopefully the action of doing so is cathartic for you. Your son may gain from writing his thoughts down as well.

You seemed to make all the right and dare i say, humbling decisions, as we are driven by our egos and fear to keep moving to extricate/save ones self, especially when able and not hurt. Not forcing your will and desire on your son to go back up was really admirable.

Please continue to post your thoughts if you can as the days grow between your adventure so we can get a little insight in to your perspective. And don't scratch the PO!
Dan Braun
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Jimr » Fri Jul 27, 2012 9:18 am

Thank you Jeff and Dan,
The media, I guess in their attempt to get the story out first, got it all wrong. They had some of the facts straight, but failed to tell the right story. They had us lost at Wishon Reservoir, no cell phone or gps, lost off trail, etc. Some had us in the right spot, but still, the wrong story. We were never lost, we lost trail several times, but that was not pertinent to our predicament. Of course I had a cell phone ](*,) , I also had a drivers license, money, credit and debit cards, keys and other valuables that are of no use in the wilderness, but are not left in the vehicle at a trailhead. This was actually the first time I brought my GPS, but rarely used it other than as a watch. The GPS actually tracked well through the forest once I localized it's satellite search. I turned it on at Crown Valley, marked a poi at our bivy and confirmed, while lying in the forest duff, that my reckoning that the trail was below us was correct (I had the route loaded from a Gmap4 trace of the trail). Turned it off at TV and used it Sat. & Sun as a watch.

Some of the comments from people posting about the story in the Fresno Bee were damning. It really upset my mother, but I have thicker skin. It just shows peoples prejudice absent real facts. One person went on and on about who was going to pay for our stupidity and she was tired of these wannabe crocodile hunters getting back to nature, another posting that these flatlanders ought to stay out of where they don't belong, etc. The heartening part is all of the people who blasted their prejudiced attitudes, informing them that backpacking in the Sierra is not a crocodile hunter attitude, etc. Still, they were commenting on a story that was not factual.

It was humbling, and yes, I needed to tell you all about it and it was therapeutic to get it down, share it and not be a secret. This is one of the few places with a group that can understand in an intimate way, just how predicaments like this can happen despite your best planning and intentions, so this is where I wanted to share our story. I've tried and tried to blame myself for taking my son on the "you should have known better" train, but really, he did so well and wanted to go so badly when my normal partner had to bail. I really had no concerns about his physical ability. I was most concerned that he would miss his games and youtube and want to bail out early and go home. When I asked him if he wanted to go, his face assured me he was in for the duration. He really wanted to go. I've looked back at my planning, re-read some of the intel I used to prepare for the condition of the switchbacks, but really, sometimes sh!t just happens and you have to deal with it.

After all is said and done, my son learned a lot about operating in the wilderness, dealing with stressful situations, decision making, etc. I told him about my second-guessing and explained to him how when the pain and fear of a situation wears off, it's easy to start questioning your decisions and altering and replacing good decisions for bad. It is the ego creeping in.

I know well not to scratch PO and unlike other rashes, keep it moist. I've had it more times than I care to recall. I haven't had it this bad since 6th grade camp. The camp nurse covered me in calamine lotion. The worst thing you can do is dry it out. I ended up with infantigo from the rash becoming infected. Most cases I received were from my obsessive day hikes in the Santa Monica and lower San Gabriel mountains. I had a near lifetime supply of this waxy cream that helped keep it from spreading. That's gone. The suscreen was an afterthought in case my son needed it. I was glad I thought about it and didn't blow it off. It's moisturizers were a life saver. I noticed in camp that the campsuds had oils in it, so I applied a small amount to a couple of test sites. They immediately worsened, so I washed that off as a failure. My wife thought I was crazy not going to the DX, but by the time we were home, I was well past the worst part and into the healing. The DX can't do much more than the Benadryl and aloe vera with lidocane that I was currently treating it with.

I am forever indebted to the Fresno Co. SAR. Their service truly approaches altruism. If my wrist wasn't in such bad shape, it would be something I would do in a heartbeat. I think all of the divemaster and rescue diver training I had when I was in my 20's would cross over well. The next best thing is to donate to those who do.

