CHINA LAKE MOUNTAIN RESCUE GROUP
P. O. BOX 2037
RIDGECREST CA 93556
||Equipment hut night
||Dynamic belay practice
||Owens Ridge climbing
||Meeting (map program)
||Mary Austin ("The Shoulder")
||Pear Lake Hut & Alta Peak
||Mallory & Irvine
||Sierra High Trail
is funded by United Way of Indian Wells Valley.
The China Lake Mountain Rescue Group celebrated its 40th Anniversary Saturday
evening, October 24, 1998 at the Carriage Inn in Ridgecrest. After dinner,
former long-time member Ron Atkins as Master of Ceremonies kept the schedule
of speakers and skits rolling while sharing a few of his own memories of
Our speakers were long-time member Bob Rockwell, who spoke of the long involvement
with the Group of some of the members and provided some Group history and
statistics; Jon Inskeep of the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team, who
reminisced about some of his own experiences with the Group; and Kern County
Sheriff Carl Sparks, who spoke humorously and self-deprecatingly about his
own initial involvement with the Group (and his initial confrontation with
Carl Heller) as "a [new] lieutenant with the Kern County Sheriff's
The skits provided some amusing insights into the evolution of technical
climbing and preparations for search and rescue operations. Werner Hueber
(type-cast as the old grizzled veteran climber with pitons and goldline),
Curtis Davis (type-cast as the young hot-shoe boy climber with a rack that
weighs hundreds of dollars), and Cindy Goettig (type-cast as the young beautiful
girl climber who doesn't use equipment at alljust finesse and hand-holds)
argued over old and new climbing gear, clothing, and techniques. Former
member Bob Westbrook and long-time member Dennis Burge prepared for an operation
with quick and easy steps in the early days of search and rescue (just round
up a stretcher and some old rope), and Linda Finco and Debbie Breitenstein
prepared with tedious and complicated steps currently required (accumulate,
for example, GPS, computer, and cell phone and the ever-present forms supplied
helpfully by Andrew Mitchell). Terry Mitchell demonstrated sleepily the
frustrations and difficulties of organizing a new operation at approximately
The Group presented surprise service awards to
Al Green and to Roger and Betty Meng.
One of the highlights during the congeniality hour
before dinner was Werner Hueber's selection of ancient (and not so ancient)
slides from the collections of Carl Heller and others.
The weekend also provided some outdoor activities.
On Saturday before the party, 40 members and guests went on a special petroglyph
tour on the Naval Air Weapons Station. On Sunday, rock climbers went to
Great Falls Basin, and two groups of hikers climbed nearby Argus Peak.
Here are some highlights from Bob Rockwell's remarks
in his several appearances at the podium:
In the 1950s, Carl Heller, with maybe eight to ten others calling themselves
the "Occasional Peaks Gang," were active mountaineers in the Sierra
Nevada. By the late 1950s, mountain search and rescue problems had begun
to arise that the Inyo County Sheriff's Office had difficulty handling.
So Sheriff Chester Howard of Inyo asked Carl's mountaineers for help. By
late 1957, they were ready. A letter dated November 20, 1957 offered the
names of nine willing mountaineers: Carl Heller, Rich Slates, Ray Van Aken,
Kermith Ross (now all dead, and we honor them at this time); Jim Bray and
Russ Huse (who are here tonight); and Virgil Lewis, Richard Breitenstein,
and John Ohl. Two days later, Sheriff Howard had received the letter and
had already written his response: Accepted, with all conditions. Our first
operation was the recovery of two hypothermia victims on Boundary Peak a
In 1957, we had nine members. We increased steadily, reaching a high of
63 members in 1985, and today we number 46: 33 field members and 13 who
assist but do not go into the field.
In 1958 we had no operations. For the next few years we had one or two per
year. This gradually grew to a steady 30 per year in the mid-1970s, remaining
at that level through the early 1990s. The number dropped suddenly in half
and remains around 15 per year at this time.
Most operations are in Inyo County, then Kern County. The remaining 10%
are generally scattered around Southern California and sometimes beyond.
