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Author Topic: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.  (Read 30183 times)
all mtn
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Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« on: 07/17/10, 03:12 PM »

 - A grad. student from Stanford Univ. was solo-climbing with a partner, when she took a fatal fall on the Eichorn Pinnacle. Christina Chan and her partner were on Cathedral Pk. (Tuolumne Mdws.).  They then went over to the nearby Eichorn Pinnacle, where the accident occured. An article said she was a very dynamic person. She was head of Stanford's Alpine club.
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telemack
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #1 on: 07/29/10, 10:50 PM »

Soloing crisp granite like that is very seductive.   Most longtime climbers have pushed the boat out free soloing a little bit, and have scared themselves.  Anyone who doesn't seriously moderate their ropeless rock habit is asking for it.  I could have been her a few times in my years of rock climbing, and I feel for all.

Anyone ever thought on the relative danger AND attraction of free soloing vs. skiing steep, exposed faces? 
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #2 on: 07/30/10, 09:03 AM »

First and foremost, condolences to the friends and family.  The climbing world is much the same as the skiing and a loss is always a sad event.

Being as this is a skiing forum though, I think you have an interesting question telemack...

I've hung up my ski gear for a while (since May) and have been focused mainly on climbing and surfing this summer.  While climbing granite up at W. Pass I relayed a story about how my first time leading trad and multipitch in Eldorado Canyon, CO (1997) I was passed by a man free soloing a much more difficult route to my side.  Wide-eyed I stared and he greeted my awe with a "Hello, beautiful day to be out isn't it?  Enjoy your climb!" as he pressed on, quickly dipping for a bit of chalk.  It was a bit awe inspiring and gave me some newfound courage to tackle the psychological game on the measley 5.6 (Recon, Wind Tower) I was on.

Since then I've definitely pulled some of the same type of behavior on various climbs or mountaineering trips.  Being a climber and mountaineer first, who has learned to incorporate skiing into the agenda after "discovering" the PNW, I would have to say that many steep skiers instill that same type of courageous inspiration when I look at the stuff they're skiing.  Dan Helmstadter, Lee, Hummels, Kyle Miller to name a few...and in a way I feel like the same principles are in effect.  They have immense backgrounds and experience, yet some of the stuff they jump on is hair-raising at least.  I would say it's similar in the psychological aspect, however, the risk factor is much more calculated.  With free soloing I feel the options boil down to you fall or you don't.  Steep skiing, especially when exposed or inudated with possible dangers, there are a number of precautions one can still take: safe zones, avy safety, proper arresting techniques, roped skiing to probe a particular snowpack, skiing with a partner, pits and RB.  I guess one could argue that those are only psychologically stabilizing factors, but the risk is the same.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #3 on: 07/30/10, 10:56 AM »

Anyone ever thought on the relative danger AND attraction of free soloing vs. skiing steep, exposed faces? 

I have said for a long time that I feel that the two are essentially the same.

The key difference, as I see it, is that steep skiing has been embraced by the outdoor industry and community in a way that free soloing has not. In my view, this represents a moral breakdown.
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James Wells
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #4 on: 07/30/10, 01:08 PM »

Sure, they both have a lot of risk, but I think there's a good argument that steep skiing has a greater set of externalities that can't be controlled for.

If you free solo a rock route, while there is a chance of a key hold breaking or a rock falling on you, most of the success or failure resides in whether  you climb or fall (per Stugie's comment).  This would be especially true if the climber expressly chooses routes having a minimum of loose rock or breakage risk, which would seem wise.

On a steep ski route, the set of risks that are at best semi-controllable seems higher to me.

