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Author Topic: Death in The Wave - Vermilion Cliffs National Monument  (Read 23122 times)
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« on: July 06, 2013, 03:36:58 PM »
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One lottery win that wasn't so:

http://news.yahoo.com/couple-dies-route-popular-rock-formation-014530468.html
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Slobodan

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HSakols
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« Reply #1 on: July 07, 2013, 07:01:49 AM »
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Condolences to their families.  I went about 6 years ago in December.  Some of the formations has a light dusting of snow - absolutely beautiful.  My friend was doing research out there so we went on his permit.
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francois
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« Reply #2 on: July 07, 2013, 10:48:45 AM »
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That's bad and sad. Those regions have no mercy when temperatures go up and turning back before it's too late is a hard decision.

Condolences to families, friends and colleagues.
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Francois
tim wolcott
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« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2013, 10:24:10 AM »
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I had warned the BLM this was going to happen since there map is absolutely the worst map in the free world.  I hope they get sued, although its the corrupt government that created this horrible map.  When they replaced the real map for the one that is so misleading to this one when they replaced the locals BLM with the ones from the east coast they set themselves up for disaster.

Tim
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tom b
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« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2013, 05:37:47 PM »
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It is not only the old who have got to worry, read this article:

Teenager dies after hiking in WA's north-west.

Cheers,
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Scott O.
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« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2013, 01:31:47 PM »
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Tim, I bow to your knowledge of this area. Your posts over time have shown you know of which you speak. As a relative southern Utah backcountry novice, my wife and I (both age 69) got permits for a hike to The Wave last September. I followed the BLM rules and suggestions to the letter, got and figured out how to use a GPS, took water, food and emergency items...and had no issues at all. The map worked well and we went from waypoint to waypoint, but I had no other map to compare it with. While extremely tragic, these deaths point out a major problem with wilderness areas, whether they be The Wave, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, or whatever. People just don't seem to exercise common sense. To do a marginally difficult hike (only 3.5 miles or so each way, but not easy terrain) in 106 degree heat with little chance of rescue if it goes wrong is an extremely poor choice. I'm not sure what the BLM can do other than discourage/forbid all travel when the temp gets too high. We are all ultimately responsible for our own decisions and actions. In this case it all went unfortunately wrong.
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tim wolcott
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« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2013, 07:34:43 PM »
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I would agree.  The question is did they have the same ridiculously bad map they gave me.  I will have to say I met a couple from France who got a pass.  They arrived at about 4:30 pm when we were just returning back from our car from visiting the Wave.  They hopped out of the car with sandals and yes Sandals with a bottle of water a radio and yes I said radio two folding chairs and it was about 106 that day and they said they were going to the wave.  So I promptly ask if they planned on dying out there with such little water and knowledge of the area.  I really gave it to them since they seriously under estimated the conditions.  

I decided to educate them about the fact we left at 4:30 in the morning with headlamps and the amount of liquids we took.  After I told them to give us there names and next of kin, they decided not to go since they would be walking back in the dark.  My friend and I had a good laugh over it, but we truly believed we did save there lives.

They really need to put some serious recommendations on the map in bold letters.  Part of the problem is that most people do NOT understand just what your body needs to survive in harsh conditions.  But being out there so much the amount of STUPID things I see is amazing.  I have so many true life stories, I could right a book.  Tim
« Last Edit: July 25, 2013, 11:44:36 PM by tim wolcott » Logged
DaveJ
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« Reply #7 on: July 23, 2013, 06:13:43 PM »
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Another hiker died today:
http://www.standard.net/stories/2013/07/23/another-hiker-dies-near-wave-s-utah

Dave Jolley
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2013, 05:54:59 PM »
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Speaking about bad luck:

Rescued hikers drown inside vehicle leaving state park

But the truly perplexing part is the sheriff's explanation (emphasis mine):

"The end of the road becomes the boat landing and they just weren't familiar with it... It's just so easy to do," Smith said. "When I got the call last night, I knew what had happened."

Well, of course, what locals are familiar with, visitors are not. If it is "so easy to do" it, and you guys know what can happen, how about posting much more visible warnings (or even a gate)!?
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Slobodan

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tim wolcott
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« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2013, 11:48:25 PM »
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Wow another one.  I really think they need to have a must list of the amount of liquids you must carry back there.  Atleast they could they posted info in case the city slickers are not used to the heat, sand and hiking in exhausting conditions.  I think they should post the deaths at the front of the parking place before anyone can leave there car.  T
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tom b
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2013, 01:21:58 AM »
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This is the warning at the start of Kata Tjuta Walks in Central Australia where temps are regularly over 100F/38C in Summer.

