Skiing tragedy in Norway, four supposed dead

11:21 a.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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Here in Norway it is much debate concerning a tragic disaster in Sirdal. Three foreign skiers are found dead, but they were four and the search goes on for the last person. To those of you who read norwegian:

http://www.vg.no/nyheter/innenriks/artikkel.php?artid=10014080

http://ipad.dagbladet.no/2011/02/17/nyheter/innenriks/ulykke/15472193/

The four left the hut Taumevatn to go to Heibergtunet a distance of about 10km. The tracks are marked with branches but the weather turned bad. About 1,5km from Heibergtunet the group were warned to go further, but they refused to listen. The three deceased were fond about 800 metres away from the hut Taumevatn, so they obviously had turned but too late.

The group had gps, and were ok dressed, but one person that met them said the clothes could have been better. The group consisted of two germans, one swiss and one uk citicens.

I'll let you know when there is something new in this case.

Otto

1:25 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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What is the debate about?

4:44 p.m. on February 18, 2011 (EST)
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Yikes! Bad weather does hit quickly in our area too. The article says that one of them was found in their sleeping back. No doubt all froze to death and I am quite sure they had they had improper clothing for the trip and were not prepared at all. Trying to get into their heads, I believe three went out to find help or possibly their car nearby. The dead person (was it the woman?) stayed back and tried to stay warm in the sleeping back. There was likely zero visibility and they just kept walking. They all should have stayed in the tent until storm passed-better chance of survival with combined heat. Debate?- The importance of being prepared, well equiped, educated  and using proper survival techniques.

6:22 p.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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LA: well the debate is how this could happen. We are perhaps a small country, and even if we travel a lot in the mountains there has not been an accident like this for more than 30 years.  True, several have died in avalances, and some people have frosen to death also, but not four in the same group.

The latest information is that the group was a family from germany with a daughter and her boyfriend. The police has notified the relatives of their deaths, even if the last person (boyfriend) has not been found yet. They believe he may lay under more than 2 metres of snow, and all extensive search with dogs and avalance rods has proven futile.

D-Dog: yes the only good thing that may come out of this tragedy is the awareness to avoid a similar accident later. The norwegian mountain code specifies several rules that probably have been ignored by the group. Ao: turn in time, save strength, dig into the snow and wait for better weather.

6:41 p.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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That is sad and unfortunate for the family. Maybe awareness of the incident will help others avoid similar fates in the future, but it's too bad it happened to this family.

11:25 p.m. on February 21, 2011 (EST)
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It is often hard to cut short a trip because of bad weather warnings, but remember that stormy winter days are often followed by beautiful weather.

Even early stages of hypothermia brings on confusion that leads to poor decision making very similar to one who is becoming drunk.  One can really believe everything is fine and that you are doing well when in fact you are impaired.

Winter cold and wind can be a bad combination, but when do you "hole up" and when do you try to keep going?  Leaving a capsized boat and trying to swim for what looks like a near-by shore can be fatal.  Leaving shelter and seeking help in a storm is another one that has led to tragedy.  In bad situations the urge to "do something" is strong, but often it might be best to "do nothing', stay where you are and wait it out.  This can really come into play if you have a companion who is injured.  

Turning around is another one that is often hard to do even though it is the right choice.

Luckily, however, most of have survived the "bad decisions".  Of course, The goal is to make as few as possible, not challenge the odds too often.

 

How many times have I heard, "Learn from your mistakes."?

6:33 a.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Is there any further news about the 4th skier?

I know the people involved, but don't speak the language to understand the press. nothing has been wirtten in the British news about the 4th skier.

8:30 a.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Koi chick: try google translate to get most of what the papers are saying (Norwegian and German).  A few online papers are putting out an English translation too.  We spoke to the police and the search for the 4th is suspended until better weather ("spring"). 

Someone above said: "I am quite sure they had they had improper clothing for the trip and were not prepared at all."   When I spoke to one of the police officers on the case, the group was described as being very appropriately dressed for the weather that was forecast, and that the storm that they were caught in was not predicted.  Furthermore, from the way they were found, it appears that they did try to dig a snow shelter, had GPS, they were experienced, they did turn back... all as the Norwegian Mountain code recommends.

Surely negative speculation is unjust on the deceased, and incredibly unfair on the family that may come across this forum when searching for other information on what happened.

10:39 a.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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My condolences and prayers to the family and friends of the departed.

12:57 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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There no way to tell how this hapened. As stated above it is unjust to speculate on the group or their abilitys. Concerning the debate, I wonder what are the position of each side. All in all it seems like a tragic accident that few could have prevented from what we can gather here. Maybe Otto has more info?

As Gonzan said, my sympathies to the family.

3:27 p.m. on February 23, 2011 (EST)
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Winter Traveler, I did my own research on the trajedy and the German news is saying this should have been avoided. I did not state anything that has not already by said about this case. I am saddened by the events, and really feel for the family. My family hikes with me and we have seen bad weather hit without warning. This is what the Norwegian Mountain Code says about weather:

An old adage advises that you should always be alert to forecasts of bad weather yet not rely completely on forecasts of good weather. Regardless of the forecast, you should be prepared for bad weather. Even a fresh breeze (Beaufort Scale 5) combined with sleet or frost can produce frostbite. Weather forecasts aren't sufficiently detailed to forecast local weather in mountain areas. Despite forecasts usually being right, it's difficult to predict when weather will change. So you should heed forecasts in adjoining lowlands as well as in the mountains, and follow weather changes.

