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Missing Mt. Whitney hikers found alive

Lanow.whitney.filipsLanow.whitney.clymensLanow.whitney.abrahamThree mountain climbers who had been missing for 4-1/2 days on Mt. Whitney were found uninjured by Thursday and transported to a regional Inyo County hospital for medical examinations.

The three Omaha men -- Phillip Michael Abraham, 34; Stevan James Filips, 43; and Dale Clymens, 45 -– were found in a crude rock-and-steel shelter on the summit of the tallest mountain in the Lower 48 states, according to Brandy O’Conner, Abraham’s girlfriend.

“This is awesome news,” O’Conner said in an interview Thursday. “They climbed the mountain on Monday, but after reaching the summit they were hit by 3 feet of snow and treacherous winds.”

O’Conner had been text-messaging Abraham but lost contact with him at 10:28 a.m. Monday, she said. “I didn’t get a text from him until today at 11: 40 a.m. He said, ‘I love you.’ ”

About 45 people had been assigned to the rescue operation, which also used helicopters, according to the National Park Service.

But hazardous weather and the snow accumulation hampered operations, park officials said.

“On Wednesday, rescue rangers got as close as a mile away from their shelter,” O'Conner said, “but they were forced to turn around.”

“We have flights home for them on standby,” she added.

-- Louis Sahagun

Photos: Michael Abraham, left, Dale Clymens, and Stevan James Filips.

 
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flatlanders....need I say more?

not the best time of year to be hiking the high sierras. they got lucky.

Glad they were found alive. Thank you Search & Rescue and the Forestry Service. Now send the bill to these lucky fellows.

I started my climb at 0130 on that Monday morning with an adventurous friend but found it very difficult to navigate above 11,000 feet due to the blowing snow and dense clouds(that had descended onto the Mt.) I had been on the summit 2 week prior and this time it just didn't feel right when we reached Trail Camp at 12,000 so we turned around. We passed these 3 at 11,500 as we were descending and they were ascending. They looked to be in great shape and were talkative, friendly and looked eager to conquer the Mt. I am glad to hear they are alive and I applaud these guys for having the common sense to ride out the storm in the shack. If you 3 read this, we were the 2 guys in green that warned you about the fresh snow above trail crest possibly covering ice. If we would have had the energy that morning, we would have joined you... but fortunately we didn't!

Thanks different Greg, you are right on all points. I am ver glad they are safe. But no TV movies about this, please.

Okay, I'm also named "Greg", and on behalf of the other "Gregs", we don't really see the big problem with the comment made by "Greg", below. He seems to be mostly angry at the way the media continuously screws up stories, and in particular, the way they described the place where these guys hunkered down. It is, in fact, a cabin. Here's a picture: http://www.justhiking.com/hikes/2005/08-30whit/whit08.jpg

Greg mentions that he is glad they are okay, he just wishes that they had been prepared to hike out on their own after the snowfall....which is idiocy, because soft, newly fallen snow on that particular trail is almost impassable, even with snowshoes, by anyone except people who have specifically equipped themselves for deep winter travel...which would not have been the case when these guys headed out. The guys were right to hunker down, and the park service was right to rescue them.

The media, however, is wrong in its description of the cabin, and will be very, very wrong if they lionize these guys. Fundamentally, these guys SHOULD have read the weather report before heading up there, along with the zillions of other crack outdoorsmen from Nebraska who were also on the hike, but got down before the heavy snowfall.

So, the score stands:
Builders of the Summit Cabin +10 for constructing a solid stone cabin that continues to survive the wicked weather on the summit of Whitney.
Park service +5 for a successful rescue
Hikers from Nebraska -5
Media -10, as usual, for being uninformed buffoons and publishing misleading/incorrect information.

Carry on.

I was on Mt Whitney during the first snow of the season, and aborted a summit bid due to similar conditions. That was the only wise move.

In the televised press conference, their friend states that they had plenty of food and water, and were experienced mountaineers. Uh....experienced - maybe, prepared - no. The photos show them prepared for a day hike, with day packs. It is complete utter stupidity to try to summit Whitney in a snowstorm without a bivvy sack, sleeping bag, stove to melt snow, etc. They obviously didn't pay attention to weather reports and continued despite the weather. They had plenty of water and food because they broke into the ranger provisions at the summit hut. Without those provisions, they would be in very bad shape with no water sources at the top. The friend also states that they were very intent on making the summit, because not making it puts an "asterisk" next to your name. Huhhh??? Any real mountaineer knows that the first rule of mountaineering is self sufficiency. You gain respect for knowing when it's not safe. You lose respect when you have to be rescued due to stupid decisions. In addition, the friend states that they stayed at a hotel in Lone Pine the day before. No one who knows anything at all about Whitney would attempt a summit without spending at least a day at the Portal to acclimatize. Going from 3700 feet to over 14,000 feet without acclimatizing is just plain stupid. All the information you need to know is easily available on the web. Is it just arrogance that leads people to make rash and unsafe decisions?