Kata Tjuta Walks - Warning

Heat exhaustion and dehydration risk. This life-threatening condition is common at Kata Tjuta even in mild weather. The area is isolated and the walks are rugged. Dont risk your life! Drink water, stay cool, walk safely. In hot weather finish your walks by 11 am. For your safety, the track beyond Karu Lookout is closed from 11 am when the forecast or actual temperature is
36 degrees Celsius or above.


The other thing that they do is have water available at the start of the walks and half way on the 7 km ring walk. Looks like they need something similar on the Wave Walk.

Cheers,
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bretedge
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« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2013, 11:31:17 PM »
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While these deaths are tragic I really don't think it is the responsibility of the government to spell out every little bad thing that can happen when you choose to enter the wilderness.  I think the BLM generally does a good job of informing Wave permittees of the hazards one might encounter while hiking in the area.  The real problem is that people either don't have, or don't exercise, simple common sense.  If it's 100 degrees outside maybe, just maybe, one should re-think their plan to spend all day hiking in the desert.  I live in Moab and our SAR team stays busy all summer long rescuing tourists who just can't resist hiking to Delicate Arch to see/photograph sunset in 100+ degrees temps.

At some point people need to step up and accept responsibility for their own poor decisions.     
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2013, 12:13:53 AM »
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... I really don't think it is the responsibility of the government to spell out every little bad thing that can happen...

While I sympathize with that position, the reality is warnings are everywhere and we just got so accustomed to it that when they are absent, we assume the hazard does not exist. I once saw this warning in a national park, printed on a toilet lid: "This water is not for drinking." No, seriously!
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Slobodan

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bretedge
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« Reply #13 on: July 27, 2013, 01:41:50 AM »
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While I sympathize with that position, the reality is warnings are everywhere and we just got so accustomed to it that when they are absent, we assume the hazard does not exist. I once saw this warning in a national park, printed on a toilet lid: "This water is not for drinking." No, seriously!

Classic! I love those warning signs that exist only because somewhere, some fool did exactly what the sign warns against doing.

I agree wholeheartedly that warnings are everywhere and I don't think that's a bad thing.  I just get annoyed when people try to place blame where it doesn't belong.
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tim wolcott
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2013, 10:56:58 PM »
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I will have to agree with you.  Thats a good one about the toilet.  What I hate most is when the Government tries to close or shutdown the place because others didn't use there head.  I think since most people are not familiar with the southwest that get passes to the wave since the passes are subject to preferential treatment towards the europeans.  I do not like signs like this and I laugh at them but since I personally have met many out there who would have had some trying times out there probably would have died.  Some stern warnings might help.  T
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tom b
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« Reply #15 on: July 28, 2013, 12:12:18 AM »
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The reason I mentioned Kata Tjuta was it was a good example of risk management by the park management.

The risk would be people dying of heat exhaustion on the 7km loop track. The solution:

Put warning signs up
Provide water at the start of the track
Provide water and shelter along the track that does not interfere with the views
Shorten (not close) the track on extreme heat days.

That is, doing things to minimise the risk of injury/death.

There have been 3 deaths, maybe The Wave management should be thinking about similar measures. Perhaps this could be a shorter track with shelter and water along the way that is only open when the temperature goes over a certain temperature. At the next death there is a potentially large lawsuit in the making.

Cheers,

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HSakols
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« Reply #16 on: July 28, 2013, 08:40:20 AM »
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We can blame, blame, blame.  I wouldn't go out there when it is 106 degrees.  I wouldn't go up to the top of Half Dome during a thunder storm.  Remember why we photograph landscapes.  Is it trophy hunting or is it something more philosophical?  At some point individuals need to take personal responsibility.   Water stops?  This is a joke - right?  Next someone will want a road paved to the Wave. 
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tom b
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« Reply #17 on: July 28, 2013, 01:47:53 PM »
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[Water stops?  This is a joke - right?  Next someone will want a road paved to the Wave. 
[/quote]

If you provide a service you have to ensure that people will not die using it, especially if it is easily preventable. My example is one that is already in place in Australia. The water is available from a rain tank that requires limited maintenance. The shelter also has information on the area.

Three people have died, that is not a joke, warning signs are not enough. How would you prevent further deaths?

