What the Four Peaks taught me

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pfredricks
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Joined: Oct 18 2002 10:59 am
City, State: Glendale, AZ

What the Four Peaks taught me

Post by pfredricks » Dec 22 2003 8:05 pm

I have always thought it is important to learn for one's mistakes. I also think it is important to learn from the mistakes of others so as not to repeat them. That is why I am telling this story

A group of nine decided to make a bid to summit the four peaks in one day. The information about that hike is found here:
http://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?TN=F ... her%20Lode
For different reasons, eight of the nine elected to stop this pursuit after summiting two peaks. I know that some wished to continue on but chose not to for their own reasons. I chose to make a solo bid for the remaining two peaks. I am certain most will say this was a foolish choice. I am aware that this could have been a dangerous decision. However, it was a VERY PERSONAL DECISION that probably only some can understand and one that I do not regret. Judgment of that decision is not the purpose of this post. I hope to recount my experience and share it, so that perhaps someone can learn from my decisions or my errors. I also wish to thank the group of guys that went on this trip, those who unselfishly waited for me, and gave me the time to talk about this on my own. Classy group and I appreciate it greatly.


Here is the rest of the story:

I arrived at peak 4 (aka Brown's Peak) at 5:45 pm. The final peak of the day! There was still a fairly good sun on the horizon and I was certain that I would make it close to the trailhead by sundown. Even if that did not happen, I had a headlamp with me, that had fresh batteries, so i was not concerned. I radioed down to the rest of my party to tell them of my position. I heard someone respond back thru the crackling FRS radio that they were half way back to the cars. I told them I was heading down the scree chute and to expect me soon.
I started down the mountain. This side of the mountain was the north face and completely covered in show. I had never been to Brown's Peak but knew the scree chute was a one way trip to the trailhead. Things were going very well and I thought that I was making excellent progress down the hill. After a longer than anticipated journey, I began to notice that the sun was setting. I made some quick mental notes about my postion in relation to the sunset. As I did that, I also became somewhat concerned. The ridgeline ahead of me appeared to be higher to me than I thought it should be from what I remembered from the Trailhead that morning. I had likely descended too far!! I also began to consider that I may have descended a draw different from the scree chute. As I thought of all of this, I noted the constellation in the opposite sky from the rapidly disappearing sun and marked the little dipper as my East bearing. I was also painfully aware that during my haste to leave the meeting point that morning and catch my shuttle to the trailhead, I had left behind my first aid kit and compass. (DOH!)
As the sun continued to set, I tried unsuccessfully to radio the group. It was at that point when I realized I was lost and alone with a long, cold night staring me in the face. Having long rehearsed and prepared for such an event, I knew that there were several things that I needed to do in order survive, and either make it out or be rescued.
First of all, I had to admit to myself that I was lost. That was not easy to do! I didn't want to hold the guys up any longer, and I honestly felt pretty embarassed about the whole thing. I was even fairly certain that the correct trail was to my east, but, I was not sure. (I knew I had to be honest with myself and not be in denial about the circumstances-) Considering the alternatives, the humble pie tasted okay-and I stayed put. What I knew already, and George had also mentioned earlier in the day is......many, many people die from making poor choices or obviously bad choices. So, the next order of business was to make some good decisions. I made sure that I did not panic and made some initial actions. I moved from the draw to the spur (wall of the draw) This made me more visible and made it much better to hear and be heard. Next, I rembered reading a survivalist writing something to the effect: If you get lost, stop, build a fire (for warmth, comfort, and signalling), make a hot beverage, and consider your options and develop a plan. So, I did just that.
I collected some fuel and lit the fire. I was afraid that my lighter might quit working, due to struggling with the wet wood, so I light my stove and put it on low as a failsafe. I DID NOT want to do the night without fire as I approximated that the low was probably going to be in the 30's or perhaps lower.
After finally getting the fire going, I had a cup of cocoa with the last of my water. I decided that I had to stay put and if I was to move again, it would ONLY be to retrace my steps and not until the next morning. -In fact, stopping was the hardest thing to do-my mind did not want to stop. I wanted desperately to keep going. It must be the natural tendency.
After deciding to stay put, I set my watch to run a countdown timer every half hour and blow my whistle throughout the night on that mark. That gave me busy work. Based on that countdown timer, I rationed out my snacks to eat one every hour-thus giving me something to look forward to. I set my sights on making it through the night, rather than being found. I reasoned that if I hoped to be found but was not, that would severly diminish my spirits.
Of more pressing concern, as I was re-evaluating my supplies, I noticed that I had lost my fleece top, as well as, my top and bottom thermals somewhere on the day's hike. (bad to worse) That was a bit of an alarming note, but, just had to deal with it. Next, I began to melt water with the stove and fill my nalgene bottle. (Snow takes FOREVER to melt and boil) I wrapped my feet in my muffler then wrapped myself up in my space blanket and started drying my shoes and socks by the fire.
Beyond that, I noticed a pair of glowing eyes hanging around me when I shined my headlamp (this caused me to blow my whistle more often) Then I noticed that I had no knife because it was with first aid kit. I will never know what that creature was. I thought coyote, mtn lion, or racoon because it was so low to the ground.
I guess the rest was mental. I knew that I would make it-just didnt know when or how. The guys had told me over the radio that the scree chute was "Down and to the left" So, I just kept making fun of that, thinking of the spoof of the movie JFK, where they mocked Kevin Costner saying "Down and to the left." Anyway, it kept me going making fun of them- I was thinking ...."OH, down and to the left, huh?!"
I had time to notice the sky, the shooting stars, the beeline in the distance, and the planes flying overhead oblivious to my situation. They were comforting things to think about nonetheless. I also revelled in how quickly things went from no problem to big problems. Hiking IS a dangerous sport.
After a couple hours I thought that I heard one of the guys yelling my name in the distance. It was so faint that I almost didnt notice. I yelled and whistled back and heard someone say, "Radio!" I turned it on (it was off to conserve the little battery I did have) and heard them talking to me. Two of the guys had doubled back for me when I didnt show up. I quickly cleaned up the campsite, put the fire dead out, and started moving.
Tom came towards me and met me in the middle of the divide. We hiked toward each others' headlamps-while another person (please remind me of the name) smartly stayed on the trail with a light to guide us back. How great it was to hear and see them. I guesstimate that I was about 1/2 to 3/4 mile off the trail. Had I gone in the direction that I thought the trail was instead of staying put, I would have been much further away. I doubt that I would have been seen or heard from that night. Since the whole hillside was covered in snow, sound did not travel very far. If the wind had been even slightly the wrong direction, I would likely not have heard them. Bottom line is alot of things happened right to get me out that night. Many things could have been better. Thanks to the guys that waited and those that got me out. I owe you guys!
Draw your own lessons
Below is what i got
-Pete



