2 WA climbers dead in fall on Mount McKinley
Two climbers climbers from Washington state are dead after falling 1,900 feet during a descent on Alaska's Mount McKinley last night. via Bellingham Herald
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“A Good Usama”
Since: Dec 06
#1 May 21, 2007
The mountain had been renamed Denali. The Mt McKinley name is an anachronism.
Who knows what happened up there. Did they bite off more than they could chew? Did one of them make a bad decision which led them both to their deaths?
That reminds me of my experience in Alaska. I was the trip leader but a young woman was the group leader for the day. We called her 'Billygoat' because she always tried to be the first to the top of whatever we were climbing.(In retrospect, we should have called her Bettygoat). She was strong, smart, ambitious. But she was only about 120 lbs, and that can make a difference when climbing.
Anyways, she led us to traverse across this shale slide which ended at a ridge which dropped about 40-60 ft below.
The normal technique is to have a big heavy guy kick footholds into the rocks to provide sturdy footing. For what ever reason, she chose to do it herself and others followed. I was picking up the rear out of sight but in ear range.
So what happened?
Her foot holds did not impact enough, and she lost her footing and slipped down the slide towards the ridge and the river below.
Now if you aren't religious, or don't believe in God, then you need to spend some time outdoors with your life on the line.
The man behind her caught Billygoat by one string of her pack. The two of them slipped down but with his other hand, the man grabbed a small shrubbery that somehow had grown out of that massive shale slide.
Well, I and another guy heard them yelling and we cam running up. I had the biggest guy in our group lead the rest of the group to safety (can't have 7 people die on me when the entire slide gives way). Meanwhile, I was able to dig my way down to both of them and help them out of there.
What was the lesson when we winded down that day?
We all knew how to hike, climb, traverse a slide. Billygoat knew that the best technique was to get the 200+lb guy to kick the footholds. She was the group leader that day. Why did she have to do it herself? She wouldn't be the only person, man or woman, to think like that, though. Whatever motivated her, sometimes pride, and ego get the worst of us. But in places like Alaska, humility and descretion save lives. Pride gets you killed except by the grace of God.
Anyways, perhaps anyone might have made that mistake. In the end, God was looking out for her and all of us. That string could have broke, the guy behind her could have lost his grip, that shrub might have given way, and I might not have been there in time, or the entire slide could have lost it, sending us all to our deaths to the river below.
Thank God and all praises are due to him. HE is Great.
And that is just one story of why Alaska is still the 'last frontier'.
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