Commentary

Rescue me

The Alaska National Guard’s lifesaving CH-47 Chinook/ Air Force Tech. Sgt. Amy Picard photo

In the wake of what is being billed as the largest mountain rescue in Alaska history, it is hard to avoid pondering what the late and legendary Bradford Washburn might think.

Washburn – for those who don’t already recognize the name – is the mountaineer, cartographer, photographer and much more who in 1951 poineered the West Buttress route that thousands of climbers have since followed to the summit of North American’s tallest peak – what was Mount McKinley and is now 20,320-foot Mount Denali.

A member of the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, Washburn was a man better known as an adventurer than for his day job as the founder of the Boston Museum of Science and its director for more than 40 years. 

In 2007, he died at the ripe old age of 96 back home in Massachusetts. No one would have bet on him living so long.

By rights, he and climbing companion Bob Bates should have died in 1937 in the St. Elias Mountains that straddle the Alaska-Canada border. These are the same mountains where-in the Alaska National Guard this week staged that headlined, “record-breaking rescue” to save eight climbers and four guides stuck in bad weather 10,000 feet high on the slopes of Mount Bona.

Washburn and Bates could have told the group all about the wind and snow for which the Wrangell and St. Elias mountains of eastern Alaska and the southwest Yukon Territory, Canada, are infamous.

Big, wild, dangerous country

First snow and then heat almost ended the 1937 plan Washburn, Bates, Russell Dow, and Norman Bright cooked up to summit 17,150-foot Mount Lucania, then billed as one of “North America’s highest (unclimbed) and most inaccessible peaks. 

It remains the latter. Washburn and Bates made the summit in ’37. It would be three decades before anyone repeated the feat, and the mountain has been little climbed since.

Just across the Alaska-Canada border in the Yukon, it’s not an easy place to get onto, and it sits in the most glaciated corner of Alaska. The glaciers are built by the snowstorms that come in waves from off the Gulf of Alaska.

Washburn and his companions from the Harvard Mountaineering Club, a force in American climbing in the mid-20th Century, knew this, planned accordingly and went well prepared. There is an old warning about these mountains and the storms that can pin climbers down for days:

“If you’re going on a two-week trip, plan on food for at least a month.”

In a post-trip report written for the American Alpine Club in 1938, Washburn revealed he and Bates went onto the mountain with “50 days of food.”

Some of it they later abandoned after accepting they would have to hike north for almost 100 miles through wild, trail-less country to reach safety. Washburn’s report for the Alpine Club downplayed that life and death struggle.

Author David Roberts didn’t when he 70 years later wrote “Escape from Lucania – An Epic Story of Survival.” This is how publishers Simon and Schuster summarized Roberts’ telling of the tale:

“Against awesome odds, (Washburn and Bates) became the first to set foot on Lucania’s peak, not realizing that their greatest challenge still lay beyond. Nearly a month after being stranded on the glacier and with their supplies running dangerously low, they would have to navigate their way out through uncharted Yukon territory, racing against time as the summer warmth caused rivers to swell and flood to unfordable depths. But even as their situation grew more and more desperate, they refused to give up.”

This was long before the days of satellite telephones and two-way satellite messengers like InReach that make it oh-so-easy to call for a rescue when things turn nasty.

Who makes the call?

But then it’s unlikely Bates and Washburn would have called for help even if they had the technology.

It was a different time. There were different standards. People lived closer to the land. Self-reliance was considered a virtue. Survival was judged as much a skill as the climbing itself.

Washburn, in his account of the expedition, described how he and Bates “descended the east shore of the (Donjek) River, bolstering our nearly empty larder with red squirrels and a rabbit killed with our six-shooters, and mushrooms picked in the woods at every rest.”

Few take a “six-shooter,” or any other weapon, on expedition these days in case it becomes necessary to live off the land.

Call-for-the-helicopter time comes long before most think about living on a diet of red squirrels, snowshoe hares, mushrooms, grubs, roots, berries or anything else.

How much different these times is on almost daily display on Denali these days.