I do this everytime I hike on both the German and Austrian sides of the Alps. I bring the extra layers, wear a good base, and pack my survival gear. I do this on just day walks too. I had a long debate with my fellow hikers this week while hiking the Felsenpfad in Dahner. We even talked about what we would have done if caught in the same situation. They also expressed their concerns on how to make sure this does not happen again. One way is to learn from the sad loss of this family. This is not done to belittle or disrespect the family, but to help others and ourselves if the same situation arises. I am already planning to visit Norway in the future and I know I have learned from this horrible trajedy because of the debates that have started on this forum and within communities. Plus, you also are speculating by saying "it appears". GPS means nothing in a whiteout., heck my car GPS put my on top of a hill surrounded by farms instead of the house I was traveling to. We do not even know if they had waypoints set. I have seen GPS in action-just look at some of the more recent forums on the subject. What do you mean it appears they were experienced. Experienced in what-sking, hiking, survival? I know they were skiers. This is all that I could find on their skills. The only thing I commented on was their survival decisions. Survival techniques are important topics that must be debated.

I pulled this article from an English language German news website: The comments posted were not very nice from the individuals commenting on the news piece. I feel I was very respectful from what their own countrymen are saying on the site and in other news media, and from talking about it with others. Yet, I do care and I felt I was not being unjust. I was opening up the debate.

The Foreign Ministry confirmed over the weekend that the three bodies found in the southern Norwegian area of Sirdal, about 70 kilometres east of Stavanger, were those of three of four Germans who have been missing for several days.

Norwegian police were continuing the search for the fourth skier on Sunday.

German officials said the group consisted of a couple along with their daughter and son-in-law from Saxony. The group are thought to have planned to ski from Taumevatn to Heibergtunet last Sunday.

A local warned them not to try the trek because a snowstorm was expected, according to the Freie Presse newspaper. But the four continued their journey until eventually turning back as conditions worsened.

They had written their names in a ski hut just the day beforehand, 800 metres away from where three bodies and four rucksacks were found. The Norwegian police suspect they lost their orientation in the snow storm and failed to find their way back to the hut. They are assuming the fourth member of the group – a woman – is dead under the snow.

7:53 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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I have avoided commenting on this thread because my past experiences left me with strong unfavorable opinions regarding certain aspects of the German trekking culture, and the penchant they have for getting mired in incidents like this on foreign soil. 

But there is one aspect of this culture that we share, which probably was a factor in this event.  Often even weather that seems to come from nowhere provides a warning.  I have been on trips where one person voiced a warranted concern, yet others squelched this concern, and continued on.  When such incidents did result in being stuck in foul weather, the eventual “I told you so” was well warranted.  Studies have shown a group of people are more willing than a single person to accept risk in many endeavors.  This partly explains why committees are not effective policy makers.  In any case many people are reticent to spoil the fun of a group by announcing they should bail and go home before things get hairy.  Such is peer pressure.  Who knows, all these people may have been concerned, but kept quiet until it was too late.

This is a serious enough problem that I have imposed a policy on trips I participate in.  As recently as two years ago I had to be adamant enforcing this policy.  It was late October in the high Sierras, and certain members of my party packed au la ultra light style, and lacked sufficient cold weather gear.  Eventually I talked them down, stating the dog one brought along was already suffering from the cold, and the weather was about to get a lot worse.  My policy: If anyone thinks we should turn back or otherwise alter the itinerary for safety reasons, it shall be done.  It is better to regret the good time you missed through overly conservative action than regret the death that resulted from not acting responsibly.

Ed

10:49 a.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Nice one Ed.

Again, wise words. Better safe than sorry when in a big group. Peer presure can as you say, be more dangerous than what nature throws at us sometime.

3:24 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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The fourth person is not yet found, and all search are ceased. As winter traveller inclined, it is only to wait for spring.

The weather must have been quite strong. By coincidence two boys who is walking NPL (Norway end-to end) were out in the same weather only 40 km north of the tragedy. Here is their tour report of that day http://www.norgepaalangs.no/?page=301&menu=2&id=34 but as most of you do not read norwegian I instead submit a picture of one of their dogs who had his nose "sandblasted" by icecrystals so that most of the hairs were torn away. Poor animal, must a been quite a storm.


130220112597.jpg

7:26 p.m. on February 24, 2011 (EST)
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Ed, I saw this somewhere recently about flying small planes (paraphrasing somewhat) - "It is far better to be on the ground wishing you were flying, than flying and wishing you were on the ground."

There are more than enough of these stories to go around in many countries, not just Germany, about bad decision making.

IMHO, the cause of many of these accidents is not knowing what you don't know-what Rumsfeld calls the "unknown unknowns." That is what kills a lot of people in my estimation-not knowing that you really don't know what could happen and not knowing what you should have with you if something bad does happen.

1:45 p.m. on February 27, 2011 (EST)
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The missing person, according to Met. Police here in London, is my son. They have this info from Norway thru the official channels.

The latest from them is that a camera has been found and pictures from it are expected to arrive here in the next 2-3 days.

It seems, however, that my info is somewhat different from some of the foregoing and has caused us all a great deal of confusion.

If anybody has the true latest info, it will be an act of mercy if they share it with us and help us out of the present state of limbo.

Bless you all for the very humane concern!

2:55 p.m. on February 27, 2011 (EST)
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SRK,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I can understand your confusion, since I live in Germany and the information has not changed from the newspapers, newscasts and internet. A German couple from Saxony was with their daughter and son-in-law when the storm hit. Their car had German license plates. This information was passed to German authorities to inform the surviving family members. There has not been a release of the family's surname from any German media sources so far. I do hate that you are in a state of limbo at this time with such conflicting information. God bless you and your family.

Otto (or anyone who is able to contact him). I know you are in Norway..can you help this family?

3:25 p.m. on February 27, 2011 (EST)
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SRK, I'm so sorry for you and your family's loss. Not knowing the details must be especially difficult at this time.

