This has got to be the saddest story I’ve seen in a while. It breaks my heart to no end.
I was watching it a bit on the local and national news, last night, and thinking to myself: no chance they’re finding him alive. Sad story, especially when you consider that had he just sat tight, he’d be warm at home with his wife and two daughters this moment. And now, for all the four of them, that will never happen again for the remainder of human history.
Mistakes, even slightly to perfectly innocent ones, can be extremely costly. I don’t know where on the scale I’d put the error that caused this tragedy, but the error was a long time (a week) before James Kim set out on his doomed trek to find help for his family. But setting out, as he did? It was the only decision a man could make, in that moment. He had no idea that rescue was forthcoming, within two days. It wouldn’t have mattered if rescue had come 10 minutes after he’d set out. He knew that if they were not rescued soon, his children would freeze to death and he and his wife would follow. They had been there for a week (just imagine that) when he set out. He had no real basis to believe that a rescue would take place before it became a four-body recovery.
He had no good options. He choose the best one of the lot of awful alternatives. It might have worked out, but it didn’t, for him — or for his family, where husbands and fathers are concerned.
The error came a week earlier, when they either took a wrong turn, or attempted a "shortcut" to get over the coastal range and onto I5 in order to make their way more quickly home to San Francisco. There’s a lot of elements, but essentially, the mistake that cost him his life was to proceed on when he’s climbing, without opposing traffic, no snow clearing equipment, and no civilization. Temperature drops an average of 5 degrees per thousand feet, and being a coastal range, the air is going to be laden with moisture, which means that the precipitation (snow) will only become more severe the higher you go, will stick better to the pavement, and you can soon find yourself beyond any ability to turn back. But in a nice warm car with headlights on, the radio or iPod blaring, kids laughing in the back, it’s actually hard to come to the realization that you have just passed the point of no return and have entered a death trap.
Be careful out there.
James Kim can, should, and I can’t but suppose will be remembered as a real man who made a mistake, but then did only what such a man would do.