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Rescuers assist overdue Broken Top climber

Rescuers find overdue Broken Top climber
Had snowshoed solo into area; wet, cold but OK
By KTVZ.COM news sources
December 24, 2013

Searchers battling high winds and freezing rain Monday evening found a Eugene snowshoer who headed out alone Sunday to climb Broken Top, west of Bend, and ended up spending the night, Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies said.

A concerned friend called county 911 dispatchers around 2:20 p.m. on Monday to report that Michael Holmes, 25 was overdue, said Special Services Deputy Liam Klatt.

Holmes had snowshoed into the bowl of Broken Top on Sunday, intending to solo climb one of the “couloir” routes to the summit, Klatt said.

Holmes told friends by text messages he had encountered some difficulties along the route and would spend the night near the summit.

Klatt said Holmes planned to snowshoe out in the morning, after reaching the summit, but no one had heard from him Monday, and attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.

Deschutes County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue teams were deployed Monday evening, after Holmes failed to return to his car.

Holmes was found on snowmobile Trail 5, near Sparks Lake, and was “wet, cold and exhausted but … otherwise uninjured,” Klatt said in a news release.

Holmes told rescuers he had descended by the easier Northwest Ridge to the Green Lakes area, then began the long snowshoe trip back toward Dutchman Flat Sno-Park, where he eventually encountered searchers on snowmobiles.

Holmes is an experienced climber, Klatt said, and was well-equipped. However, he was not prepared for an extended stay under the deteriorating weather conditions and high winds.

Klatt said the sheriff’s office urges those heading into the backcountry to not travel alone, to do proper route research before leaving, and always plan for unforeseen issues, such as bad weather.
Copyright 2013 KTVZ. All rights reserved.



What can be learned from this interesting incident?

We have been unable to talk to the confident climber. Federal HIPPA privacy laws prevent medical personnel, including SAR Volunteer Units, from providing contact information for patients. If Michael Holmes will contact us, we will correct any inaccuracies in our analysis. This is not a 'could-a, would-a, should-a exercise', but a traditional effort to help folks learn valuable lessons from the experiences of other climbers.

Michael Holmes, age 25, is clearly a confident athlete. To summit Broken Top, he elected to make a long exhausting trail-breaking approach on snowshoes, climb a committing steep-snow route, (whether cramponing straight up near vertical snow up one of several named couloir routes as planned to an ice clad pinnacle-summit or climbing the less committing south east ridge and contouring around to the summit block of Broken Top. Either summit required a dangerous downclimb of a steep snow slope to the deep snow covered meadows below and making a long, exhausting trail-breaking snow shoe back to his car which was  parked near Mt. Bachelor.

Learn more about Broken Top (9,175) :

Here is a fine photo/description of a summer approach and summit of this iconic Three Sisters Wilderness peak:

Here is a description of a similar winter adventure:  It is not as technical as the several couloir routes, but it is as physically exhausting.

Here is a recent climb of the eleven o'clock couloir:

Special Services Deputy Liam Klatt said: "Holmes is an experienced climber, and was well-equipped. However, he was not prepared for an extended stay under the deteriorating weather conditions and high winds."

I suggest that Holmes was well enough equipped to bivy overnight in the very cold and windy weather without becoming hypothermic or suffering debilitating frostbite damage to hands or feet or seat. He had researched the route. He chose a very cold weather window, perfect for a Broken Top couloir summit attempt. He was just a short walk from his car on packed-snow covered Cascades Lakes Highway west of Mt. Bachelor Resort when he was given a short snowmobile ride by SAR. No rescue here! Good Job, Michael Holmes!


Times have changed!

 Note that Michael Holmes was in touch by cell phone with a Responsible Person. Cell towers from many Providers adorn the summit of Mt. Bachelor. Most all of his subject adventure route had good cell coverage, (although Verizon is known to provide the best coverage of the entire Three Sisters Wilderness). Read More here:

Ordinary cell phone coverage has improved, year by year, to the time of this writing in 2012 - see below for "The Rest of the Story". Check your own cell coverage in your favorite backcountry areas. Much of the high desert and the Three Sisters Wilderness is covered by Verizon using CDMA code. The cell phones from other (urban) providers are not able to "see" CDMA towers and will not connect.

Cell communication equipment used by many Providers is located on the top of Mt. Bachelor. If you can see the summit, you should have good cell phone communications. If you are in a hollow or behind a ridge, just move a few feet! However, without contact with other towers, a geographic location can not be triangulated for 911 use and an accurate location can not be fixed.

The cell tower array at the top of Mt. Bachelor may have been blocked by the east ridge of the mountain. and two cell towers are needed to enable the required triangulation to provide the FCC required geographic Coordinants to find a patient on a topo map. We believe that a second Verizon tower covers the Green Lakes area. A good cell phone signal with the right Provider can take the Search out of Search and Rescue.

