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Woman leaves car stuck in snow near Klamath Falls, dies from hypothermia

Klamath Falls woman's death a reminder to stay put
The Statesman Journal
By the Associated Press
January 26, 2009

KLAMATH FALLS — The death of an Oregon woman this winter not only saddened search and rescue workers — it frustrated them.

Dawn Marie Harris, 47, of Sprague River had visited friends and was headed home when her truck got stuck on a spur road. She was reported missing two days later.

Once search units were activated, it took rescuers 45 minutes to locate the truck. But Harris had left. Searchers later discovered she had walked four miles through the snowy woods before dying of exposure.

Ben Quen and Jim Pitzer, two team leaders with Klamath County Search and Rescue, say those stranded by winter weather should remember “the three threes.”

You can live three or more weeks without food, you might be able to last three days without water, but it’s tough to survive three hours without shelter.

Harris left her potential shelter, which would have protected her from the elements. The truck also had three-quarters of a tank of gas, so she could have used the heater to help stay warm.

“We tell people, if they get lost just stay put,” Quen said.

Sheriff Tim Evinger of Klamath County, who chairs the state’s search and rescue commission, stressed the importance of technology. Most travelers carry cell phones or GPS devices. Even if batteries are dead or service is unavailable, cell phone records can be traced to determine movement, which can narrow the search area.

Coordination between search and rescue agencies has improved since December 2006, when James Kim and his family got stranded in their car on a snowy road in the mountains west of Grants Pass. After several days, Kim left his wife and two daughters to find help. His body was found several days later. Kim’s family survived.

“The Kim family search was unfortunate, but it led to changes and advances,” says Pitzer, noting each search and rescue incident has a paid search manager to ensure communication is coordinated and documentation is recorded.

Said Evinger: “Frankly, S and R has come further in the last three years than it had in 30 years. The bar has been raised.”

But even if searchers keep raising the bar, the actions taken by the lost or stuck are often the key to survival.

“We never say we’ll always find someone,” Pitzer said. “We will do our very best.”


What can be learned from this tragic event?
The primary purpose of these TraditionalMountaineering experience reports (and the American Alpine Club's fifty eight Annual Report's of Accidents in North American Mountaineering) is to aid in the prevention of accidents.

Follow the Four Basic Responsibilities of each backcountry traveler:
1. Tell a Responsible Person where you are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned.
2. Wear clothing appropriate to the forecast weather and carry the seasonal Ten Essential Systems.
3. Always stay found with map, compass and GPS so that you know where you are on your map and can see what is located nearby.
4. Carry a digital cell phone and/or a SPOT satellite communicator.

Do not try to find your way, becoming exhausted and/or wet. Wait for rescuers sent by your Responsible Person.

People have survived for weeks in the relative safety of their vehicle stocked with the simple Ten Essential Systems.
--Webmeister Speik


Elderly couple leave car stranded in snow, both quickly die of exposure
Casper Star Tribune
February 02, 2007

The bodies of an elderly couple were found a few miles away from their car, which got stuck in snow on a remote gravel road considered impassible during winter in central Utah.

Elton and Loafae Palmer, both 74, were from West Valley City, a Salt Lake City suburb.

"It's very sad," Emery County Sheriff Lamar Guymon said. "Stay by your vehicle and keep things in your vehicle to help you survive if need be -- warm clothes, food."

The bodies were discovered late Tuesday after a sheriff's officer followed tracks in the snow leading from a Cadillac that had been reported abandoned a day earlier just over the county line in Sanpete County. Loafae Palmer's body was found about three miles from the car, and her husband's body was about 3.5 miles away.

State Road 29 heads northwest from Orangeville, where the couple had family, police said.

The road goes through the Manti-La Sal National Forest and is paved for about 20 miles until it gets to Joe's Valley Reservoir.

The road is gravel at that point, winding approximately 20 miles until it is paved again just outside of Ephraim, about 98 miles south of Salt Lake City.

There are signs that say the road may be impassible during bad weather. It is not gated off in the winter.

The couple's car was about four miles past the reservoir in Sanpete County. A marina and lodge with cabins and pavilions around the reservoir are open only in summer.

There are cabins with a few year-round residents about six miles from where the car was found, the sheriff's office said.


A suggested minimum standard news advisory for all backcountry travelers

"We would like to take this opportunity to ask our visitors to the backcountry of Oregon to plan for the unexpected.  Each person should dress for the forecast weather and take minimum extra clothing protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out, insulation from the wet ground or snow, high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a map and compass and optional inexpensive GPS and the skills to use them, and a charged cell phone and inexpensive walkie-talkie radios. Carry the traditional personal "Ten Essentials Systems" in a day pack sized for the season and the forecast weather.

Visitors are reminded to tell a Responsible Person where they are going, where they plan to park, when they will be back and to make sure that person understands that they are relied upon to call 911 at a certain time if the backcountry traveler has not returned. If you become lost or stranded, mark your location and stay still or move around your marked location to stay warm. If you are truly lost, do not try to find your way, becoming exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Wait for rescuers.



"To provide information and instruction about world-wide basic to advanced alpine mountain climbing safety skills and gear, on and off trail hiking, scrambling and light and fast Leave No Trace backpacking techniques based on the foundation of an appreciation for the Stewardship of the Land, all illustrated through photographs and accounts of actual shared mountaineering adventures."

TraditionalMountaineering is founded on the premise that "He who knows naught, knows not that he knows naught", that exploring the hills and summitting peaks have dangers that are hidden to the un-informed and that these inherent risks can be in part, identified and mitigated by mentoring: information, training, wonderful gear, and knowledge gained through the experiences of others.

The value of TraditionalMountaineering to our Friends and Subscribers is the selectivity of the information we provide, and its relevance to introducing folks to informed hiking on the trail, exploring off the trail, mountain travel and Leave-no-Trace light-weight bivy and backpacking, technical travel over steep snow, rock and ice, technical glacier travel and a little technical rock climbing on the way to the summit. Whatever your capabilities and interests, there is a place for everyone in traditional alpine mountaineering.




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
FREE Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why are "snowcaves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Longacre Expeditions teen group rescued from the snowdrifts above Todd Lake
Lost climber hikes 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost five days in North Cascades without Essentials, map and compass
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder Found After Week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl Found In Lane County After Lost On Hiking Trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail - OSU Trip - Lost, No Map, Inadequate Clothing

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about carbo-ration and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
Map, compass and GPS navigation training Noodle in The Badlands
BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"