“On the heels of the Denali Pass fall (that left a climber seroiusly injured on May 24), three climbers requested rescue assistance from 18,200 feet,” the National Park Service’s Denali Dispatches blog records for May 24-29. “After being advised the helicopter was unavailable, they descended to high camp on their own accord, where several guided parties provided food, shelter and other assistance.”

Why walk if you can call in a flight?

These marginal calls for rescue used to be frowned upon. But they have become increasingly acceptable as technology has made communication possible from almost anywhere and the residents of the Western world have become ever more used to their comforts.

When the Alaska Air Guard showed up on the Klutlan Glacier at 10,000 feet on the southeast side of Mount Bona to pick up two climbers in the St. Elias group reported to be ill with altitude sickness and another suffering from frostbite, nobody volunteered to stay behind and finish the expedition. 

Bates and Washburn finished the expedition.

Dow and Bright, it should be noted, never actually made it onto the mountain. What would be described as a “freak storm” if freak storms weren’t the norm in the Wrangell-St. Elias mountains hit just as legendary and late Alaska Bush pilot Bob Reeves landed Bates and Washburn on the Walsh Glacier.

After lifting off on skis from the Valdez mudflats, he landed “successfully late in the afternoon in the face of a heavy southeast storm,” Washburn wrote in his account. “The storm broke before we could get the plane unloaded and camp established, and both plane and pilot were marooned with us for five days on the glacier. During that time the temperature rose even at night to higher than 60 degrees, and we were simply deluged by heavy rain and thunderstorms – as unseasonable and amazing as the occurrence of a summer rainstorm in Florida.

“The surface of the glacier aged months in those few days. Myriad crevasses cut our 6000-foot landing strip nearly in half and it was only after digging the plane out of four hidden crevasses and changing the pitch of the propeller that we were able to get Reeve safely off for Valdez again when the weather cleared. The original plan had been for him to bring in Dow and Bright on a second load, but the condition of the surface of the glacier was so bad that this plan had to be entirely abandoned. Dow and Bright never came in, and Bates and I were marooned on the surface of the glacier, with a mighty long walk between us and civilization.”

Things would get better as the two climbers made their way to the 17,192-foot summit of the seventh tallest peak in North American, and then they would get a whole lot worse.

By the end, Washburn and Bates were struggling northeast into Canada on starvation rations in an effort to reach the tiny outpost of Burwash Landing. Washburn downplayed the danger of the situation in his account, but Roberts was explicit about the deterioration of the climbers’ month-long, nearly 100 miles hike toward what passed for civilization.

This was Roberts’ description of day number 26 of their journey:

“Whether they were simply worn out from the marathon effort of the previous day, or had begun to weaken from consuming barely adequate provisions, on the morning of the 14th (of July), the men found carrying their 60-pound loads nearly intolerable. (Both had noticed that they had lost a lot of weight, for their trousers hung loose on their hips.) They decided once more to chuck out some of their baggage – or at least to leave it in a cache, in the forlorn hope of being able to retrieve it in the distant future.

“To that end, they hung one of the two packboards in a tree near the Donjek with every last piece of clothing they thought they could do without, and – most agonizing of all – Brad’s Zeiss camera and all his exposed film. In that abandonment, there was also a first hint of the pair’s darkest thoughts about the upcoming days, for as the men left the cache, Brad said, ‘Now at least they’ll know what happened to us.’

“Bob understood at once: should the two of them vanish in their effort to escape the range, some hunter or mountaineer, perhaps years hence, might come across the cache, retrieve the film, get it developed, and thereby apprehend all but the very end of the story of the first ascent of Mount Lucania.”

Washburn and Bates eventually survived, but it was close.

Having hiked up the Donjek – opposite the direction they wanted to travel – hoping to find it possible to cross above that torrent by making use of the Donjek Glacier only to find that route impossible, Roberts described the two men huddling together in a bad bivouac in rocks between blocks of ice near the glacier.

