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Official INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker (Resolved)

Use this forum to stay informed on missing persons alerts, active SAR's and unfortunate hiker accidents we can all hopefully learn from. Any information you may have on a missing person, including first hand weather related information or any other insight (however little) may prove to be critical information to Law Enforcement / SAR in locating the person in question.

Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby Mdmustang302 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 3:59 pm

http://caltopo.com/m/FRV1

3 possible routes to Barrett Lakes.. That is a decent walk out over any of those passes even for me at 30yo with snow on the ground..
"..The mountains are calling, and I must go..." -John Muir



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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby maverick » Wed Oct 26, 2016 4:52 pm

So as of now we know that conditions were extreme on Sat evening, Sunday and Monday. Gale force winds at 50+ miles at the higher elevation, with snow. Temps would be pretty low, but still not impossible to survive with proper clothing and shelter. Robert sent an "OK" message on his SPOT just before sunset. After this Robert seems to have disappeared, no evidence of him staying at one of the smaller Barrett Lakes,from where he sent his "OK" message. Those of you who know the Barrett Lakes and Dusy Basin areas are aware of how barren these basins are, especially Barrett, where there are no really naturally sheltered areas, Dusy has a bit more, especially on the western side of the basin. It would have been very difficult for Robert to cross Knapsack Pass in the weather conditions outlined above, winds would have been very stronger, possibly even white out conditions.
Robert did not activate the "SOS" feature on his SPOT or the "Track" feature while he was on the move in the storm, could his battery have been low or did his SPOT just get damaged or malfunction.

This question is for those of you intimately familiar with this area, there is no wrong answer, please break out your topos, imagine yourself being there again, but in a similar weather as Robert, and give me your educated theory.

Where would you have gone if your tent failed in the Barrett Lakes Basin and you needed to find shelter quickly, out of the extreme elements?

Would you have tried to cross Knapsack Pass in the above-described conditions, and tried to get into Dusy Basin? If yes, why and where to?

Would anyone consider trying to get down to the LeConte Ranger Station, either via Barret Creek to Deer Meadow route or over Knapsack Pass and use trail down?
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby Mdmustang302 » Wed Oct 26, 2016 5:09 pm

If I was thinking clearly and not in a panic I would try to head to lower elevation to at least get out of the snow.. However, from barret lakes pretty much any direction you go will require you to go up before you go down.. If it was a tent failure I would most likely ride it out in all my clothes and my sleeping bag and tyvek ground cloth.. The passes headed back towards bishop pass are fairly high in elevation and would be super tough to navigate in white out/ storm conditions.. Also lots of places to cliff out as you get near bishop pass if you stay south of the trail near the lake just south west of the pass.. If he got up Sunday morning and tried to hike out I'd have to imagine he would head back over one of the x country passes to make it out.. In those conditions I can't see anyone heading further from the trailhead if they were truly in fear.. Then again being in a situation you may not have been prepared for can do a number on your ability to think straight..
"..The mountains are calling, and I must go..." -John Muir
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby tomba » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:05 pm

The creek down from Knapsack Pass that joins Palisade Creek just below Cataract Creek (map) looks inviting from above. See photo below, mid June, 2015 (click to enlarge). There are trees. The map shows more trees just below. He could have headed there in hope of finding shelter. Or, he might have initially headed for Knapsack Pass, realized that conditions were too bad, and then headed down there. That area is well visible on the way to/from Knapsack Pass. Even if visibility was low, he might have remembered that area from his way in. Depending on wind direction the terrain might provide some shelter too. We camped near there. He might have even tried to descend to JMT (perhaps later), but I don't know how hard that is. I might have made such decisions.

