Near Misses

Threads related to Colorado mountaineering accidents but please keep it civil and respectful. Friends and relatives of fallen climbers will be reading these posts.
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WVMountaineer
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Re: Near Misses

Post by WVMountaineer » Mon May 14, 2018 4:15 pm

TravelFar wrote: this Capitol trip report from AnnaG22 is appropriate at this juncture:
https://www.14ers.com/php14ers/triprepo ... trip=16683
Thank you for sharing. Might have to replace the super glue and band aids in my pack with something a little more appropriate.
Fortune Cookie Says "Calamity is the touchstone of a brave mind."
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Voshkm
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Re: Near Misses

Post by Voshkm » Tue May 15, 2018 10:32 pm

Well i promised not to repeat, but if this is edumacational then well, a friend of a friend fireside told me that a long time ago in a mountain range far far away there was an incident. Winter climb through a bowl that contained many a willow, 2 brooks, a few ponds AND some bogs. Everything was off schedule he told me. Late start. Slow crew. The lead knew there was water and intended to stay off to the shoulder on climbers left. But they were very behind so much that the lead already knew there would be no summit that day. However several areas with water proved to be solid ice, 6-10" not even a lil flex. By going more direct and not skirting the water some time could be saved he realized. Might improve the spirits of a crew, that would ultimately fail, if they got up the headwall a bit. Gingerly picking his route through drifts and bunks he turned and told the crew to spread out instead of being in tight.
50 yards up he stepped on a drift and it cracked and swayed as thick blocks of snow over unfrozen water do. 1 step in retreat proved that there would be no dry retreat as the block tilted wildly with the weight off center. Hard packed snow floats like a chunk of ice but it differs in that it absorbs water and loses cohesiveness. This guy tells me he knew he was going in the drink and was focused on going in feet first despite the 30" snowshoes on his feet that couldnt come off in time. Important to keep your head dry and if posible, chest. A big difference for each. Feet touch bottom at 4 feet so he trudged his way threw freezing water over to the bank, breaking up the snow in his way. By now the crew was gathered on the bank and a bit quiot. This was a bog so the floor of the bog did not taper gently up to dry ground but rather was an abrupt drop to 4' and the bank itself another 2' almost straight up. 2 crew grabbed his arms but were unable to pull him up. Guy wasnt light and crew was physically a tad smaller. Guy thought about life insurance policy but didnt like that line of thought and asked for ice axes. Reached into the icy water and ripped of snow shoes and climbed out ice climbing style. Guy was well aware danger was far from over and put aside embarassment of striping down to base layers in front of mixed crew. Started quick fire with jetboil. The sun popped out right then and the wind died, felt like 35 to 40 degrees all of a sudden. Reflective blanket caught the rays of the yellow sun and danger was over. Borrowed xtra base layer in lieu of pants as spare pants were not in pack. Spare socks were pointless as boots were thoroughly soaked with rank rotting bog water. Toes were like vienna sausage by the time making it back to the truck, he said, but not frozen.
Could have been much worse. Guy knew better than to unnescesarily travel over water. Didnt follow his instincts. He knew bogs freeze at a lower temperature than clean water. Hopefully it can serve as a warning for others. Dont travel up creek beds or over water in the winter if it can be avoided. 99% can be deep frozen but it only takes 1% to take you out on a below 32 day.
The crew was requested later to read London's" To build a fire". After a shudder went threw him just from reflecting on icier times, he threwback some brown sugar bourban as if it would stave off the frostbite of his memories. I instinctively drew up closer to the fire.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by 14erFred » Wed May 16, 2018 7:17 pm

An edifying cautionary tale told in a creative and entertaining style -- thanks for sharing this, Voshkm. :)
"Live as on a mountain." -- Marcus Aurelius
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Re: Near Misses

