Outdoor incidents, the continuation

7:09 p.m. on November 15, 2008 (EST)
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Since the Outdoor Incidents thread has gotten so long, I decided to start a continuation with the following:

I had more excitement than I had bargained for on my training hike today up Mission Peak, a very popular urban park in the East Bay Regional Parks system. On arriving at the Stanford Ave parking lot, I noted that the wind was stronger than I had encountered before at this location - trees bending over, wind noise very loud, and all that. I had, of course, forgotten to bring my Kestrel 4500 weather instrument with wind speed indicator. But, I headed up the hill anyway. At the half-mile point, I encountered a man lying on the ground, obviously injured, and 4 people clustered around him. It turned out he had fallen on the gravel and severely twisted his ankle. It appeared to be a serious sprain or perhaps broken ankle (two of the women there were nurses and thought it was definitely broken, but as I learned in my Wilderness First Aid training, you can't tell without an Xray, and besides I am not a doctor). The nurses had him laid out, with the ankle wrapped with an ace bandage and a Camelbak bladder for cooling (no ice, though). Ok to this point. But they had not thought to ask if he had struck his head, so no C-spine precaution. Another man there was trying to call 911. Ummm, sorry, but 911 cell calls in Mission Peak go to the California Highway Patrol in Fairfax, not to the local city emergency 911 line (in Fremont). You should call the East Bay Regional Parks Police to get the emergency vehicles there faster. This is generally true for many Open Space and Regional Parks in "urban" areas. The man finally got transferred to Fremont emergency.

A helicopter soon arrived and began circling. There is no convenient place to land the chopper, especially given the high winds. In a short while, the local ranger (Neil) appeared, driving the park pickup up the hill, followed by Fremont Fire Paramedics and an AMR ambulance. After handover to professional hands, I decided (as I have been taught) to reduce the crowd and depart on up the hill. Here is the scene:

As I continued, I encountered a number of folks, many of whom had turned back due to the winds, and a number of whom were perched on the overlooks watching the excitement (a circling helicopter attracts attention). I estimated the winds as being in the 25-30 knot range. But I continued onward and upward into the Howl of the Teething Gale (any Feghoot fans out there?). As I got to the saddle, I had caught a few people, some of whom turned back at the increased wind speed (now more like a steady 35-40 knots with stronger gusts). Along the summit ridge, I had to walk with a pronounced lean. At the summit, I estimate the winds to have been a steady 40 knots, with the occasional 50 knot gust, stronger than I had experienced there before when having the Kestrel with me (highest I have measured there was 35 knots, and this was stronger). I photographed a couple of men walking along the ridge. so you can see -

The pole at the vista point (at the left of the ridge) is vertical. Judge the windspeed yourself by the lean of the hikers.

A short visit at the top was sufficient, so I headed down. At the parking lot, I found Neil (the ranger), getting ready to carry a truck-load of packs for a Boy Scout Troop to the campsite on the back side of Mission Peak. Among the luggage was a pile of a dozen boxes of extra-large pizzas. Hmmm, in my Scout Troop (the one I was Scoutmaster of, as well as the one I went through as a kid), we didn't get take-out pizzas, and have our packs ferried by truck. By the way, Neil confirmed the wind speeds I had estimated - a while before the accident, he had one of the fire department people up at the saddle with a wind speed measuring tool, and got steady 40 knots, gusting to 50-60 knots.

Anyway, lessons for even casual day hikers -
1. have the right phone number to get the emergency personnel to you quicker. 911 cell calls may be relayed to a central dispatch office 50 to 100 miles away or more, if they get through at all. It is best to call the land manager for the particular park
2. Many of the "urban" parks we visit are, for practical purposes, wilderness. That is, they are beyond the 5-minute 911 response boundaries. They may be out of cell phone range. So having wilderness first aid training is very important.
3. Many of the SFBay Area fire, police, paramedic, and ambulance services are equipped with GPS receivers, as well as many emergency personnel in other areas, so giving the GPS-derived coordinates is helpful, as is knowing where the access points are for the parks.
4. It is a good idea to have a first aid kit that can handle injuries from someone falling - you can break a leg or ankle or arm or worse, even on as well-maintained trails as most of these parks have.

