A couple of interesting things this morning. For starters, I’m reading that Grand Targhee ski resort in Wyoming (on west side of Tetons near Idaho) is adding a backcountry gate. Why is that news worthy? In comparison to other resorts, it sounds like Targhee has been somewhat anachronistic when it comes to giving the public access to their own land for backcountry skiing. But the resort finally saw the light.
I’m constantly amazed that public access to public land from ski resorts is even an issue. I mean, it is 2010, not 1974. That said, I’m aware that resorts do have legitimate concerns. Sounds like in the case of Targhee they have a problem with some of their backcountry access interfering with avalanche control. The new gate avoids that. But again, I’m amazed they didn’t work this out ten years ago. Article here.
In case your attention has been on the rescued miners in Chile (I tracked it, and found myself wondering how they arrived to the surface clean shaven and nattily dressed), the “Holy Cross Triangle” in Colorado appears to have claimed another victim. James Nelson, 31, of Chicago has been missing for more than 10 days after he left for a solo backpack trip near Mount of the Holy Cross, a 14,000 foot peak in Central Colorado. A large search has been suspended after coming up with nothing.
The Nelson incident eerily echoes the disappearance of Michelle Vanek in 2005 on Holy Cross. Vanek was actually with a partner, but they separated while climbing the peak and she was never seen again. Both incidents bring up issues of preparedness and communication. Vanek was inexperienced and poor decision making left her to fend for herself at high altitude. She apparently had no cell phone, which will generally work fine up high on the mountain. Nelson appears from his photos to be somewhat or even extremely out of shape for backpacking at high altitiude — especially if he was not altitude acclimated.
Yeah, cell phones stink in the backcountry when you’re after the exact opposite experience of answering a phone call, and rescue beacons cost money and add weight to your kit. But bottom line is that if you do go out and get lost in the wilderness of a civilized country such as the U.S. or Canada, well meaning rescue people may spend thousands of hours looking for you, so perhaps you owe it to them to at least carry something like a Spot Messenger if you are out by yourself (or even with a partner). Article here.
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.