“Neither man slept more than a few minutes that night,” he wrote. “Too exhausted to discuss their plight, each of them lay in the private cocoon of his fear. For the first time, in fact, true fear overruled the plucky self-confidence that had seen the two men through every previous challenge.

“Gazing back on that night’s ordeal from the vantage point of sixty-four years of hindsight, Brad summons up a metaphor he borrowed from Andy Taylor, the Klondike veteran, trapper, and mountain man who had been a stalwart member of (Washburn’s) 1935 Yukon expedition.

“‘You know the phrase, ‘scared shitless’?” asks Brad today. “Well, Andy used to say about his own worst scrape – ‘The shit was right up in the back of my throat.’ That’s what Bob and I felt that night.”

Washburn and Bates lived in a time uncorrupted by the technology of the 21st Century, a time when survival meant knowing more than how to use a phone or a text-messaging device, a time when you couldn’t make that call which ensured that you wouldn’t.

Now, it is awfully easy to push the rescue button, and it seems to get easier and easier – not to mention more socially acceptable – every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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34 replies »

    • Not to be pedantic, DPR, but you say the rescuers made the right call by calling for rescue at 10,000 feet instead of 19,000 feet. Bona is 16,400. If they had called for rescue at 19,000 feet they would have been almost 3,000 feet above the summit. Because you’re all about facts and accuracy, right?

      Pretty sure this horse has been thoroughly flogged.

      • Pete , thanks for setting the facts straight! Much appreciated. 19 k feet would have been an over the top rescue 😉 silly typos ! That would have been a record worth discussion! Good thing my profession was not writing! I should stick with a cutlass !

  1. I probably have an unpopular veiw . Most Americans these days dont have the basic skills to handle harsh conditions so they shouldn’t be judged with the same expectations when for calling for rescue. It would stop a lot of adventures which hold high social and cultural values as well as help economies. I am frankly a fan of rescuing. The social damages from just letting people die is truly detrimental. I admire all these people with marginal skills having the dream for adventure and having the follow through to make attempts. ( ive been in my fair share of shity weather shitty circumstances. I have seen the broad skill spectrum among people and hold them no ill will for their lack of ability. Vise versa I would hope those more skilled than I would give me leeway. Its not a personal choice to be not as skilled as explorers of old . They have different lives and jobs than olden times so shouldn’t be looked down on ) the social damage from death is just to much. Better to call for rescue before you make families suffer. Its the responsibe thing to do . I had a good Freind who died on k 2 . His family will never recover. Granted he had summited and was involved in a rescue attempt of some doomed koreans and he was to high to even be rescued by machinery. It would have been better if they had never put themselves into that position as I would have judged my Freind not qualified to be on k-2 even though he had summited all over the world and was a leader. Not many people should be in these conditions but that’s unreasonable. We need to strive for adventure. So now we get rescued. If its in competition or races i have a different opinion. ) i am happy to hear when people are rescued and go home to their families safely. Its to painful for everyone to do otherwise. Yes innumerable explorers survived the unthinkable but many did not . Think antartic expeditions. Their is no glory in that .

    • “Most Americans these days don’t have the basic skills to handle harsh conditions so they shouldn’t be judged with the same expectations when for (sic) calling for rescue”.

      Except…these Americans paid thousands of dollars for guides who should have had the knowledge, skills, experience, resources, and medical training to deal with shit when it goes sideways. That’s why people hire guides, after all: to avoid rescues caused by inexperience, poor preparation, etc. These guides clearly did not have their shit together. What if the rescue helicopter crashed and the rescuers were all killed? Do you think their families should suffer?

      Check out Joe Simpson’s Touching the Void. If you’re gonna put yourself way out there, you deal with what happens with what you’ve got or you die. That’s my philosophy, anyway.

