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Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/17/09

Posted Dec 17 2009 6:00am

Luke Gullberg, Katie Nolan and Anthony Vietti

--The leading news story in the Pacific Northwest is that three more climbers have run into serious problems on Mount Hood. It appears that Luke Gullberg, 26, Katie Nolan, 29, and Anthony Vietti, 24 were attempting to climb the Reid Glacier Headwall when tragedy struck. What kind of tragedy isn't totally clear. Gullberg's body was found below the route late on Friday, while Nolan and Vietti are still missing on the mountain. Gullberg died of hypothermia and the speculation is that this happened after some kind of accident took place higher on the mountain that involved the other two. For more information about this case, click here and here and here. To read about the pair's survival chances this far out, click here. Following is a short video about rescue and recovery efforts:

--The breaking new on this case yesterday afternoon was that this case was suspended. Here is an excerpt from this article on the situation:

At a 2 p.m. press conference held on Mount Hood yesterday, the sheriff overseeing the search for two missing mountain climbers wrapped up five days of searching with these words:

"As sheriff of Clackamas County, I can say one of the most difficult decisions I have to make as sheriff is to suspend a search operation and transform into recovery," said Craig Roberts. "Unfortunately, that's where we're at today."

Anthony Vietti, a 24 year old from Longview, and 29-year-old Katie Nolan of Portland have been missing since Friday. Despite whiteout conditions and a foot and a half of snow, rescue teams have not given up their search. They continued searching by snow shoe through Tuesday.

Sheriff Roberts said the decision was made after factoring in the likelihood of survival after more than five days on the mountain, extreme avalanche conditions that made helicopter search efforts difficult, and a ground search impeded by 60-mile-per-hour winds and steady snow.

"The search right now is suspended," said Roberts. However, he said, "it is never abandoned."

"These individuals on the mountain are just like your brother and sister, and truly everyone cares about these people on the mountain," Roberts said, breaking up. "Unfortunately we had the odds against us."

--It's not very common that accidents happen to groups of people, more commonly an individual is injured or killed in an accident. As a result, accidents like this bring out a lot of sympathy. To read a thread on about the three (possibly) fallen and to read people's notes of sympathy, click here.

--There is a lot of conversation about the mandatory use of personal locator devices in Oregon as well as charging for rescues. There are significant concerns that the use of such devices might lead people to take more risks than they would have otherwise. And if people are charged for rescues, there's the possibility that rescues will often be initiated too late in order to avoid being charged. An excellent editorial was entitled Mount Hood: Another Tragedy, Another Round of Nonsense was published on Oregon Live about these issues. To read it click here. Newsweek put together a nice article on the financial issues involved in rescues here. And to read a conversation about all of these subjects click here.


--The Mammoth Airport is about to get busy as commercial air service gears up for a second year in a row. Commercial air service has been a goal for Mammoth Mountain and the Town of Mammoth Lakes for years. Last year, one flight a day serviced the Eastern Sierra. By many accounts, it was a successful venture from the perspective of passenger numbers. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Zion National Park is establishing a sister relationship with a national park in China. Zion Superintendent Jock Whitworth said the agreement with Danxiashan National Park will involve sharing ideas, staff and research to better understand both parks. "The real value is in the exchange of culture," he said. The new relationship was celebrated Sunday as the deal was finalized for Zion's first sister park in China. To read more, click here.

--An avalanche in Big Cottonwood Canyon buried a skier Saturday, though he escaped without injury, according to a report by the Utah Avalanche Center. It happened as a group of four skiers were breaking a trail up Cardiac Ridge, located near the top of the canyon, said Utah Avalanche Center director Bruce Tremper. They had felt several collapses, but didn't think there was enough snow to create an avalanche. As they neared the top of the ridge, the skiers heard a "whumph" and felt a collapse as a slab of soft snow broke out about 100 feet above them, Tremper said. Three skiers were out of its path, but one was caught and the snow carried him more than 250 feet. It buried him completely under about 2 1/2 feet of snow. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--With all the focus on Mount Hood, it's important to note that there was another tragedy recently. World-class ice climber Guy Lacelle died Thursday when an avalanche swept him off a mountain in southwestern Montana. The Canadian was climbing a gully when a team above him triggered a small avalanche, said Doug Chabot, director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center. To read more, click here. "A small pocket of snow pulled out and caught him," Chabot said. "It hit him and took him off the cliff, down the ice." To read more, click here.

--With prevailing frigid temperatures and the hard work of ice-making crews, the Ouray Ice Park already has terrific ice for climbing. They opened for the season on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 a.m. – a week earlier than its scheduled opening date. To read more, click here.

--In related news, the Teton Ice Park is opening this weekend at the Grand Targhee Resort. This park was styled after the Ouray Ice Park and is in their first year of operation. To read more, click here.

--The North Face ("Never Stop Exploring") is suing the cheeky teen owner of The South Butt ("Never Stop Relaxing"), claiming that the St. Loius-area parody company is infringing on the established apparel-maker's trademark and products. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in St. Louis, seeks unspecified damages and asks that South Butt's 19-year-old founder, Jimmy Winkelmann, be prohibited from marketing and selling spoof T-shirts, fleece jackets and sweatshirts on its site.
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