The Lesson of the Oregon Tragedies: Sit Tight in the Car/Cave?

The latest reports from Mt. Hood leave almost no hope that the two lost climbers are alive. The bottom line on the two outdoor tragedies in the state this month is: 4 males dead or missing, 3 females alive and well. The three females are the members of the Kim family who stuck with the Saab on Bear Camp Road on December 2, when James Kim went off to try and find help, and died of exposure.

“There is a teaching there in the woman and kid and baby taking the soft path, and living,” Rob Buchanan, a contributing editor at Outside magazine said to me at the time.

Maybe that’s the teaching in the Mt. Hood disaster too. It looks like after Kelly James dislocated his shoulder summiting Hood, Brian Hall and Nikko Cooke parked him in a snow cave below the summit and went off to find help. The weather turned on them, a full-on storm on treacherous Cooper Spur. The evidence suggests that they fell hundreds of feet and their bodies are buried. The only one to be found is James, curled up dead in the cave, from which he had made a distress call on his cellphone a week ago. It does raise the question: Should Hall and Cooke have waited in the cave with James? Would they have gained anything? Of course I can imagine how they felt: impatient to take action, impatient to get down off the mountain. Especially if they lacked fuel. The same feeling that drove James Kim after a week to leave the Saab that saved his family’s life. Propelled by maleness, I would have done the same.

I hope the outdoors experts weigh in on this question…