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[pct-l] Did Lowder have an ice axe?

At 10:02 AM 2/25/02, pct-l-request@mailman.backcountry.net wrote:
>I'd like to see John remembered for the wonderful
>person and accomplished hiker that he was, instead of
>the hair-brained incompetent that we are trying to
>turn him into.  Please!

No one is trying to turn him into a hair-brained incompetent.

In hazardous endeavors, it is prudent to analyze accidents, determine a 
"probable cause" and try to change existing methods and procedures to 
minimize the chances of a similar accident from happening again.

This is exactly what the NTSB does when it looks at airplane crashes. Many 
a widow has objected to "pilot error" as the probable cause, but modern 
cockpit procedures and training programs have improved from analyzing these 
accidents resulting in a large decrease in "pilot error" accidents - even 
though the "nut that holds the wheel" is still the most likely part to fail 
in an airplane.

EVERYONE displays bad judgement from time to time, wether it be from 
fatigue, hunger, fear, complacency, lack of experience or whatever. I 
freely admit that I am alive out of pure luck and good fortune after 
surviving despite my bad judgement. No one is trying to disrespect Dr 
Lowder, least of all me.

Someone asked "are hiking poles a substitute for an ice axe" and I brought 
up Dr Lowder's accident as additional information.

Here are the facts as I know them:
1) he was using hiking poles instead of an ice axe
2) he was killed, and his body was found in rocks below an 80ft icy chute.
3) he survived the fall long enough to get into his sleeping bag.

I don't know how or why he fell, but it is reasonable to assume that he 
slid down the icy chute.

It is also reasonable to assume that an ice axe, if properly used, may have 
allowed him to arrest his fall, or at least slowed himself enough that his 
injuries in the rocks would not have been fatal.

The decision to use hiking poles in leu of an ice axe seems reasonable when 
sitting in a comfortable office in front of a computer screen, or even when 
sitting on the store porch in Kennedy Meadows.

However that decision might contribute to the injury or death of a hiker. 
The same decision MAY (there is no certainty, just a reasonable assumption) 
have contributed to Dr Lowder losing his life in that horrible accident. We 
need to learn from the mistakes of others, so as not to repeat them. I'm 
sure Dr Lowder would agree.

** advice:

Places where an Ice Axe might be needed, depending on conditions are, 
Fuller Ridge (near Idyllwild) and Mt. Baden Powell (near Wrightwood). These 
two sections are fairly short, but in a "normal" year, early season hikers 
might need an ice axe. The good thing is that most hikers will be able to 
get good reports early enough to send an axe to Anza or Wrightwood in their 
bounce box, then send it on to Kennedy meadows from Agua Dulce. It is also 
possible to "road walk" around both of these short sections.

IMHO, ALL thru hikers departing Kennedy Meadows on the normal calendar 
should have (and know how to use) and Ice Axe.

I'll climb off my soap box now.

Brick Robbins                       mailto:brick@fastpack.com