Farthest away field operation: a search in New York State. Farthest away
alert: a plane crash at 21000 feet in Bolivia, South America. Of our field
operations, about 60% are searches, 30% rescues, and 10% "other."
About 70% of our operations require mountaineering skills, 60% require search
skills, 15% involve stretcher work, 15% require technical rock climbing
skills, and 7% involve winter mountaineering.
Scheduled training events per year have grown from around 12 in the early
days to about 80 today. Most are climbing related. We began to add serious
winter mountaineering training in the 1970s. Also around then, we began
to stress mantracking as an important tool for searches.
In the beginning, we had a stretcher, a couple
of radios, and two stretcher ropes. Members had to purchase their own gear
(such as ice axe, hardware, crampons, snowshoes) and buy their own parkas
and other clothing. Members paid for their own food. Now we have lots more
stretchers, about 15 radios, many stretcher and climbing ropes, racks of
hardware, ELT locators, GPS units, tents, emergency generator-powered lights,
a copy machine, a computer, a printer, cell phones, pagers, a Jeep wagon,
avalanche beacons, altimeters, and more. And we have one whole file cabinet
just to hold the collection of training, pre-operation, and post-operation
paperwork and forms to be filled out before, during, and after the operation
(just kidding on this . . . but only a little).
And about the individual members now? We still
supply our own gear, still buy our own parkas and other clothing,
and still buy our own food. We even buy our own CLMRG logo patches
for our rescue clothing!
In the beginning, we assessed ourselves whenever the treasury got to zero.
At a meeting, someone would say "how much in the treasury?" The
treasurer might reach in his pocket, pull his hand out, and announce "$2.50."
The assessments generally were around $5 or $10 each.
Donations certainly helped, but they couldn't come close to our expenditures
(which were less in the early years but are now running around $10,000 to
$15,000 per year). Then in 1970, we became an agency of the United Way,
and the people in this community have been absolutely fantastic in their
response for these 18 years.
The first newsletter came out in August 1969. CLMRG has always been composed
of highly intellectual and cerebral people, and in a stroke of uncommon
inspiration, they called it "The Newsletter." Now, of course,
it's "The Talus Pile." Liz Anderson was the first editor.
In the beginning, the summer mountaineering class
was our only public education event. These events have escalated quickly
to about 20 per year and remain there currentlyprimarily outdoor safety
lectures and demonstrations and Hug A Tree presentations to the elementary
Carl Heller, hands down, was our most valuable
member. He was responsible for the formation of the CLMRG and for nurturing
it for the rest of his life. Carl was born in New York in 1922. He was a
Marine Corps officer in WWII and was in combat from 1943 to 1946. He led
troops on Okinawa, landing on one end of the island and fighting all the
way to the other. After that, he was part of the planned invasion of Japan,
but the atomic bombs ended it.
Carl got his bachelor's degree and doctorate in chemistry from New York
University and was hired at China Lake in 1951. It was at China Lake where
he developed his skill and love of mountaineering. Carl led early in establishing
a presence of the national MRA in California, with CLMRG being accepted
into the MRA in 1961. Two years later, largely because of his leadership,
the California Region of the MRA was formed, with its first meeting held
in May of 196335 years agoin Ridgecrest.
Carl died of cancer on January 3, 1984, almost 15 years ago. His ashes were
scattered in the Sierra. Two-thirds of today's CLMRG roster never knew Carl.
He was the most remarkable person I've ever known.
A total of 282 people have been members (not counting repeats).
The member who served longest in CLMRG was Frank Buffum with over 37 yearsjust
a couple more months than Al Green. The oldest active field member currently
is Al Green (66). The oldest member, doing radio support, is Roger Meng
(79). But the oldest any kind member is Russ Huse (90), one of our Life
We've had quite a few young members at age 16, but the very youngest was
Jeff Warschauer (14). Jeff went on at least two search operations in 1973.
Our youngest current member (You have to be over 21 now!) is Gina Niesen
Liz Anderson, here tonight, joined in 1960. Liz was the first woman in the
California Region of the Mountain Rescue Association and was secretary of
the region several times.
Since I've not been able to talk about myself, I'll finish on this note:
The longest combined service by a husband and wife is by me and my wife,
Sheila (56 years).