So, both have a high risk quotient but there may be a difference in how much risk is fully knowable and controllable vs not.  This would suggest that, for someone who is fully and accurately cognizant of their capabilities, steep skiing is effectively more dangerous.
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telemack
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #5 on: 07/31/10, 01:09 PM »

Per what Lowell has said, climbing media have also promoted free-soloing overly in the past.  Just think of all the photos of John Bachar, Dean Potter, and of Henry Barber in the older days.  And ski films make jumping in to big lines seem routine compared to the reality of preparation, experience, and backup crews with choppers.  Remember all the in-bounds avy deaths in the last year or 2?
I have found over the years that if I keep my motives pure (e.g. Would you do this if nobody will ever know?) I wind it out less. 
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Aleksey
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #6 on: 08/01/10, 07:10 PM »

I have said for a long time that I feel that the two are essentially the same.

The key difference, as I see it, is that steep skiing has been embraced by the outdoor industry and community in a way that free soloing has not. In my view, this represents a moral breakdown.


I would love to hear more here Mr. Skoog. why is it a moral error on my behalf to be inspired by the skill, mental strength and physical endurance of the folks that do participate in the act of skiing the steeps?
After all is not all relative? One mans spicy is another's mild?
And if this is the case, as it surely is, I cant see why I am participating in the moral breakdown of the sport. Sure there is much more to ski-mountaineering than the steeps, i.e traverses, etc...But we all know that the steeps are special in their own right. the exposure, the weightlessness, the amount of mind bending it takes to get there in the first place.
In the end, mountains have served as a mirror for humanity. When we were superstitious we found in them ghosts and dragons and myths. And as we tried to conquer nature, we began to "bag peaks". To me the steep skiing phenomenon is not a statement about the loss of morality of the sport but rather an inference about the need for passion in our society. There is nothing morally wrong with a bold expression of passion in a society plagued with apathy.
If you have the time, I would love to hear more from your side..
Sincerely

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telemack
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #7 on: 08/01/10, 11:22 PM »

I think Lowell meant that various ski industry/media have promoted steep, risky, extreme skiing to push products, visits to resorts, guide services, etc., not that a bit of risk was never worth it. 
« Last Edit: 08/02/10, 10:48 PM by telemack » Logged

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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #8 on: 08/02/10, 07:42 AM »

I have said for a long time that I feel that the two are essentially the same.

The key difference, as I see it, is that steep skiing has been embraced by the outdoor industry and community in a way that free soloing has not. In my view, this represents a moral breakdown.


In ski resort hotels, there's a whole TV channel dedicated to ski porn. Skiers coming down scary tight couloirs, setting off slough avalanches and hucking off cliffs.  You sit there on the sofa in awe (with the kids no less). It's really rather violent.

Lowell is right, what's the difference?
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alisa
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #9 on: 08/02/10, 01:10 PM »

"Lowell is right, what's the difference"

I've soloed a few things in my life and it's the closest to religion that I've ever been.  Steep skiing (at least as steep as I can get - which isn't really that steep) doesn't come close to the feeling of just pure detachment from everything except of what is right in front of you.  Soloing is methodical, usually slow and extremely controlled.  As a rule of thumb, two grades less than your redpoint is a good place to solo - if you're so inclined.  Most people don't push their limits while unroped, unlike steep skiing which is usually pushing the personal envelope of the skier. 

In my mind soloing and steep skiing are apples and oranges.  Take a 5.13 sport climber and place him on a 5.6 solo, unless he's mentally ready he's either doomed or unable to get very high.  Take a double black skier and place him on a green circle and he'll be just fine.  I realize that there are outliers,  but I'd bet money that as a percentage relative to the sport there are many more folks skiing steep lines than soloing routes.

My deepest condolences to the friends and family of Christina Chan.

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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #10 on: 08/02/10, 01:26 PM »

In my mind soloing and steep skiing are apples and oranges.  Take a 5.13 sport climber and place him on a 5.6 solo, unless he's mentally ready he's either doomed or unable to get very high.