I cannot imagine what you are going through, but send condolences to all the family and friends of those lost. I hope you get some answers soon.

Best wishes to you.

-Alicia

7:39 p.m. on February 27, 2011 (EST)
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Me too. SRK we are all truly soory for the loss of the son that you have suffered. I hope that both me and the rest of the paricipants in the debate have behaved in an orderly way, and not brought extra burden to you and your family.

The latest info is this http://www.fvn.no/lokalt/lister/article837532.ece and here the police releases the names of the three found persons and states that the fourth person will be searched for when weather conditions allow it. But as it has come a lot of snow in the area and more on the way it may take a while. Sorry, this is the brutal reality.

Otto

5:03 a.m. on March 2, 2011 (EST)
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Here is a translation of the Norwegian article linked to in the preceding post:

SIRDAL: In a press release, Rogaland police confirmed that it was Gerald Buerger, born in 1955, his wife Irmgard Buerger, born in 1956, and his daughter Katrin Buerger, born in 1978, who were found dead. All three are originally from the town of Langenau in the district of Brand-Erbisdorf in Germany. It was on 18 February that the three were found dead in the area of Taumevatn in the Sirdal hills. A comprehensive search operation was conducted for the fourth member of their party, but this person has still not been found. The group had embarked on a trip a few days earlier. When they were found dead, they were on their way from Taumevatn to Storevatn. The temperature in the area was down to 20 degrees below zero, with poor visibility. The search for the fourth party member has been discontinued.

- "We will consider continuing the search for the missing person when the weather allows", Egil Netland, the sheriff at the Sirdal sheriff's office, said to TV 2.

11:57 a.m. on March 2, 2011 (EST)
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We were visited by the officer concerned from the Met. Police on Moday and were told a new search would start on Tuesday (yesterday), albeit with a reduced-strength search party -- about 1/4th of the previous one. His opinion was that this search would perhaps last 2-3 days.

We need the prayers and good wishes of all for the success of this  party in finding my son!

We are waiting for him to come home -- we want him to come home! It will be our greatest regret all our lives that there is absolutely nothing that we on our part can do here or anywhere else. We are in state of suspended animation!

12:55 p.m. on March 2, 2011 (EST)
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SRK, best wishes to you and your family at this difficult time.

9:56 a.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Hello

        One of the Skiers was a colleague of mine at Cardiff University and we are all shocked at this tragedy. The thought of them caught in a whiteout haunts me and I can’t get the images out of my head.

Being a hiker myself I understand all the comments and concerns from Trailspace members and hope that the dialog here could help prevent others from suffering the same fate.

My brother was skiing in Norway the first week in Feb and said the early snows hadn’t arrived, which meant it would have been difficult for anyone to find enough deep hard snow to make a proper snow cave. He also reminded me of the time he survived a whiteout by crawling about 2k down a mountain on his hands and knees to escape an impassable wall of snow. That story demonstrates that even with all the right gear available, when the snow falls at such a rate and you can’t see the person right in front of you, there’s not a lot you can do, apart from hunkering down perhaps.

I wanted to know, if when you sign into a Ski hut does anybody check the books for missing people ? I’m a little confused here and trying to figure out what happened to the four.

They left Hyttebok cabin Taumehytta on Sunday the 13th to go to Heiberg yard cabin but never got there, because we know they turned back and were found on the 17th  near their starting point . Do we know if they were reported as being missing or lost ? .I’m surprised that it was four days before someone found them accidently and  a proper search party hadn’t.

Only one small thing makes me feel slightly less upset and that’s the reply by chief of police  Egil Eriksen to this question below :

Do you know anything about how they were equipped, as you suggest that they may have been surprised by bad weather?
- No. It's been a really rough weather with strong winds this week. The effective degrees of cold can make you have trouble even in good equipment, "says Egil Eriksen.

To me they will now always be Heroes and I cry and salute them.

Not to leave you with a sad note I have another question. I wanted to know, does anyone use satellite phones?  Do you think they could be useful in saving lives? I’ve noticed that some of the expensive GPS devices can send data to other GPS devices; could that be useful in an emergency? Do any of these devices produce an SOS function that would save lives? i.e. to send an SOS to other GPS devices within a certain radius. I know I sound a little technologically naïve, because GPS devices mostly receive data and not send it, but I’m just trying to make a point.

Happy trails to you all, Timo

2:04 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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It'hard to look for people in a whiteout. Logic states that you usually dont send people out. It's a hard and brutal thruth. Satellitte phone and other such device in my knowledge need direct contact with the above mentionned satellites, so I dont know if they would work in a whiteout. Checking books is not always possible or 100% effective, assumptions can lead to errors, not saying it was the case though.

2:13 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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It'hard to look for people in a whiteout. Logic states that you usually dont send people out. It's a hard and brutal thruth. Satellitte phone and other such device in my knowledge need direct contact with the above mentionned satellites, so I dont know if they would work in a whiteout. Checking books is not always possible or 100% effective, assumptions can lead to errors, not saying it was the case though.

 Satelite communication such as a Sat phone and GPS are line to site...meaning Louise Alex your assumption is correct.Atmospheric conditions Rain, Snow knock out the signal strength and can't penetrate to the horizon and basically scrambles the waves...I was a tacticle communications geek in the military...How I described it is easiest to understand and not technical..

3:01 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Not to leave you with a sad note I have another question. I wanted to know, does anyone use satellite phones?  Do you think they could be useful in saving lives? I’ve noticed that some of the expensive GPS devices can send data to other GPS devices; could that be useful in an emergency? Do any of these devices produce an SOS function that would save lives? i.e. to send an SOS to other GPS devices within a certain radius. I know I sound a little technologically naïve, because GPS devices mostly receive data and not send it, but I’m just trying to make a point.

