Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

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Webfoot
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Webfoot » October 11th, 2018, 5:26 pm

Not that anyone asked my opinion on this sad matter but I don't find it surprising. They say getting lost starts with a false assumption. It can be hard to correct that even if one is thinking clearly, and if one is also hypothermic it may be impossible, with judgement too impaired to recognize the absurdity of one's actions or circumstance. I can imagine and sympathize with the assumption that he was on the ridge below the Lodge and resolutely continuing upward into peril thinking "just keep going forward and this nightmare will be over." If he ever realized his mistake it may have already been too late, lacking the faculty to e.g. set up a tent.

Schrauf
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Schrauf » October 11th, 2018, 6:31 pm

Sad and scary. The day he went missing I think it was foggy and misty up there. And if it was also dusk, and one doesn't know the trail, this could happen. That ridge is barren in spots and the trail is wide, so you could miss the turn and just keep heading up the ridge. I think there's a steep slope down and then up again at some point, but if he was cold and confused... there's climber trails heading up all over the place between that ridge and the lodge.

Still odd though. No smartphone to call for help, or to use for GPS? Cell reception is rock solid near the lodge. In this situation, especially with hypothermia, a GPS would be better than a paper map. So many minor errors compounded into disaster. A lot happened long before a GPS or phone became necessary.

pcg
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by pcg » October 11th, 2018, 7:14 pm

Schrauf wrote:
October 11th, 2018, 6:31 pm
In this situation, especially with hypothermia, a GPS would be better than a paper map...
Last year this time my son did the TT solo, a few days after a big October snow storm. He was in Lambertson Butte area and began singing to himself (out of joy) and as soon as he did he heard someone yell for help. About 100 yds below him off the trail, knee deep in snow and wearing soaked blue jeans, was a hiker so cold he could barely talk and walk. He had started from Timberline Lodge at midnight with a bag of almonds and a map on his iPhone. His girlfriend was waiting for him with a car at Cooper Spur. It was now 4 PM and he was hypothermic and hopelessly lost. Here's the kicker and my reason for including the above quote. Not only did he have a map on his cell phone, but my son said he could clearly see the hiker's path on the hiker's phone, going in circles below the trail which was marked on his phone.

Once you become hypothermic, unless you have the presence of mind to realize what is happening and the skills and equipment to take the necessary steps to survive, a GPS or map is useless. My son got him fed, warmed up, and back to his waiting car at Cooper Spur.
Last edited by pcg on October 12th, 2018, 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.

Aimless
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Aimless » October 11th, 2018, 7:32 pm

Yes. Knowing you are becoming hypothermic does you very little good, if you have no resources available to stop or reverse the hypothermia.

Schrauf
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Location: NE Portland

Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Schrauf » October 12th, 2018, 5:26 am

pcg wrote:
October 11th, 2018, 7:14 pm
Once you become hypothermic, unless you have the presence of mind to realize what is happening and the skills and equipment to take the necessary steps to survive, a GPS or map is useless.
True. I guess my point is those or other tools can still be useful at the beginning stages of hypothermia, and if one has reached the point of mild confusion, a working GPS might be more useful than a paper map, generally, because at least one can see more clearly which direction to go in foggy or otherwise difficult situations, or if a destination has been overshot. Paper maps require more technical skills to become unlost, and at the beginning stages of hypothermia I would think that would be even more of a stretch than a GPS.

But yes, it's possible he had all those things, and was too far gone to use them. That's likely, since he proceeded to climb more than 3k above the lodge after already climbing 1k from the White River crossing (apparently).
Last edited by Schrauf on October 12th, 2018, 6:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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retired jerry
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by retired jerry » October 12th, 2018, 6:11 am

The other thing is to recognize you're starting to get cold and get to a sheltered location, set up tent and sleeping bag or whatever. Best to get to your car or Timberline Lodge.

Well before you get cold have a plan for the end of the day. Keep looking at landmarks. Your GPS or paper map.

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Waffle Stomper
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Waffle Stomper » October 12th, 2018, 6:53 am

Earlier reports had said that the battery had died on his phone. I'm not sure how they knew that unless his hiking partner told them. So many things to be learned from this incident.
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." - John Muir

12XU
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by 12XU » October 12th, 2018, 8:45 am

The White River crossing is confusing, and if you look at it on google maps, you can see how a confused/unfamiliar hiker might have ended up climbing up an internal ridge instead of fully crossing to the other side. My heart goes out to his family. I'm finding it hard not to feel frustrated by his partner leaving him. Once they were fully on the other side of the White River and the trail is clearly defined, sure, but that doesn't seem like the case here.

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tourjebl
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Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by tourjebl » October 12th, 2018, 9:32 am

I'm new to the forum but saw this and had to check it out because my boyfriend and I were just out on the Timberline Trail last week. We headed out on Thursday morning with the intention of completing the trail in a three days. We camped out near McNeil point Thursday night but after a possible injury and the worsening weather forecast we decided to call it and hike back to the lodge on Friday. We ran into these two guys on our way back, somewhere around Paradise Park, and chatted for a few minutes about the weather and what our plans were for the trail. We told each other to enjoy the hike and got back to hiking in our separate directions.

This was our first time doing a bigger trip on Timberline, though we've hopped on it for short periods of time during day hikes. We're from New England where most trails are marked with a blaze or cairns and the signs have distances to nearby junctions/landmarks. After spending two days on the Timberline I can definitely see how getting lost can happen, especially in poor weather conditions and if you're hit with something like hypothermia. This may have been a bit ridiculous but we actually printed out the guide on this site and brought it in addition to our map just in case we were ever unsure as to which way the trail went since it had landmarks listed in it. Without that I think there's definitely a chance we could have made a wrong turn since the area is so new to us. It's easy to say they should have done x, y, z and maybe the rest of us would have made different decisions but at the end of the day this is just a really sad situation and I feel awful for his friends and family.

Schrauf
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Location: NE Portland

Re: Missing hiker on the Timberline Trail

Post by Schrauf » October 12th, 2018, 10:09 am

12XU wrote:
October 12th, 2018, 8:45 am
...I'm finding it hard not to feel frustrated by his partner leaving him. Once they were fully on the other side of the White River and the trail is clearly defined, sure, but that doesn't seem like the case here.
Based on reports I think they split up after crossing and ascending the ridge, on the way to the lodge. Near the junction of the TLT and PCT. Even there the trail can be briefly unclear. Without more details it's tough to know whether it was a reasonable or poor decision in the moment.
tourjebl wrote:
October 12th, 2018, 9:32 am
...This may have been a bit ridiculous but we actually printed out the guide on this site and brought it in addition to our map just in case we were ever unsure as to which way the trail went since it had landmarks listed in it. Without that I think there's definitely a chance we could have made a wrong turn since the area is so new to us. It's easy to say they should have done x, y, z and maybe the rest of us would have made different decisions but at the end of the day this is just a really sad situation and I feel awful for his friends and family.
The trail definitely has confusing sections and junctions even in perfect weather. Most of us here aren't discussing the event to judge or place blame, but to try to understand what went wrong to help ourselves and others avoid similar decisions in the future.

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