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Josephine Saddle Plus, AZ
mini location map2010-10-19
8 by photographer avatarrwstorm
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Josephine Saddle Plus, AZ 
Josephine Saddle Plus, AZ
Hiking avatar Oct 19 2010
Hiking6.50 Miles 2,300 AEG
Hiking6.50 Miles
2,300 ft AEG
 no routes
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Mitch Stevens
Joined the Quail Creek Hikers of Green Valley for a special hike about the Boy Scout tragedy that occurred on Mt. Wrightson back in November 1958. Hikers routinely see the commemorative sign up at Josephine Saddle concerning this event, but today we got to learn much more about that fateful day. The special guest guide was Ralph Coltrin, one of the three surviving scouts out of the six that were involved. Ralph was 12 years old at the time. The scouts got a late start that day with the intention of hiking up to Wrightson and camping somewhere on the mountain before returning the next day. The day started out with very warm conditions for mid November and no hint of trouble. But the perfect storm was coming together and about to unleash its fury on the area. The scouts all made it about half a mile past Josephine Saddle, when one of the members declared he couldn't continue on. Daylight was fading and three of them, including Ralph, headed back down the mountain. The other three were determined to make the peak and continued on. Darkness arrived and the storm clouds lowered. Rain began around 9pm and with rapidly dropping temperatures, changed to snow around midnight. Nobody knows for certain what happened to the three before they perished, but Ralph is pretty sure they turned back far before reaching the peak and attempted to get back down the mountain. But with the storm and darkness, they made a wrong turn and ended up heading down the Temporal Gulch Trail at Josephine Saddle. Their bodies were found 19 days later slightly below the trail about a quarter mile past McBeth Spring. It took that long to find them due to the terrific amount of snow that fell in those higher elevations during the storm. They were able to get a campfire going, but as the night wore on the situation overwhelmed them. It was quite moving to go to the spot where they were found, look out at the surroundings, and ponder what it might have like for those frightened boys so many years ago.

Over the years there has been much speculation, and in some cases contradictory information, about this event. With the 50 year anniversary two years ago, Ralph decided to speak out more about it and interview as many of the surviving participants involved to get the real story out. With the help of his sister, Cathy Hufault, the result of their research is now out in the book "Death Clouds on Mt. Baldy" authored by Cathy. I have ordered my copy and can't wait for it to arrive. I am sure it will be a powerful read. Being very intimate with this mountain and going out there today with Ralph to see the exact places, brought it all together for me.

From a meteorological standpoint this was an unusually powerful early in the season winter storm for this latitude. Tucson Airport recorded 6.4 inches of snow from this event, a new all time 24 hour amount for the city, which stood until 6.8 inches was recorded on December 8, 1971. The mountain totals were measured in feet.
No more mister gneiss guy.
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