barrett-creek-small.jpg
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby paul » Wed Oct 26, 2016 9:35 pm

having been in over Knapsack pass and out to the south over potluck, etc. to palisade lakes in the past, and having looked up from Deer Meadow, and looking a the map now, I think if I were in trouble in there I would be pretty determined to get back over Knapsack. My gut reaction is always to get back toward the route out. I'm a little younger than Mr. Woodie, but at 57 I still tend to think like I always did before the existence of satellite devices, which is that nobody is coming for me and I better get out on my own. Whether that's a good approach nowadays I don't know but it is my gut reaction and for an older guy with an experience base from "back in the day" it could well be the same. Also, I look at that descent to Deer meadow and It doesn't look inviting; plus you gotta get all the way down there before you are at a spot where anyone is going to find you to help you out. Again, gut reaction. So I'd be thinking Dusy, here I come, if I have to do it on my hands and knees then that's what I'm going to do. At least I'd be closer to the start of any search and have a few trees and be closer to getting out on my own if the weather eased up. But honestly. if you had a serious equipment failure in those conditions , unless you had plenty of margin in your gear system, your hopes would be slim. If the tent were holding up I would stay put for sure.
Of course you can't tell what someone else would do, and I know little about this man's experience so it's very hard to guess. Does he have experience in whiteout conditions on a high pass? I can only hope he's still alive.
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby tomba » Wed Oct 26, 2016 11:42 pm

More background: I was by Barrett Lakes basin only twice. I am not "intimately" familiar with that area. Once went over Knapsack, Potluck, Cirque passes in a day. In 2014 stayed overnight.

Some more background: I was surprised by a Fall snow storm twice. Once on Taboose Pass (click for a brief description of that event). Another time last year morning October 1st I aborted a climb of Turret Peak (planned to continue to Three Island Lake) when snow started falling from dark low clouds. Not much wind. Descended to trail by Piute Creek near east side of Turret Creek (map). I wasn't sure if that was doable or I would get cliffed out. I didn't send OK from SPOT until I reached the trail (perhaps because typically it means to stop and wait for 20 min). Turning on tracking didn't cross my mind (I guess it would if terrain got more difficult). I was focused on getting to safety. Down, and then planned to go towards Pine Creek Pass. I didn't know how bad the storm was going to become. Morning 10/4 same trip, as a worse snow storm was starting, I was descending from Granite Pass to trailhead (hiked from Italy Pass the previous night, since I heard the forecast from a JMT hiker). Each time the thought was down and out.

Even if my (or Mr. Woodie's) initial back to safety plan was to go over Knapsack Pass, if I was getting too cold in the extreme weather in exposed terrain I might have to look for shelter urgently. Part way down Barrett Creek, perhaps to the trees, could look reasonable. Possibly even further down, if it looked not too hard.
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby ksenn » Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:53 am

There is a lot of shelter along the creek from Knapsack Pass to Deer Meadow especially when you get past that flat spot in the photo posted above. If he headed down to that spot, it may have been enticing to keep going a little further down because you can see the trees getting thicker and alcoves among the granite shelves. There are a couple places on the west side that can get cliffy on the way down, but there are ways to keep it class 2 without trying too hard. He may have researched possible ways to bail before the trip and that one would definitely be on my list of escape routes if the weather turned and I felt I couldn't get over Knapsack Pass in snow and ice. It's vaguely described in Secor's book and a couple places online.
However, it probably adds at least a day if planning to go back around to Dusy Basin and over Bishop Pass.
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby Kelbaker » Thu Oct 27, 2016 9:09 am

There is a nice rock cave just above were that picture was taken by Tunba that me and my 2 brothers took shelter during a brief storm in 2000.
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Re: INYO-SEKI SAR / Overdue Hiker Search in Progress

Postby maverick » Thu Oct 27, 2016 9:27 am

Thank you, great input so-far everyone, keep the ideas coming. Many of us here have been to these basins many times in the past, some us have also been caught in a nasty weather and have had to improvise to survive, bringing this experience and the knowledge of the areas in question to the table, may help in locating Robert.

PS I have been up and down from Barrett Lakes to Deer via the creek, it is a easy class 2, and the woodsy section before the start of the steeper decent down towards Deer as a location to hold up during a storm (as I have before), has been passed on already to SAR.
I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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SEKI SAR Map Update 10/27

Postby maverick » Thu Oct 27, 2016 10:59 am

Here is the newest map of the recently searched area.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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