Happy trails to you all, Timo

Timo, the technology of satphones and GPSRs is obscure enough that you really have to have worked in the field to not be "naive". Since I spent many years as a Systems Analyst and Designer for the Navstar Global Positioning System, GPS receivers, and satellite phones (Iridium in particular), and in my retirement I evaluate GPSRs and other electronic devices, here are some answers:

First of all, these devices are not "magic". You have to know the basics of wilderness travel, including map and compass, as well as dealing with the terrain and weather.

1. Yes, I use satellite phones. There are currently only two companies that make satphones that are portable enough for the backpacker, climber, and skier, Iridium and GlobalStar. Iridium provides coverage for the whole globe, while GlobalStar covers primarily the continents (with limitations on such places as southern Africa and southern South America) between 80 degrees latitude north and south (little or no coverage midocean). GlobalStar has been noted for dropouts and time gaps in coverage, but is increasing the number of satellites to significantly improve the situation. Note that the handsets for both are expensive and talk time costs $2-$3 per minute. Satphones are basically cell phones that use one of the two satphone satellite constellations as moving "cell towers". Normally, there are several satellites in view above the horizon at any location on Earth (between +/- 80 deg latitude for GlobalStar). Rain and snow do not affect the signal significantly, though "canyon and canopy" do ("canyon" includes both natural and man-made "canyons", so mountains can block the signals; "Canopy" includes certain types of trees, notably certain conifers and a number of tropical trees). (note: I have used satphones and SPOT from inside snow caves, as well as during heavy rainstorms and blizzards, with little problem)

2. Both Iridium and GlobalStar have saved lives. One widely publicized case was the 16-year old girl sailing around the world, whose boat was demasted in the southern Indian Ocean. A rescue vessel was able to get to her within 2 days (location provided by a pair of GPSRs whe used for cross-check on accuracy).

3. At this point, the only dedicated GPSR that relays information is the Delorme PN-60w (and PN-60w SE, which is the larger memory version). This unit relays the information via the SPOT Communicator, using the GlobalStar digital messaging system. SPOT also has a new device that relays messages from iPhone and Android phones, including the GPS-derived locations from those phones (presumably most readers realize that virtually all cell phones include a GPS-chipset these days that works to give positions, even when out of cell coverage). These can be used to send SOS/911 messages.

3a. In addition, there are Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) that may or may not include a GPS-chipset. PLBs (and the related EPIRB and ELTs) have many years of successful rescues (and unfortunately, also body recoveries) history behind them. The SPOT devices have several years and a few hundred rescues history. I should note that the original SPOT and the current SPOT 2 are basic beacons that have a GPS-chipset in the small pocket-sized unit, and relay "OK", "Need help", and "SOS/911" messages via the GlobalStar the first two going to your designated "team", the "SOS" going to a global relay system to Search and Rescue units.

4. GPSRs are not designed for communication, in general. There are, however, communication devices that have embedded GPS-chipsets or connect via cable or wireless to a GPSR - ham radio APRS, the SPOT family of devices, etc.

5. A slight correction to denis comment - satphones do indeed communicate line of sight. However, this communication is to the satellites, not directly to one another. The satellites (consider them "cell towers in space") will receive and relay the signals, as long as they are above the horizon, switching among satellites just as a cell phone system switches from cell tower to cell tower. In the Iridium system, the relays are directly among satellites to talk to someone on the other side of the globe, while GlobalStar uses a "bent pipe" system, involving ground stations (the reason for the limitations mid-ocean).

3:15 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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I wanted to know, if when you sign into a Ski hut does anybody check the books for missing people ? I’m a little confused here and trying to figure out what happened to the four.

They left Hyttebok cabin Taumehytta on Sunday the 13th to go to Heiberg yard cabin but never got there, because we know they turned back and were found on the 17th  near their starting point . Do we know if they were reported as being missing or lost ? .I’m surprised that it was four days before someone found them accidently and  a proper search party hadn’t.

Otto may want to chime in here, but in my experience as a long-time user of the Norwegian huts there is no established system for tracking people from hut to hut, especially in unserviced and self-service huts. Except in a few areas and at very busy times like Easter week there is no caretaker at these huts, they run completely on honor system and can be completely unoccupied for weeks or even months at a time especially in the dark winter months. So even if you leave your intentions in the hut book there may be no one there to read them for a long time, and they would have no way to know if you made it to the next hut except to go there and see if you wrote something in the book there. When you write in your information in the formal hut "protocol" that is used to keep track of users and fees you usually write in where you came from and where you intend to go, but I have never heard of anyone following up on this in systematic way.

I suppose one solution would be to have a reliable two-way radio in each hut, so you could call in at least on high risk days.  Then you would have to have somebody at a base station logging all the info and you'd have to deal with all the situations where people change their plans, can't call or forget to call etc.

It seems better to follow the time-honored rule to be prepared to take care of yourself as much as possible, up to and including deciding to just stay put rather than try to navigate in bad weather. I have done some hut to hut crossings in very poor visibility, always in a group and usually following routes marked with sticks, but I have also turned back after a short distance or stayed put for a day or two to wait out the weather, usually because of poor visibility plus wind. Once on a day trip I got hopelessly turned around in a whiteout, but at relatively warm temps and little wind, and I was able to navigate downhill and out of the clouds to a road where I could figure out where I was. I had a shovel, down jacket, and bivy sack and was actively scouting places to dig in if it came to that. If it had been much colder or windier things could have been much worse, but I think I might have turned around earlier in those conditions.

The huts are very safe, but the vast spaces between them are not.