Maybe similar to the psychological aspect of going from top rope to leading trad?
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #11 on: 08/02/10, 03:57 PM »

both are on the riskier end of the spectrum, no doubt, but why in the world are they, as Mr Skoog implies....immoral?
I disagree with the ski porn argument. Just because I watch a sweet bro huck an 80 footer, does not mean Im inspired.
Big air has also been heavily promoted by the industry. All the films have at least a couple. Yet i dont see TRs where folks set out to jump of a cliff.
The goal of skiing something steep (again, my definition is most likely different from that of others, which further muddles this argument) has on the other hand been the goal. there is  a thrill and beauty to steep skiing out of which true joy may be had. By that i mean it is an activity which offers a challenge which can be surmounted. The more skilled skier/mountaineer can and should seek more advanced lines and objectives. In general these will be more steep.
Climberdave related his soloing to a religious experience, I cant for the life of me see how thats a bad thing. Some things in life are worth more risk than others.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #12 on: 08/02/10, 05:10 PM »

both are on the riskier end of the spectrum, no doubt, but why in the world are they, as Mr Skoog implies....immoral?

Whoa, I think perhaps you've misinterpreted the context of what was said...

The key difference, as I see it, is that steep skiing has been embraced by the outdoor industry and community in a way that free soloing has not. In my view, this represents a moral breakdown.


Considering the massive production the mass media had made of "extreme skiing" (i.e. Endless Winter - Glenn Plake makes reference...) and the virtually non-existent idolization of free-soloing - despite the very similar risk factors - I believe does constitute the label of a moral breakdown.

I have yet to see a resort in CO or UT or MT advertise, whether by words or image, the romantisized idea of free-soloing to advertise their tourism.  Remember, it was the industry and it's standards that were being referred to, not the sports in and of themselves.
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Aleksey
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #13 on: 08/02/10, 07:52 PM »

stugie, i appreciate your post, i've had this discussion before, and i find it very interesting.
my question to you is WHY
why is it wrong for an industry to romanticise an inherently romantic pastime. (most folks find an activity that connects man to nature as strongly as skiing the BC, very romantic)
consider surfing for example. Hawaii pushes the North Shore surf on the covers of magazines world wide. Lots of folks loose health and even life surfing those breaks.
also...
I find the argument that the media is solely responsible for general attitude to not hold water. We dictate what they put in front of us as much as they do. If we did not love images of steep skiing, there would not be any out.
So the issue is very much community based ( as Mr. Skoog writes, see quote above). And as such I also ask WHY does the embrace of steep skiing by the community constitute a moral breakdown?
from my experience, most ads showcase POWDER rather than truly wicked steeps. the latter are left for US, that is, ski crazies, so again, i think the "problem" if you think it is one, lies with us.
much love for humoring me, im in philly for the year, the skiing community out here is....well...they water ski. With beers god bless them, but still.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #14 on: 08/02/10, 10:29 PM »

I would love to hear more here Mr. Skoog.

There's a well-known quote from Chris Landry in Sports Illustrated in which he defined extreme skiing as "if you fall, you die." Landry later tried to retract this quote (see Couloir magazine, Oct/Nov 1993, p. 3) by explaining that he told the Sports Illustrated writer that, "In Europe, the French would probably say something like, 'It's when if you fall, you die'". He went on to say that the sport meant more to him, but his original statement acknowledged that risk was a significant part of extreme skiing to the founders of the sport. I've seen little in the past few decades to make me think this has changed.

So here you have a sport which, when played at the highest levels, has two outcomes. If you ski and don't fall, you win by surviving. If you fall, you lose and die. You take this risk for sport, nothing more. Short of gambling with somebody else's life, it's hard for me to imagine many decisions you can make in your life that are more freighted with moral consequence. Steep skiing is different from other sports (including general mountaineering) because risk is inherent in the sport by definition.

If somebody wants to play this game, that's fine with me. I'll pass. For me the moral breakdown occurs when this behavior becomes normalized through marketing and personal promotion, and the moral dimension is glossed over. I think this has happened to a considerable degree with steep skiing.
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Scotsman
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #15 on: 08/03/10, 10:46 AM »

Lowell's argument that the moral breakdown occurs when it becomes normalized by marketing and personal promotion seems to transfer the " blame" if that's the right word to those promoting and those doing the steep skiing.

