My Search For Kim & Carole

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by DrNed, Oct 19, 2016.

  1. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Utah
    Due to the sensitive nature of this story, I hope I can report on this trip with
    the kindness and thoughtfulness that it deserves.

    Without a clear explanation of why, I am fascinated by the stories of those who disappear
    or die in the wilderness.

    In this case, the story of Kim & Carole, my fascination was exponentially higher because of
    the great writing by @Dave in his Special Feature - The Mystery of Kim and Carole.

    Also, so much evidence was left behind it is possible to make some explanation of their
    actions and maybe even understand their choices.

    I have a daughter who just returned from serving as an LDS missionary in Mexico and
    her younger sister who was just about to do the same in Wichita, Kansas. With three
    months to work with we came up with one night in mid August where all three of us could get together for a backpacking trip.

    With only a one night trip possible Clyde Lake sounded like the perfect destination.

    With work and responsibilities we didn't get to the Crystal Lake TH until 3:30 PM. It was a ZOO!
    We ended up having to park over a mile away, past Washington Lake and walk back.

    It was so packed that people made spots where there really weren't any.
    IMG_2575.JPG

    It was even worse Saturday evening when we got back to the TH.

    We started out on the trail towards Long Lake and there was a sign warning of a fire somewhere in the direction we were going.

    It was such governmental, red tape, kind of writing I didn't understand a word of it . . .
    and everybody else was heading down the trail so we did too.

    Along the trail there is a small sign directing you towards Cliff Lake - this was the turn off
    we needed.
    IMG_2576.JPG

    Here we're passing Lilly Lake (I think) on our way to Cliff Lake.
    IMG_2577.JPG

    We got to Cliff Lake and I thought, "Why isn't there anybody camping here?" This is a great little lake, and only about 2 miles from the TH. As much craziness as there was at the trail head, once we left the Long Lake trail we hadn't seen anybody.
    IMG_2579.JPG

    It wasn't until we arrived at Clyde Lake, did I divulge all of intentions for this trip. This is from the south west side of Clyde Lake looking towards the Notch.
    IMG_2585.JPG

    With my admission my daughters questioned what all was on the agenda. I explained and they skeptically agreed.

    To this point we have only seen two fisherman back at Watson Lake. Unfortunately, things were about to change.

    The trail takes a hiker along the west side of Clyde Lake. We attempted to find a camp spot off the trail here, but the geography didn't allow for it. So we wandered over the ridge towards Three Divides Lake and while it wasn't as packed as the parking lot there were A LOT of people here. We did find a nice meadow on the north east corner of Three Divides and decided to make it home.
    IMG_2586.JPG

    Once we had camp set up we started our research.

    The following was the most influential discovery for me.

    From the photographic evidence found it is known that Kim & Carole stood here and took a
    similar photo. Their photo showed that it was raining.
    IMG_2587.JPG

    From my image you can see there is a little walk down to the lake, which is where I'd guess they took their photo.

    From this exact spot I rotated 90 degree to the south, my right, and took this image.
    IMG_2588.JPG

    Had they continued on the Clyde Lake Loop, and it appears to me that's what they were doing, this is the way they would have gone.

    The reason that I believe this is so significant is that I believe it shows that their decision to go west was a choice to leave the trail.

    Unless someone has evidence showing that the trail in 2003 was not as clearly marked, it is nearly impossible to believe that they went west because they had lost the trail.

    I find it interesting that while their photographs show it was raining, they decided to leave the trail here.

    There is not another photograph until they get to Hidden Lake so the specific spot of where they turned west is unknown. Assuming it was at spot in the above image I started heading west and followed the path of least resistance.

    The path of least resistance took me through the meadow I was camped in on the north east side and then along the south side of the western two portions of Three Divides.

    To gain some perspective, once we got west of Three Divides we started climbing Mt Watson. About 1/3 of the way up geography stopped us. Here's Three Divides.
    IMG_2590.JPG

    Then, turning a little more to the west you see Hidden Lake. The most western portion of Three Divides is just out of sight to the right of this image.
    IMG_2591.JPG

    After this we called it a night and headed back to camp.

    The next morning we were up and determined to again follow the path of least resistance to Hidden Lake and then south towards the spot they ended up.

    Once we got west of Three Divides the growth wasn't particularly dense.
    IMG_2594.JPG IMG_2595.JPG

    Then, just before reaching Hidden Lake the trees get thicker.
    IMG_2597.JPG

    Once Kim & Carole left Three Divides they have to know Hidden Lake is out there. From the spot where I'm assuming they left the trail, it's only 10-20 yards and you see Three Divides.

    Once you leave Three Divides there's nothing to suggest there's anything else to see. Why do they keep going west from Three Divides? They must know Hidden lake is out there. This suggests that they are still making informed decisions.

    Here we are at Hidden Lake.
    IMG_2599.JPG

    From this spot we moved forward along this shore of the lake. It's at the western end of Hidden Lake that there is a little thumb off the main part of the lake, where it appears Kim & Carole took their Hidden Lake photo.

    From there we moved south and found the meadow they took the shot of Carole in front of the stream shot. I didn't put a lot of effort into finding the exact location, but I was certain that we were in the right meadow. To this point I've followed the path of least resistance and ended up close to where they did.

    Actually, heading west along Hidden Lake there isn't much of a trail. Assuming they ended up somewhere along this shore line when they reached Hidden Lake, why did they keep going? There's nothing else to see. There's no apparent reason to keep going they way they did.