Cheers,
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Scott O.
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« Reply #18 on: July 28, 2013, 02:11:13 PM »
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A interesting argument Tom. But the heart of it, a point not addressed, is how far society needs to go to protect people from themselves. There are a thousand areas in the West that poise the same or similar hazards as The Wave. Read "Over the Edge, Death in the Canyon" for an examination of the ways people can off themselves in just one place (The Grand Canyon). Despite our best efforts a huge number of people are killed each year in "wild" places. Things like falling off cliffs, drowning while rafting, exposure in weather, etc. Of course, people also need to be protected when they go to the beach. And probably should mention, we are providing freeways and automobiles which kill thousands. The list goes on and on. It all comes down to personal responsibility, which unfortunately too many people don't have enough of... The BLM is not responsible for protecting people from themselves when going to The Wave or any other place under their jurisdiction. If they try to do so it will only destroy the experience for the rest of us.
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cmburns
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« Reply #19 on: July 28, 2013, 06:13:43 PM »
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I've been lucky enough to go to the wave twice.

The first time I went to the wave the road was washed out pretty far back from a flash flood the night before. I still went, and really didn't have enough water, but I was in good shape and made it ok. The idea of not going never crossed my mind, maybe it should have as I was plenty dry by the time I got back to the car. I think the difficulty in getting the ticket for sure colored my thinking. It wasn't like I could go tell the BLM hey I didn't know the road was wiped, how about letting me go tomorrow. Still I was in good shape, it's only a few miles, when I had hiked much further that summer, and I'm from an area with not just heat but humidity so at no point was not going a serious consideration.

The map was no problem. Hell it had pictures on it, plus GPS co-ordinates. If you could use a GPS you could get there. If you couldn't just look at the pictures. It wasn't as hot as it's been with these deaths, but it wasn't much cooler and it was heat of the day since I had to start further back. One thing that also made it very easy, there was cairns at the spot where you walk up and over the rocks, and then at another spot towards the wave and from there you could see it in the distance and match it with the picture on the map they gave out. That was 2005 I think.

It was also much much easier then to get the online tickets. The tickets for 3-4 months ahead went on sale at so and so time on so and so day of the month. First come first served. Within a few hours every spot for the whole month filled up but it was very coveted even then and you still had a few hours to get a spot. It made it possible for a person to actually plan ahead, wow what a great idea. The last time I tried online there was basically a lottery where they could make a lot more money from those spots. That just seemed like such BS that I didn't even try.

The 2nd time I went was in 2011 after winning the lottery at the BLM office. Knowing the way, I barely looked at the map, so I can't say if its much different or worse. However I did notice the cairns were all dismantled. Someone said it was some kind of thing to not make it so easy and make it more wild. Well maybe they should rethink that.

I don't think it would exactly be paving a road to it if they put up a few markers, maybe some signposts. I'm typing this from an internet cafe in Iceland. The last week I've been on all kinds of paths here with little yellow markers every so often. It hasn't exactly ruined the wildness of this place. The people that want to go straight to the wave and tick this off a list could do it. The folks that want to wander around the area and see more than just the wave could do the same. BTW there are some incredible things to photograph within a few hundred yards of the wave.

On the way back to the car the 2nd time we ran across a couple that were lost. I told them I've been twice, it's this way. It's where again, you go up and over the rock. The wife believed me, the husband did not and they went straight instead of turning left. I guess a person like that would have believed a sign, but hell maybe not. There are people that do things that are way beyond their skill set.

You can tell people that you need to take x amount of water, don't go in the middle of the day and they won't do it and maybe they don't need to. I can take the heat better than someone from Iceland. They can take the cold better than me. Some people need a lot of water, some not so much. Are you going to have a trail policeman make you carry x liters of water and x calories of carbs? You could equip everyone with a GPS, make them give a deposit on it, and have it beep when they get off the trail, but people would still ignore it, and then sue the government when something went wrong. Other than a few markers, leave it alone.

Or, do something about the demand. How about you let more than 20 go. Maybe keep it 20 on your own, but then others could take a ranger led walk. Spell it out, you will be going with a ranger. You will stay in a group. At the wave you will have 2 hours on your own, or whatever, and then go back as a group. Do a few of these a day, charge more, and you will knock the demand right down. Supposedly rangers come out during the day anyway to make sure no one did it without a permit, so why not let them do a tour. Or license a few local companies to do the same. Take small groups. I would think taking people and supervising them would result in less damage to fragile areas than letting people go unsupervised.

The big worry for all of photographers is they only do group walks, no more on your own, or not without some special high dollar photography permit and a ranger goes along.

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