TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

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TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by oleander » Sun Nov 15, 2015 3:49 pm


Matthew Greene, a climber and backpacker, went missing from Mammoth Lakes in July 2013, while doing day hikes in the Ritter Range. A formal search and rescue operation was never conducted, although some citizen search efforts have been done.

In September 2014, Maverick organized a HST citizen search for Matthew in the Minarets, Mt. Ritter, and Banner Peak. The report on that trip is here:


Although no sign of Matthew or his equipment has ever been found, we persist. Maverick - who stays in close touch with Matthew’s sister, and has invested significant personal time into independent investigation of the case in Mammoth Lakes – gathered five of us together for a second annual search. It is part of Mav’s ethic (and his huge heart) to assist the families of missing backpackers we’d never had the honor to meet in person.

Day Zero (Sept. 9)

Maverick is a nonstop prankster who kept me seriously entertained on the ride up to Mammoth Lakes. The mountains were a bit hazy owing to smoke from the Rough Fire, as well as a small fire in Tenaya Canyon, but it wasn’t as bad as we had expected. We pulled into New Shady Rest Campground and were presently joined by Jimr. I’ve only known these guys for a year – we first got acquainted at the HST meet-up at Wales Lake in July 2014 - but today was like a reunion with old friends. “What do you want to bet that Mav spends the evening poring over that laminated map?” Jim had predicted. Indeed, the first thing to come out was the map.
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Mav reviews the laminated map of the search zone
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Coincidentally, Matthew Greene had been staying in Shady Rest Campground during July 2013, when he went missing. So Mav tracked down the woman who had served as camp host at that time. She said she remembered Matthew.

Pretty soon Markskor found us in the campground. After introducing us to some excellent Mexican take-out, Mark entertained us in his apartment. My favorite part was getting to check out his sketchbooks, and the many drawings hanging on his walls.

Day One (Sept. 10)

We roused ourselves before dawn. An early start was desired, so as to secure the same beautiful base camp location above Ediza that we had occupied in 2014. We swung by McDonald’s to ensure Jim’s first (but hardly last) coffee fix of the day. At Agnew Meadows, we hefted our packs and, lickety-split, Mav was a vanishingly small dot in the distance. True to form, he made the 8.5-ish miles to base camp in two hours.

At the river crossing Jim and I, moving at a more leisurely pace, noted one of the newly replaced signs for Matthew:
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Both the Shadow Creek Trail and Lake Ediza were Grand Central Station for hikers – even on a weekday after Labor Day! Fortunately, the off-trail base camp behind Ediza offered a bit more solitude. To repeat what I wrote in last year’s report, our camp is a drop-dead gorgeous location in general, worthy of a Japanese garden:
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View from the stream running adjacent to base camp
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The weather had a weird feel to it. It was unseasonably hot, but with some mild cloud cover, and a vague hint of smoke. There wasn’t time enough remaining in the day to do any searching, so today was about getting settled in and acclimatizing. I took the opportunity to ask for another lesson in negotiating Class 5 rock. The boys took me up to a rockface over a nice pool they had discovered the year prior. There I practiced proper handholds and descents facing the rock.
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Pool with climbing walls
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We returned to camp and then I went by myself to explore the upper meadows above Ediza toward the headwall formed by the Minarets. I found the lake up there that I had last visited in 1993. It had shrunk a bit in the intervening 22 years. But the whole area was still its usual extravaganza of red metamorphic rock, expansive meadow, and pretty streams.

Soon after I returned to camp, Mav recognized Jeremy’s approaching figure below, and called him up. Jeremy was a newcomer to the search (he hadn’t participated in 2014), and a very welcome addition indeed. Jeremy helped Maverick and HST make the ReConn form what it is today. He learned about the search via Supertopo. Jeremy has a sweet and amiable personality, and good rock climbing experience.
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Dinnertime: Jeremy, Mav avoiding the camera, and Jim
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We enjoyed some beautiful alpenglow over Mt. Ritter:
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Day 2 (Sept. 11)

Lisa: “Looks stable here.”
Jeremy: “What??”
Lisa: “Looks stable.”
Jeremy: “Sorry, can’t hear you over the rockfall.”

