Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Worthington and Stickers

Post by blogger | May 9, 2007      

PM update: Still sitting here addressing sticker envelopes. Love all the emails coming in, with people sharing their feelings about and giving me links to their ski touring trip reports and such.

The death of climber David Worthington after a fall on Colorado 14er Humboldt Peak was shocker this past Monday. Various accounts say Worthington and a friend had stashed their skis and snowshoes below the summit, then hiked to the top and spent the night there. In rocky terrain Worthington took a “tumbling ragdoll” fall of about 200 feet during a glissade during their descent the next day, received multiple injuries, and his partner had to leave him to get help. He was rescued alive but died soon after for unknown reasons. A detailed account of the rescue is available here. Condolences to Worthington’s family and friends from us here at

It comes as a surprise to many that an accident like Worthington’s could happen on Humboldt, one of the easiest to climb fourteeners in the state. Until we know more details the take-home lesson is that it’s easier than most people think to trip over a cliff or ledge, and such terrain exists on almost any Colorado mountain. If a sliding fall on snow instigated the event, let it remind us how dangerous snow can be and how important the use of an ice axe is (apparently neither Worthington nor his partner had ice axes or any other means of performing a self arrest to stop a fall). Beyond that, many mountaineers agree that the ideal group size for mountain rambling (not roped climbing) is three since one person can stay with an injured friend while the other goes out for help. It’s frequently much easier to come up with a duo for a trip (as we often do), or even go solo, but three is indeed a good number if you’re looking to hedge your bets. Of course it is unknown if having a person stay with Worthington would have changed the outcome, but one can only imagine what it was like for his partner to leave him on the side of a mountain by himself. An extremely tough situation.

In the movie department, I just ran across Resorting to Madness. This flick explores North American ski resorts and associated towns. The movie presents Vail, Colorado as the antithesis of a mountain community and Aspen as an “ideal resort balancing financial success with environmental and community preservation.” What a crock. Vail isn’t great, but Aspen has a LONG way to go before it cold be called ideal. I guess I’ll have to sit through the movie and report back. Perhaps I’ll watch it on my in-cab DVD player while stuck in Aspen traffic.

And yes, global warming is in the news as always. Check out this article in the Denver Post about how savvy investors can win big by betting on climate change. The writer also mentions how Colorado resorts, since they’re higher and colder, could do well in a globally warming world. I’d add that a warmer climate might also bring Colorado a more avalanche stable snowpack. It’s politically incorrect to say anything positive about global warming, interesting a newspaper broke the rules. They redeem themselves, however, by stating that “…critics say global warming could shorten the ski season and increase the cost of generating manmade snow.”

Let’s just say Arapaho Basin has it going on when it comes to altitude that compensates for global warming. Also, Aspen and Vail better move their base areas a bit higher so destination skiers don’t have to look at dead grass and mud out of their condo windows during Christmas vacation.

Lastly, how about a spirit boost for you rando skiing fans? Ski Press published a detailed analysis of this spring’s SIA skiing retail sales numbers. Buried in the article is this interesting gem:

Nordic ski equipment sales decreased 26% in dollars this season over last. Nordic skis fell 30% in dollars while Nordic boot dollars decreased 25%. Telemark ski equipment sales fell 31% in dollars.While still a tiny category, randonee/AT equipment dollar sales are up 8% over last season.”

Looks like we’d better get more stickers made. “Louie, increase that order by 8 percent, and add the word randonee!”


3 Responses to “Backcountry Skiing News Roundup — Worthington and Stickers”

  1. Tom May 9th, 2007 7:56 am

    Wow. You can’t say enough good things about our mountain rescue teams. Heroes all. It’s a shame this one didn’t turn out well. May TalusMonkey rest in peace.

  2. Ken Gross May 9th, 2007 8:34 am

    From what I have read on some of the climbing forums he chose to Glissad down a icy, steep slope without an Ice Axe. He picked up speed and fell for about 200 feet through rock bands. His partner chose not to Glissad due to the conditions. Not enough can be said about the heroic and professional SAR people.

  3. Rich May 10th, 2007 2:45 pm

    Here is a link to a trip report by David Worthington’s partner on Humboldt: link

    It is interesting to read this after reading Lou’s trip report from El Diente.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

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