3:35 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Bill thats what I said their line to sight..just what a cell phone tower is presently used in everyday use. Where did the concept originate for a node? WW2 with wire runners in an artillery battery as well as radio operaters relaying a message with a retrans station..

6:55 p.m. on March 3, 2011 (EST)
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Timo, thanks for sharing your comments and thoughts. Hopefully all of the info above is helpful to you.

I'm sorry you have to discover our site under such sad circumstances.

3:31 a.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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Hi Alicia,

    Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. Congratulations on a great site. The members all seem very experienced hikers and climbers and with a wealth of knowledge and I have to bow to Bill S's input into helping develop the navstar GPS system, as you Americans would say, that's awesome !

Timo.

9:00 a.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks Bill, learned a few things, I dont use sat phone or GPS all that much. Compass and map never let me down so far.

Good luck Timo.

12:55 p.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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denis,

The terminology "line of sight" normally is used in the context of direct connections, not repeaters or relay stations. Since the Iridium and GlobalStar constellations usually have several satellites in view, meaning communications do not require the two parties in the connection do not have to be in line of sight for each other. Similarly with cell phones and repeater networks - two parties do not have to be within line of sight of one another if both parties are in sight of appropriate cell towers or of the same repeater (or repeaters in the same linked network). That is the fundamental purpose of relay systems - getting around the line of sight restriction between users of the network. With the satellite systems, the number of satellites and configuration of the orbital altitudes, inclinations, and spacing were chosen to gurantee a minimum number to be visible at any point on the globe, even if some of the satellites should fail for some reason (GlobalStar restricted its coverage area to cover 95% of the world's population, omitting polar explorers and ships in mid-ocean - there are a couple of marine satellite systems that have been around for a while, so GlobalStar did not consider that small market worth the huge extra cost at the original time of designing the system).

The operating frequencies of the Global Position System (and the other GNSS systems: GLONASS, Galileo, and the Indian, Japanese, and Chinese systems), as well as Iridium, GlobalStar, and the other proposed satphone systems, were chosen to minimize problems with precip.

1:26 p.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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Bill I realized I had wrote " line to sight" after the fact. I Also respect your opinion very very highly..Line of Sight can also refer to where the 2 radio waves connect..and it  doesn't have to be a fixed station or a relay. Microwave trans prove that. I've worked on AM-SAT Com's as an operator to the tech repair level BILL. The chips are basically a memory stick and power booster.  I wish I had a class where you teach it would be interesting to pick your brain...Sorry if my post sounded in the wrong context..

6:19 p.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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denis,

You are correct that each link in the comm chain at the frequency bands used needs to be LOS (or a physical connection, such as fiber, coax, wave guide, etc). But your comment might come across to many readers as saying that the end to end must be LOS, not  the individual links. That's why I said "slight correction". This is yet another illustration of the fundamental weakness of the Internet that I mentioned in the "should Trailspace discuss" thread. I know what you were trying to say, and you know. But a lot (maybe most) readers do not have the unwritten knowledge behind the all-too-abbreviated posts. And I see I have used an acronym that has 2 meanings, in the communications context which can confuse the issue even more - "LOS" means  both "line of sight" and "loss of signal". It is easy to clarify in a face to face discussion, but how many hours went by between your post and this one? In-person, the clarification would take only a few seconds, compared to hours (or days) over the web.

Those who might have read your comment as referring to end to end communication could well overlook the fact that satphones and the digital relay that SPOT and PLB/ELT/EPIRBs use are very reliable in getting emergency messages through. The big problem is that in severe weather conditions, all too often the SAR (search and rescue) teams can't get through, even when the precise location is known.

6:51 p.m. on March 4, 2011 (EST)
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Now I understand what you ment about the loss of communication on the internet..Great example. Yes I know of such a case your describeing that happened on MT Hood..That was a family friend..I still would enjoy hearing your lectures..Thats the geek side. I still try and  keep up with lot of it from former colleagues and personal friends in the field..

4:47 a.m. on March 7, 2011 (EST)
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Given the above, would anyone recommend that langlauf skiers should consider carrying a GPS-enabled Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)?  And would that have been of any help in this tragic situation? 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distress_radiobeacon

Example products:

www.rei.com/search?cat=40002203

12:48 p.m. on March 7, 2011 (EST)
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Given the above, would anyone recommend that langlauf skiers should consider carrying a GPS-enabled Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)?  And would that have been of any help in this tragic situation? ...

 

No!  They should have considered staying home! 

I don't mean to be harsh, but technology is no substitute for wisdom that dictates you bring enough warmth on any winter trip away from the parking lot, and necessary survival skils, such that you can hunker down if ambushed by weather.  Likewise for the wisdom of turning back before it gets bad enough to get trapped, or wisdom that knows better than to even venture out when the forecast warrants otherwise.

Ed 

3:03 p.m. on March 7, 2011 (EST)
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For the most part, I agree with Ed. Far too many people believe that technology is "magic" and carry the widgets as a talisman or good luck charm (remember, the rabbit's foot charm was bad luck for the rabbit). Far too many have gone into situations that are far beyond their skill levels or were far more severe than even an expert could handle, just because they had a cell phone, GPSR, or PLB. "If I carry this widget, then I can be saved if the situation turns sour."

Before anyone sets off into the backcountry, whether on skis (langlauf means crosscountry skiing) or in summer weather on foot (or snowmobile riders in winter for that matter), that person should be well trained and experienced, and equipped with proper gear to deal with that situation and emergencies that might arise. As I say in the High Adventure training course I will be staffing starting next week, "Be prepared for the reasonably unexpected!"