I rose at 6:25 for our first actual search day. It warmed up quickly. Jim cooks up something in the camp kitchen while the rising sun lights up the Minarets:
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Because Matthew had all of his snow and ice gear with him when he disappeared, our search this year was concentrated on routes up Mt. Ritter that involve snow crossings. This meant that each day, we would be climbing up to a different glacier and examining the runout area beneath it. Late season is the strategic time to do this, as this is when snowmelt and shifting rock is most likely to have unearthed previously hidden pieces of Matthew's equipment. Today our objective was to search Norman Clyde’s “Clyde Variation” route that eventually hooks up with Mt. Ritter’s Southeast Glacier from the south. (Vaca Russ and I had explored the Clyde Variation in 2014.)

As we ascended the use trail above Ediza, two women packing up camp asked us where we were going. “Are you with HST, by any chance?” one of them asked. It was Shhsgirl (Christine) and her friend, doing a section of the Sierra High Route. Christine’s enthusiasm is contagious. After chatting happily, we took a group photo:
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Jeremy, Jim, Christine, Maverick, Oleander
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Because it was autumn – heavy into rockfall season – we all wore climbing helmets. (Actually, I wore my bicycle helmet, for which I got razzed, of course.) Halfway to the glacier, we took a rest on a rise overlooking Cecile Lake. A hazy smoke was visible to the south, but it wasn’t terrible:
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At the top of the approach to the Clyde Glacier, we took a different, more westerly route than Russ and I had pursued the year before. The moraine below the glacier was exactly as I had remembered it: Loose, unstable, and horrible. Mav and I went one way, Jim and Jeremy the other. I started a talus slide, and then further along, got in a fight with a boulder that gave me two painful bruises on my shins. We rounded the corner in time to see Jim skedaddling out of the path of a house-sized boulder above him that he said had been sliding.

Once we got over the worst rockpile of the moraine, the Clyde Glacier itself was somewhat more pleasurable to search, although rockfall was frequent and we were very deliberate and careful. The glacier had shrunk dramatically from its size in September 2014. The large crevasse at the top had disappeared. I was pleased that we had both more time and more people at our disposal this year. We were able to more thoroughly explore all the corners of the glacier and its outlet to our satisfaction.
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Clyde Glacier
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We did not actually make it as far as the Southeast Glacier today. The col above the Clyde Glacier looked rough and exposed; and we had reached turnaround time.

(to be continued)
Last edited by oleander on Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:57 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by oleander » Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:03 pm

Day 3 (Sept. 12)

This was my favorite day by far. We took the regular (non-Clyde) route to the Southeast Glacier. It was magnificently fun, offering up a somewhat steeper, but much less loose, route than yesterday. I very much enjoyed the bits of Class 3 climbing. Mav leapt well ahead of us. I asked Jeremy and Jim to note when I was making a climbing mistake. They are natural teachers.

Here is a photo (taken from cross-canyon) of the Southeast Glacier and its outlet. The route up to the glacier is an angled traverse from the left side of the photo.
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Southeast Glacier and its outlet
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Everyone was in high spirits.
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Jeremy and Jim in good spirits, en route to SE Glacier
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The strings of waterfalls we followed up the wall were quite beautiful.
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Jeremy taking a water break at a waterfall
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There was a nice view back to Nydiver and Ediza Lakes:
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Higher up, we could see Garnet Lake and in the distance, Mono Lake. We saw a juvenile ptarmigan, and seven deer.

Generally speaking, the search area for the Southeast Glacier route proper was much vaster than yesterday’s exploration of Clyde Glacier. While the guys continued up toward the glacier, I spent a long time exploring its steep outlet area, training my binoculars on places where I thought pieces of Matthew’s equipment might have lodged into rock after tumbling down stretches of waterfall. Then the boys called me up the hill, and we went to check out the glacier itself, which we found more aesthetic than the Clyde Glacier.
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Jim checks out the Southeast Glacier
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Jeremy and Mav
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The descent was just as fun as the ascent:
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Jim descending the Southeast Glacier route
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We came all the way down to the northwest shore of Ediza Lake before returning back to camp.
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Jeremy and Mav at Ediza Lake
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Returning to camp, we were happy to find Vaca Russ waiting for us. He would be joining us for the remaining days of the search. I filled him in on how Clyde Glacier has changed. As always, Russ had a multitude of compelling adventures over the past year to share, including a summit of Mt. Rainier. Russ (“Mylar Balloon Boy”) had found the balloon we’d hidden for him in camp.

My toe is a bit swollen and painful. Jim has the bigger problem – he has hyperextended his knee.

(to be continued)

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by oleander » Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:16 pm

Day 4 (Sept. 13)

At breakfast, we were riveted by a very large coyote that appeared on a granite outcropping above us. It howled and howled for the longest time – staring straight at us. It was spooky!