8:09 p.m. on November 15, 2008 (EST)
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Good advice Bill. You must remember the Blue Hills from your days in Boston. I walk there often on weekdays, and in winter, and once one is away from the access points and along the different trails, it is possible to be alone and in a stew if not prepared. I always carry the same 10 essentials in there as I do in the Whites. When I returned to this sport I was skeptical of having a GPS - just another high-tech do-dad which, I thought, took something away from the experience. Last winter when I was out there ,I realized I could easily twist an ankle (or worse) and be able to provide 911 with only a rough idea of where I was. The GPS is on my Christmas list.

11:04 p.m. on November 15, 2008 (EST)
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Pizzas? A truck carrying the packs? Don't let my scouts hear about it. There would be a mutiny.

OK, on car campouts I am somewhat lenient with my scouts. But backpacking is a different story - they are learning to be self-sufficient, and they do not get any slack from me, and they do not expect it.

As for being prepared - last week I got fire steels for my two daughters (ages 13 and 15). They were supposed to be for Christmas, but one of them saw me get them, and told the other. They have both been bugging me about them all week, so today I relented and gave them their fire steels, and we practiced making fires. They now will keep them in their packs along with a pocket knife and a compass, among other things.

11:00 a.m. on November 16, 2008 (EST)
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Once back in the late winter of 1980 while on a hike up to Glacier Point in Yosemite, a couple of English fellows wanted to join me. We decided to go up the road from Badger Pass Ski area instead of the Four Mile Trail. The forecast said it would be clear but the weekend we went the backcountry got dumped with four feet of Sierra Cement, thats what they call it when the moist Pacific air meets the mountains and falls as a heavy snow.
Anyway, we started up on the shuttle bus to Badger Pass and it was already snowing hard by the time we got on the road to Glacier Point. We walked thru the snow about 6 of the 8 miles the first day. In the morning of the second day it had snowed so much our tent was buried and we had to dig out. We decided to go on being it was only two more miles to the point.
We started at about 8 am after the snow had rebegun to fall. We could not see much farther than a few feet ahead and each step stomped down 3 feet of powder and picked up two as we shuffled thru the whiteout. We ended up stopping at lunch as the snow was still falling fast and getting deeper. We sat up the tent and thought we would wait for the snow to stop before going on, but it never did. So another night in the falling snow. If we walked about 10 feet from camp the tent disappeared.
The next day was no better and we hung in camp all day hoping it might clear. The sun came out once but only shined on the ground about a hundred yards away. So we stayed another night and started out early the next day to Glacier Point.
But soon the snow was falling hard again and blowing so fast into our faces we decided to pitch the tent and wait it out again.
In the late afternoon the snow ceased and we started out once more and again got caught in a blizzard before darkness. We went on making it to the point after dark but could not see our way around as the falling snow looked like stars falling into us.
We split up looking for the buildings for bearings. I walked out and used my flashlite sparingly only turning it on and off, then taking about three steps at a time.
Once after my third step I looked around and thought the snow was falling down a steep hill. As I searched for the way I looked down at my feet to find the railing at the edge under the front of my snowshoe, the railing that in summer is 3 feet above the edge to lean against when viewing the canyon below. Had I taken another step I would have fallen over the abyss.
I turned around and walked back the way I had come, one of the other guys had found the buildings and we huddled down on the side out of the wind and falling snow.
In the morning we had been out 4 nights and were supposed to be out that afternoon. We thought we would just go down the Four Mile Trail but it was wind swept into a cornice. And the snow was beginning to fall heavy again so we had to stay another night.
The 6th day we woke to clear blue sky and the beautiful we had come for. We could see Half Dome, the top of Yosemite Falls and most of the other points around the valley below us. And almost as soon as we got packed up, did a park helicopter fly over and spot us. We stood still while snow swirled around as the copter made a landing. They took us aboard and back to the valley floor.
The first night we were out the snow had dropped four feet in the valley and broke huge Ponderosa trees like toothpicks and a avalanche had taken out the middle Yosemite Falls trail killing four people.
After a brief checkup by the valley clinic we split up and went our ways. The Englishman had a fine story to tell back home as did I.
My parents back in Arkansas had heard on the TV about the avalanche and feared I was one of the four dead. I called home a couple days later and my mother fainted when she heard my voice. And my father said I should laeve that "God awful place and come home". But I stayed till spring and came to Jackson Hole for my first summer.