But if you are well-prepared for the venue and possible extremes of conditions, a PLB can be a last-ditch back-up if something beyond the "reasonably unexpected" happens. Even so, your first obligation is self-rescue, even if the "unexpected" event is a broken leg or a whiteout. In my avatar at the left, we were in Antarctica. The photo is from 2006. This past December we were down there again, and "reasonably unexpected" did happen - at High Camp on the mountain we set out to climb, we had a storm move in (30 knot, gusting to 50 knots, temperatures in the -30 to -40C range, whiteouts) and stick around for 8 nights and 6 days. We had expected ("hoped for" is more like it) nice sunny weather as in the 2006 photo. But we prepared to deal with a storm like we encountered. Most parties retreated back to Low Camp or to Base Camp when the prediction of the storm was delivered. The tradeoff was that we sat around bored (though with interesting discussions), but ready to head for the summit as soon as the storm cleared, while those who bailed (that's another response to the "reasonably unexpected") got to sit in comfort, sheltered from the storm and not stuck in the tents, but had to climb back to High Camp several miles and several thousand feet.

We did not have any PLBs, though we did have radios and GPSRs, and lots of food and fuel for the stoves, along with -40 deg sleeping bags, good tents, and down parkas and pants suited for walking around in the storm. Even if we had carried PLBs, it would have been days, or even weeks, before help could have reached us, if the PLB had been the only means of communication and calling for help.

Remember this, just because Search and Rescue get the emergency signal, they may not head out to rescue you - the number one rule in and SAR (or first aid) situation is "do not create more victims". If the risks of mounting a rescue are too high, SAR teams will not head out on a search.

PLBs do NOT guarantee a rescue.

 

5:47 a.m. on March 8, 2011 (EST)
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BigRed got the picture right. If you visit one unstaffed hut it may be weeks or months till the next person arrives, unless in the popular places. Even then there is no organized check as to whether the persons did arrive at their destination. They might have changed plans or whatever.

As to the assumption that there was little snow, well it was more than enough. The search party said they broke a load of search-rods trying to find the last person. The reason for not finding the last person is due to a quite large area and innumerable places where snow is more than a few metres thick.

Also the pictures from the area show hills with scarcely wegetation and a terrain suitable for digging a cave. The only place where a cave never may be digged is on the middle of the frosen lake where all the backpacks and one of the three were found.

Even with a plb you must wait for the SAR to find you, and if weather is too bad this may take days. We just had an accident in the north where a group of nine set out on snowmobiles. The weather forecast were not good, and the persons had too little clothes on. They managed to phone home by a cell-phone, but it took the whole next day before they were found. 3 died and 3 were just hours away from dying. A satellite phone is not more worth, you must have warm clothes and a way to get away from the weather and stay alive until you are found.

12:07 p.m. on March 9, 2011 (EST)
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SRK

I wanted to send my thoughts to you and your family at this horrific time.

I worked with your son in Switzerland and thought the absolute world of him as many of us do. This is all too hard to believe and understand as its all so tragic.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed everyday that they find him soon so he can be back with his family and friends. As we are as you said in complete limbo at the moment.

Thank you for updating this site at such a difficuly time for you on what's happening as it's keeping us all in the loop. Many of us are trying to find out daily if theres any update on what's happening. So this has really helped us.

I hope and pray they find him on the new search. He needs to come home.

I hope you understand why I felt I had to write this. And I hope i havent upset you even more. I wanted you to know what a wonderful son you have and how much he is loved by everyone. He has a special talent he takes over a part of everyones heart that he meets becasue he's a great guy and a wonderful friend. I am honoured to have met him and will always love him dearly.

My thoughts and prayers are with you all and with him so he's found soon. Very very soon.

Lisa xx 

1:54 p.m. on March 10, 2011 (EST)
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Indeed, as OttoStover writes, one of the three persons was found on the middle of a frozen lake. There were speculations in the Norwegian press that they may have been trying digging theirselves in, but never succeeded since they were disorientated on a layer of ice. A second point is that it has been stated in the Norwegian press that (according to eye witnesses 'before' and 'after' the event) all four of them were very well clothed and equipped, and that they have been listening to locals, who adviced them on turning back. I do feel a strong urge, therefore, to disagree with D-Dogs early "evaluation" of this tragedy.

Last weekend repeated search efforts has been undertaken again by police, Redd Cross and other parties, unfortunately without results.

My best wishes to SRK and his family.

9:46 p.m. on March 10, 2011 (EST)
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No-one can "evaluate" this tragedy. I absolutely loathe the armchair critic, oh... they should've done this or that kinda thing.

If anyone can learn anything from this it should be to have equal participation in decision making at all times.  

This sort of thing is NEVER caused by a single error in judgement.

9:16 a.m. on March 11, 2011 (EST)
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Paully,

This is no doubt a tragedy, but I think the "armchair critics" that you refer to are merely trying to point out to others the predominant importance of preparation.  

8:19 p.m. on March 11, 2011 (EST)
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Accident investigation and evaluation is important and should be done.  It is done all the time in aircraft accidents, scuba diving accidents, climbing accidents, car accidents, etc.  Unfortunately with the Internet, it is often done at a distance without all the facts, but that doesn't mean it can't or shouldn't be done as Paully suggests.

Accident reports from Yosemite are posted on the YOSAR site; reports from Arthur's Pass in NZ are posted on a SAR website from down there.  I've read dozens of them. 

One publication that has been around for years is "Accidents in North American Mountaineering" which evaluates climbing accidents.

From the AAC website:

"Through analyzing what went wrong in each situation, ANAM gives experienced and beginning mountaineers the opportunity to learn from other climbers' mistakes. From inadequate protection, clothing, or equipment to inexperience, errors in judgment, and exceeding abilities, the mistakes recorded in this book are invaluable safety lessons for all climbers."

http://www.americanalpineclub.org/pt/accidentsinnorthamericanmountaineering

That is the whole point-to learn from others so it won't happen to you.