It's been a great trip!
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson were camping, lying
side by side in their sleeping bags.
"Dr. Watson, are you awake?"
"Yes, I am."
"What do you see when you look up?"
"I see thousands, nay millions and millions of stars in the heavens."
"And what does that tell you?"
"That our universe is a thing of indescribable beauty, thanks be to
God the Almighty. Pray tell, what does it say to you, Holmes?"
Someone's stolen the tent!!!"
98-11 19 Aug
98 Search Kings Canyon National Park Werner Hueber
Denny Clayton, 51 years old, and his 22-year-old son Corey Clayton went
on a fishing trip from Onion Valley to Rae Lakes and Sixty Lakes Basin and
were expected to be back on Monday, 17 August. The Park Service started
the search on Wednesday, 19 August. Father and son were last seen by a researcher
on Saturday, 15 August in the Sixty Lakes Basin area, on the north side
of Fjord Lake.
Sgt. Diederich, Kern County Sheriff's Office, called the CLMRG pager on
Wednesday, 19 August. At 1325, Linda Finco and Werner Hueber responded.
Linda was very busy on her job with such fun tasks as writing performance
evaluations, so Werner called the Sheriff back. The Park Service, through
the Office of Emergency Services (OES), had asked for 8-10 technical searchers
from CLMRG. Scott Williams, the Chief of the Park Service Planning Section
was our contact. He told us to be prepared for two to three nights in the
high country. The search area was at 10,000 to 12,000 feet with steep terrain,
hazardous stream crossings, and snow fields. Ice axes, crampons, and ropes
Initially, we were asked to report at the Cedar Grove Ranger Station at
0700 on Thursday, 20 August, which would have required at least a six-hour
drive. To avoid this long drive at night, we asked the Park Service's Chief
of Operations Section, Cindy Purcell (Arnold Gaffrey from the Sierra Madre
SAR Team was her deputy), if we could come to Independence and be flown
into the field from there instead of Cedar Grove. She thought that was a
good idea, and she expected us at the Independence Heliport at 0700 on Thursday.
Werner, as the Operations Leader, asked Betty Meng to find 8-10 members
for this operation. Tom Roseman, Walter Runkle, Gina Najera-Niesen, and
Chuck Creusere committed to go on this search, and the five of us left the
Hut at 0415 and arrived at the Independence heliport at 0630. At the heliport,
we met the four members of the Inyo Team.
Cindy Purcell arrived by helicopter at 1030 to brief both teams. Our team
split up into two teams: Tom and Chuck in one and Werner, Walter, and Gina
in the other. Tom and Chuck were flown to the Golden Trout Lake, east of
Mt. Gould, around noon, and their assignment was to search the area leading
to South and North Dragon Pass. The rest of us were flown to Rae Lakes,
and our assignment was to search from the landing zone (LZ) near the top
of Mt. Gould down to Dragon Lake. Rick Sanger, the ranger at Rae Lakes,
gave us a detailed description and explanation of our search area. When
it became obvious from the radio conversations that a helicopter would not
be available to take us from Rae Lakes to the LZ near Mt. Gould for quite
some time, we asked our Division B Chief, Bob Hayden, to let us hike up
to Dragon Lake and then start our assignment of searching up to South Dragon
Pass. Bob approved, and we started up to Dragon Lake from the Rae Lakes
Ranger Station at 1330. We planned to come back to the Ranger Station, where
we had left our overnight gear. From Dragon Lake, we climbed up a snow chute
and arrived at one of the lakes at 11,900 feet just west of South Dragon
Pass at 1630. We turned around, and then we were asked to search the area
south of the trail from Dragon Lake to Rae Lakes. At around 1800, we were
back at the Ranger Station at Rae Lakes. We planned to search the remaining
area of our assignment from the LZ on Mt. Gould down to Dragon Lake using
a different chute on Friday, assuming that we would be airlifted up to this
When we were above Dragon Lake, we heard Tom's report that they had searched
the area around the Golden Trout Lake and then the two lakes west of Dragon
Peak before they searched the area leading up to South Dragon Pass. They
turned around at the pass and went back down to the lakes, where they spent
the night. They planned to search the area leading up to North Dragon Pass
Around 1800, we heard over the radio that a hiker had reported that he heard
somebody calling for help near Mist Falls in Paradise Valley, just a few
miles from the Cedar Grove Ranger Station. The Park Service immediately
sent two teams who were in the vicinity to this location. Later, it was
confirmed that it was indeed the missing father, and his son was nearby
with the packs. Both were tired from their extra-long hike but otherwise
in good condition.
