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[pct-l] death of a hiker

I just wanted to add, and I'd like some others to chime in that have
similiar experiences:

Anyone who's been in the military knows that, if even for traning,
you're hauling around a 60-80 pound backpack that is far less
comfortable than anything on the civilian market. Excluding
backpackers, there are literally hundreds of thousands (if not
millions) of people in this world (some of which are lightweight
women) running around with packs weighing easily half (if not more) of
their own body weight. You cross rivers, jump from things, crawl, etc.
And I learned a heck of a lot more from wilderness travel than I did
from the military about how to do most of those things, so I don't see
this as an issue of training.

I weigh 180, and with a heavy pack, machine gun, armor, and
ammunition, I was easily running around plenty of times with over 90
pounds of crap all over me, not to mention in some rather harsh

>From my prospective, the mistake that this rather young, attractive,
and experienced outdoorsperson made was just being by herself, where
the margin of error is cut down instantly.

In all the hiking books, even the hikers that go by themselves all the
time (Colin Fletcher, etc), they still make the disclaimer of "look,
if you mess up even an inch, it can cost you your life."

I'm not sure why pack weight is coming more into this equation than
solo hiking; my guess would be because a lot of us (myself included)
do solo frequently, so maybe we don't want to attribute something that
we all do as a reason someone died rather needlessly.

But I'll risk a heavy pack, or a light pack, or no pack, with a group
of other experienced individuals, to being solo with all the correct
weight / equipment, if we're just talking about safety. Sprain an
ankle two weeks from a trailhead in remote wilderness, and you very
easily might end up on the evening news yourself.

If her pack had been lighter by ten pounds, it sounds like a bit of a
stretch to say she'd be fine. Or twenty pounds for that matter. People
drown in rivers wearing no packs all the time. But it's pretty rare
for someone to drown in a river with their experienced friend holding
a line for them on the shore, and for the person who crosses to return
the favor when they themselves reach the far side.

Again, I don't mean to be disrespectful or in anyway join the peanut
gallery of "what if's", but it just seemed like there was a bit of an
elephant in the corner.


On Wed, 1 Sep 2004 00:47:31 -0700, Craig Milo Rogers <rogers@isi.edu> wrote:
> On 04.08.31, JoAnn M. Michael wrote:
> > I am very tired, and with one message outrageously offended, with this
> > absurd obsession with pack weight.  Whether your pack weights 17 pds
> > and 3.7823 oz. or if it weighs 15 pds. and 8.7950 ozs. I am tired of
> > hearing about YOUR pack. Your pack weigh does NOT make you a better
> > hiker or a better person.  It doesn't mean you can hiker fast or
> > further. It simply means your pack weighs less for you.
>         Let's consider two hikes I made in the summer of 2003.  I
> weigh about 200 lbs.  On one hike, my pack weighed maybe 16 lbs.  On
> the other hike, greater that 60 lbs!  I can assure you that I hiked
> faster with the 16-lb pack than the 60-lb pack.
>         I did, in fact, hike farther with the 60-lb pack than I
> happened to hike with the 16-lb pack, simply because that's how the
> hikes worked out.  I also developed plantar fascitis from the hike
> with the 60-lb pack, which took weeks to heal.  I might have gone on
> other hikes in the time I spent healing from the hike with the heavy
> pack, and thus hiked farther over the total hike+healing time that
> actually occured.
>         As my personal experience illustrates, pack weight *can*
> affect how fast and how far you hike.  I'll even extend that to say
> that significantly reduced pack weight makes you a better hiker, all
> other things considered equal: after all, you're travelling farther
> per unit time, which is a rough measure for "better" in this context.
> Does it make you a better person?  Less weight on the ground means
> you're doing less damage to the tread, right?  In some people's
> ethical systems, that makes you a better person, I think, although
> I'll confess that I've stretched my metaphor to the breaking point.
>         Taking these comparisons to an absurd degree of precision is,
> of course, absurd.  A .0001 oz reduction in pack weight would not, I
> think, lead to a statistically significant improvement in the bearer's
> hiking experience.  But, the difference between a 17 lb 3 oz pack and
> a 15 lb 9 oz pack is on the order of 10% of pack weight and 1% of
> gross hiking weight (hiker + clothes + pack) for some hikers, and that
> might well make a difference.
> > Who do any of us think we are to re-view the causes of a young
> > woman's death. It seems to me in the case of pack weigh or stating how
> > you think someone died reeks of egotism.  I am sure her family would
> > find it highly reasuring that YOU know how she died.  What would you
> > tell them...her pack was 1.5 pds. too heavy, or if it had been under
> > such-and-such weight she'd still be alive.
>         Some of us are living, learning human beings.  We try to
> benefit from the experiences of others, both the positive (try this
> recipe, it works at high altitude) and the negative (such-and-such a
> tent collapses in the rain).  We are social beings, and share our
> thoughts with those around us, particularly with individuals who
> choose to subscribe to a mailing list focusing on a shared interest.
> In the case of a surprising success, or a spectacular (and often
> regrettable failure), we discuss what happened in order to reach an
> improved, consensus-based understanding of events.  We try to learn
> from the mistakes of others.  It reeks of intelligence.
>         Has anyone on this group said that they were going to contact
> the late hiker's family to volunteer an analysis of what went wrong?
> I don't think so.  Are any members of the late hiker's family reading
> this mailing list?  I don't know, but if they are, they probably
> understand that by discussing the forseeable problems inherent in
> hiking with grossly overweight packs, we are seeking to reduce the
> future occurance of similar tragedies.
>         What would I say, if asked to make an analysis?  1.5 lbs might
> not have made a significant difference to this hiker's fate... but
> from the facts we've been presented, it looks like the hiker's pack
> was 30 lbs or so overweight!  Would I say, "with a 30-lb lighter pack,
> she would still be alive"?  Never, I hope, but I might say, "with a
> 30-lb lighter pack, she would have had a better chance to save herself
> after a fall into the water".
>         Oh, and if you are tired of reading messages about pack
> weights, simply skip reading them after determining their subject.  I
> usually do. :-)
>                                         Craig Milo Rogers
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