What this , IMO, seems to omit is that marketing is predominately a reflection on OUR  ( the general publics) appetite. Marketing does not work ( many failed businesses  and products) if the audience doesn't  like or want the product.
Look at this community, TAY. TR's with steep skiing ( fall you die by my definition) reports have the most views. Most of us congratulate the skiers and write things like WOW! Incredible! You have big balls etc.
We revere these people and in many cases wish we had the skill and nerve to do what they do. We like reading about it and our responses to these feats, set up a cycle of  self -promotion, adulation and wanting to be like them ( or wear and use the same gear).
So before we demonize the "marketers" and " self-promotors" realize that the real culprit ( again if that is the word) is not
THEM but US.
I have no problem with those that want to risk their life. I understand the feeling of zen that many use to explain the almost spiritual experience they get from doing it.  I don't see it as a moral question at all. It is IMO simply a reflection of the inherent human conditon and those that want to assign a moral ( it's wrong)  tag to it are always those that feel they know what is right better than the rest of us.

It's also wrong IMO to say that climbers have not promoted the death games as much as steep skiers have.
There's always an article in the climbing magazines about "highball bouldering" or "headpointing "really hard trad climbs on extremely marginal gear. Climbers have even codified this level of risk with X grades here and the E grade system in the UK. The level of risk associated with climbing X rated routes and E7, even when roped is probably just as risky as steep skiing so the sole analogy between steep skiing and free-soloing on rock is I think too narrow.
« Last Edit: 08/03/10, 10:58 AM by Scotsman » Logged

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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #16 on: 08/03/10, 11:27 AM »

...

What this , IMO, seems to omit is that marketing is predominately a reflection on OUR  ( the general publics) appetite. Marketing does not work ( many failed businesses  and products) if the audience doesn't  like or want the product.
Look at this community, TAY. TR's with steep skiing ( fall you die by my definition) reports have the most views. Most of us congratulate the skiers and write things like WOW! Incredible! You have big balls etc.
We revere these people and in many cases wish we had the skill and nerve to do what they do. We like reading about it and our responses to these feats, set up a cycle of  self -promotion, adulation and wanting to be like them ( or wear and use the same gear).
So before we demonize the "marketers" and " self-promotors" realize that the real culprit ( again if that is the word) is not
THEM but US.
I have no problem with those that want to risk their life. I understand the feeling of zen that many use to explain the almost spiritual experience they get from doing it.  I don't see it as a moral question at all.
....

I've been thinking much the same thing.  But then, I've said before that I (we) am much more of a front country (whatever that is) skier, and despite the appreciation and adulations I offer to those who charge strong lines, I get plenty of 'zen' simply being in my element, out in the elements, making strong choices.  Maybe it's an age thing..  If there's a moral element, perhaps it's tied to the classic case of marketing creating the zone of perceived coolness that drives decision making from beyond your own borders.

As much as I thrill to 'killer' TRs, I delight in the usually more moderate outings of those who through their stories, clearly nailed the zone they were aiming for.  I should think that zen comes in a number of sizes..
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #17 on: 08/03/10, 01:30 PM »


Anyone ever thought on the relative danger AND attraction of free soloing vs. skiing steep, exposed faces? 

Cool discussion! To get back to the original question...personally, the feeling I get after pushing my mental/emotional limits is almost equivalent whether free soloing or committing skiing.  For example, I felt equally exhilarated after free soloing Backbone Ridge, vs. my descent of Triple Couloirs. There's just something seductive to being 100% committed to the line you're climbing/skiing that's beyond description.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #18 on: 08/03/10, 01:49 PM »

Me too!!!!!!!!!
Hiking to the top of the King after three beers in the Cambell Lodge I was worried about my abilty to focus on my descent of Silver Basin.
I was totally committed to doing it without having to stop to pee.
So rewarding when one suceeds.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #19 on: 08/03/10, 01:57 PM »

Scotsman proving that it's all relative.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #20 on: 08/03/10, 02:09 PM »

Scotsman made several good points. But I'll comment on this one:

I don't see it as a moral question at all.

