Thursday, February 26, 2009

South Korean hiker barely survives avalanche at Yosemite National Park

A thirty-eight-year-old man from South Korea was nearly killed when a wave of snow flung him one hundred yards down the mountain on Monday as he and friends were hiking around Half Dome. (Here's an earlier report on his situation.)

Jung Ho Wang (I'm assuming Wang is his family name, so 왕정호) and his buddies spent a night in the freezing cold because rescuers couldn't reach him. He had a broken leg and other injuries, but he plans to go back, to teach his kids a lesson about perseverance.

I have a friend of a friend who was an experienced hiker in Korea but succumbed to injuries sustained in a fall when he was hiking alone. He had planned to try to do the 212-mile-long John Muir Trail in ten days by himself, from Yosemite Valley to Mt Whitney at the eastern edge of Sequoia National Park, but everyone he met advised against it. 

When he didn't show up for his flight home, authorities scoured the John Muir Trail. Ironically, they were looking in the wrong place, as he had ended up heeding all the advice and was instead roaming around on a much less strenuous two-day hike in the Yosemite backcountry. A tragic loss of a good friend to many people.

There is a word of warning that conditions in the American wilderness can get a lot more treacherous than in South Korea. Yosemite's peaks are higher than even Mt Hallasan, South Korea's tallest mountain at 1950 meters. I've seen it suddenly snow in the summertime, and thunder and lightning are common occurrences. And don't get me started on the physical conditions of the cables used to make it to the top of Half Dome.

Of course, many Americans themselves are not immune to dangerous ignorance. The desert claims lives of tourist passers-by every year, people who didn't heed warnings about keeping liquids in the car, just in case, and not going off the beaten path. 

[above: Probably the most photographed natural rock in the world.]

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