10:04 p.m. on March 11, 2011 (EST)
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I'm in Japan at the moment and we've had a few graphic BC incidents recently and I am completely over all the "experts" that chime in with half the story and all the answers. It is counterproductive and adds to the confusion surrounding these sorts of situations.

I applaud the actual experts who systematically piece together the circumstances of a given event and therein give the public a clear understanding of what happened so as people can learn from it.  

2:09 a.m. on March 12, 2011 (EST)
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I can only agree with Paully. There's a big difference between expert group systematics and just making some remarks as an 'evaluation on the go' (preferably with a cop of coffee in your favourite arm chair) and if so, based on dodgy translations in the international press (adding noise) in early stadia, combined with their own reference values of how to tackle situations when things are getting nasty.

8:18 a.m. on March 12, 2011 (EST)
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I'm in Japan at the moment and we've had a few graphic BC incidents recently and I am completely over all the "experts" that chime in with half the story and all the answers. It is counterproductive and adds to the confusion surrounding these sorts of situations.

I applaud the actual experts who systematically piece together the circumstances of a given event and therein give the public a clear understanding of what happened so as people can learn from it.  

I agree. Adding information is one thing, second-guessing is another. I'd hate to have my own last moments critiqued, especially by those who knew nothing of me or the extent of what I was going through at the time.

On another note, I hope all is well in your area of Japan. The disaster there is astounding and terribly sad.

1:10 a.m. on March 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for your concern Alicia, I'm on the west coast in Hakuba, it's all fine here just a few tremors and stuff. I was high up when the big fella hit so I was pretty oblivious to it all until the next day. I'm just a bit overwhelmed by it all at the moment to be honest. 

(Apologies for taking the thread off track)

 

12:29 p.m. on March 14, 2011 (EDT)
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I am quite humbled by the number of individuals who have deeply-personal ties to this situation who have found this site.  And, I have to agree with many of the above comments... this is an excellent site for ongoing discussion into this tragedy.  Members here are wise, not just knowledgable.

Any conversation that remains in the past is destructive.  But, there are several good posts here that move the conversation into how all of us and other can prepare to avoid similar circumstances.

I am a interested in the "local" who told them to turn around.  I haven't read all the Norwegian articles, but this person sounds rather vague and it is not clear if they are an expert or authority.  There is a big difference between an expert and some fellow in the hotel lobby.  I know I would be more prone to listen to the former and not the latter.

Do these cabins or recreation areas have an "authority" system, such as park rangers?

Recognizing that some would not turn around even when such a figure was present to warn them... but an expert opinion on-the-ground is invaluable.

12:50 p.m. on March 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi Cleric,

these locals were norwegian skiers. I don't remember details about these people, but i'm quite sure you'll find your way on internet to figure it out.

There was no report of a 'hotel lobby' at the place were the victims were found, if you get my hint ;-)

 

5:43 p.m. on March 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Here, for the record, are the 9 "Fjellvettreglene" (mountain sense rules) that are widely posted in the huts, often with English and/or German translations:

  1. Legg ikke ut på langtur uten trening. (Don't go out on a long tour without training)
  2. Meld fra hvor du går.  (leave word of your route)
  3. Vis respekt for været og værmeldingen. (Show respect for the weather and the weather forecast)
  4. Vær rustet mot uvær og kulde selv på korte turer. Ta alltid med ryggsekk og det utstyret som fjellet krever. (Be prepared for bad weather and cold even on short tours. Always have a backpack and the equipment that the mountains require).
  5. Lytt til erfarne fjellfolk. (Listen to experienced mountain people)
  6. Bruk kart og kompass. (Use a map and compass)
  7. Gå ikke alene. (Don't go alone)
  8. Vend i tide. Det er ingen skam å snu. (Turn around in time. There is no shame in turning back)
  9. Spar på kreftene og grav deg inn i snøen om nødvendig. (Save energy and dig into the snow if necessary)

This is not to pass judgement, it seems in fact like this group followed most or all of these rules to some degree. We all have to make interpretations and/or act on incomplete information even when acting on what seem like simple rules, and we all have different reasons and thresholds for deciding what to do. Deciding how much credence to give "a fellow in the hotel lobby" might be an example of that.

 

5:30 p.m. on March 25, 2011 (EDT)
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Any news on the missing person yet? I just found out yesterday through Facebook.

My deepest condolences to both families!

@SRK:  I was shocked and deeply saddened when I read the news. But I was one of the lucky ones to have known your wonderful son. My thoughts are with you and your family in this difficult time.

 

Best wishes,

Silvia

8:57 p.m. on April 4, 2011 (EDT)
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I have searched both local and regional newspapers, but none has mentioned anything about the last missing person so far. If anything pops up, I'll keep you posted.

6:16 p.m. on April 9, 2011 (EDT)
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5:33 a.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Still no real news. They are searching once every week, and the mild weather has opened a few brooks. http://www.fvn.no/lokalt/kristiansand/article857296.ece 

6:01 a.m. on April 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Many thanks for the links to the Norwegian online news.  If it is not too much effort, please could you continue to post new links, as you come across them, to update us - even if they are negative that our dear friend still has not been found. 

7:06 a.m. on April 19, 2011 (EDT)
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But of course! As soon as there are some news I'll post a link to it and a short translation of the content. I'm googling at least twice every week for any update news.

8:25 a.m. on April 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Just recently found they are going to mak one more attempt tomorrow. This is probably the last chance to search using snowmobiles. The snow is melting so much now that they are soon useless.

Tomorrow I'm off for some days, and there is no internet connection on the mountains where we plan to hike.  :)

8:44 a.m. on April 20, 2011 (EDT)
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In addition i use to follow the news(papers) on this topic as well, so we'll be 'on watch'.