8:07 a.m. on November 19, 2008 (EST)
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Happy Ending, Tobyhanna State Park

82 Year old man found alive after being lost for over 32 hours in 20 degree temps, snow.


Lesson here: Dress for the weather. He did!

1:38 p.m. on November 19, 2008 (EST)
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Well, I guess it's a happy ending, but maybe could have been avoided though.

Especially during winter I do my best to be prepared, that means a rain suit, some extra warm clothing, extra food, and a water container with bandanna (for filtering) & chemical treatment tabs.
Map, compass, knife, and fire starting tools as well.
This is the minimum I head out with in cold temps.
Anyone can get into trouble so I think it makes good sense.

8:11 p.m. on November 20, 2008 (EST)
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This thread and others on SAR reminded me of a book I recently read, which may be of interest to others:

Here If You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup

It's the memoir of a widow of a State Trooper, who goes on to become a minister and chaplin for the Maine Warden Service. So, among other things, she is the person who waits with families during search and rescues, goes along to notify families about loved ones, and also serves the men and women working in the warden service.

It was a new side of SAR to read about and I thought it was interesting, particularly since it takes place here in Maine.

8:42 a.m. on November 21, 2008 (EST)
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Thanks Alicia,

Here If You Need Me: A True Story by Kate Braestrup is now on my list for Santa.

4:04 p.m. on November 21, 2008 (EST)
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There was a older woman here in Wyoming that had her car brake down on a rural, little used road a few years ago. She was stranded for over a week. She survived only because she had supplied her car with food, blankets and extra water. But she was still near death after spending like 9 days alone in the middle of the winter.

8:02 a.m. on November 26, 2008 (EST)
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Here's another success story!

From SAR news:

Mushroom hunter found, cold but OK

A Marion County mushroom picker became disoriented and spent the night outdoors, and authorities say his experience should remind people to be prepared when they go out into the woods.

The Marion County sheriff’s advice: “Even if you think you will only be out for a few hours, you should carry basic emergency items such as a working cell phone, water, food, flashlight, space blanket and medical supplies.”

Late Friday, the sheriff’s office received a report of a lost mushroom picker off of Crooked Finger Road in Scotts Mills near Camp Dakota.

Kenneth Ray Gibson, 64, of Yamhill, had gone out with a friend to pick mushrooms around 2 p.m. They became separated around 2:30, and when his friend returned to the car, Gibson was not there. She waited for three hours and when he didn’t return, she went to Scotts Mill to call the sheriff. Deputies responded and activated search and rescue teams.

More than 40 Marion County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue members and full-time staff searched as soon as it was light enough to do so.

At approximately 8:30 a.m. Saturday, Crew 18 members made voice contact with Gibson and found him a short time later, but it took several hours to get him out.

The Sheriff’s Office Posse and Jeep patrol helped get Gibson out and to medics from Woodburn Fire District, where he was evaluated. Gibson was very cold, wet and thirsty but had no other injuries. He was taken to the Silverton Hospital in good condition.

He told searchers that while he was looking for mushrooms he became disoriented. When it became dark he walked and at times crawled throughout the night, except for about two hours when he was able to sleep.

10:02 p.m. on January 7, 2009 (EST)
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The Origins of MahoosicMayhem!

The Mahoosuc Range, NH/ME Late August 2000 (I think)

A few buddies and myself decided we were going to hike the "Toughest Track on the AT" before we all went back to College. We talked about it all summer, and I trained like crazy when I wasn't "working" at my summer job. When the time came to hit the trail, we set a date to meet just off the trailhead in Gorham. We decided to meet at 8AM on that Tuesday. I had a bit of the sniffles that morning, but that's just the seasons changing in the northeast, happens every year. When I reached the meeting point, I quickly found their car right where it should be. The guys, however, were nowhere to be found! Since our hike was only going to be about 6-7 miles to Trident Col. campsite, I figured they got a little itchy, and decided to hit the trail and catch up. After leaving a note on my dash describing my departure time and plans, I was off! I knew I was the most experienced backpacker by far, and thought nothing of going ahead solo.