Things that went wrong or could have been better
1. I rushed to get my gear without thoroughly checking my equiptment list(I had promised never to do this to myself)
2. Fire too small for signalling ( I tried to conserve my fuel-though more was available)
3. Should have blown whistle more often and had a better whistle
4. Did not have a GPS (with good waypoints and fresh batteries EVERY time.)-could have eliminated the whole situation
5. I will use a space bag not a space blanket from now on. (way better with the drafts)
6. could have stayed with the group-



Things that went right
1. Others knew where I was and backtracked for me
2. I knew what the terrain looked likeand paid diligent attention to it- I just couldnt see it- so I would have been out in the morning.
3. Had reasonable supplies; eg radio, stove, fire, food, space blanket, clothes (sort of)
4. STOPPED Moving
5. Didnt panic!!
6. Had a plan
7. made a decision to survive
"I'd feel better if we had some crampons. Oh, what the hell, let's go for it..." — Common climbing last words.

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MtnGeek
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Post by MtnGeek » Dec 22 2003 9:39 pm

I'm glad that you made this trip report, I was hoping you would. I really wanted to hear your side of the hike since you went out alone. It was really nerve racking sitting in the car waiting for you as every 1/2 hour went by. I came to the conclusion that you might of got injured and the other 2 found you and was helping you out. I was relieved that I was wrong and that you were ok and they were able to find you.
Mountains are there to be hiked!

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te_wa
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g

Post by te_wa » Dec 22 2003 11:10 pm

as Steven stated:" Mountains are there to be hiked. "
Im glad you carried out your plan and defeated the 4 peaks. Congrats, from a member who couldnt go, but would have been there all the way. You give inspiration to the adventurous and spirited hikers on this day. Thank you, Pete.
Mike
:D

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AK
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Post by AK » Dec 23 2003 12:55 am

