Accident on Mt. Rainier

Posted by: TomD

Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/10/08 05:24 PM

Looks like the weather there is still pretty nasty.

Mt. Rainier accident
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/10/08 07:26 PM

<img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> How tragic! Yes, this is the spring that winter continues to override. We had snow around here today, too. And, because of the unusually heavy snow pack, the avalanche danger will be also be higher once 'spring' really does arrive.
Posted by: midnightsun03

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 12:40 PM

It looks like summer outside here, but it sure doesn't FEEL like it yet! BRRRRR!

Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 04:40 PM

Hi Tom, Hi Midnight, Hi Mockturtle, greetings from Bend <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
It may freeze here tonight! Two nights ago I lost two sprinkler heads to ice forming inside and I may lose some more tonight, the forecast is for freezing.

In other words - its still winter conditions in these here hills. A 20 degree bag would be a minimum choice. But up on the "hill" I'd probably carry my WM super Kodiak (minus5) even in June. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />That bag is larger than most modern packs will hold. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

Its hard to choose where the weight safety trade off is, but with this years weird weather, anyone venturing out above tree line or in the PNW at a minimum, should carry warmer clothes this year. Hiking I think rain gear that will go over 300 fleece pants and jacket at a minimum, plus some extra water and a flash light and a BIC should be the minimum hiking gear. That would allow you to survive exposure, but would rely on your fire skills etc to be comfortable, at least having the right clothes may make an all out effort to reach the truck more reasonable.

As I alluded to on another post - the slope from Camp Muir is VERY steep. You should NOT be off trail without an iceaxe and crampons, and of course, boots capable of carrying crampons. The runout is thousands of feet.
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 04:57 PM

So right, Jim! In the Cascades and here in the Selkirks you can have 'winter' any time of year. I often awaken to subfreezing temperatures when camping in August. And that damp cold over near the coast is particularly chilling. For a long or solo day hike, I think a sleeping bag and extra clothing are de rigueur . My day pack is expandable.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 06:51 PM


So what kind of sleeping bag do you carry day hiking? And what kind of shell?

I like to put the weight into what I call "Moving clothes" - clothes that let me ski into the teeth of the blizzard - or to keep on moving where others should have already dug in. Course I like to ski backpack alone at night in cougar country when its snowing and then pitch my tent. So what I do for fun isn't that different from from what some consider a fool hardy night time retreat from disaster. About all I can imagine going wrong is an injury or a broken ski, and both are unlikely. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" />

I like to tunnel into fir holes in california but I've read some scary stories about being trapped in them here in Oregon, so I have been cautious. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> There are such all covering forests here that starting a large fire would be possible with few or no tools. The big fire concept seems to be a "northern concept". Perhaps an idea based on experience with survival allows people to ignore the impact. When they start fires in the forest to burn the underbrush it kinda says ' Hey I can throw burning materials here or even start a fire and walk away from it if I want to. Nobody worries about trees with burned brown needles along the road - they'll fall out next season. The trees are so thick above us that the forest service clears out 9 of 10 trees some places to make a healthier forest. We have stumps in our healthy forests, they are not primal..Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 07:19 PM

It's a 20 degree goose down bag with a nylon shell. It weighs 2.2 lbs. And, of course, a tarp [6 oz].
Posted by: TomD

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/11/08 11:41 PM

Hey Jim! It's hard for us down in SoCal to think that it still gets that cold up where you are even in Summer. Believe it or not, there were some snow flurries at Mammoth about two weeks ago. Not enough to stick, but enough to let the locals know how cold it still could get. Heard that from a friend who lives there.
Posted by: Buster_Martin

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 06:48 AM

Wow, this thread is really making me think. I've got a trip planned to ONP starting August 1st. My bag is rated at 20 degrees, and I assumed that would be fine in August...even at higher elevations. Now I'm second guessing myself. Should I be? I can't afford another sleeping bag, and I'm relatively certain those going with me can't really either. Any thoughts? We'll be going through the Hoh, up to Glacier Meadows, and possibly out by Appleton Pass (I think that's what it's called).

On a related note, Yahoo had a headline up about the tragedy on Rainier. Here's the story for those who are interested...

