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Another Fallen

Portland hiker's body found Saturday, ending a 9-day search

Trailside cliffs on Table Mountain. Pic:

After a week and a half of intense searching by helicopter, canine, and ground teams, two ATV riders found the body of missing Portland hiker Katherine Heuther (24) on Saturday afternoon. She was discovered at the base of a cliff face on Table Mountain, north of the Columbia River Gorge in southern Washington. Our condolences go out to Huether's family and friends.

Table Mountain (3,417 feet) is a 15-mile round-trip hike with steep and exposed trail sections. From the PCT trailhead near Bonneville Dam, where Huether set out about 1 p.m. on March 4th, it is considered a stout day-long endeavor.

The two local four-wheelers, a father and son who were intimately familiar with the area, went out specifically to look for Huether because they felt the most probable mishap site, a rugged region bordering an ancient landslide, had not been combed extensively. According to Skamania County Undersheriff Dave Cox, they "parked their 4 wheelers and...hiked some distance before finding Ms. Huether wedged behind rocks at the base of an over-800-foot cliff." She was clad in dark blue clothing and difficult to spot even at close range. Read Full Story...
Sunday, March 14, 2010 in: Survival, News & events, Tips & skills
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Late homework hand-in blog

Tough women, tender burgers and old hippies

Photo: Vertical Limit publicity still. Sony Pictures Corp.

Greetings campers! It's 10 days since my hip surgery (see below). I no longer have any homework excuses, so here's a catch-all blog of several random highlights from the outdoor world.

Female winter Denali climber has left the building
20,320-foot Mt. Mckinley is one cold berg. But in winter, it's interstellar cold, triple-digit cold, Minus 148 degrees Fahrenheit cold. And damn dark too. While about 750 people climb Denali every year, only 16 people have ever pulled it off in winter. Four aspirants died trying. Two summiters died descending. That makes your average 8,000 meter peak sound like a sure bet. Now, Frenchwoman turned Alaskan Christine Feret is holed up in a snowcave at 10,000 feet, waiting for a break in the weather. Go girl. Super tough. And better you than me.

Hiker still missing after four nights in Oregon mountains
Hiker Katherine Heuthner, 24, has now spent four nights missing in the Table Mountain/ Bonneville Dam area near Portland, Oregon. On Thursday afternoon, March 4th, she texted friends that she was setting out on the Pacific Crest Trail and would be back by 8 p.m. that night. Read Full Story...
Monday, March 08, 2010 in: Survival, News & events
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Solstice SAR Roundup

Heads up! In this season of hope and joy, there's plenty of trouble if you want it.

Tis the season for celebration, campers, because we've turned that solstice corner. Ever since 12:47 p.m. on Monday, your days - and your daily outdoor fun window - have been getting longer, not to mention warmer, courtesy of earth's 23.5-degree axial tilt relative to its orbital plane. But it's still winter, and that cold, hard fact is reflected in a lot of recent mishaps.

While the media continues to handwring about the three unfortunate climbers on Mt. Hood, there was no shortage of similar occurrences which didn't make the headlines. They all serve to show us the reduced safety margin that cold, short days, and harsh weather bring this time of year.

Last weekend a Kirkland, Washington couple who were skiing and snowshoeing in Mt. Rainier National Park got stranded overnight and survived by building a snowcave. A major search was gearing up, but they walked out on their own.

Another couple, training for a March adventure race near Aspen, Colorado, got caught in gathering storm when they failed to locate the Goodwin-Greene Cabin south of Aspen Mountain Ski Area.
Read Full Story...
Tuesday, December 22, 2009 in: Survival, News & events, Skills & tips
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A Sport is Born

And clearly, X-gamers need to step it up.

Sigh. There are times when I wonder why I even bother to write about survival situations and techniques, given the human propensity to walk a tightrope edge between life and death, even in the most recreational settings. Clearly, some people out there want to die. As proof, witness the new Euro sport of Buggy rollin'.

And to answer your first question: No, the road is not closed to traffic.
To answer your second question: Yes, those posts are apparently concrete.
To answer your third question: I have no idea where you can buy the gear.

Read Full Story...
Friday, December 18, 2009 in: Survival, News & Events
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Wednesday Rescue Round-Up

Mount Hood, Canyon Rescue, and the Tetons get a SAR HQ maybe

Hey campers! I’ve pulled my head out of…Gear Guide writing, and I’ve got a few hours before driving north to a surgeon’s consultation (I’m getting a stainless steel hip "resurfacing" this winter). Soooo it’s time to get back into rescue blogging. Here are a few recent highlights:

Mount Hood Again
One climber has been found dead, and two are still missing, after a trio set off up the Reid Glacier Route (Class II, 50-degree snow/ice) on the West face of 11,239-foot Mount Hood, America’s most-climbed peak. The group took off at 1 a.m. on Friday, December 11, expecting to be back about 2 p.m.. When they didn’t return, family members contacted rescue authorities.  Searchers found the body of Luke Gullberg next morning, below the Reid Glacier headwall. He had fallen, but later died of hypothermia. No rope or other gear was found with him, but searchers found a water bottle and glove they think was owned by one of his companions, and photos in Gullberg’s digital camera showed the party earlier on Friday, roped up and happy in sunny conditions.