Apparently they had decided on Saturday, 15 August that they did not want
to go back from Sixty Lakes Basin to Kearsarge Pass and Onion Valley over
the Glen Pass. So they went west over the Sixty Lakes Col in the Gardiner
Basin and down the Gardiner Creek drainage. They must have missed the turn
to go south to the Gardiner Pass and down into Charlotte Creek drainage,
which leads west into Charlotte Lake and from there back to Kearsarge Pass.
At 1030 on Friday, 21 August, we were flown back to Independence. Tom and
Chuck arrived at 1330. We were back home at 1630 on Friday. It was a well-managed
search by the Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Park Service with a happy ending.
The rangers we dealt with were very helpful, knowledgeable, and friendlyespecially
Rick Sanger at Rae Lakes.
98-12 24 Aug
98 Search Lake Sabrina Werner Hueber
Clay Greer, 38 years old, had very ambitious plans for a two-day hike in
the High Sierra. He planned to hike from North Lake, where he was last seen
on Friday, 21 August at 1400, up to Lamarck Col; climb Mt. Lamarck, then
Mts. Haeckel and Wallace, and then Mt. Thompson; and be back by Saturday,
22 August in the evening. He was supposed to pick up his children on Sunday,
The Inyo County Sheriff's Office (ICSO) started the search on Monday, 24
August. Corporal Randy Nixon, from ICSO, called Werner Hueber on Monday,
24 August at 1000 and informed him that he had called OES and requested
the support of six CLMRG members, three teams of two, to search for Clay.
Werner started the mobilization by asking Terry Mitchell to find at least
five more members of the group. Right after getting Terry started, he called
the Kern County Sheriff's Office and talked to Cdr. Moe. Cdr. Moe called
OES and then called Werner back with the OES number.
At 1215, the CLMRG team consisting of Werner Hueber as Operations Leader,
Tom Sakai, Mike Renta, Dianne Rindt, Eric Toler, and Elaine Samson left
When we arrived at the base camp at the Bishop Airport at 1430, Clay had
just been located near
Mt Lamarck. He was dead from massive head injuries caused by a 100-foot
fall from a spire that he had apparently attempted to climb.
The CLMRG team was released at 1435, and we were back at the Hut in China
Lake at 1700.
Mt. Whitney - East Face 8-9 August 1998 Tom Roseman
The trip started out with an interesting logistics problem of getting 8
people together at East Face Lake on Saturday. Walter Runkle went in on
Friday to spend the night on top of Mt. Whitney. He went up the North Fork
to Iceberg Lake, stashed the beer and his climbing stuff, pumped 5 liters
of clean water, and headed to the top up the Mountaineer's Route. Al Green,
Debbie Breitenstein, and I went to Horseshoe Meadows Friday afternoon to
spend some time at altitude and to Lone Pine Saturday morning to meet Chuck
Creusere and Cindy Goettig at PJ's. Mike Myers and his son Kevin went to
the Portals on Friday evening. Friday night, Walter had the summit all to
himself and howled at the full moon. Seven of us all managed to meet at
the Portals on Saturday morning and started the hike in under clear skies.
We heard several versions of the unfortunate death of a hiker on Tuesday
while crossing the snow fields just past the notch. The anxiety level of
people up the North Fork was not surprisingly elevated. We took it easy
going in, enjoying the weather, the flowers, and each other's company. We
met Walter at East Face Lake around 5:00 that evening. While we were fixing
dinner, a tired looking fellow walked up and asked if we had any hot water
to spare. He was tired, cold, and very disoriented. He was out on a day
hike with a friend, who was sitting only 100 feet away. We gave him several
cups of hot water and some soup and talked him out of bivveying at the lake,
as he had no bivvey gear and little food. After a few beers, courtesy of
Walter and Mike, we went to bed early, as the plan was to get up at 4:00
and start by 5:00 the next morning. A couple left around 8:00 to do a moonlight
climb of the East Face. At times during the night you could hear them call
out "On Belay" just like they were only a pitch away. They arrived
back at the lake around 3:00 in the morning.
