Local searches Ritter Range for missing teacher
“… after hearing that Matthew had discussed the Michael Minaret area as well as the Ritter/Banner cirque … had mentioned wanting to get on some ice and snow … and had left his campsite with only his boots, crampons and ice axe (no bivy gear), I felt a strong leaning towards the Ritter/Banner theory. Frankly, it’s what I would have done had I been in Matthew’s position of wanting a fun, full value day in the mountains, and from all reports, the mileage was well within his capability.”
Eastern Sierra long-time local Dean Rosnau wrote this in an Aug. 16 post on www.supertopo.com. Rosnau, who has 39 years of climbing experience as well as search and rescue experience dating back to 1984 has taken a few trips to the Ritter Range in the past month to look for the remains of Matthew Greene. Greene is the 39-year-old teacher from Pennsylvania who was reported missing July 29 after he did not meet up with friends as planned.
Greene arrived to Mammoth in late June. He had been hiking and climbing with a friend when his car broke down in early July. The friend moved on to the next scheduled spot on the trip. But Greene stayed at Shady Rest campground waiting for his car. His mother, Patricia, last heard from him July 16.
“I don’t know Matthew or his family, but I felt compelled to get involved,” Rosnau told The Sheet on Thursday.
In fact it was the lack of information surrounding Greene’s disappearance that made Rosnau want to search.
“I think the Sheriff absolutely made the right call not to search,” Rosnau said. In one of his posts on supertopo.com he explained, “With any search or rescue event, the Sheriff and the SAR team have one critical criteria that is of the MOST value to them … information.
“Within any county in the State, the Sheriff is mandated by law to provide SAR services for both residents and guests, alike. However, a search will only be called on actual actionable information … not hunches or assumptions. By simply not taking a few minutes to leave information with someone, Matthew tied the hands of the Sheriff and the SAR team.”
“However, in spite of this, the conversations that Matthew had with friends and the gear that was missing from his belongings said to me he was going to the Ritter Range,” Rosnau told The Sheet.
Rosnau knows the area well. “It would have haunted me, with my skills and my background [of the area] if I didn’t do something,” Rosnau said.
And so he searched, several times, with some different partners. His most recent search took place last weekend, Aug. 25-26. He and partner John “Cupcake” McDonald set their sights on searching the glacier on the east face of the Minarets, which held terrain that Rosnau described as, “as dangerous as it gets.” Rosnau’s words and photos on supertopo.com described just how catastrophic one wrong move in this area could be.
Coinciding with Rosnau’s search last weekend was the discovery of some glasses on a Forest Service sign near Inyo Craters that at first looked to belong to Greene. Following an examination of the glasses, however, it was determined that the prescription did not match Matthew’s.
“The glasses were found two days before I went out,” Rosnau said. “They were a compelling piece of evidence.”
Rosnau said he was trying to find out more information about the glasses before he left.
“I didn’t want to put myself in danger if I didn’t need to,” he said. However, when Sunday arrived, a determination had not yet been made on the glasses, so Rosnau and McDonald headed out anyway.
“When we arrived at our base camp at Iceberg Lake I radio called in to see if anything had been determined with the glasses,” Rosnau said. Nothing. He called in again Monday morning just before he and McDonald began to ascend the most dangerous part of the glacier.
This time, he got confirmation that the glasses were not Greene’s.
“So we continued the search,” Rosnau said.
While Rosnau came up empty-handed during this search as he had in his previous searches in the Ritter Range, he claimed he had the feeling that Matthew was there.
“I’ve been at this search and rescue thing for a long-time and you do get feelings,” he said. “I’m convinced that’s where he went but that doesn’t mean I’m right.”
Rosnau said he currently speaks with Matthew’s family on an almost daily basis.
“His family has largely accepted that he’s dead, and understands the magnitude of the area,” Rosnau said. “But as a parent without a body, you would always wonder.”
Out of any and all the mistakes Greene may have made, Rosnau said his biggest one was not telling anyone where he was going that day. A mistake Rosnau said he used to make all the time.
“It may not have saved his life, but it would have given his family closure,” Rosnau, a father himself, said. “My sole intent on finding Matthew was to help the family find peace. As I told them, you hope with every tragedy that something good can come from it. Perhaps the good from this could be the affect Matthew’s story has on others. Maybe they’ll think twice.”
At this point, with the seasons beginning to change [the air has felt colder and more fall-like in Mammoth recently] Rosnau’s feeling is that a future discovery of a piece of Greene’s gear will be how his remains are ultimately found, if they ever are.
“Some day a random hiker will find an item and we’ll go see what we can find at that point,” Rosnau said.
Even if one assumed, as Rosnau does, that Greene is somewhere in the Ritter Range, Rosnau said a search would be the ultimate needle in the biggest haystack ever, scenario.
“You could take 100 professional searchers to the area and spend the rest of your lives looking and never find him.”
Even so, Rosnau said if work were not taking him out of the area beginning next week, “I would be living in the Ritter Range [continuing to search]. I still don’t have peace even though I searched.”