Unfortunately, Jim’s knee had only worsened overnight. Lamenting that he would not be useful for the search, Jim told us he would be walking out today and going home. Of course, we were all very disappointed to see him leave. Jim’s witty humor, warm presence and generous heart are a true joy to be around. [Later, Jim ran into HST’s Peaks and Potatoes, on her way in to join us that night. Unfortunately, she did not find our camp, so we never got to meet her. Potatoes – I’m really bummed about that, and we need to make sure we hook up next year!]

Today, for the first time, we split the search into two parties. Mav would go solo to explore the fall zone on the south side of Kehrlein Minaret, a place that (to our knowledge) had not been previously searched. It was a very long distance to the far side of Kehrlein and back; hence the decision to have the fast person among us go solo.

Meanwhile, Russ, Jeremy and I headed up to explore the glacier just below the Banner-Ritter Saddle. We walked up the valley between the two mountains, negotiated up a wall with some nice waterfalls, and dropped to the moraine and the glacier which is a bit hidden behind the waterfalls in this photo:
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Ritter-Banner Saddle
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The wall of waterfalls was not as steep as it looked. Strictly Class 2.

Russ en route:
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Another day, another glacier. Russ and Jeremy combing the runout area of the glacier below Ritter-Banner Saddle:
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After searching to our satisfaction, we sat down for a brief lunch, only to be interrupted by raindrops, and then hail. A glacial moraine with loose boulders is nothing you can rush down, but we did our best to get the heck out of there. We were back at camp at 3 p.m., just in time to dive into our tents for the approaching thunderstorm.

By evening, most of the tent cities down at Ediza had disappeared. The people who knew tomorrow’s weather forecast were clearing out. We remained in place. Around 6 p.m., a human coyote howl from the direction of Iceberg Lake announced Mav’s return from Kehrlein Minaret.

Day 5 (Sept. 14)

For the first time, it was quite cold in the morning. Mav allowed us all to sleep in. He told us we were done with our searching; the weather may not allow us safe access to the higher-altitude search areas. Instead, we would have a leisure day. The incoming clouds provided for some nice sunrise colors:
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Sunrise from base camp
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We decided to walk to Minaret Lake and back, via the usual route past Iceberg and Cecile Lakes. I had only done this route once, and it would be entirely new to Jeremy and Russ, so we were excited. Mav leads the charge around turquoise Iceberg Lake:
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The cloud cover lent the lake a more slate color in this photo of Russ and Jeremy:
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Jeremy climbs a use trail in the scree high above Iceberg Lake:
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Mav tops out near Cecile Lake:
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Cecile Lake looked as stark as I had remembered it:
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As we dropped from Cecile to Minaret Lake, heavy gusts of wind appeared. Mav said that the same had happened in this location yesterday, on his way to Kehrlein Minaret. Minaret Lake was uncommonly gloomy. Whitecaps swirled on the lake. We took a lunch break under the protection of a grove of trees, with a constant rain of pine needles, followed by drops of real rain. We beat a hasty retreat, reversing our steps back to camp:
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We leave Minaret Lake back to camp
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By the time we turned Cecile Lake, the rain was coming down in torrents. We returned to camp to find some of our tents on the verge of being swamped. It was chilly. Mav announced we had no choice but to pack up camp in haste and walk out a day early. Departing camp, we glimpsed a brand new coat of snow on the Minarets. Moving at three miles per hour, we made it back to the cars before dark.

Parting words

After two years of searching, we have yet to find a single bit of physical evidence pointing to Matthew’s location. Somehow that affected me more this year than last. We wanted to come up with something – anything - that could help bring some measure of peace and closure to Matthew’s family. But hope springs eternal.

I know that Maverick has personally been in touch with several HSTers - as well as members of other backpacking and climbing boards - about joining the third annual search, set for September 2016. This search will probably focus on the Minarets. Anyone who has Class 2-3 hiking skills, and/or climbing skills, may contact Mav for further information. You do not have to be a member of HST. Frankly, we need a lot more people! With more bodies, we could divide into different parties and cover a lot more ground.

As the only person who’s made both of the HST meet-ups and both HST searches in 2014 and 2015, I can tell you that it is the searches that give me more satisfaction and meaning. Although you might be inclined to think that the search for a missing person would be a somber affair, I assure you that we have a rockin’ good time. (Would Matthew have wanted otherwise?) This is a very fun group of HSTers, and on the September search we have many more days to hang out and get to know each other, compared to the July meet-ups. It is a “meet-up with a cause,” a bonding experience, and at the end of the day, it’s uplifting. Hiking with a purpose. Next year, please come!

