Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

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Harlen
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Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by Harlen » Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:23 pm

Attached below is the sort of story that makes for bad dreams in our solo mountain traveler crowd. Sounds like this poor guy had his own "between a rock and a hard place" experience... now if only he had his dull leatherman tool on him, he could have extricated himself, and began a new career as an inspirational speaker. Perhaps I shouldn't jest about such things, especially when many of us could find ourselves in just such a predicament- note, for example, the recent HST posts describing harrowing adventures on "Wallace Col," and some similar descriptions from the HST post on "The Worst or Scariest Backcountry Pass you've done."

Has anyone ever been pinned, or almost pinned in a boulder-field? I'll bet many of us have been surprised and amazed by giant teetering boulders- ones that you never thought would move under you.

What I find most uncomfortable about these stories is that they imply the need for the high-tech SPOT devices, or SAT Phones- devices that I am so disinclined to carry. Maybe when I get older and wiser? I highlighted the section of the rescue story that describes the use of "mechanical advantage" rope/pulley systems, but who carries this sort of gear with them in the Sierra? I used to carry rope and pulley gear when traveling on crevassed glaciers, but I certainly don't in our friendly Sierra. Kudos to these talented SAR teams!

So, I hope this post gives us a couple of "feel good" rescue stories, and also provides food for thought on safe travel in the mountains. Spot???

p.s. For the second recent and happy rescue story, which is the conclusion of a week-long rescue in motion in a brilliant part of the Karakorum Range- Google "Climber rescued on Latok 1." Another even more chilling tale, with nice photos and video doc.


Conness Glacier Search and Rescue: [Someone savvy (MAV?) can attach the real Mono Sheriff's Report on this incident] *NOTE: I now find after posting this, that Mav has already posted regarding the Yosemite SAR incident. When I tried to make my post into a "Repy" to Mav's, I found that his was "Locked?" So, for now I'll leave this post up. Sorry for the redundancy, however, I do think it would be interesting to hear member's thoughts and stories regarding certain points to do with this incident.

On July 29, 2018, at approximately 1:30 pm, Mono County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) Search and Rescue (SAR) received a call from a pair of climbers in the area of the north ridge of Mount Conness. The pair explained that they could hear someone screaming for help approximately 1/2 to 3/4 miles northeast of their location. They were unsure of the exact location of the voice but provided SAR with an approximate GPS location... The pair further explained that they saw two persons scramble to the area the yelling was coming from ... The approximate location of the victim was around 11,400 feet elevation near the base of the Conness Glacier. An additional climber on the east side of Mount Conness also relayed similar information to Yosemite Dispatch who forwarded the additional information to MCSO dispatch.

Twelve (12) SAR personnel responded and readied at the Saddlebag Lake trailhead, and the SAR Team then began the hike into the area to attempt to locate and assist the injured person. ....

At approximately 4:30 pm, following the instructions/GPS information from the initial RPs, SAR personnel made contact with two other hikers that had heard the cries for help. ... The two hikers guided SAR personnel to a solo climber who had his leg trapped between two large granite slabs. ... they activated their own SPOT device to summon help, then provided basic first aid medical care to control bleeding.

After a brief interview with the victim, SAR personnel learned that the solo climber was scrambling up the talus field to the base of a climbing route when the large slab rock he was climbing gave way, pinning his leg against the boulder below. ... SAR teams continued treating the victim and began the task of rigging and attaching several rope systems to move the estimated 4,000 pound, 5 feet x 5 feet x 1 foot slab rock off the victim’s leg.

Guard 823 arrived overhead, but due to the altitude, swirling winds and talus/glacial terrain, they were unable to land nearby. Using their hoist, they lowered their onboard paramedic to the scene to assist the SAR emergency medical technicians with advanced medical care. SAR personnel constructed three (3) separate mechanical advantage rope systems to manipulate the slab rock. ... Using their rope systems operated only by manpower, SAR personnel were able to move the massive slab rock enough to free the victim’s leg.