Each person in a group should carry their own simple personal cell phone.


Map, compass and GPS together

Back country travelers should carry a base plate declination adjustable compass costing $25.00 a $7.00 topo map annotated with the UTM Geographic Coordinant Grid and simple current model Garmin GPS costing as little as $100.00.. A stranded person can take the search out of SAR by simply reading the UTM Geographic Coordinants to the Incident Commander over the cell phone. Consider a $100.00  SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger if cell phone towers may not cover the area you plan to explore.

Read below for some basic suggestions about how to Be Prepared in 2012. Basic Responsibilities and the Ten Essential Systems.

Google each one of these three search phrases:    Best Compass for backcountry     Best topo maps for backcountry     Best GPS for backcountry use    Best cell phone for backcountry use

Millions of ordinary people world wide, use a common $100.00 hand held Garmin eTrex GPS with a topomap and color screen, for geocaching, hiking, hunting, cross country skiing, etc. Most GPS receivers have at least 14 hours of continuous life on two new batteries. Two extra AA batteries can be carried in a warm pants pocket to change out batteries weakened by cold. Lithium batteries withstand the cold much better than "regular" AA batteries.


The rest of the story

Deschutes County Sheriffs Search and Rescue Volunteer Coordinator Al Hornish, a 12 year veteran of DCSAR, stated the following in an interview published on January 26, 2012 in the Bend Oregon Source Weekly: "We have grown a lot over the past decade. The nature of missions has changed as well." "There are more Rescues and less Searches, mostly because of the better technology available."
 Read More.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010, or nearly four months since my fall off Mount Temple
. After so much time, there is much to dwell on. The negatives: the pain of so many fractures, the sleeplessness, the drugs and the messed up things they do to you. It’s easy to get stuck in the negative; yet some part of me is drawn there by some morbid fascination.

How big am I then? Not very. I made a mistake, a pretty small mistake. Or more honestly, I made a series of pretty small mistakes. I almost died for these transgressions. I would have died if it had not been for a cell phone and the chain of events it was able to put into motion. (I’ve owned a cell phone for barely six years.) I might not have died that very day, March 25, 2010, but from where we were, we were a long, long way from the medical care my injuries demanded: a trained trauma surgeon in an Emergency Room. Perhaps I would have lasted one night. Maybe not. It changes my perspective about what a day means. Carpe diem no longer seems some frat-boy cry to party. Today, means everything. --Steve House


Here are some Basic suggestions for each backcountry travelers

1. Practice the Four Basic Responsibilities of the Backcountry Traveler. They work!  Basic Responsibilities

2. Carry the new Ten Essential Systems, sized for the forecast weather and the adventure in a light day pack. This includes a map, compass and GPS and the skills to use them. In the winter, this includes enough extra insulation and waterproof clothing to keep you dry and warm if you become stranded. In snow, you must have a shovel and insulating pad and the skills to make a shelter in the snow to avoid hypothermia and frost bite damage. It works!  Ten Essential Systems

3. Carry your fully charged digital cell phones and periodically check where they can communicate with any cell towers to assist authorities in triangulating your position from cell tower pings. (Most cell providers do not use internal cell phone GPS radio signals to locate customers under FCC E911 regulations - they use triangulation). Cold disables batteries. Use Lithium batteries all year around. If the weather is cold, carry the cell phone in a pants pocket near the femoral artery. Report your UTM NAD27 coordinates from your quad topo maps and you GPS, your condition, the conditions where you are and discuss your plans with SAR.  Ordinary Cell Phones   If you are adventurous and often may be out of cell tower range, carry a $100.00 SPOT.  SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger

4. Always stay found on your topo map and be aware of major land features. If visibility starts to wane, reconfirm your bearings with your map, compass and GPS and quickly return to a known location. A GPS is the only practical way for a trained individual to navigate in a whiteout or blowing snow.  Lost Mt Hood Climbers


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 to provide protection from a drop in temperature and possible rain or snow storm or an unexpected cold wet night out. Each person should carry high carbohydrate snacks, two quarts of water or Gatorade, a topo map and declination adjusted base plate compass and an optional inexpensive GPS (and the skills to use them together). Each person who has a cell phone should carry their ordinary charged cell phone (from a service provider that has the best local backcountry coverage). An inexpensive SPOT-2 GPS Satellite Communicator is a good additional option for some. Each person should carry their selected items from the new 'Ten Essentials Systems' in a day pack sized for the individual, the trip, 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. Call 911 as soon as you become lost or stranded. You will not be charged. Do not try to find your way until you are benighted, exhausted, or worse yet - wet. Your ordinary cell phone call to 911 can take the 'Search' out of Search and Rescue."



"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


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How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Final Report to the American Alpine Club on the loss of three climbers on Mount Hood in December 2006
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
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Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
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 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"