      • Pete , at heart I agree with you but the philosophy you hold yourself to is not reasonable for all . In the past a lot of people would have called for rescue. Instead they either ended up dead or heroic survivors. Think about the innumerable expeditions who often took “guides” with them . Often endangering people who csme to save them . Or find their bodies. . A guide may reduce the odds of death , injury or rescue but it does not eliminate the possibility of such. One of a gudes jobs is to recognize when its time to call for rescue when the negative is about to overcome the positive. Its their job to understand the possibilities and make corrections in The acts. Then keep everyone alive and healthy until reinforcements arrive. Perhaps you are right- claiming these guides were untrained under prepared but without more information my opinion is your stance is just an opinionated stance . Arm chair quarterback is an easy job no skin in the game . I personally wasn’t there and dont feel qualified to make such huge supposition without more information. Imo if the clients survive without breaking the laws then the guides were successful and could be judged to have done their job adequately even if they called for ambulance before they left the parking lot . ( silly example but possible) as to your worries for the rescuers I totally again agree at heart . That said , many rescuers are paid to do a job and recognize the inherent risks involved with wilderness rescue. ( guides shouldn’t put them into questionable situations and perhaps thats why the guides called for rescue at 10,000 feet versus pushing the envelope until they were in desperate need of rescue at 19,000 feet which would create significant risks) our culture is a culture of rescue and kindness. When someone goes to the super market and breaks down we pull over give them a ride or pull their truck to safety. We all stick our neck out for one another. Hopefully no one purposely creates a situation that endangers others . So we have to good naturedly assume rescues are for just causes . Then pray the rescuers stay safe and the pilots keep their crews safe. Hopefully they are well compensated and treated like the honorable heroes they are .

      • DPR,

        Any chance you can draw a parallel between the views you hold regarding these actions and covid? Seems like your views about this subject are completely incongruous with your covid related views.

      • Pete,

        No doubt these guides failed. They failed as guides, as certified and qualified personnel, they failed as employees, they failed as adventures, they failed their paying clientele. Perhaps the company they work for set them up for failure or the training and guide certification they received from AMGA but this guided hike was without a doubt a hands down failure all around. When records are broken for the number of people rescued and only two out of twelve were suffering any ill effects that is an abject failure and illustrates the fact these people should never have been in the environment they put themselves in.

        For the record, I would never find myself in this position for countless reasons. My mountaineering days are behind me and even when I was in the midst of them I wouldn’t have paid 6K to have an unqualified guide tell me where to step. Plus I was never into mountaineering.

      • I worked SAR for three years in Yosemite & volunteered for a month on Denali as a paramedic.
        Most SAR folks understand that it could always be one of us who needs a rescue next & are willing to go out on a limb to help those in need.
        With that being said, the process for becoming a guide today has changed so much from the early days of guys like Mugs Stump.
        Today, many young adults fresh out of college begin the AGMA apprenticeship & pay for classes to register as a guide.
        This schooling is good but not a complete experience like what is gained through trial & error of expeditions.
        The other side to the coin is clients do really stupid stuff & the guides cannot always prevent them for these mistakes.
        Mugs Stump was always heard saying “One day one of these clients is gonna kill me”
        This is the exact reason that I left guiding years ago…I was tired of baby sitting clients in the White Mtns of NH when I could be working a less stressful job.
        Basically, don’t judge these people until you walk a mile in their shoes….BTW the PJ’s love these type of missions. It is a chance for them to showcase exactly how badass there service is & help a brother in a time of need.

      • Steve o , feel free to explain how the veiws are incongruous. Thanks.

      • Steve o , please be forthcoming with details on how the guides failed. Also please elaborate on what a guides duties are by his contract. Either by contract or terms of employment.

      • DPR,

        I could copy and paste what you wrote and simply replace a few words with a few others, but it might be a good mental exercise for you to try it yourself. Some of the words I could replace that would prove how the thoughts are incongruous would be words like adventure, expeditions, guides, rescue, reinforcements, ability. I would replace those words with words like doctors, illness, covid, vaccine, and intelligence. Those are a few of the words that could easily be slipped in here or there without altering the thought process but changes the subject matter.