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by LMBSGV » Sun Nov 15, 2015 8:44 pm

Wonderful trip report. It really gives a sense of what it was like. Also, I enjoy seeing the photos of everyone since I haven’t been able to participate in the meet-ups and searches due to work and family obligations. I am surprised that with all the climbing activity that goes on in the Minarets, Banner, and Ritter there has not been a single thing found that gives a clue about Matthew. Thanks for sharing this with the HST community.
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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by Rockyroad » Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:04 pm

Oleander, thanks for the great trip report. It looks like you just can't escape that hail! :)
Anyways, you make participation in the next search very compelling.

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by Hobbes » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:37 pm

That is a very beautiful write-up.

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by Shhsgirl » Wed Nov 18, 2015 8:38 pm

Thanks, Oleander, for a wonderful vicarious trip. Your descriptions of the climbs to the glaciers and the loose terrain made my hair prickle deliciously, especially reading it from the safety of my laptop. Meeting you guys was the highlight of my trip. We were discouraged and discontent, feeling that we had "failed" the High Route. Maverick's words, when I told him this, stayed with me--enjoy where you are when you are there, period. It was really a shot in the arm to run into you guys exactly when we did. Later the day we met you we ran into some young men who had just come down from Glacier Pass. One of them said he had seen Maverick coming up the Shadow Creek trail, and in this very fit young man's words, Maverick was really "bookin' it."

If I were younger and more able, I would join the searchers in a heartbeat. (My husband is 68, an old climber, and is chomping at the bit). I am very sure that Mr. Greene's family is comforted that someone cares enough to keep looking for him. The search itself is satisfying, covering interesting terrain, and slowly eliminating possibilities. I find my self puzzling over it, and can't help but think that with all the gear he had, some trace of it will show up somewhere if you are persistent.

The Marines have a tradition that no man is left behind. This tradition is lived out every day, and a Marine will die rather than leave a man, or his remains, behind. I can't think of a better way to spend time in the backcountry than in this worthy effort.

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by Jimr » Thu Nov 19, 2015 11:04 am

I can only echo Lisa's excellent parting words. Participating in two searches brings me a sense of giving that is immeasurable. To echo the words of Vaca Russ "If not me, then who?" When my son and I went overdue in 2012, I got a good glimpse of how family and friends are affected when their loved one goes missing. I've made donations to SAR as a way of saying thank you and help support their effort. Giving of my time and ability to help bring some closure takes it to a much deeper level. I feel it right down into my soul. All of the donations I could make would not compare to how I feel when I give of myself, because I can. "If not me, then who?"

When this year's search neared, I told myself "this is my last search". Then something happened. I can't explain it, but it started the week before the scheduled date and continued on until the first snow fell. A very deep caring, a bit of frustration and a lot of emotion. "If not me, then who?" I realized that this is not my last search, but it is my last search of Mt. Ritter. Full boar on the Minarets!

On the first meetup, I made some friends. On the first search, my friendships became close. On the second search, my friendships became intimate. As Lisa said, we have a rockin' good time. A lot of time to get to know each other, break bread, share stories, laugh, hug (if you want to). It becomes a bit of a collective soul, if you will. Having the experience of the Coyote howling and circling our camp was much more meaningful shared with my friends. Exploring every nook and cranny, climbing around on rocks, going to areas one would not normally go is a different and very satisfying experience for me. Reminds me of when I was a kid, exploring just because.

It is my deep desire that there is no search next year because that would mean evidence has been found and SAR is now involved. It is my deeper desire to experience this type of meetup with our HST members under different circumstances. Next year's meetup was designed with the appeal for those who participate to lay over a couple of days with this exact desire in mind (Thank you Mav). Hopefully, that is exactly what it will be.

“Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by maverick » Thu Nov 19, 2015 1:50 pm

Shhsgirl wrote:
The Marines have a tradition that no man is left behind. This tradition is lived out every day, and a Marine will die rather than leave a man, or his remains, behind.
Semper Fi, 6 years. :nod:

I think your being extremely modest about you abilities, over 90% of hikers stay on trail and do not explore off-trail, your doing part of the SHR this year is a testament to your abilities, and I am confident that you and your husband would be an invaluable asset in our search for evidence Christine.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member:

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Re: TR: Second annual HST citizen search for Matthew Greene

Post by Shhsgirl » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:27 am

I might not be modest about my abilities, but if you think a couple of older folks can help in any way, then we're in!

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