The victim was quickly readied for helicopter evacuation, moved to a nearby snowfield and hoisted to Guard 823. ..." I couldn't find any further outcome, but I hope the guy's fine.








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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by AlmostThere » Thu Aug 02, 2018 7:24 am

I would guess, since he was pinned for more than an hour, that he lost the limb(s) that were pinned. Reality is that crush injuries have taken many many lives, but hopefully immediate medical attention saved this man's life.

As for devices, there are other threads about the ins and outs of those.

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by rightstar76 » Thu Aug 02, 2018 10:19 am

Will post sometime about a backpacker who didn't get rescued - a very terrifying story. But for now, this incident ended well. He was lucky that there were other climbers nearby to call for help. And the rescuers are heroes. We are lucky to have them!

To answer your question Harlen, yes, I never gave a thought to talus pinning me. The truth is if I had, I wouldn't have gone. I would have stayed home. In my youth, I pushed myself too far a few times. I was lucky I didn't get hurt. So I can understand why some people start threads on the forums about scariest pass, etc. Though I would hope that as people mature they realize and stop. But some don't. For all ages, there will continue to be a need for search and rescue.

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by Harlen » Thu Aug 02, 2018 4:27 pm

Rightstar writes:
Will post sometime about a backpacker who didn't get rescued...

To answer your question Harlen, yes, I never gave a thought to talus pinning me. The truth is if I had, I wouldn't have gone. I would have stayed home. In my youth, I pushed myself too far a few times. I was lucky I didn't get hurt. So I can understand why some people start threads on the forums about scariest pass, etc. Though I would hope that as people mature they realize and stop. But some don't. For all ages, there will continue to be a need for search and rescue.
Rightstar, it sounds like you too have experienced the tragic side of mountaineering, and I'm sorry to hear that. I started this post with the hope of gaining insight from my peers into the often delicate and, yes- dangerous act of traveling up mountains of talus. The very same sort of useful information I received from the post you seem to malign, regarding "worst and scariest passes." I don't so much revel in the danger, though I certainly don't run away from it. What I revel in is the awe-inspiring, rocky beauty of the high country. I believe that most of us would prefer to gain the experience necessary, and then embrace the challenges inherent in mountaineering. It is pointless to pretend the danger isn't there, or to make the questionable assumption that you can climb in such a way to avoid it completely. I suppose we could climb only in sand dunes?

Okay, regarding safety in the talus/boulder fields, I'll volunteer this: we always take a long look up talus routes to find the most stable areas, and the danger zones. Of course the thing to avoid are the recent rock-fall areas, and recent, can still be many years old. The signs of stability may be obvious or subtle; fresh gray granite, with powdery sediment still on it counts as very obvious, and very recent rock-fall. The unstable rocky debris covering "rock glaciers" is also obvious, and very hazardous. Some of the subtle signs have to do with sharp angularity, and a "jumbled" look, compared to more rounded, and highly oxidized rock, with a generally more uniform orientation. The presence of lichen, and even tiny plant life amid the rocks is usually a very good sign. I'm sure there are many other points that can be made re. safe talus travel, and I for one would like to hear them.

I am nearly wholly ignorant- well, inept at least- regarding mechanical advantage. I have learned and tried to practice the "Zed pulley" (constructed with carabiners) for crevasse extraction, and then gave up and bought a good pulley. I recall Aron Ralston describing the multi-faceted mechanical advantage system he constructed with his one arm, but it wasn't able to budge the rock that had pinned his other arm, and you know the rest of the story. Thanks to AlmostThere for heading us in the right direction.
Last edited by Harlen on Fri Aug 03, 2018 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by mrphil » Thu Aug 02, 2018 5:47 pm

Here's some pictures: https://snowbrains.com/solo-climber-res ... no-county/

That field is mixed size, but it generally looks pretty settled in, low angle, and stable. Talus always makes me nervous, but I can see the victim evaluating it and maybe not giving it as much forethought as it deserved. Tough to pick a quick exit strategy on that though, and then actually make it work. Harlen, you wanted insights? Not much, you're rock hopping...good shoes, dry conditions, slowly and carefully, look closely at how it's perched and what's above and below it, and then test it before you commit your weight to the next step. If it goes, ride it and try to stay on top, dive outside the fall line in a leap of faith, or both in whatever kind of a Hail Mary maneuver you can manage. Not much else. Any way you end up, if it goes or you have to try to get out of the way of it going, you're going to get messed up in some form or another. Boils down to damage control and deciding which is going to be worse; a long ride amidst boulders, getting crushed, or the ever popular, full body slam.