These guys weren't the sportiest crowd in the world, so I figured I would catch them right away. Well I made my way up the hill, and started out on Trident. When I reached the campsite, there wasn't a soul in site. I checked the "sign in book” and there was Sam’s name. The only thing was it was signed and dated yesterday... puzzling? Well, I replenished my water supply, and figured since I didn't bring a tent I needed to catch up. I'll have to eat lunch on the trail. It's another 7 miles to or so to Gentian Pond shelter, and I needed to pick up the pace to catch the guys. My sniffles were continuing, but I brought a hankie, and thought nothing of it. By the time I reached Gentian Pond Shelter, it was dark, my feet were killing me, and guess what.... Nobody Home! I was the only dude there. Thank got for the three-sided cabin that overlooks the valley. I was so tired after I ate I fell asleep sitting and listening to the rhythms of the waterfall. (Sounded like a two hundred piece drum core, really intense, yet soothing) I must return for a few days, the pond is a great spot for a weekend getaway!

The next morning, I woke up feeling horrible! I had expended so much energy that I had caught the flu, or something sinister. I had a hard time keeping breakfast down, and my legs were stiff as boards. I stretched, and was off!

The Hiking was incredibly tough at this point, and I only knew it would get harder. There were huge boulders and steep rock slabs everywhere, and that added to the intensity. I soon felt my stomach churning, and decided to rest and write in my journal. No sooner than I started writing in the journal, an ultra light backpacker flew in from out of nowhere. I gave him a nod, and as soon as he was out of site, I began projectile vomiting.... not good. I drank some h2o, and forded ahead, stopping only to vomit and wipe my brow. Man was I upset with my buddies at this point. I knew had we started out together I would wait for them all day, but I really wanted to do this with friends.

When I reached the other side of Mt. Success, I was pissed. I had been sick 4 or 5 times, and knew that I needed to ration water. I moved up the trail to Mt Carlo, and along the way fell and skinned my knee and heel of my left hand on a steep decent. This was not the hike I had planned on, and my friends would surely be cursed! After a break to hydrate and medicate, I realized that I wouldn't be seeing my friends, and needed to make a decision. Would I head down off the trail and thumb it back to the car? Would I press on to the next shelter, knowing that the trail got even harder (how could it get any harder?)? Well, I'm 23 at this point, so all you men know what I did, yep, I pushed on. What an idiot!

It was dark when I stumbled into Full Goose shelter. I had lost the trail at sunset, gone off track, kept getting sick the whole time, and had to search for the white blazes for what felt like two hours. I found myself exhausted and sore all over. I removed my boots, and found two little blisters on my right foot, one on the heel, and the other on the top. “Isn’t this great” I thought to myself. I put my camp shoes on and thought about writing in my journal. Lots of water, and after a meal I literally passed out from exhaustion. The only other person I saw was the lightweight runner, not my friends. I took the next morning contemplating what lay ahead, and what it would take to get through. Having never hiked it, I figured, it couldn't get any worse than this, so what the hell...

The next morning, I mended the blisters and made breakfast. I was feeling a little better, but I was hurting in my joints and knew I better get to the end of my adventure soon. The runner was rummaging about around the camp early that morning. I thought to myself "this dude should be hiking up Katahdin by now." I introduced myself using my first name, and he as "Bucknife". Bucknife I thought… must have grown up in the woods as an orphan super hiker. His parents are probably from the 60's or something, maybe from away, (how Mainers sometimes refer to people not from the Great State) probably New Hampshire. I had no idea of trail names, but his was a cool one. He was an intern for the AMC, and his job for the summer was to take care of his section of the trail. "Well that explains everything,” I pondered, almost in awe of his ability and fleet of foot, not to mention his awesome internship. Sure beats the hell out of delivering beer around Boston (my summer job). "This guy knows the trail like the back of his hand... I could take his money in Golf" I thought to myself as to boost my self-confidence. As I headed out, he forewarned "this is the hardest trail I have ever seen, be careful...” There goes the self-confidence. “Bucknife, you play golf?”

The Notch was quite an adventure. I climbed over (and under) boulders, up granite slabs that were as steep as Rendezvous Bowl in Jackson Hole….

More mayhem to come!

12:33 a.m. on January 8, 2009 (EST)
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You can never be over prepared.