Gullberg’s two companions, Anthony Vietti, 24, and Katie Nolan, 29, remain missing. Aerial searches of the mountain in good weather on Monday revealed no further clues.  Gullberg was the most experienced climber of this relatively experienced group. All three were devout Christians. The search has been halted several times by Hood’s infamous maritime weather, and the ensuing media frenzy has been accompanied by the usual ponderings about ‘crazy’ climbers, beacon use, and tax protesters screaming about costs.  The mountain is expected to get another two feet of snow over the next several days. Read Full Story...
Tuesday, December 15, 2009 in: Survival, News & events
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Bad News Triple Header from Yosemite and Great Basin

Two deaths and a close call illustrate the perils of unroped scrambling, crowded routes, and summit separations

    Image via Flickr

Lessons from Half Dome

On Saturday, June 13th, hiker Manoj Kumar, 40, fell to his death off the Half Dome cables in Yosemite Valley. His fall occurred one week after another hiker fell 300 feet but survived. Rangers had to evacuate 41 gripped hikers from the route. You can read  more on this earlier Daily Dirt post, and in this Backpacker forum. Both include first-hand eye-witness accounts.  Here's my take:

[] Many people underestimate exposed scramble climbs. While weather, heavy traffic, and often-unqualified hikers make the phenomenon worse on Half Dome, the same sort of accident occurs routinely on less famous or traveled scramble peaks. Climbing any Class III or IV route requires thousands of individual moves. It only takes one miss. You can't expect a perfect record, but that's what soloing requires - even when you've got a hand line. It's strictly for very high-mileage, well-trained climbers, and they die by the dozens too. Half Dome averages about three deaths a year, but relative to the visitor numbers, that's not a particularly high figure. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, June 17, 2009 in: Survival, News & Events, Skills & Tips
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Things Not to Do With Bears

Yeah, and this too

       Yellowstone circa 1950. Photo: Sarah Howe, Howe family archives.

Well, there's not much out there in the way of instructive backcountry accidents, other than lots of lost hikers, several drowned kayakers and canoeists, and mountaineering tragedies on Denali and Minya Gongga in China that illustrate how mountains are bigger and badder than any human being, no matter how gnarly and experienced we are. Noted alpinist/ice climber/paraglider Will Gadd has an excellent post on the often-understated risks of high-adventure sport. It's well worth a read.

What has been notable, however, is a trio of bear versus human smackdowns, none of which proved fatal for either species, fortunately. Read Full Story...
Friday, June 12, 2009 in: Survival, News & Events, Skills & Tips
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Of Boneheads and Beacons

Two news shorts on gas canister craziness and a cheap new PLB

Gaaah! I'm gone for five measly days and now my e-mail inbox is filled with little red exclamation points, DHL Couriers are demanding 'power of attorney' (fat chance) just so I can receive a test mini-computer from Korea, and my health insurance premiums jumped $92/month - again. It's all I can do not to turn right around and run screaming back into the woods. Since things are a little hectic at present, here are two tidbits to keep you insatiable readers happy until I regain my composure or decide to vanish like D.B. Cooper, whichever comes first. Read Full Story...
Monday, June 08, 2009 in: Survival, News & Events
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Early May Rescue Roundup

The perils of group dynamics, overreaching plans, and random sheep

Hey Readers! Time to catch up on some of the backcountry craziness that's happened over the last two weeks. I'll briefly go over the three instructive incidents that hit my inbox. News junkies may have already read about these. Hopefully my analyses will lend further perspective.

Legally blind outdoor editor found after six days lost near the AT
On Sunday, April 26th, Ken Knight, 41, a Production Editor at our erstwhile kinda competitor Backpacking Light Magazine, went missing while on a fast and light group hike of the AT as it parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway through Virginia.

Knight was with a loosely organized, multi-state, 18-person group that had coordinated on the internet. They formed into two parties to hike a 75-mile section of the trail in opposite directions for shuttle purposes. Basically, everyone was on their own during the hike, meeting up each night at campsites or dropping out to find shuttle solutions on their own. In the end, only 7 trekkers completed the entire 75-mile distance. Knight was with the southbound group.

On Sunday, Knight, whose useful vision is limited to objects within 10 or 15 feet, told fellow hikers he wasn't feeling well and might drop out. Falling behind the group, Knight then missed a trail junction or switchback shortly after leaving Punch Bowl Shelter near the BPRs mile marker 52, enroute to the John's Hollow Shelter. Apparently Knight didn't think he'd dropped out, but others assumed he had quit.

Due to non-existent leadership and check-in plans among the impromptu group, no one became alarmed when Knight didn't meet them at the end-point rendezvous at mile marker 76.3 on Tuesday afternoon, April 28th. However, when Knight missed his airplane flight back home to Ann Arbor, Michigan the next day, it triggered a belated but intensive search that included 130 people, seven dog teams, and three horse-mounted units. By the time searchers hit the trail, Knight had already been lost for four days.

Since Knight was a well-known blogger and editor, the search triggered a frenzy of internet speculation and AT hiker concern. Readers wishing to learn more about the incident can find a ton of message board and internet dispatches. Read Full Story...
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 in: Survival, News & Events, Skills & Tips
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'Best Job in the World' Position Filled

You missed your chance—British man scores caretaker job at gorgeous Australian island

Like your job? You won't after you hear this.

England's Ben Southall won a competition for "The Best Job in the World" as an island caretaker for Australia's Hamilton Island. Not only does he get paid to live in an airy oceanfront villa in the Great Barrier Reef, his only real work is to write a blog about how he spends his days relaxing, swimming, and hiking around the island.

The job stems from a tourism campaign promoting northeastern Queensland, an area forgotten amongst tourist hotspots like Sydney and Melbourne.  In order to get the job, Southall went through a not-so-vigorous interview process of snorkeling, eating barbecue, and hanging out at a spa. Listed on the Queensland Web site, his job responsibilities include feeding the fish and cleaning the pool: "The pool has an automatic filter, but if you happen to see a stray leaf floating on the surface it's a great excuse to dive in and enjoy a few laps."

Read Full Story...
Wednesday, May 06, 2009 in: News & Events
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