    I would have turned back towards Three Divides here.

    I just can't believe they were lost here. Since leaving Clyde Lake they've generally walked in one direction next to MT Watson.

    If I assume leaving the Clyde Lake Loop Trail was an informed decision to see the other lakes, it has to be here at Hidden Lake that they decide they're going to try and circle Mt Watson. There's no other reason to head south from Hidden Lake the way they did.

    If one can accept the above conclusions, I find their Meadow Photo even more interesting because it would suggest that attempting to circle Watson wasn't made under stress.

    Which makes that choice even harder for me to understand.

    From the meadow, I changed my plan. Instead of following the path of least resistance I decided to take the most direct route towards their resting spot. My mistake.

    The geography was steep and the growth moderately dense, making travel difficult and slow.

    It was during this stretch my daughters protested against our route and what we were attempting to find.

    So we decided to accept the fact we learned some things about their choices and head back.
    IMG_2600.PNG


    We got back to camp, rested and then broke camp and headed back to the car. Some decided it was okay to park in the middle of the road.
    IMG_2605.JPG

    A selfie on the walk to the car.
    IMG_2607.JPG


    We then stopped for dinner and shakes at Granny's in Heber. This has always been a favorite spot, but it wasn't as good this time.
    IMG_2664.JPG

    It was a great to spend some uninterrupted time with my girls.

    Standing in the places Kim and Carole did my heart aches for what they suffered.

    I feel as though I've gained some understanding of their experience, but I can't quite put it into words, so I'm not going to try.
     

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    Last edited: Oct 24, 2016
  2. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

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    Poignant. Thanks for sharing and showing respect to their memories.
     
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  3. scatman

    scatman Member

    Messages:
    670
    Location:
    Salt Lake City
    @DrNed - I did a clockwise loop around Mount Watson in August with my son with an interest in the abandoned trail that runs down the Middle Fork of the Weber River. If I recall, it was mentioned in the excellent report by @Dave on the tragic circumstances of the two ladies. I had attempted in the past to get to the old trail systems near Anchor Lake from the Hells Kitchen side of things in the past and could not detect the old trail over the pass from Jean Lake. So while hiking around Mount Watson, I thought it would give me a good opportunity to see if I could find the trail and follow it for a bit. From looking at your map, I'm pretty sure that I followed it down to at least the 10,200 foot level after picking it up off of the Smith Morehouse Trail just east of Long Lake. The trail appeared to be in excellent shape to me with numerous cairns along the lentgh we hiked. Actually, I felt there were no need for the cairns because the trail was so well recognized on the ground. Again, looking at your map at where the ladies were found, it is only about 100 meters following the contour to the old trail. Of course, if they had or did make it to the trail how would they know where it goes if it is no longer on a map. Anyway, enjoyed your write-up.

    Here are some images of the trail and its condition back in August.

    01.jpg
    Rock pile is where the old trail intersects with the Smith Morehouse Trail east of Long Lake

    02.jpg
    Long Lake from abandoned trail

    03.jpg
    Clearly at some point the Forest Service was going to make some improvements to the trail through an adjacent marshy area

    04.jpg
    The abandoned trail

    05.jpg
    sewn logs helped mark the way

    06.jpg
    The abandoned trail

    07.jpg
    The abandoned trail

    08.jpg
    The abandoned trail

    09.jpg
    Pond at the headwaters of Middle Fork
     
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  4. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

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    @scatman The condition of this "abandoned" trail is far better condition than I would have ever guessed.
    Thanks for sharing.
     
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  5. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

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    It peters out shortly beyond the saddle and grows much more faint.
     
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  6. DrNed

    DrNed The mountains are calling and I must go

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Edited for spelling, grammar and content.
     
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  7. Glasterpiece

    Glasterpiece Member

    Messages:
    365
    Location:
    North Salt Lake, Utah
    Thank you DrNed. This is such an interesting story. I also read your link to Dave's story. This shows how unforgiving the wilderness can be.

    It still leaves the main questions. Maybe I missed it. Did they die in their shelter because snow made it impossible to leave? Were they not equipped to withstand even one or two cold nights? Maybe we'll never know.
     
  8. Dave

    Dave Broadcaster, formerly "ashergrey"

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    They were most likely dead from hypothermia before it ever started snowing.
     
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  9. Rockroller

    Rockroller Member

    Messages:
    46
    Location:
    Northern Utah
    Like you I'm fascinated with this story. I've been in this area several times in the past and finally went to final resting spot last week. What a humbling and emotional experience for me. It is a special place to visit. I also have a hard time trying to figure out why they went this way. Maybe they were trying to circle Mt Watson, maybe they were disoriented or the weather made visability poor and they thought they were going the right direction. The Middle Fork of The Weber is some rough and rugged terrain. We'll never know for sure but their memory will live on. Their unfortunate tragedy has made me be better prepared when I backpack. Thanks for your report.
     
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  10. Rockskipper

    Rockskipper Member

    Messages:
    775
    Location:
    W. Colorado
    Stories are how we humans learn, and stories with bad endings are the ones we learn the most from. Those of us who are often in the backcountry realize that we have less latitude for help when we need it, and survival can thereby be more risky. Reading stories like this helps us think ahead about how not to do things, even though their path and reasoning isn't really fully known, and such stories also help in preparation and in prevention.
     
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