4:33 p.m. on January 11, 2009 (EST)
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Youngest Briton to scale Everest killed

From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/europe/01/11/uk.adventurer.killed/index.html

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Rob Gauntlett, the youngest Briton to summit Mt. Everest, died in a climbing accident along with another mountaineer in the French Alps, the British Foreign Office confirmed Sunday. Both were 21.

The bodies of Gauntlett and James Atkinson were found Saturday in the Mont Blanc area. Weather conditions were reported to have been clear and cold in Chamonix at the time.

Gauntlett scaled Mt. Everest, the world's highest peak, in 2006 just days after his 19th birthday, along with 19-year-old James Hooper, his Web site says. He shattered the previous British record set by Bear Grylls at the age of 23.

Also, on National Geographic Adventure, which named him co-adventurer of the year for 2008:

5:01 p.m. on January 11, 2009 (EST)
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Is it me, or do the British do more adventuring than Americans? Seems like every title goes to some Briton. And every single one of them happens to be a motivational speaker, ever notice that?

What a shame though.

4:05 p.m. on January 12, 2009 (EST)
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My days in the scouts you would have never caught us with takeout pizza or packs being ferried on a backpacking trip. Hell we would't even take pizza on car campouts. I think that kind off defeats the purpose of what you are susppose to be taught, doesn't it?

10:46 a.m. on January 28, 2009 (EST)
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Here's one that'll make wonder...


German woman missing 12 years found in Swiss woods

BERN, Switzerland—A German woman missing for 12 years has been found living in the woods on the outskirts of the Swiss capital with nothing more than an umbrella and tarpaulin for shelter, police said Monday.

The 52-year-old woman, whose name was undisclosed, appeared to be healthy after living in the simple shelter near the community of Bolligen for the past year.

Even the ranger who makes regular checks of the woods had failed to notice her before a hiker told police this month that he had seen a woman living there, said Juerg Mosimann, spokesman for the Bern police.

Bolligen's Mayor Rudolf Burger said he was told about the woman on Thursday and found her the next day in the makeshift tent she had constructed.

"She answered our questions and told us she didn't want any contact with her family," he said.

She conversed normally, but she also spoke of a mission that she had to fulfill, Burger added. He declined to elaborate.

Mosimann said it was unclear where the woman lived before she moved to the woods.

She is still living there, but the Bolligen Citizens Community that owns the woods will soon tell her she will have to leave, said community clerk Andreas Kohli.

"There's no point in waiting for months," Kohli said. "We are looking for an appropriate place for the woman in cooperation with the social services of Bolligen and the government of Bern."

The woman was reported missing in 1997 in a village near Potsdam, Germany, outside Berlin. She was identified with the aid of an information system shared by the 25 member nations of the so-called Schengen accord enabling passport-free travel in Europe.

1:31 p.m. on January 28, 2009 (EST)
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Pizza on a backpacking trip? Packs being brought in by a park ranger? Not only is that a wase of our national resources having a park ranger act as a bell boy but the whole troup should be drummed out of the boyscouts for their actions. If you want to go for a stroll and have pizza for dinner, go for a walk in your neighborhood.

12:12 p.m. on February 6, 2009 (EST)
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Two hillwalkers die, two found safe - Scotland


Thursday, 5 February 2009

Two hillwalkers missing overnight in mountains in snowy weather were found alive by rescuers today. The men were plucked to safety by a helicopter whose crew spotted them in Strath Nethy Valley in the Cairngorms, in Scotland.

Two hillwalkers missing overnight in mountains in snowy weather were found alive by rescuers today. The men were plucked to safety by a helicopter whose crew spotted them in Strath Nethy Valley in the Cairngorms, in Scotland.

But tragedy has struck in the Lake District, where two walkers have died in two days after going out in icy conditions.

In the Cairngorms, the two rescued men were flown to safety and werelater described as safe and well. .

Concerned family members raised the alarm last night when the men, aged 22 and 29, failed to return from their walking and climbing trip in the area.

Members of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team carried out initial searches in the area last night, but poor conditions forced them off the hill.

Members of Strathclyde Police Mountain Rescue Team (MRT), who are training in the area, were also involved in the search today, along with 21 members of Cairngorm MRT, 10 from RAF Kinloss MRT and four search and rescue dogs.