Post by rijaca » Wed May 16, 2018 7:41 pm

At the risk of anger from the Mountain Gods, the only near misses I've had is avoiding be killed by my climbing/hiking partners for forgetting the beer.
"A couple more shots of whiskey,
the women 'round here start looking good"
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Re: Near Misses

Post by painless4u2 » Wed May 16, 2018 9:01 pm

Doing 14ers for many years, one will have their occasional near misses, such as when the entire talus slope started shifting coming down Sunshine (yes, the route with the warning, my bad!) or sliding unprotected down a ice slope on Massive and hitting the boulders below, nearly fracturing my femur. But my biggest pucker near miss was on a training hike up Humphreys Peak in Arizona, on the way to Colorado. I was solo and moving along at a good clip, came around a bend in the trail and right up to a large mama black bear with her almost as large cub, right on the trail. Oops. They stood and stared at me for a while, all while I said "good bear, good bear", slowly backing away. Fortunately, they finally turned and ambled back up the trail without incident. After a quick change of my underwear, I slowly summited the mountain, never seeing them again. Whew!
Bad decisions often make good stories.

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Re: Near Misses

Post by Voshkm » Wed May 16, 2018 11:59 pm

fine example of the value of preparedness. spare under ware weight is so much better than rash
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Re: Near Misses

Post by HikesInGeologicTime » Thu May 17, 2018 9:16 am

Spare sock weight is worthwhile, too, as I discovered on Antero yesterday when I slipped on a rock in the middle of Baldwin Creek that wasn't as dry as it looked. :/
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Re: Near Misses

Post by TravelingMatt » Thu May 17, 2018 4:54 pm

I have two, although I'm not sure how much the original topic has been derailed for it to matter.

First was in the Elk Range on the janky class 3+ ridge that runs south from Pyramid and Thunder. Doing a couple of nameless 13ers. Slipped slightly, lost my balance and didn't exactly "fall" as much as go slip... slip... jump... jump. For about 0.6 seconds I thought, I guess this is my time, as it seemed the severity of the slope and terrain was such that nothing was going to prevent me from falling all the way down into the basin. Except I stayed on my feet and after the second jump, didn't move. Dropped about two body-lengths total. Stood there for a few minutes and once my legs stopped shaking and brain fully processed what happened, continued on to my second summit of the day and back without incident.

Second was on the Twin Peaks in the Sangre, west of Ellingwood. Had already tagged the southern (unranked) one and I was standing on the summit of the northern (higher) one. Sky had become fully overcast and I had heard some rumbles several miles away towards Blanca. Wasn't planning to spend much time up there in the first place, but still overstayed my welcome. I experience a white flash around me, hear a bzzzzzzt and feel a shock course through my body from feet to head. A fraction of a second later, but longer than can be accounted for by differences between the speeds of sound and light, roars the loudest crack of thunder I have ever heard. I smell a slight burning but am uninjured. I run the hell down from the summit as fast as possible and get back to the TH without further incident; it does not rain.

Was I struck by lightning, or was that some sort of pre-lightning surge?
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Re: Near Misses

Post by seano » Thu May 17, 2018 5:22 pm

TravelingMatt wrote:Was I struck by lightning, or was that some sort of pre-lightning surge?
Bob Burd had something similar happen, and looked into it:
Michael provided me with some pages from the NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) on lightning that was better than other information I could find online. It described the process by which lightning bolts form, and how these come to strike the ground or objects on the ground. A bolt starts from high in the clouds, shooting out with a "stepped leader" in approximately 50m increments before another leg forms in another direction, generally heading towards the earth. As the bolt reaches the vicinity of the ground, "streamer" bolts rise up from various locales on the ground toward the main lightning bolt. The main bolt then chooses one of these streamers to connect to and return the current, which becomes the location of the direct strike. All of this takes place in anywhere from 1 to 100 milliseconds. I suspect I was knocked down by one of these streamer bolts (which carry significant, but much less current than a direct strike), and not actually a victim of a direct strike. It is also possible that I was knocked down by ground currents that may have flowed along the ground from a nearby strike. I tend to discount that possibility because of my vivid recollection that I was knocked on the head, not from the lower torso.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by TravelingMatt » Thu May 17, 2018 5:31 pm