I wonder if they have thanked the good people of California for the hefty helicopter rescue bill, as well as thanking the paid and volunteer search and rescue people who risked their lives because of their decisions. Landing a helicopter at over 14,000 feet with no visibility is extremely dangerous, and they don't mind taking the risk for a true emergency (someone breaks their leg, altitude sickness, etc.) but to place someone else's life at risk because you want to stroke your ego with an ill-prepared summit attempt is unconscionable.

No, I am not jealous. I have summited many mountains. I have also aborted many summit attempts when it was not safe. I have also seen people who through their own egos and carelessness, caused great harm and even death to the people who volunteered to rescue them. Unfortunately, there are many people who forget to bring the most important piece of equipment - common sense.

Johnny, putting aside your New Age tendency to write in all lower case as if doing so lends your statement some sort of profundity, had my family decided to attempt Whitney during a storm that had been predicted for over a week, we would have been fully prepared for inclement weather and would have had plenty of food and water to enjoy in the cabin until the storm passed. After the storm, we would have strapped on the AT skis, mountaineering boots and crampons, or snow shoes we brought along and gone back down to our car, followed by beers and Mexican Food in Lone Pine. This isn't about "tea baggers" (I happen to be a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat); this is about self reliance and common sense.

We started in Onion Valley, hiked up toWhitney and slept on top...the 'cabin' Greg is a hut , nothing more! We were hit by a freak storm that iced us in. It was slow going down. It was an awesome trip but you have to respect the Mt. We went the first week in June. The next year my Dad, brother and 13 others were struck by lightening and lived to climb down on their own. PTL these men are safe!

greg maybe you should read the oc register with all the other tea party people. if it was your family would you complain about cost

@Greg: Not sure why you are so angry. It's great news to hear that these men were found alive. Like you, I know the Eastern Sierra extremely well. I'm sure you are aware that the temperatures and weather, especially above the timberline, can be radical and deadly. Whitney is no place to get stuck, shelter or not.

People get lost in the Sierra, Yosemite, San Gabriels and other California mountains but not all have made it home unscathed.

So, rather than criticize -- I'd suggest you thank Search & Rescue and the Forestry Service. These are lucky men indeed.

I can tell you that I know Dale personally, and he was more than adequately knowledgeable to be climbing the mountain. He is an adventurous guy, and I'm just glad that the three of them are safe.

Greg, why the hostility? My first reaction was happiness that they were alive. Whenever I read bitter comments such as your statement preceding concerning rescue operation, I can't help but think that somehow you feel some bizarre envy. Clearly, you fancy yourself an adventurer, as you couldn't help but mention that you "climbed the technical East Face of Whitney." It's almost as if you feel insecure in the face of these three or "that twit who had to cut off his arm in Utah" or the "idiot in Alaska." Like somehow, because they get attention for their outdoor activities, your interests in the outdoors and adventure are undermined. That's simply not the case. You don't have to be jealous of them. Just because other people enjoy adventure doesn't mean that you can't or that you are somehow less of an adventurer. Come on, Greg. Quit the jealous diatribe and just be happy they are alive. Also, I am not sure how much of the rescue is paid for out of income taxes and how much is paid for by the individual fees paid by park users. Clearly, you have researched the issue and can probably inform me.

How do you learn to climb mountains in Omaha?

Glad they were rescued and in good shape. But I have to ask, why on earth did they not check the weather forecast? It was very obvious that a storm system was coming through, not the time to be in the high sierra. At least they were pretty well equipped.

Please do your research before buying in to what people tell you. They were hardly "trapped" in a "crude rock and steel shelter." I climbed the technical East Face of Whitney and I can tell you that the building on the summit, which primarily services hikers coming up the hiking trail, is a bombproof stone CABIN. They were snowed into a CABIN. And at 14,000 feet with backpacking gear, assuming they knew what they were doing (and if they didn't they shouldn't have been anywhere near the mountain), they could have survived for as long as they had food and water or fuel to melt snow. "Rescue" my foot. Now they will be lionized like that twit who had to cut off his arm in Utah or the idiot in Alaska. These kinds of stories make me ill. I'm furious that my tax dollars paid for a helicopter for this "rescue." I'm glad they are ok but they should have been prepared for snow this late in the season and had the skills and equipment to get down after the storm passed. Should be the end of the story, but I'll bet there will be at least a TV movie.

Glad they were found to be ok...But sounds like they were in the shelter at the summit....and would have waited out the storm,and returned on their own without all the bru-ha-ha.

David S: It's the time you spend without food that counts.

In hindsight, using the helicopter to check the summit shelter seems like the first place to look.

good

good

yay, glad they were found. But technically, they were only missing for 3 days, not 4 1/2. I would count from last contact (monday text) to the first contact after that (today's text). They might have been OUT for 4 1/2 days, but not missing that long.


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