American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Stranded, Exposure—Hypothermia, Inadequate Clothing/Equipment, Climbing Alone, Weather, Exceeding Abilities, Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 2005

STRANDED, EXPOSURE–HYPOTHERMIA, INADEQUATE CLOTHING/ EQUIPMENT, CLIMBING ALONE, WEATHER, EXCEEDING ABILITIES Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park, Longs Peak

On September 4 at 0400, Sudheer Averineni (26) from Fort Collins began an attempt on Longs Peak with two other companions starting at the Longs Peak Trailhead. They had intended to complete their ascent within one day and were not equipped to stay out overnight. At 1030, the solo mountaineer separated from his group at the Keyhole Formation (13,100 feet above sea level), and continued on alone, in a snowstorm, towards the summit. Two mountaineers descending the Keyhole Route saw him at the base of the Homestretch, and later said that he did not appear to be in any difficulty.

The blizzard intensified with winds up to 60 mph, low temperatures to 5 degrees F, lightning, low visibility, and snow accumulations of up to six inches. The solo mountaineer’s friends left the area and at 1627 reported him as missing/overdue to Rocky Mountain National Park Communications Center.

On September 5, a park ranger found his body on the summit of Longs Peak. He was lightly dressed in a hooded sweatshirt over a T-shirt, blue jeans, wool gloves, cotton socks, and sneakers. There was no extra clothing in his pack. He had a cell phone in the pocket of his sweatshirt, and although he may have attempted to call out, there was no record of his call with any of the surrounding 911 emergency communications centers. The cause of death was exposure.

Analysis

This fellow had unsuccessfully attempted Longs Peak via the Keyhole Route on two earlier occasions in 2004. In interviewing friends and mountaineers who had contact with him on the mountain, the investigator concluded that he apparently had a case of being goal oriented. He was inexperienced but apparently had great mental drive to get him to where he wanted to go. It is not known for certain why he did not attempt to descend.

He was inadequately clothed and equipped for winter conditions and a technical ascent. He failed to heed the advice of available literature and bulletins, friends, fellow mountaineers, and even park staff.

This was only the second year since the 1868 first-reported ascent of Longs Peak that the Keyhole Route was not rated as a non-technical hike at any time. Rangers had posted current peak conditions and weather forecasts at the Longs Peak Trailhead, advising of the “technical” conditions and the incoming blizzard. (Source: From a report submitted byjim Detterline and Rich Perch, Park Rangers in Rocky Mountain National Park, and the Rocky Mountain News, September 8, 2004)

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