Ha en fin Påsketur OttoStover.

10:52 a.m. on April 23, 2011 (EDT)
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More news, getting a bit closer hopefully:

http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/sorlandet/1.7603999

They now found the sleeping bag in the immediate surroundings of where the other victims were found earlier.

The next search will not be done during Easter, and they will continue to search probably in May when all snow had melted.

5:08 a.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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Can I take this opportunity to thank you all so much for continuing to fnd out any information on the missing person. He was a great a friend of mine & we just want him found.

The fact you still continue to update on this tragic story is amazing. It's the only way tokeep up to datewith everything.

Thank you all again so very ,much. xx

6:32 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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On thursday 28/4 an extensive search was conducted again using 8 scooters and a seaking helicopter. 

http://www.aftenbladet.no/lokalt/sirdalagder/1369828/Resultatloest_soek_etter_savnet_skiloeper_i_Sirdal.html

No result so far. They must wait some more for the snow to melt, and search using scooters is now impossible. They will search again before the trees begin to get leaves, then visability from the helicopter will be less good.

 

8:00 a.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
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Otto and the others...

Can i also thank you for your updates here. Like a others on here, i also knew the missing person and greatly appreciate your updates. 

Hopefully some warmer weather may come soon to aid the search.

Many thanks 

W

5:50 p.m. on May 16, 2011 (EDT)
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Hi All

 

I just wondered if you'd heard anything lately regarding the search. I believe the snow has almost melted now. We were  hoping to have heard something or even that our friend had been found.

If you hear anything please let us know. You have no idea how much this means to us all.

Thanks again for everything.

Hillsey

8:53 a.m. on May 17, 2011 (EDT)
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Dear Hillsey,

 I am not connected to the regional news outlets like some members, but I think I speak for all to say to say that we sill be anxious to post anything we hear.

With thoughts and prayers - Gonzan

6:09 p.m. on May 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Just heard on the midnight news that they have discovered a dead person in the area they have been searching. It is not confirmed to be the missing person, but no other persons are missing in these mountains so the probability is great. Finally! http://www.nrk.no/nyheter/distrikt/sorlandet/1.7642838

10:13 p.m. on May 21, 2011 (EDT)
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My condolences to SRK and his family.  My condolences to all the people who lost friends & family & loved ones in what transpired.

One thing that strikes me here is that we all (myself as well) are so complacent regarding what is going one here.  Almost all the activities here that we partisipate in and discuss are by definition, and to vareing degrees, risky to exceptionally risky.  I think we are so used to taking these risks and then talking about it with others that take the same risks, that it all seems like normal daily activiteis (non-risky).  Remember, as normal as we all might think these activities are, it is not normal behaviour to walk long distances in execptionally bad weather in -20 deg temps in perpetual night time conditions in the deep snow.  Yet many of use speak of this as if were were just going to mow the lawn or go to the store.

Example: I ride motorcycles and like to ride without a helmet.  Some people say that it is stuipid and or risky.  Is not riding a motorcycle in and of itself risky when I could get from point a to point b in a car.  Car's are again, by definition, much safer that riding a motorcyle.  Using a helmet is again much safer by definition than not wearing a helmet.  I still choose to ride without a helmet in states where it is legal.

Technical rocking climing is in and of it's self a dangerous sport.  Climing without a helmet yet again more dangerous, and free climing still yet more.

I don't care how prepard we are with teck gadgets, the proper equiptment and the proper amount of training (is there ever enough).  Some people will die if the conditions warrent.

When climing Mnt. Hood in the middle of winter it is physicaly not possible to carry enough gear and food/fuel and have enough knowledge to ensure that you will come back alive.  There are storms up there that will long outlast your supplies and will  to live.  You can tip the chances drasticlly in your favor, but there are no garranties you will make it back.  How many have died on that mountian with the right gear.

'It is a sad fact but if we do things that are risky,at some point, no matter  how well prepared we are a certian percent of use willl not make it back.

The most important function of this fourm for me is to learn form all of you so that I can increase may chances when taking what ever risks I take so that I can make it back and try it again another day. (wow, some might say I'm a risk taker)

May all of you be safe in you endevors.

 

 

 

5:05 p.m. on June 29, 2011 (EDT)
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At long last this topic can be closed because we have today laid our son to rest in the Carpender's Park cemetery (near Watford).

However, it is my duty to express our profoud gratitude to all the contributors to this topic, even the negative ones who kept it alive. Especially, our thanks are due to Otto, Alicia, D-Dog and many others who showed great sensitivty in dealing with such a delicate subject.

One more person who deserves special mention and thanks from us is Detective Chief Inspecotr Kaare Moen Olsen who showed such understanding and courtesy whenever I contacted him and who greatly faclilitated the return of our son. In my opinion, he is the best ambassador of Norway Police.

Once again thank you to all you good people, a living example of how much good there is in the world!

Good bye all!

SRK

11:57 a.m. on June 30, 2011 (EDT)
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It saddens me greatly that you had to lay your son to rest. I am glad he was found, that you might send him with your words and fairwell.

May your sorrow be sweetened with his memory, and may each dawn bring you new peace.

Sincerely,

Caleb 

12:17 p.m. on June 30, 2011 (EDT)
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My condolences for your loss.   May you find happiness and peace in the years to come.

8:22 a.m. on July 5, 2011 (EDT)
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SRK, I'm sorry for your great loss. Losing one's child is a tragedy I cannot imagine.

I hope you have many happy memories of your son's life to reflect on going forward.

I'm glad to hear this difficult process has come to some conclusion for you and your family, albeit a painful one, and that others have brought you some measure of solace.

Best wishes to all.

December 18, 2014
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