When I dabbled in steep skiing 5-10 years ago, I was reluctant to tell my wife exactly what I was doing. I didn't want her to worry. I remember the first words out of her mouth when she heard that my brother Carl made the first ski descent of Mt Rainier's Mowich Face: "Was he extreme skiing?" I justified my lack of candor by reasoning that as long as I was cautious and made it home safely, it was okay.

After Carl died in a steep skiing accident, I watched how it affected my family--my mother, my siblings, my wife and my son. I realized that my rationalization--"as long as I come home safely"--was like a bank robber saying, "as long as I don't get caught." It became clear that there was a moral component to what I'd been doing, and it started the moment I left the house. I could no longer justify it.

Every person's moral calculation is different. I'm not going to judge individuals. But I'm convinced that a moral component is present in all high-risk sports. We shouldn't overlook this.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #21 on: 08/03/10, 02:15 PM »

An interesting article that mentions both skiing and rock climbing and is relevant to Lowell's thoughts.
http://www.newwest.net/topic/article/bachars_death_raises_age_old_questions/C564/L564/

I still don't agree with you that there is a moral element to it.
I think there is an element of consideration about those that may be affected by your decision ( it's an inherently selfish decision)but to me that's not a moral question as per the true meaning of morality.

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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #22 on: 08/03/10, 02:24 PM »


Every person's moral calculation is different. I'm not going to judge individuals. But I'm convinced that a moral component is present in all high-risk sports. We shouldn't overlook this.


I'm trying to understand the moral question. For what you say I get this.
If you  decide to go a ski a "fall you die" slope you are making an immoral decision because you know your actions ,if you fail will badly affect others that love and care for you.
If however, you decide to go ski a slope that you decide is not " fall you die" but still end up inadvertently killing yourself ( by hitting a rock that was in the wrong place at the wrong time) , then that is not immoral because you had not pre-decided to risk your life.

Is that it??
See Wiki definfition on morality.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morality
For the concept of morals to exist one must have a definition of what is right or wrong in an absolute sense( religious beliefs) or relative sense (society norms). If one refutes the existance of absolute rules ( I do) then after that , as jwplotz says... it's all relative.
I quote.
Another related concept is the moral core which is assumed to be innate in each individual, to those who accept that differences between individuals are more important than posited Creators or their rules. This, in some religious systems and beliefs (e.g. Taoism, Moralism and Gnosticism), is assumed to be the basis of all aesthetics and thus moral choice. Moral codes as such are therefore seen as coercive—part of human sex politics.

Being an aethist, morality is a question that fascinates me as I was once told by a Christian that because I was an aethist I had no morals.  Grin
« Last Edit: 08/03/10, 03:01 PM by Scotsman » Logged

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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #23 on: 08/03/10, 03:06 PM »

If however, you decide to go ski a slope that you decide is not "fall you die" but still end up inadvertently killing yourself (by hitting a rock that was in the wrong place at the wrong time), then that is not immoral because you had not pre-decided to risk your life.

Yes, that's how I think about it.

This line of thought resolves the red-herring that "you could die crossing the street, so why does it matter?" For me, intentions do matter.

My thoughts on this continue to evolve.

I'm not a religious person, but I believe morality is a valid concept.
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Re: Solo climber loses life in Yosemite N. P.
« Reply #24 on: 08/03/10, 03:19 PM »

Yes, that's how I think about it.
This line of thought resolves the red-herring that "you could die crossing the street, so why does it matter?" For me, intentions do matter.
My thoughts on this continue to evolve.
I'm not a religious person, but I believe morality is a valid concept.

So by that logic a person knowingly putting their life at risk to save another is in an absolute sense, being immoral and that they may be committing an immoral act to rescue someone who got themsleves in that position by being immoral as well.
Like the base jumper on Baring this morning and his rescuer.
Slippery slope .. morals is. So confusing.
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