So far this year, five people have died on Mt. Whitney, and an untold number of hikers have suffered minor injuries, U.S. Forest Service officials said. Earlier this week, more than 75 searchers combed the mountain area for separate groups of climbers marooned for several days after day trips under clear blue skies turned into howling, snowy ordeals.
Three of those climbers — Phillip Michael Abraham, 34; Stevan James Filips, 43; and Dale Clymens, 45; all of Omaha — were plucked off the mountain by helicopter Thursday. The group had taken refuge in a rock hut for three days. Only one of them carried a sleeping bag, according to hikers who crossed their paths during the week.
During the transition from fall to winter, storms frequently gather on the western side of the mountain's crest, then roar over the top with biting 60 mph winds, whiteout conditions and sub-zero temperatures, Thompson said. It is not uncommon for even experienced hikers to slip on rocks frozen over with ice as clear as glass, or to get lost in heavy snowfall, or have a heart attack on the trail with a vertical ascent of more than one mile.
"I was in the back of the store grilling hamburgers when I overheard them talking about going up the mountain" he recalled. "I walked out of the kitchen and said, 'Hey, we've got some snow up there and more storms on the way.' … I even showed them a map on my computer screen showing a bunch of storms heading this way at more than 40 mph," he said.
"One of them said, 'That's impossible.' Another walked outside, looked up at the mountain and said, 'I'm going up anyway.' So off they went with light gear and the assumption that they could get to the summit in one day. You give folks information, but what they do with it is their business."
Yes, always trust your city-slicker instincts over the info you get from the guy who runs the store AT THE TRAILHEAD before you do the 22-mile round trip to the summit of the highest mountain in the lower 48 in the month of its iffiest weather! Yeesh.
I'm glad all the dumbass hikers are OK, and may I suggest to them that Death Valley, only a little over 100 miles from Whitney (you don't even have to change motels), is very nice this time of year.
Safest bet in the area, of course, is the cowboy movie museum. On display now is the Nudie Mobile. Heh.
Here's a nice video of the Mt. Whitney summit hike. Take note of the amount of snow up there on the date, and that these are young folks in pretty good physical condition.
This is a video of me and a group of friends hiking up Mt. Whitney on July 1, 2006. We made it up and down the Mt. Whitney summit in 12 hours.
Thanks to joen1369.
Heh. If anybody doesn't know what '1369' stands for, here's a hint: '13' stands for 'unlucky'...