I've tried to research what happened but that seems most consistent with my experience. I did not see any lightning associated with the main thunderclap, so based on that explanation, presume the main bolt decided to strike somewhere else. (One reason I decided to stay up there despite the clouds was that all the ridges in that area are pretty high and the lightning seemed to be concentrated around Blanca.) Thanks.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by DeTour » Thu May 17, 2018 8:36 pm

I would be interested in people's reactions to those near misses. TravelingMatt, to experience what you did on Pyramid-Thunder and still get your legs to stop shaking "after a few minutes" - enough to continue to summit - sounds pretty remarkable to me. I got a little spooked on Eolus climbing the "short cut" gully to the catwalk. It wasn't so much the difficulty, it was just more difficult/exposed than I was prepared for mentally. It stuck with me to some extent all the way to the summit. I would describe it as a touch of weakness in my legs, along with a lack of mental confidence. I remember crossing the narrowest section of the catwalk and thinking about what it would be like for my wife and kids if I fell. I'd never thought that way before.

Next time I encounter that - and I do expect a next time, mentally at least, hopefully not a near miss anything like Matt's - I will take a concentrated break to gather myself, do some breathing exercises and center myself mentally.

Maybe there's nothing more to add to that, but I wonder if others have additional thoughts or experiences in the mental aspect. I also wonder about the long-term recovery, which the OP referenced. I had an extended bad experience on El Diente in 2008. For months afterward my head was in a bad place, although I don't know how much was hangover from that experience vs. other life issues (move, economy, family issues). My experience was nothing like what combat vets go through, but after spending much of 2009 feeling like my brain had the flu, I wondered if there was some mild degree of PTSD factor going on. I would have been one to think that was over-diagnosed until I went through whatever it was that I did.
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Re: Near Misses

Post by TravelingMatt » Thu May 17, 2018 11:10 pm

DeTour wrote:I would be interested in people's reactions to those near misses. TravelingMatt, to experience what you did on Pyramid-Thunder and still get your legs to stop shaking "after a few minutes" - enough to continue to summit - sounds pretty remarkable to me. I got a little spooked on Eolus climbing the "short cut" gully to the catwalk. It wasn't so much the difficulty, it was just more difficult/exposed than I was prepared for mentally. It stuck with me to some extent all the way to the summit. I would describe it as a touch of weakness in my legs, along with a lack of mental confidence. I remember crossing the narrowest section of the catwalk and thinking about what it would be like for my wife and kids if I fell. I'd never thought that way before.
I suspect after that incident, where I stayed on my feet the whole time, I felt something along the line of, "Oh, that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be." I contemplated whether to turn back, but I was at a point -- past the first summit of the day, with the only way back being to retrace the route I came up -- where it would be enough of a slog that I might as well go for the second summit. Also, I reckoned that I fell due to carelessness on my part, meaning that taking greater care watching my footing could reduce the chance of another such fall, rather than the entire mountain being that unstable, meaning it could happen again a few feet later. And if it could happen again a few feet later, it could happen upon turning back anyway.

I was at around 200 ranked 13ers at that point, in addition to all the ranked 14ers. Now I'm over 300, and do believe the experience has led me to be more careful on chossy crap with questionable footing. I wouldn't put that day in my top three hardest or scariest outings. Maybe around #5 or #6 in Colorado.

Something else, though. I've had other near-death experiences which didn't involve climbing at all that I've walked away from. Maybe this is my time to go -- the older I get the more comfortable I am feeling this. I'm far more bothered by job interviews I've bombed, stocks I've bought or sold at the wrong time and things I said to girls when I was a teenager.
You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough. -- William Blake
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