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[pct-l] Did Lowder have an ice axe?
This whole discussion reminds me of the coverage of the Mount Everest
disaster a few years back. I remember listening to other climbers
analyzing what went wrong. Certainly, part of what they were doing was
trying to understand what happened... but I also came away convinced
that the climbers were desperately looking for mistakes so they could
say "ah, he made a mistake... I won't do that, so this can't happen to
I have never climbed through the Sierra Nevada, and if I am ever blessed
with the opportunity I will carry an ice axe. I have climbed mountains
in the Adirondacks in February (with snowshoes, 12 point crampons AND an
ice axe), and I know for a certainty that there are lots of ways to fall
and that an ice axe will only help for some of them.
Hiking is beautiful, and pretty darn safe. There are risks, just like
there are when we drive to work or ride a bicycle on the road. We all
end up deciding what our own level of comfort and risk is. For me, I'll
hike solo in the summer but not in the winter... that's where my choice
is. Maybe if I didn't have children I'd hike solo in the winter too...
I don't know.
Anyway, I just wonder how much of the fascination with John Lowder's
death has to do with preventing future tragedies, and how much has to do
with assuaging that nibbling dark fear in all of us that says "this
could have happened to me."
On Mon, 2002-02-25 at 12:13, larry hillberg wrote:
I'd like to put this debate to bed for all time.
John did not have an ice axe - perhaps one of many
reasons he turned back. I am the person Charlie
referenced as having been at New Army Pass closely
following on John's heels, Hi Charlie. It was snowing
in the morning and John's plan was to camp at Rock
creek and head to Army Pass the next day. It turned
out to be a beautiful day and John continued to the
pass with me some distance behind him. The pass was
impassable, at least in my opinion, due to a huge snow
cornice that had formed at the top, and yes I had an
ice axe and yes I attempted the pass after taking a
look at it from the side from a position off of the
snow. I got far enough along to see that it was too
dangerous to continue and to determine that nobody had
gone ahead of me. The only evidence of anyone even
having been on the snow were a couple of footprints on
the flat snow far away from the cliff edge where
someone had stepped onto the snow and retreated. If
John went down on the snow I would have known it and
could have called for help. Guilt, deserved or not,
is a terrible thing to live with. I suspect that
John, like me, went close to the edge on rocky terrain
to see if there was a way to navigate the pass.
Either a rock slipped or John tripped or he suffered a
sudden spell of vertigo sending him over the edge to
the snow chute below. We will never know what
happened but ice axes, or lack of, didn't factor in
here, nor did weather.
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!