Jim

P.s.
Jeff, my son loves your Kountry Kitchen in Clovis. We stopped there on the way up for a bacon burger and fries. All he wanted to do when we got out of there was to go back there for another BCB, then stop off for a Frapachino for the way home. We ended up eating in Shaver Lake, but the KK was closed by that time anyway.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby giantbrookie » Fri Jul 27, 2012 2:24 pm

Jim, I'm really glad you and your son made it through everything OK. That is indeed an amazing story with a good ending with some interludes of fine wilderness moments in between.

Your son's experience with the point of no return certainly hits home with me, both from the perspective of remembering something a bit like it as a kid and another as a teenager while leading a trip (where I dragged a buddy past the point of no return). My experience from a kid's perspective comes when I was 14 and climbing Ritter from the west with my dad. This was the first trip my dad handed me the reins and had me do all the route finding (as I would continue to do to the ends of our climbing days together) and I completely messed up the route by missing the series of shelves that are the "exit" of the true class 2 route out of a chute. We crossed a rather steep snowbank and then the rock got progressively steeper until we were scrambling on loose class 4 and I was scared stiff. I begged my dad to abort the climb and descend but he feared descending that snowbank more than the class 4 and told me our only chance to get off the mountain was to ascend (and then find a better route to descend). We did in fact complete the climb and I was able to find a much better descent route, but I was so frightened by the ascent experience that I refused to do anything harder than class 2 for the entire summer that followed the next year.

In any case we're all so glad that you and your son are safe and sound and will no doubt enjoy many great trips in the Sierra in the future.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby TehipiteTom » Fri Jul 27, 2012 3:46 pm

What a harrowing trip. I'm glad you guys got out safely, and I hope your son doesn't is up for more (slightly less adventurous) backcountry travel in the future.

I was reminded of my Death Trip 2000, with my then-11 year-old son, when we had to hike out a ducked route (2 miles to the trail) in very low-visibility snow & rain. The sense of total responsibility for this kid, the knowledge that if that if anything happened to him it was my fault, were just overwhelming.

By the way, a few years back a woman broke her leg on the trail down to Tehipite (she wound up writing a book about it), and the first time I took it, a trail crew guy told me a horse had fallen off it the week before. It's one tough stretch of trail...all the more so in its current disrepair, sounds like.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby RooPhillip » Sat Jul 28, 2012 11:36 am

WOW, what a story! I'm very thankful for the happy ending! It must have been extremely tough to stay focused and I commend you for doing the right thing and staying put. Your son is lucky to have such a level-headed Dad.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby richlong8 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 1:12 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Tom. Your humility and willingness to share makes it a very special story indeed. I read the book that Tehipite Tom mentioned, "Angels in the Wilderness" a couple of months ago, and it sounds like your difficulties were in the same general area she got into trouble. I am scheduled to head down that trail in about a month. I am confident of my abilities and equipment, but your story makes me wonder if I might wait until I find someone "crazy" enough to come along! or just wait until I have more days available and approach the area from either LeConte Canyon or Granite Pass.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby Jimr » Sun Jul 29, 2012 2:48 pm

Hey Rich, you can call me Tom any time :lol:
while I don't know your experience or comfortably level, I hate to say that if I had gone solo, I probably would have been fine. I'm comfortable with small trails on steep slopes and the deep, slippery duff on the lower section was more of a pain in my lower section. Alone, I would probably have had much more time to recon when the switchbacks disappeared. I don't know.

I told my wife I never got the chance to really explore TV, so it's on my list again for sometime in the future, perhaps from South Lake, down to TV, then up to Palisades, Mather pass and upper basin, out Taboose pass. A nice shuttle on the same side of the hills. She doesn't want to talk about it right now and I don't blame her, so I'll park that one in my head along with the many others I want to do before I die.
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Re: TR Rancheria to Tehipite Valley (5 and final, then some pics

Postby richlong8 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 5:29 pm

Sorry about that Jim. (calling you Tom)
be glad you are not named Richard, people have called me every name in the book!
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