Hey Pete, When I talked to you on the phone the next day and you explained to me what had taken place, you never explained to me that things were that dire until I read this post. I now feel guilty about leaving the trailhead in such a hurry to get home. I realize that your decision to carry on with the trek by yourself may not have been the best, but in my haste to get home and not realizing that you had never been to Browns Peak I feel that I had made a bad decision.
I feel responsible because 1, I was the so called organizer of this trek and failed to account for all of the group at the end, instead reassuring myself that you were a "hiking machine" and would make it down just fine. 2, when you called me on the radio and said that you were on your way down and needed directions down the scree chute, I didn't realize that you had never been down it and assumed that you would have no problems with my vague directions of "down the peak and to the left Pete".
I guess that all this amounts to lessons learned from bad decisions made when the mind is in a one way mode. For that I apologize to the the group and thank the ones who stayed behind to make sure Pete made it out ok.
Aaron

"Can't think of a good signature quote" - Me

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HikerInGilbert
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Post by HikerInGilbert » Dec 23 2003 6:11 am

Wow. Great post Pete!

I am in awe how you were able to keep your wits about you in that situation. Not sure if I could have kept the cool head. That isn't exactly like getting lost out on a spring Supes hike.

I'm going to remember this post for a long time. At least until my brain cell gives out on me.

Hat is off to you, and the guys that went back searching. Glad you all made it off in one piece. I was thinking about you guys on Sat.
_______________________________

Tom 8)

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Nighthiker
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Post by Nighthiker » Dec 23 2003 6:21 am

Welcome Home.

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Wiz
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Post by Wiz » Dec 23 2003 6:25 am

You're crazy, Pete! But I like it! : rambo :
"The older I get, the better I was."

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azhiker96
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Post by azhiker96 » Dec 23 2003 8:52 am

Great post Pete. Thanks for sharing your story. Once you realized you were off trail you did the right things. From the trialhead we could get a decent cell phone signal ( on the east side of the parking area standing on tippie toes with one arm overhead ). Time dragged on as Steven and I waited for you to arrive or for word from Tom and Davis2001r6? (sorry, I can't remember the name). We kept looking for lights in the trees and were happy when we saw 3 headlamps bouncing along in a row.
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."
~ Mark Twain

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AZ_Hiker
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Post by AZ_Hiker » Dec 23 2003 11:00 am

DUDE!!!

this might be the best post I have read on this forum.. I cant thank you enough for telling this story. inspiration is what someone posted and I agree..

Getting lost is something that happens to even the most seasoned hiker. I don't think there is anything to be embarrassed about at all.. what would be embarrassing is if you have not made the choices you did when you realized you were not where you thought you were... wow, I just used the word "you" 6 times in one sentence... that cant be right.. its got to be a record of somekind...

I think you did the right thing. you keep your mind busy, you kept your humor which is very very underestimated in these situations.. koodoos to you sir.. and the best thing I think you did was stop, even tho it was the hardest thing to do. you must have known you were not far off course and staying put must have been harder knowing that..

the best thing about this tho is you lived to tell the tail. every hiker that reads this will benefit from it..

thank you.

and Merry Christmas
AZ Hiker
Just because your paranoid, doesn't mean there not after you!

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Abe
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Re: What the Four Peaks taught me

Post by Abe » Dec 23 2003 3:57 pm

Pete, job well done. And I can relate.

Read your post early this morning before going to work and thought about it most of the day. The below statement really caught my eyes as I could easily imagine you sitting and observing all that is around you, perhaps your awareness heighten due to your situation. Frankly, call me nuts, but I was envious.

[quote="pfredricks"]I had time to notice the sky, the shooting stars, the beeline in the distance, and the planes flying overhead oblivious to my situation. They were comforting things to think about nonetheless. [quote]

It is awesome you had two compadres come up to the mountain looking for you and assisiting you in accomplishing your goal to take the "Four Peaks" in a day. And you are fortunate.

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Daryl
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Post by Daryl » Dec 23 2003 6:13 pm

Great job getting out of that mess. Once you were lost you did everything right. Please post this in the articles section for others to read once this post dies out.

I don't blame you for going on alone. I'd have probably done the same thing in your situation. You had a goal in mind and you were capable of doing it. Stopping is a tough decision to make.

Great job by your partners coming to get you also. They also did everything right and you owe them some beers at the "other Four Peaks." Heck, if I can make it, all three of you get a beer on me.
“Life is tough, but it’s tougher if you’re stupid”
John Wayne as Sergeant John M. Stryker, USMC in “The Sands of Iwo Jima”

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Sredfield
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Post by Sredfield » Dec 23 2003 7:33 pm

Gutsy post, thanks for doing it. A good lesson for all of us.
Shawn
The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.

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olesma
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Post by olesma » Dec 24 2003 12:45 am

Interesting post. Well done on the survival part. Sucks that you had to get to that point though. I've been there before too - and it can be a revealing moment.