        If you can’t see for yourself how the guides failed when the end result is 12 people getting on a chopper while only two were ill, and ill from a condition that only comes from being at elevation, I’m not sure I can explain it to you. Would you call that a resounding success? Would you pay these same guides to take you to the same place under the same conditions?

      • Steve o , i dont think you understand a climbing guides job and how it relates to human clients . Guides don’t guarantee a summit success . Thats more up to the clients. Some clients are just not mentally or physically able or prepared to endure the rigors of a mountain and its variables. A guide is not hired to carry the client up the mountain like a porter. Hes hired to – well guide . Basically for advice on the climb . Help with nuances of decisions. Fill in the unknowns. Incidentally his job is to help make the climb safer among other things. In this case The clients survived the climb. That means the climb was successful. The adventure was had. Maybe it was safest for that particular group to call for rescue. Were they a hazard to themselves or other climbers? Its not a guides job to stay on the mountain after his clients leave the mountain. Some climbers might consider only a summit as successful trip but in a broader view as a group survival is the goal combined with a grand adventure. The guides cant force any of their clients to continue. Its free will . Perhaps you are confused with job of a guide versus an expedition leader? ( even he cant force but an expedition leader does the planning and leadership roll unless hes bi passed . Now would i hire those guides again? I have no idea . I wasn’t there to learn the finate details of the decisions.you really must ask those clients. You and i have no idea why the group as a whole ended the trip. That is usually not a guides decision. Apparently the clients didn’t feel like going on . Its not up to the guide at end of the day. Granted a guide can add confidence but some clients are just not suited to the situation. They make the end choices. In each profession a guides duties are very different. You still have not outlined what a hired guides contract duties are . Do you know? What are his terms of employment? Do you know? Do you know the details of why the clients threw in the towel? Arm chair quarterback without skin in the game and knowledge of details is just supposition/ guessing. You smear these professionals without knowledge of details or talking to the guides. Why ? Do you know something about the trip that others do not ? Where was the dereliction of duties.? Please fill us in . As to covid comparisons . Those are your own. I don’t see the parallels. To each their own I guess.

      • You sure use a lot of words to say precious little DPR. You think not dying is a success, nothing like setting a high bar. This guided expedition was an unmitigated failure, by any measure…no matter how many words you use to try and explain it away. Unless of course if death by all participants is the only measure of failure, in that case I stand corrected and this guided trip was a resounding success!

        No worries about drawing any parallels between people needing…or rather calling for rescue while paying guides to you know…guide them to safety over a new obstacle, and help them remain healthy during trying times, and protect their very lives from dangers that have never challenged their systems in this way, yep…no parallels to be drawn between people requiring life saving rescue while on an adventure to the mountains and covid or the covid vaccine at all. On one hand you excuse the actions of these guides and clients, even cheering them for risking their lives and the lives of others, because adventure! On the other you seem to think that the covid vaccine is somehow a crazy unwarranted risk, because danger!

        Introspection is sometimes a difficult task.

      • Steve o , maybe you are struggling to understand what’s being said.

      • There’s no doubt I am struggling to understand what is being said. I don’t understand how anyone could rate 12 people being airlifted because 2 of them had altitude sickness, in a place they should have known getting altitude sickness was a possibility, a success.

        “In this case The clients survived the climb. That means the climb was successful.” – DPR

        You and I have a different measure of success.

        Do you think these guides will put this “successful” climb on their resumes?

      • Steve o , there are professions and endeavors that survival or death are primary metrics of success. Mountaineering is one of them . Even more so for the guides whose job is to attempt keeping clients safe snd happy as much as possible. Your lack of understanding of the subject matter is glaring and causing your inability to understand. Of course the achievement of a successful summit is desired but only aprx 50% of climbers on Denali achieve that secondary metric of success. Steve o you are neither a mountaineer nor a doctor so trying to act as expert and mix comparisons of two very different situations ( covid and mountaineering) is just plain delusional. You are neither a mountaineer nor a virologist or immunologist. Your extension of expert status and trying to create your own concept of what my statements of opinion mean in parallel is also delusional. You have managed to confuse yourself into believing you are an expert on all manner of things you know little about. I wish you well but you need to reasses your angles. Rather than trying to trap your discussion mates with false logic I suggest you focus on knowledge building.