We all got moving around 4:00 but didn't start up till around 5:30, as the
moon went down and we waited till dawn to avoid using headlights. The six
of us arrived at the "notch" around 6:15 and started to get ready
to climb. We let another party of two who arrived shortly after us start
up, as they were going to simul-climb most of the route. They were never
in our way after that, so the choice was a good one. With our hiking shoes
neatly lined up for Mike and his son Kevin to pick up on their way up the
Mountaineer's Route, Walter and Chuck started the Tower Traverse. Al and
Cindy followed and then Debbie and I. Things went smoothly to the Fresh
Air Traverse. At that point, Al and Walter , the only ones who had been
up the route before, weren't sure were to start up. Walter started up, and
after he got about 30 feet, Al started up to his left and realized that
Walter was too far to the right. Al found the trusty pitons, and Walter
worked his way over and down to get back on route. The Fresh Air Traverse
lived up to its reputation and gave everyone a good dose of exposure! We
climbed the aptly named `rotten chimney' and up the giant staircase. At
that point, we chose the step around to the right rather than the crack
on the left. We missed the right exit from the step around and ended up
back on top of the crack. Several third, fourth, and fifth class pitches
later, we unroped and finished the climb third class. The final step around
at the top gave everyone a last dose of excitement. Much to our surprise,
Bob Rockwell was at the top along with Mike and Kevin. Bob had hiked up
the trail to greet us at the top. We all enjoyed Walter's stashed water
at the top. Bob asked if he could take something back down the trail with
him, and Al quickly offered his rope. Bob had some extra water rumored to
be dipped from Trail Camp but had only a few brave takers! We arrived at
the notch shortly thereafter to find our welcome boots neatly lined up.
Back at camp at 5:00, we packed up and had the rest of the beer and some
warm drinks before starting down.
I tried to convince some others to spend the night and go out in the morning
but to no avail. We started down just before 6:00 and arrived with headlights
at the Portals at 10:00. The ledges and the last shortcuts below were exciting
in the dusk and dark. We had all managed to get our full quota of use out
of the day. Special congratulations to Walter and Chuck for being willing
to get in a little over their heads and to Cindy and Debbie for taking on
the challenge of a long and committing route. And of course the usual amazement
concerning Al and his seemingly tireless energy and sense of adventure!
FROM THE PEN OF
On Climbing Lists
by Bob Rockwell
All climbers have lists of mountains they aspire to. For example, there
is the SPS list of some 247 peaks; or the 35 Mountaineer peaks; or the 15
Emblem peaks. Such "provided" lists are good starting points,
butonce you discover the kind of climbing you like mostyou should consider
developing your own list.
Here are some lists of mountains in California that have interested me.
What keeps me from completing more than a handful of them is the continuing
discovery of beautiful climbs that demand repeating!
First, there are the 14000ers, 13 of them. Or 15 if you stretch things a
bit and include Polemonium and Starlight. Since these are fine climbs in
their own right, I've counted them.
If you're enchanted by the 14000ers, how about climbing them each in a day?
Or climb them in winter? Same mountains, but vastly different experiences.
Daryl Hinman had an idea for climbing all the Sierra 14000ersLangley to
Thunderboltin one 7-day push; Richard Hechtel suggested doing Whitney and
Shasta in one 24 hour period, necessitating some air transportation.
If we now add the 13000ers, the list grows a lot. Not so much if you count
only named peaks, but if your lists exclude numbered (or even unnumbered)
peaks, you will miss out on some mighty fine climbs.
Sooner or later, the question of "What is a mountain?" must be
tackled. For the Sierra, I started with RJ Secor's guide. I discarded such
entries as the towers just north of Trail Crest. But I added a few, such
as Peak 13165 between The Thumb and Birch and Peak 13680+ south of Barnard;
they seem like mountains to me. I came up with 167 California mountains
that are above 13000 feet.