They were searching in the Coire Cas, Coire Na Ciste and Coire Raibert area of Cairngorm.

An RAF rescue helicopter also helped, and located the men at around 11.15am.

The men are believed to be from the Inverness area. They were heading home to recover from their ordeal.

Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team leader Willie Anderson told BBC Scotland: "We believe that one of their girlfriends sent them a text saying 'Dig a snow hole and stay put', so that's more or less what they did.

"They didn't get a snow hole dug but they got out of the wind behind a stone and when daylight came they started to make their own way off.

"It would have been a long, long walk out for them today due to the conditions so we're pleased that the helicopter picked them up."

One of the men, 29-year-old Marcus Scott, works as a chef at Aviemore Highland Resort. His 22-year-old companion from the Inverness area did not want to be identified.

In the Lake District, a body believed to be that of a missing 60-year-old man was found today, Cumbria Police said.

The lone walker failed to return to his vehicle at around 9pm last night.

The unnamed man, who is believed to be from Windermere, had gone walking in Great Langdale and failed to return to his green Volvo car.

A search involving the RAF and local mountain rescue teams was mounted last night, and resumed this morning.

A Cumbria Police spokeswoman said: "The body of a man has been located by a mountain rescue team 50 metres below Climber's Traverse on Bowfell.

"His body has been taken to the West Cumberland Hospital and his family have been informed."

She said police have yet to formally identify the man.

The police spokeswoman also revealed that a man in his 60s who fell 300 feet at Pavey Ark in Great Langdale yesterday died after being airlifted to hospital.

She said conditions on the fells were "icy and cold".

12:51 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Ohio Hiker Dies After 165-Foot Fall in Kentucky Gorge, Officials Say
9:02 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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Re: Ohio Hiker Dies After 165-Foot Fall in Kentucky Gorge, Officials Say

I guess if you are going to pass away, you might as well pass away doing something you enjoy doing. Still a sad story.

9:27 p.m. on February 16, 2009 (EST)
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I wouldn't be surprised if fatigue may have played a part in this tragedy. The article said he HAD BEEN deep in the Daniel Boone area. I have hiked a good bit of rim trails, and some are right on the edge with crumbly shoulders it wouldn't be hard to misstep and go tumbling off. Then again I have watched people get too close to soft edges to get a photo.

In any event, I hate to hear this, something similar happened in Cloudland Canyon GA. recently.

5:19 a.m. on February 17, 2009 (EST)
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Re: Happy Ending, Tobyhanna State Park

82 Year old man found alive after being lost for over 32 hours in 20 degree temps, snow.


Lesson here: Dress for the weather. He did!

Two useful Norwegian sayings:

"Det er ingen dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær." (There is no bad weather, only bad clothes). (looks like the Norwegian vowels don't translate..."å" is an a with a little circle over it, pronounced approximately "oh"; "æ" is a and e fused together, pronounced approximately "ah")

"Det er ingen skam å snu." (There's no shame in turning back).

Fritjiof Nansen was a master of the first rule, and exercised the second when he abandoned his north pole attempt and lived to tell the tale. Robert Falcon Scott and his companions might have benefitted from the advice (and Mallory and Irvine??).

6:23 a.m. on February 17, 2009 (EST)
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Thanks BigRed!

I like the sayings. I may use them in my teaching.

BTW, My late aunt Sonove (Sonja, we called her) was from Norway. Oslo I think. She was a military nurse and met my uncle during WWII. Wish I could have learned more from her, but that's another story

5:17 p.m. on February 18, 2009 (EST)
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Luckily the worst that has ever happened to me after 30+ years of backpacking and wilderness canoeing was a ruptured abdominal wall while in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was a tough day and a half getting back to my car carrying a backpack and portaging a canoe. Luckily the canoe was kevlar and only weighed 31 pounds. I called my doctor when I got out and they were waiting for me when I got to the hospital. I now have two pieces of plastic mesh inside me and a six inch incision. The hardest part was looking at the baseball sized ball of intestined that was poking through the tear in the muscle. It didn't really hurt, just a dull pressure like feeling. Anyway, all is fine now and there are no after affects.