      • Here we go again, just because you have a difference of opinion with someone and the inability to express your thoughts doesn’t mean you need to attack the person you disagree with. The saying we can disagree without being disagreeable comes to mind.

        Since apparently everyone must agree with you and your superior knowledge, even when you preface your comment with “I probably have an unpopular veiw” I here by bow to your superior knowledge in all things, since you are apparently a mountaineer, doctor, virologist, and immunologist or at the very least an expert in all these fields. I haven’t suggest I was any of those things nor an expert in any of those fields, if you were under the mistaken impression that I was any of those or an expert in any of those fields I apologize for misleading you.

        This trip wasn’t on Denali and it wasn’t a success. But no worries DPR, I do not understand anything so please carry on.

      • Steve o , you are welcome to your opinion. On all fronts as is everyone. Your opinion is based on conjecture because you don’t know the details of the climb or the clients or the guides. So your opinion is supposition. You choose to ignore direct questions that are simple. ( what is a guides job and terms of employment.) steve prove the dereliction of dutiies . Proove the clients are unhappy with the guides. Until you do that your opinion is fantasy. You repeatedly show a thin skin and take offense or assume attack when just obvious points are presented. I don’t expect you to be an expert but I would think you would make a valid effort to deal in facts instead of fantasy and supposition. You have presented no details to proove your point that the guides were the failure point or even there was a technical problem with the guides . If you can do that im going to agree with you . I have zero need to be “right” and every desire to be accurate. Details steve o . Present them so everyone can decide for themselves. Until then your opinion is fantasy. Which is fine for some people

      • DPR,

        Thanks for allowing me my very own opinion, how very gracious of you.

        This subject isn’t about me, as much as you try and make it, neither are the other subjects that you continue to try and make about me somehow. What you view as thin skinned or quick to take offense is nothing of the sort, I am simply pointing out the obvious tone of your posts when you are unable to explain your point of view you lash out using a juvenile crutch. When a person cannot make their point and resorts to attacking the person they disagree it shows a weakness on the part of the attacker. This is a well known method of conversation/discussion/debate, so much so that it has a name, ad hominem attacks. I’ve thought that maybe you weren’t aware of how you post in such a manner and figured I would let you know. I shouldn’t have assumed that you were unaware of the way you rely so frequently on that approach, since you employ it so heavily.

        I’ve provide all the proof needed that this trip was a failure, actually Craig did in the article. 12 people (guides included) took a chopper ride off the mountain with 2 ill people, ill from altitude sickness at altitude.

  2. Adventurer, 44, attempting to break world record by kayaking 2,400 miles from San Francisco to Honolulu in 64 days has to be rescued just 70 miles into the trip when violent storm strikes

    Cyril Derreumaux, 44, set out for Honolulu from Sausalito on May 31
    He was hoping to reach the island in 64 days to break a world record
    Two days into the trip he was forced to drop anchor amid high winds and waves
    On Saturday a US Coast Guard crew rescued Derreumaux via helicopter
    He says he will try again in three weeks after ‘assessing the stress I put on my family and particularly my girlfriend’

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9660177/Man-attempting-kayak-2-400-miles-California-Hawaii-rescued-just-70-miles.html

    • amazing he could fit that much anchor line in his kayak. Pretty hard to anchor past the Farallon Islands

      • Leo,
        Sharp eye,perhaps it was a sea anchor and he hove to.
        Which might make him succeptible to being swept off his peanut shell.
        The aleuts out west used to make raiding parties against each other from the villages of atka and unalaska.
        That means crossing seguam pass and around or through Isle of Four Mnts.
        Foggy memory says a one way trip of 200 miles(as the crow flies,they may have followed the coast,which would mean dealing with Umnak pass as well).
        Not quite as far as Ca-Hi,but possibly more dangerous.

