By Allen Best
16 climbers rescued
JACKSON, Wyo. – It was the sort of experience that would cause many people to swear off mountains entirely. But Steve Tyler takes a longer and larger view of life after being among 16 people removed from near the summit of 13,770-foot Grand Teton in what was described as one of the largest, most dangerous rescue operations in the history of that storied mountain.
Adventure is important, said the 67-year-old Tyler. “You miss all the important parts of life if you don’t get away from the keyboard,” he said.
Just the same, Tyler intends to re-evaluate his calculation of risk when it comes to the potential for thunderstorms. An unusually intense but predicted collision of weather systems yielded the lighting, rain and snow that killed one climber and left most of the other climbers dazed.
“They just seemed overly sedated,” said rescue helicopter pilot Matt Heart. “That might have something to do with the lightning bolts that went through them. Everybody that I saw that day had that exact same … exhausted empty glare.”
The Jackson Hole News&Guide devoted eight full tabloid-sized pages to telling the stories from the extraordinary drama that occurred July 21.
The fury developed around noon, grew quickly in its intensity, hit the peak with at least six lightning strikes, and lasted for more than an hour, the newspaper reported. In all, 92 emergency workers collaborated in the nine-hour marathon that involved precision helicopter flying in changing storm weather.
One of those bolts hit Tyler and his son-in-law and two other members of a climbing party. The bolt knocked down all four. Tyler, from Provo, Utah, rolled over to his son-in-law.
“His eyes were rolled back and he wasn’t breathing,” Tyler told the News&Guide. Although partly paralyzed by the lightning himself, such that he couldn’t close his hand, Tyler managed to blow air into his son-in-law’s mouth. “It must have been six breaths when he started to breathe on his own.”
Another climber, 21-year-old Matt Walker, was burned in several places by lightning. “I just remember screaming in pain,” he said. “One of the images burned in my brain is looking at my friends and seeing the anguish in their faces.”
The climber who was killed, a guard on his college basketball team, had been knocked 3,000 feet off a face of rock by a lighting blast. Climbing rangers in Grand Teton National Park were investigating what may have happened, as he had appeared to be securely attached to a rope and on belay when the bolt struck.
High-end buyers return
ASPEN, Colo. – The high-end market has been returning to the West’s most well-heeled markets, Aspen and Jackson Hole.
In Colorado, Aspen has had one of the strongest real estate markets – but only in the most rarified sector. The number of transactions through the year’s first half was up only 4 percent from last year, but the dollar volume grew 22 percent. Stated in another way, the extremely high end accounted for a disproportionate amount of the bulk.
The Estin Report found that 81 percent of sales in the second quarter for the Aspen area were for $4 million or above.
Speaking with the Aspen Daily News, long-time real estate agent Bob Ritchie said that today’s buyers, “tend to be very well-heeled buyers, people well prepared for the downturn, and very liquid,” he said. The sellers? They’re in some distress. But the buyers “have no pain,” he added.
The agents consulted by the Daily News see growing strength that will translate into more activity in the lower end of the market. “People don’t like being the only ones to pull the trigger,” he said. “Confidence at the high end builds confidence below.”
Something of the same trickle-down theory was advanced in Wyoming. Jackson Hole’s David Viehman and Devon Wheeldon of Jackson Hole Real Estate Associates report a slowly improving market for high-end real estate but a soggy bottom end for the time being.
Prices for local, entry-level real estate and resort condo/townhomes have dropped by as much as 50 percent when compared to the all-time high of 2007.
More weedy and more popular
DURANGO, Colo. – Durango’s Brookside Park has become weedier and busier, both of them the result of a decision to stop using 2, 4-D, a chemical fertilizer and herbicide. Now, Durango officials wonder whether the same experiment should be applied to other parks.
The original ban at Brookside was incited by mothers concerned about health threats to their children. “While 2, 4-D isn’t the worst chemical out there, we do have numerous concerns,” Katrina Blair told the Durango Telegraph.
“Children are more susceptible to it, pollinators are hit hard by the chemical, and the herbicide and fertilizer have been linked with dead zones in rivers and oceans. We just think it’s better to play it safe and not expose young people, adults, wildlife, dogs and honey bees to a potentially harmful chemical.”
Mayor Michael Rendon said the tradeoff of fewer chemicals and more weeds worked for many people. The park went from 10 percent to 30 percent weeds, but picked up more users.
MT. CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – The base of the Crested Butte ski area has its fair share of concrete foundations and building sites, the soil turned asunder and now growing noxious weeds and muddying water during rainstorms. The Crested Butte News says town officials have been talking about how to avoid such half-baked building in future slowdowns. “Nobody anticipated this sort of thing happening, and now we’re stuck with these,” said Gary Keiser, a councilman in Mt. Crested Butte.
Ice cream the fatal weakness
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – Using bait of ice cream and chicken, police in Crested Butte trapped a 305-pound bear that they believe had broken into 20 houses.
The bear had broken into several mudrooms looking for food – and seems to have found it. The stomach of the bear contained dog food and bird food. Authorities tell the Crested Butte News that the bear had to be killed, because it had become habituated to going into houses.
The only bears that might be relocated after being trapped in Crested Butte are those young bears that haven’t made the jump from trying to get into trashcans to trying to break and enter people’s homes.
Economic strategies ID’d in Tahoe
LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – A consulting firm charged with spearheading the Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity plan has identified three economic development strategies for igniting the basin’s smoldering economy: health and wellness, green building, and geotourism.
The firm, Applied Development Economics, says that geotourists are vacationers that go to a place because of geographic features as opposed to cultural, culinary, urban or other features. With green building, the consultants see the application of energy efficiency and renewable energy features to existing structures stimulating a lethargic economy.
And as for the final category, they advocate spa and athletic events with such national cachet that Tahoe would become a destination for people who are ailing, are hoping to improve their health, or training for a marathon.
The Sierra Sun also reports the idea of trying to attract scientific researchers, something along the lines of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, but with more of a deliberately alpine orientation.