Notice the snow picket up to the right in the second pic? I like that kind of improvised stuff. I wonder if it was being used by the first two climbers as a lever or the SAR team as cribbing?

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by giantbrookie » Wed Aug 08, 2018 9:25 pm

Harlen wrote:Has anyone ever been pinned, or almost pinned in a boulder-field? I'll bet many of us have been surprised and amazed by giant teetering boulders- ones that you never thought would move under you.
.
As shown in the follow up story Mav posted, the poor fellow had his leg amputated below the knee after the rescue.

I have in fact nearly been killed in a boulder field. I wouldn't say "pinned or almost pinned" but I'd say almost crushed. That time I was pretty sure I was dead but a big leap evaded the boulder and the only cost was broken ankle upon landing that I hiked out with (3 mi solo before meeting my dad at "base camp" and then hiking the rest of the way the next day).

I have had a few close calls when boulders shifted in big boulder fields. Before 1991 when the really near miss happened I had a rather carefree attitude about talus slopes. I never thought of them as potentially lethal as a loose class 3 or 4 face. I recall being amused in 1977 on a climb of Mt Abbot when a car size boulder started sliding down a moraine beneath my feet. I rode it a few feet and jumped off and thought it was funny (I guess that's the way some teenagers think). A few years later (1980) I was doing an internship with a mineral exploration company and doing traverse of a knife edge ridge that ended with an abrupt drop off. I had to downclimb a steep scree/talus chute which was steep class 2 except for one dramatic class 3 step. In the scree/talus bottom section it was so steep everything would move downslope like an escalator even while more or less standing still. Then I'd hear some stuff rumbling behind me and I'd step to the side and let things pass before getting back on and repeating the process. At that time I still didn't appreciate the dangers and I still thought it was a game. My wife was just missed by a shifting boulder on one of our off trail backpacking routes back in the mid or late 90s. By then I was quite afraid of those sorts of places (ie post-1991). The worst loose big talus I've ever seen was on the north side of Kaweah Pass. There was stuff shifting 100' up the slope as my group ascended. Super scary and a place I shall never return to. More recently, I was traversing some mixed solid and loose talus with my daughter and I tried to impress upon her the need for caution in such places.
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by Harlen » Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 pm

giantbrookie wrote:
... I wouldn't say "pinned or almost pinned" but I'd say almost crushed. ...a big leap evaded the boulder and the only cost was broken ankle upon landing.
... I had to downclimb a steep scree/talus chute which was steep class 2 except for one dramatic class 3 step. In the scree/talus bottom section it was so steep everything would move downslope like an escalator even while more or less standing still. Then I'd hear some stuff rumbling behind me and I'd step to the side and let things pass before getting back on and repeating the process. At that time I still didn't appreciate the dangers and I still thought it was a game.
Hey Giantbrookie, Thanks for the reply, and more of your great stories. I am glad you were not crushed by boulders, though it would have been a fitting death for a geologist after abusing so many rocks with your rock-hammer. What in your expert opinion makes for those worst talus slopes? Does simple (?!) Chaos Theory explain it, or are there semi-predictable factors, such as rock type; substrate; angle of repose; genesis of the slide; geologic formation; .... that we can learn to interpret?

I recall, for example, climbing in the Maroon Bells, where the geologic fm. itself was just so damned friable? Whole walls of seeming bedrock could pull out, and once I nearly suffered for it. The warning signs placed about the foot of those peaks attest to the fact that many have died there.
And from reading HST posts, it seems that certain slopes like those around Kaweah Pass, Wallace Pass, Rogers Pass ... are predictably unstable.

