the north face cycling also proves deadly
Two members of the eight climber group had been hurt, one with a broken leg. They sent a team back down the route to get help just as foul weather set in. Down slope, the descending climbers found help in the form of park ranger .
The rising storm made an immediate rescue impossible. The eight member team had been traveling “light and fast” the mantra of the modern climber. With minimal fuel and supplies, they had been prepared for a fast summit and return. A stay of several freezing nights at altitude wasn’t in the plan.
This is, experienced climbers say, the fine, often shifting line that defines light and fast climbing, or the pursuit of a summit with as little extra gear as possible.
The deaths of three climbers on Mount Hood in December renewed the ongoing discussion among serious climbers about where the minimalist line should be drawn although it remains unclear exactly how much extra, multiday stay gear the Hood trio had.
Two of the climbers’ bodies have not been found. The third died of exposure, not injuries, while hunkered in a snow cave. Would more gear have saved him?
“It’s hard to say, but at Denali, for example, you are prepared to stay a week in a cave if necessary. And people do that,” said , member of the Mount Hood Crag Rats, a climbing club that helped with the rescue attempt. Two Crag Rats found the body of climber in the snow cave.
Although it’s true that 11,237 foot Hood is no 20,320 foot Mount McKinley in Denali National Park, a winter summit on the Oregon volcano is difficult, particularly on its north face.
Sherrerd, who has climbed Hood a dozen times, cautioned that the Hood accident might not represent anything more than bad luck for three climbers who got caught in the worst storm anyone can remember. Winds near the summit topped 100 mph for several days in a row.
“But in mid December, you have to plan for terrible weather, too. Their e mails indicated they planned for a quick two day summit. Sometimes, that’s just not going to happen.”
E mails among the trio in the two months before the climb, rescuers said, indicate that they had an internal debate about what gear to take, including whether to pack bivy bags sleeping baglike emergency shelters for their winter summit attempt. Years ago, a bivy bag would have been considered as necessary as water.
“You see people going up” Rainier,
Gauthier said, “with all of the right things to achieve a perfect climb. But what if it isn’t perfect? What if it turns into several days in a snow cave?”
This has been the subject of discussion on climbing message boards. Indeed, some of the early debate involved the fated climbers themselves. They were making queries about a winter climb on Hood and what gear to take and what to leave behind.
Put simply, “light and fast” means using the least to achieve the most, keeping a pack light enough for a quick summit and return, staying exposed to weather and altitude as little as possible. It can mean taking merely a single day’s worth of food and fuel (critical in melting snow for water) and little extra clothing other than what is worn.
The light and fast philosophy is nothing new, and many expert climbers say it has saved more lives than it has cost. The Mountaineers outdoors club offers seminars on the subject. Climbing books extol its virtues.
It is now such a standard way to approach alpine climbing as opposed to once popular, everything but the kitchen sink expedition style that the discussion has distilled to how light a climber can go.
“The light style is relatively accepted in Western climbing, simply because it is easier,” Beckwith said. “You accept the risk in order to minimize the (weight) discomfort.
Before the accident that would claim his life, using his message board avatar “Fuggedaboudit” found himself in a debate with some local climbers who asserted that by the nature of his queries about a planned Rainier climb, he likely didn’t have a clear grasp of that scale. (Many of the postings have since been removed.)
One person, rather than sending answers, sent him photos of rescues instead.
Cook’s response: “Finally, just wanted to say that when I ask for route conditions on this site, I really don’t think you need to post photos of helicopter body recoveries instead of telling me whether or not the snow bridges on Carbon were still solid last mid May, which is what I was looking for when I asked for info, not ‘people can get hurt or die doing this.’
“I think this site is a great resource for information but am really turned off by someone anonymously parenting me to ‘climb the mountain on her terms not yours.’ You don’t know me, I don’t know you. The difference is, I keep my mouth shut.”
, owner of Pro Mountain Sports in Seattle, listed Cook among his customers. Considered the primary local gear destination for the orthodox go light crowd, Pro Mountain is known for its obsessive customers, called “gram geeks” alpinists who spare no detail in order to travel ever lighter, even if it means removing tags from clothing. In fact, he said, it generally is much safer. The type and amount of gear a person takes depends on their experience and risk assessment.
“But people do get sucked into it,” he said of minimalist climbing. “It can get you in trouble, if you can’t weather a storm. In the right hands, though,
it can get you out of trouble. You can (by moving quickly with little weight) reduce your exposure to altitude.”