7:22 p.m. on March 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Lone hiker falls into icy creek - rescued by couple who happened by

It might be getting warmer, but it ain't spring yet. The following story from my area illustrates the need for winter gear even when air temperature seems to indicate otherwise.


Officials are trying to warn hikers about dangerous conditions. A man fell 30 feet Sunday off a popular hiking trail in Luzerne County, landing in the stream below.

They worked for four hours and finally rescue crews brought the hurt hiker out of the woods of Ricketts Glen State Park and loaded him in an ambulance.

Officials said the man fell from an icy trail, landing in the stream below. A group of experienced hikers from Williamsport found him in the water.

"The gentleman who fell was down in the creek and quickly getting hypothermic so we quickly got them out of there and built a fire real quickly. My wife went down and called 911 and we built a fire to take care of his immediate needs," said Tom Randis of Williamsport.

Rescuers are familiar with the popular trail that winds deep into the gorge. They knew they had a task ahead of them, trying to carry the victim out. They headed into the woods from along Route 118 knowing they would find icy conditions and a long haul.

"Down here, the sun is shining, up there it's tight, it's darker, sunlight doesn't get in there, so there's an awful lot of ice left over," added Randis.

Signs were just posted the day before, warning hikers of the dangerous conditions.
"People just need to know if you don't have the right clamp-ons, especially those little pokey things that go on your feet, if you don't have them, you don't belong in here," said Chief Ed Fitzgerald of the Mildred fire company.

Crews respond to numerous rescues there a year. They're just glad this hiker wasn't hurt worse.

"If people want to hike, just do it the right way. Get the clamp-ons and do the right things. It will save use our Sunday afternoons. We will come out and do it if we have to," added Chief Fitzgerald.

The hiker had leg and arm injuries. He was taken to the hospital to be checked out.

11:47 p.m. on March 17, 2009 (EDT)
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Just checked to see how our boy above was doing - injuries not too serious, hypothermia was the biggest worry as the water temp. was COLD.

12:04 a.m. on March 18, 2009 (EDT)
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Glad to hear he is doing well. I personally don't go out in winter, early spring, or late fall without a friend that has more experience than I do in those conditions.

6:53 p.m. on March 18, 2009 (EDT)
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I assume everyone has by now seen the stories about Natasha Richardson. "Simple" fall on a beginner ski slope, appeared to be just fine, then within hours had to be transported to local clinic, then major hospital in Montreal, then to major hospital in NYC. I guess I will be less annoyed when Barb insists that I always wear a ski helmet when skiing solo on the yoyo slopes and in the backcountry. I have taken a couple of hard tumbles (some on the flats just after a hard run down the steeps - ya can't relax, just because you did a perfect run on the hard stuff!), and always felt just fine. Although ... many years ago, a friend and I were on a training ride (bicycles) headed down Topanga Canyon, passing cars, when I went into a turn too fast, locked the brakes trying to bring the speed down, and cartwheeled over the handlebars, hitting the back of my head on the pavement, while the handlebars bounced off my forehead. The rear wheel ended as a "D" shape (rather than a perfectly circular "O"). I sat on the yellow line for a minute of so while cars went around me that I had passed (none even asked if I was ok). My friend appeared a bit later walking his bike (he had flatted in the midst of a turn and managed to stay upright). After repairing his tire, we limped our way back to the apartments. Next day I still had a monster headache, so went into the med center, where the doc said I had a concussion and suggested I should wear a helmet if I was going to continue riding like that (the only bike helmets in those days were the little leather "hairnets"). A year or so later, Bell brought out the first real bike helmet, and I have worn one ever since - good thing, since I have been in a couple crashes in bike races since (I don't race anymore, though I do ride the hills and still occasionally pass the cars on the downhill stretches).

She may be a celebrity, but it does remind me that the human body is pretty fragile. I am way beyond the youthful belief that I am "invulnerable, immortal, and omniscient" (that last word means "knows it all - just ask me").

1:56 a.m. on March 19, 2009 (EDT)
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There is a raging argument on Telemark Tips about the efficacy of helmets after Ms. Richardson's crash and death. There are some hardcore "no helmet" people who won't wear one regardless of what anyone says.

I bought mine for two reasons-one, I am a fairly unskilled skier ("bad" is the actual term that comes to mind) and two, a friend of mine knocked herself out snowboarding a couple of years ago.