I reckon it's for you geologists to figure this all out, and keep us safe. Best of Luck!

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by giantbrookie » Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:33 pm

Harlen wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 pm
giantbrookie wrote:
What in your expert opinion makes for those worst talus slopes? Does simple (?!) Chaos Theory explain it, or are there semi-predictable factors, such as rock type; substrate; angle of repose; genesis of the slide; geologic formation; .... that we can learn to interpret?

I recall, for example, climbing in the Maroon Bells, where the geologic fm. itself was just so damned friable? Whole walls of seeming bedrock could pull out, and once I nearly suffered for it. The warning signs placed about the foot of those peaks attest to the fact that many have died there.
And from reading HST posts, it seems that certain slopes like those around Kaweah Pass, Wallace Pass, Rogers Pass ... are predictably unstable.
Whereas there no iron clad rules, there are some generalities: the worst talus is commonly associated with the worst bedrock. So you take the places you mention above and the rock itself is of the friable sort where holds are difficult to trust. These tend to be metamorphic (or non-granitic--can be unmetamorphosed volcanic or sedimentary rocks too) rocks--this is all of your Sierran examples above (and Maroon Bells). However, my Colorado talus chute escalator ride, my boulder surfing, and the dodge-the-rolling-boulder were all granitic rocks. There were "special circumstances" associated with all three. For the Colorado chute escalator, the granitic rocks were laced with a lot of closely-spaced fractured. The boulder surfing (Mt Abbot) example was a moraine and morainal deposits may have a little lateral push that prevents them from just settling via gravity as a normal talus slope does. The rolling-boulder one was really unusual: it was the toe of a rock glacier or perhaps very loose moraine debris. Rather than being a pile of rocks, it was more like big rocks in a sandy matrix----super unstable.

The unfortunate climber who was pinned (subject of post), was the victim of granitic talus from a peak composed of high quality granite (Mt Conness), however the location of the accident is said to be "near the base of Conness Glacier". If so, it sounds to me that he was a victim of a shifting boulder on a moraine of the Conness Glacier. As noted above, moraines can be bad news regardless of the rock type.
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by rightstar76 » Fri Aug 17, 2018 1:28 pm

After reading about the incident on Mt. Ritter, I went to Mono Sheriff FB and was looking at the pictures of the people in the Chinook Helicopter as they flew away from Ritter. I felt a feeling of pride. Everyone who participated in the rescue were heroes. We should all strive to be like them in spirit even if we can not be like them in physical form.

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Re: Thought-provoking SAR incident in YNP

Post by lambertiana » Sun Aug 19, 2018 10:00 am

giantbrookie wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 10:33 pm
Harlen wrote:
Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:52 pm
giantbrookie wrote:

Whereas there no iron clad rules, there are some generalities: the worst talus is commonly associated with the worst bedrock. So you take the places you mention above and the rock itself is of the friable sort where holds are difficult to trust. These tend to be metamorphic (or non-granitic--can be unmetamorphosed volcanic or sedimentary rocks too) rocks--this is all of your Sierran examples above (and Maroon Bells).
Both Kaweah Pass and Wallace Pass are on granitic rock. Kaweah Pass is on the granite of Kaweah Peaks pluton, while Wallace Pass (if this means the pass south of Mt Wallace) is on alaskite to the west and granodiorite to the east.

I have not been on either of those, but I have been over Pyra-Queen col a couple times and noted how the talus derived from the granite of Kaweah Peaks behaves. That pluton is highly fractured and the talus is small and very very loose. The contrast between the west and east sides of Pyra-Queen col is remarkable. Going up from the east, it is a mix derived from both the granite of Kaweah Peaks and the granodiorite of Chagoopa. The granodiorite of Chagoopa weathers into the typical large talus that is expected for granitic rock, and most of the way up to the col is not that bad. At the top it changes to only the granite of Kaweah Peaks and becomes much harder to traverse without slipping, and remains that way all the way down to the first lake west of the col.

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