  3. Let us not forget the earliest climbers of Denali in the early 1900s. The successful to the top climbs, holy-cow, routes they went, gear, clothes, food, and my goodness–the time involved, you name it, for modern day climbers or any one of us land sailors, we should all feel extremely “humbled” to walk in their footsteps whatever the venue in this day and age. Across the board, I agree, sums it up best, get that climb in before supper and move on to the next “look at me” episode.

  4. Craig, a great recall of history and observations of the vast changes in our vast prosperity, high tech culture in the expedition and climbing worlds. For those of us not in those worlds, but having grown up and lived most of our lives in the last century, we see the same type of trends with people living what used to be called “ordinary lives” in the cities, suburbs and their surrounding areas.

    According to the most recent census, over 80% of our population lives in an “urban” area, that being defined as 1000 or more people per square mile. The internet, so-called “smart” phones, world-wide communications networks, on-line shopping, 24/7 TV on 100+ channels, etc. have all conspired to put most of this “urban” population to live in a “virtual” world where the media is constantly emphasizing the need to minimize any risks in living your life. The recent Covid “shutdowns” have only accelerated this trend.

    The world for these people is so far removed from the real physical world that the vast majority of our current generation wouldn’t have the first clue of how to survive if suddenly turned out into a rural area with a temperate climate, plenty of game, wild edibles, and excellent soil for planting crops for winter storage, let alone more challenging conditions.

    Not a good trend

  5. Steve-O,
    According to the St. Elias Alpine Guides website, their guides are either AMGA certified or trained by someone who is certified. It’s impossible to say how experienced the guides actually are because the guide bios focus on important stuff like cool beards and great smiles…

    The trips described are all hiking trips, anyway. Who pays $6,000 to go on a “guided” hiking trip?
    From the description of the “Mt. Bona Expedition”:
    “The combination of heavy glaciation, arctic weather, and high altitude mountaineering presents sufficient challenges with no technical climbing.”

    Sounds like the challenges were more than sufficient. Pretty embarrassing for the company, really. You can be sure we’ll never hear a word from them. Bad for the guided hiking business.

  6. Yep, best for all these people to keep their feet planted on some low altitude cement sidewalks for awhile. Altitude sickness, Really. Maybe they should try initialing dropping off at a lower elevation, or can no one be bothered to have the time to negotiate the extra altitude climb.

    Seems in this day and time, people want to shove a quick summit or what have you in before dinner, then go off to their next bragging adventure.

    With 12 people involved, they ought to be able to split the rescue bill fairly easily.

  7. Who were these “guides” on this latest trip, is there a professional mountaineering guide association or licensing or are these just people who get paid to carry the packs of rich clients? Getting altitude sickness at 10,000 tells me these people were not prepared. Having to call for rescue tells me these people were not prepared. Having 10 able bodied people unwilling or unable, including multiple “guides”, to help the 2 people tells me these people were unprepared…seriously 10 people couldn’t carry or drag 2 people. These people, including and especially the “guides”, should be ashamed of themselves and should never dare step foot out of sight of civilization again.

  8. An important fact often missed by those enjoying the outdoors is the dangers of “warm” weather hypothermia. Hypothermia, leading to death, can happen even when it is 70F. While immersion in water is rather obvious, a light rain and even sweating can initiate a life threatening situation. When mental confusion sets in, the die is cast, especially if the person is alone……

  9. Back in my early twenties I was a purest & did not even bring a CB with me on my expeditions.
    There is something lost in today’s society of instant communication…self reliance.

  10. Funny how a guy who died in a bus becomes a legend, and you barely hear about people like Washburn who survive an ordeal like this.

    • Gern,great point.
      Bob Reeve was another legend himself.
      Forgottenly famous for doing supply landings for hard rock mines on many of the high glaciers surrounding port valdez and on down towards Columbia glacier.
      Back in the days when you either got yourself home,or your friends divided up your stuff.

      • It was a big enough party to be able to Donner style survive it too. Easy enough, just pick whoever is whining the most.

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