I've had a helmet on in a motorcycle crash and several bicycle crashes (didn't bump my head in the bike crashes) and have worn one rollerblading.

8:54 a.m. on March 19, 2009 (EDT)
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After knocking myself unconscious (while alone) skateboarding, a very scary situation to say the least, I wear a helmet! As an emergency responder, I've learned the importance of wearing a helmet. It has been drilled into our heads, so-to-speak. I own about 7 of them.

I wear one:

Firefighting (of course), snowboarding, sledding, rock climbing, tree climbing, while using a chain saw, rollerblading/skateboarding, bicycling (for sure!), SAR (even when just ground-pounding), on animal rescues, directing traffic, etc., etc,

Bottom line...they save lives.

1:01 p.m. on March 19, 2009 (EDT)
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We always wear helmets downhill skiing and bicycling and have drilled their necessity into our son. A couple weeks ago, he started whispering and asking me why the young girl sharing the chairlift with us was not wearing a helmet. He was concerned about her and another person we rode with who did not have one. It was a little awkward to explain, but I said that not everyone has a helmet, even though it is safest to ski with one. They do rent them many places though, and they are the rule with us.

I feel bad for the family of Natasha Richardson. It's so easy in hindsight to say what should have happened (wear a helmet, get immediate medical attention, etc...). I got a pretty bad concussion in college (hit my head on a concrete dorm floor, then played rugby, yikes). It didn't get diagnosed for a day or so. So, I know that the severity of a head injury is not always immediately apparent. All the more reason to check things out.

1:28 p.m. on March 19, 2009 (EDT)
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Helmets are mandatory for kids at some resorts, but for adults, it's a matter of personal choice. The counter argument is that they don't prevent all injuries. Dale Earnhardt had a helmet on in his NASCAR crash and died of a neck injury in spite of it. A new device was mandated after his death to prevent a similar injury to others.

The same arguments are made against seat belts and airbags, which can be dangerous for kids because they deploy so fast, but if used properly, do save lives.

To me, they are common sense. I ran into an out of bounds nylon line once wearing goggles and a helmet and at the very least, they prevented the line from rubbing the skin off my face.

5:42 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Canyon crews search for 3 missing in Colorado River

Friday, May 01, 2009
Personnel at Grand Canyon National Park were searching Thursday for three people who jumped into the Colorado River below the boat beach near Phantom Ranch, and were carried away by the current.
The Park Service received emergency calls from Phantom Ranch and from an emergency phone near Boat Beach at about 8:45 Thursday morning. Crews were searching for the three by air, and have personnel at Pipe Creek and Phantom Ranch, located downstream. During Thursday's search efforts, the National Park Service and the Department of Public Safety conducted extensive air operations from Pipe Creek to Crystal Rapid, a distance of 10 river miles. A NPS zodiac was flown in and used by rescue rangers to search the area from Boat Beach to Horn Creek
Diamond River Adventures was assisting.
Water temperatures in the Colorado River in this area range from about 49 to 52 degrees.
The Park Service said it would release more information as the search continues

3 missing in canyon were on Tempe church trip

9:15 p.m. on May 1, 2009 (EDT)
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Gary, thanks for posting that.

People often underestimate the power of water, or should I say they underestimate the chances of having an accident, it does happen! 50 degrees is pretty cold water if your not wearing insulating clothing.


On the subject of helmets, and safety equipment in general. I would be dead if I had not been wearing a helmet in my 1986 motorcycle accident with a pickup truck. My helmet had a small crack from the edge of the face shield out to the right side. I was unconscious for about 20 minutes, and according to the paramedics it took another 30 minutes before I could tell him my name and what day it was. Without a helmet I would have suffered a fatal injury.

I had seizures for several months, permanent hearing loss, broken nose, TMJ, and other minor problems that I still have to live with, such as a slight tremor in both hands, for one. But hey, I'm alive!

That incident has made me pay closer attention to what I'm doing in the back country, I'm more alert and cautious than I would be otherwise probably.

Safety equipment does save lives, the argument that it is safer not to use safety equipment because of some obscure accident, or it's improper use, led to a death or injury is just bullheaded.

May 28, 2018
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