If 167 peaks is overwhelming, Secor's list of 4000-meter (13123-foot) peaks
has only 109.
One of my favorite lists is the 13000ers and above whose difficulty is class
3 or above by the easiest route. There are 62 of them.
How about all the mountains on the Sierra Crest? I haven't counted these.
Another provided list is Secor's "the Sierra's 10 toughest" peaks:
Norman Clyde, Devil's Crag #1, Thunderbolt, North Palisade, Black Kaweah,
Deerhorn, Clyde Minaret, Disappointment, Middle Palisade, and Whorl. Gary
Gunther leaves off Deerhorn, Middle Palisade, and Whorl but adds Palisade
Crest, Humphries, Clarence King, and Starr King and so comes up with 11
"10 toughest" peaks.
I was talking one day with John Ellsworth about what a miserable climb The
Hermit is (except for the summit block), and he said there should also be
a list of "the Sierra's 10 worst" peaks. Maybe there should be,
but casting mountains in a negative light goes against the grain.
If you have a favorite mountain, how about climbing it once for each year
of your life? Or in each month of the year? If you will turn 40 this year,
say, how about resolving to climb 40 peaks before your next birthday?
It goes on and on . . . and I haven't even mentioned some fine ridge traverses
for multiple ascent possibilities.
Obviously, there are many lists you can have. But I think the ones you will
get the most pleasure from are those you have created yourself. The most
popular provided lists (e.g., the SPS) are good for getting started, but
consider putting them aside once you find out what kind of mountaineering
you most enjoy. The main idea, after all, is to experience the best the
mountains have to offer . . . isn't it?
FROM OTHER SOURCES
(Editor: This quotation appeared in Issue No. 29, August 1998, of Rescue
Forum, the Journal of the Mountain Rescue Association.)
mountaineers should be mountaineers first, rescuers second.
(Editor: This message arrived on e-mail. Members
of CLMRG express their sorrow to all concerned.)
Date: Sunday, October 04, 1998 19:11:16
From: Bernie Roche
Subject: LODD: Six Lost in Canada
Sadly, I must announce the death of six of Canada's finest. On Friday, October
2, 1998, a Canadian Forces Labrador helicopter, from 413 Rescue Squadron
based at Greenwood, NS, crashed while returning from a mission, killing
all on board. The crash occurred in Quebec's Gaspe region. The cause is
not yet known.
Captain Peter Musselman, pilot
Capt. Darren Vandenbilche, pilot
Master Corporal David Gaetz, flight engineer
Master Corporal Glen Sinclair, flight engineer
Sergeant Jean Roy, SAR tech
Master Corporal Darrell Cronin, SAR tech
Please remember these brave men in your prayers. They gave their lives that
others might live.
Bernie Roche, RN, BScN, W-EMT, OSJ
WEMSI Web Site Administrator
(Editor: This item appeared in the Contra Costa
Times in October 1998.)
MOUNT EVEREST CLIMBING RECORD BROKEN: A Sherpa guide has set
a world record as the fastest climber of Mount Everest, scaling the world's
highest peak Saturday in 20 hours and 24 minutes, expedition organizers
34, started his trek from a base camp at 17,500 feet Friday and reached
the 29,028-foot summit Saturday afternoon. Under favorable weather conditions,
climbers usually take two to four days to make the ascent.
In October 1990, French alpinist Marc Bertard
set the previous record by climbing Everest in 22 hours and 29 minutes.
|The Talus Pile
CLMRG.org website - Janet Westbrook 375-8371 firstname.lastname@example.org
CLMRG gratefully acknowledges recent gifts from the following friends:
Mario and Yolanda Gonzales Valley Village, California "In memory of
Mr. and Mrs. Robert W. Bergman Huntsville, Alabama "In memory of Jeff
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Dow Chevy Chase, Maryland "In memory of Robby Dow"
Richard Johnson Conway, South Carolina
Check our web page at http://www.clmrg.org.
All telephone numbers in The Talus Pile are area code 760 unless
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is responsible for setting
new standards for equipment and procedures for mountain search and rescue.
Check their web page at http://www.nfpa.org