Pete makes an interesting point: He made a decision to survive. We should all hope that we never find ourselves in a situation where we have to make that conscious decision. But when the situation calls for it - it is, in fact, something you have to decide - deliberately, completely and very consciously. If you give up or think you're beaten, even if you only try and pretend things aren't that bad - you're almost as good as dead. If there is one thing that history has taught us, we should learn that things can get awfully, awfully bad - but as long as you keep your wits about you and make the determination that you will get through it, it is possible to survive.

It is a lesson for most of life and not for just emergency situations.

Thanks for posting this Pete. Good stuff.
'Weird is a relative, not an absolute.' - A. Einstein

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Abe
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Post by Abe » Dec 24 2003 6:31 am

From the, "The U.S. Armed Forces Survival Manual";

*S-Size Up the Situation
*U-Undue Haste Makes Waste
*R-Remember Where You Are
*V-Vanquish Fear and Panic
*I-Improvise
*V-Value Living
*A-Act Like the Natives
*L-Learn Basic Skills

I remember years ago and if my memories serve me right, as a kid during the late 60's, a tragedy befell a family. If I recall, east of I-17 and south of Carefree Highway, during the summer, a family broke down in their station wagon.

A motorist on I-17 picked up a man stumbling and on the edge of death from dehydration. In his delirious state he managed to tell officials he had left his family; wife, I believe two daughters, son, and a niece out in the desert with the station wagon. However, he could not remember exactly where.

Within a day or two search parties found all, with the exception of the niece, passed away. A little chihuahua was the only survivor they found in the desert, on the back of the wife barking and snapping at the party trying to approach the woman.

This left an impact on me and at that time I took a vowed never to let this happen to me or my love ones.

Been lucky so far.

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Nighthiker
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Post by Nighthiker » Dec 24 2003 4:52 pm

Excellent post Abe, My stepfather who was a marine in WWII also taught us SURVIVAL. As a Boy Scout in the late 60's one of our projects was setting up some life size displays of survival skills at Rittenhouse Aux. airstrip for the Air Force. I remember the incident (along with many others across the state) out near Bloody Basin. Folks also need to have a vehicle plan as well.

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azhiker96
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Post by azhiker96 » Dec 25 2003 8:45 am

I typically carry two gallons of water in my jeep. There's a couple in the trunk of my wife's car also. So far I've only used mine to help a guy with a broken radiator hose on fishcreek hill.
"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."
~ Mark Twain

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Marlee
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Post by Marlee » Dec 25 2003 9:42 am

I had a similar, could be dire, situation happen to me on Aaron's first Four Peaks trip he set up. Getting lost coming down the chute, etc...please spare me the details. If you so desire, you can recount them on the posting "Browns Peak 5/31"
http://www.hikearizona.com/dex2/viewtop ... ght=#10424

I want to commend all current, active members on this site - a GREAT bunch - for listening, learning, analyzing, offering positive criticism/suggestions, and not bashing! This is a great evolutionary difference than the comments made from my epic story posted (that's when I first noticed the bashing tendency of this website :? ) The changes I have seen of late makes this site one for which we can all have great respect. Thanks, Pete, for posting your ordeal - I'm so happy everything worked out for the best!

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Sredfield
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Post by Sredfield » Dec 25 2003 10:37 am

Geeze! I just read both (mis) adventures regarding 4 peaks. Hope this isn't a trend developing.
Shawn
The bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.

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hikngrl
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Post by hikngrl » Dec 27 2003 8:41 am

Pete, I admire you after reading this account of your misadventure.... You handled your self very well emotionally as well as the way you used your survival skills....

When I read this and Jared's post I have to say I think it would probably have been the emotional factors that would have gotten to me. You gathered your thoughts and kept your emotions in check. You bagged all four peaks and you came out to tell us this story.... congratulations! I know this hike has made a huge difference in the way you approach a hike from this point on!

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sherileeaz
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Post by sherileeaz » Dec 29 2003 2:52 pm

Thanks Pete for sharing this. Glad you are fine.
I second who said it took guts to post your mis-adventure.
We learn from others and not just our own mistakes.
I appreciate how detailed you made this post and agree it should be
re-posted every now and then.


Thanks Abe for sharing this:

*S-Size Up the Situation
*U-Undue Haste Makes Waste
*R-Remember Where You Are
*V-Vanquish Fear and Panic
*I-Improvise
*V-Value Living
*A-Act Like the Natives
*L-Learn Basic Skills

THANKS again,
Sherileeaz 8)
The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.

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