By DONNA GORDON BLANKINSHIP, Associated Press Writer
Fri Jun 13, 3:11 AM ET

SEATTLE - A hiker who lost his life on Mount Rainier lay down in the snow and used his body's warmth to protect his wife and a friend from the 70-mph winds of a freak June blizzard, national park officials said.


When it became obvious the trio could not find their way back to base camp in whiteout conditions, they dug a snow trench with their hands. Eduard Burceag, 31, lay down in the snow while his wife and friend lay on top of him. Later, when they begged him to switch places, Burceag refused, saying he was OK.

"In doing so, he probably saved their lives," park spokesman Kevin Bacher said Thursday.

Mariana Burceag, also 31, survived the storm, as did the couple's friend, Daniel Vlad, 34.

Eduard Burceag was just one of the heroes.

When the call came at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday to the Camp Muir base camp, saying three hikers were missing in a blizzard, the National Park Service ranger in charge of rescue operations had little hope they would survive the night.

Kevin Hammonds, 28, described the storm as the worst he had ever seen during his years of hiking and mountain climbing: wind blowing hard enough to knock you off your feet and zero visibility, making it impossible to see your hand in front of your face.

"The fact that any of them made it is noteworthy," Hammonds said Thursday.

His lack of optimism didn't stop Hammonds and a fellow ranger, Joe Franklin, from preparing a search party to head out at first light.

Around 5:30 a.m., Franklin was checking the horizon for any clues to the location of the missing hikers, all natives of Romania who were living in Bellevue, a Seattle suburb.

He saw what looked like a boulder in an unusual spot on the snowfield, then took a closer look with binoculars and realized the shape was moving.

Hammonds grabbed two mountain guides who had stayed the night at Camp Muir, about 10,000 feet up the 14,410-foot mountain, and headed out toward Vlad. Walking through knee-deep, blowing snow, it took about 10 minutes to meet him halfway.

Bacher called Vlad a hero, for his determination to get help.

"It wasn't that he had the physical stamina to do it, but he had the mental will," Bacher said.

One guide helped Vlad back to Camp Muir after directing Hammonds and Eben Reckord of International Mountain Guides toward the Burceags.

"We were able to, more or less, find them right away because he had given us such a good description," Hammonds said. "They would have actually been hard for us to find without his guidance. Where they were definitely was not in eyeshot of camp."

Mariana Burceag was conscious but not coherent, said Hammonds, a trained emergency medical technician. Eduard Burceag was unconscious; they couldn't find a pulse.

"The two of us had to make a decision that she needed our immediate attention," Hammonds said. "It was obvious to us, that ... if left there much longer, she would probably be in the same shape he was."

Hammonds' training told him they had to focus on the person most likely to survive.

They put a second down jacket on Mariana Burceag, placed her in a sleeping bag and onto a sleeping pad, covered her with a small tent and started to drag the whole package toward Camp Muir.

They got about 100 feet closer to the camp before Hammonds and Reckord realized they needed more help. Four more guides answered their call with oxygen, another sleeping bag and a sled. It took another hour for six people to get Mariana Burceag to shelter.

Then the rescuers went back for Eduard Burceag. Perhaps another hour passed before they got him to shelter; attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.

Hammonds said the three were experienced hikers both Eduard Burceag and Vlad had summited Rainier in the past and were dressed properly for a spring hike in warm winter jackets, wool hats and gloves, and sturdy boots.

Thick clouds prevented a helicopter evacuation that day. An Army chopper rescued Mariana Burceag and Vlad from the peak Wednesday morning. They were treated for frostbite at a Seattle hospital and released. Eduard Burceag's body was brought down the mountain on a sled Wednesday afternoon.

The Pierce County medical examiner's office confirmed Thursday night that he died of hypothermia.

Reached by telephone in Romania, Eduard Burceag's brother, Cristian, told The Seattle Times his older brother moved to the United States eight years ago and fell in love with Seattle, its mountains, its opportunities.

Cristian Burceag said his mother was visiting his brother and was watching their two young sons while Eduard and Mariana hiked to Camp Muir.

He said he was not surprised his brother died shielding his wife from the blizzard.

"He was a hero for us," the younger Burceag said. "I'm sure he would do that. He knew very well that his children needed a lot of their mother and that was the main thing in his life."
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 07:33 AM

Your 20 degree bag will be fine. Make every effort to keep your gear dry! Rain can fall at any time (and for weeks at a time!) and the air is so damp that nothing will dry out once it gets wet. I know this from experience. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" /> I use a dry bag for my extra clothes. Your footwear should be Goretex lined, as the underbrush will always be wet, even if there is no rain. The Olympics are beautiful, not a cold as the Cascades, but the dampness poses an increased hypothermia risk.

Aside from these considerations, plan to have a wonderful trip!
Posted by: Buster_Martin

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 07:46 AM

Thanks for the input, mockturtle! I feel much better now. I was really wondering how I'd pay for a new bag! As for keeping things dry - I'll certainly do my best!!! <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: JAK

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 08:23 AM

I'm curious about how people get stuck in those fir holes?

I have heard of snowboarders going in head first and being unable to move. I can imagine a snow cave into the side of one collapsing, especially if snow fell from above. Do you mean that sort of catastrophic type fatality, or do also you mean just being down there and not being able to crawl back out? Wondering if climbing the tree is ever an option, if you had the gear. ???

The west and other places just freaks me out sometimes. It's like something out of a science fiction novel. I remember as a kid my older brother explaining about tornadoes. I figured he just had to be pulling my leg. It's truly an amazing planet, but very tragic at times.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 09:36 AM

A sleeping bag is a part of a system. You will be warmer in it wearing good insulation. Its not a bad idea to carry part of your "night" insulation in the form of clothes anyway - you do have to get out of that bag occasionally.

This is a very upsetting case. You hear - "they were dressed warmly, they were prepared for a spring hike. " What does that mean? Obviously in someones opinion they were prepared for the expected spring weather, yet they were not prepared for the actual weather. The weather is changing. The point some of us are making is to be prepared for what could happen, not for the best circumstances.

I must say that a foam pad seems to be about the most important item left behind. Few people want to hike or climb carrying survival gear in a pack, not in America. We are used to relatively mild storms, and besides its so cute to look unprepared and have a tiny pack. In Scotland going up a mountain without bivy gear would be considered foolhardy.

I have run into tourists on Rainear who had noting - no water, no food, improper clothes - and they wanted to go "go for a short hike up the mountain". We have given them food and water a thousand feet above the lodge. What were they thinking?

OTOH we have members who think its stupid to be prepared for a winter storm in the spring. You see a lot of tourists out in the cold in shorts because "Its Summer isn't it?"

I noted that they dug a snow hole with their hands. Being buried in snow offers some insulation, but not in strong winds. I guess taking a shovel also didn't seem reasonable.

I think this IS a case of traveling fast and light did kill. We don't think of hiking with nothing as being unprepared since after all, who ever carries anything? But in mountains the "common sense" of the city fails.
Posted by: mockturtle

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 10:07 AM

It sounds as if they were properly dressed in winter apparel, which is appropriate for spring in the Cascades. Rainier death update What they did not have was emergency gear. Being from Bellevue, they are familiar with weather on Rainier. As I stated in another thread, I don't like to second guess and I know the reports in the media are often inaccurate. But we can certainly see where a few more items might have saved their lives. I'm still not sure why the weather wasn't predicted, or if they didn't get a last-minute forecast.
Posted by: TomD

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 06/13/08 06:08 PM

I saw that about digging with their hands. It may seem like overkill, but if there is snow on the ground, I have a shovel with me. The one time I didn't, the snow was about 6" deep and I was dayhiking at Frazier Park (SoCal) with a bunch of friends. Otherwise, along it goes. If nothing else, I can sit on it when I stop to make a cup of tea with the stove I always carry.

Hard to be sure, but carrying something as simple as a shovel, a couple of blue pads and some warm clothes might have saved this guy. All of that would fit into a medium sized day pack. A GPS or map and compass might have gotten them closer to the shelter as well.

I know, easy to second guess them, but look at the consequences. Rainier looks like a really big mountain to me; something I think I would take seriously, even on a nice day.
Posted by: stonemark

Re: Accident on Mt. Rainier - 01/13/11 09:09 PM

so every climber here like mountain climbing & ice-climbing at the same time?