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In the News - Friday, JUNE 9, 2006

 

The Kaweah River's Middle Fork during Spring 2006 runoff.

 

KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARK:

Mountaineer killed

in Kings Canyon

   The mountains were her life and they are where her life ended. Out of the 247 most notable summits in the Sierra Nevada range, Patricia Rambert, 57, of Laguna Hills had “bagged” 208 of them.
   Closing in on her peak-bagging goal, it was Mount Mendel in Kings Canyon National Park that proved deadly for this Orange County mother of two. She devoted at least six months out of every year to hiking and climbing.
   On Wednesday, May 31, Patty and her hiking partner, Tina Bowman, 52, also an experienced climber, were within 300 feet of the 13,710-foot summit when they reached a cornice and made the decision to turn around due to the unsafe snow conditions. The duo was on the mountain’s east face, using a Class 3 route, which is a rating that in climbers’ language means, generally, steep terrain that requires the finding and testing of handholds and footholds.
   According to reports, Bowman had gone ahead to scout the route down when she heard Patty yell. Bowman turned to see that Patty --who had on crampons and a helmet -- had slipped on a snowbank and was attempting to self-arrest, but was unsuccessful.
   She slid down the steep snowfield about 200 feet before plunging over the side of the mountain another 100 feet. After climbing down to her friend, Bowman determined that the fall had been fatal.
   She then hiked five hours before she was able to call the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office. Her second phone call was to Patty’s husband, Carl.
   On Thursday, June 1, a three-person team of technical search-and-rescue rangers from Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks was flown to Mount Mendel by helicopter. The crew recovered Patty’s body by early evening.
   Rick Fraser of Three Rivers met Patty in the early 1990s, just as she was discovering her passion for climbing. Rick was the scoutmaster for an Orange County troop in which the Ramberts’ son was a member.

  “Patty was an energetic person with loads of enthusiasm,” said Rick. “She later encouraged our troop to enter into a rock-climbing program at a local indoor climbing gym.”
   Mount Mendel, as readers may recall, is the location where, in the fall of 2005, two ice-climbers discovered the frozen remains of a U.S. Army airman, the victim of a 1942 plane crash. The mountain is located on the Glacier Divide just east of Evolution Lake and the John Muir Trail in the northernmost reaches of Kings Canyon National Park, but is most often accessed from the North Lake trailhead on the Sierra’s east side.
   Patty, an active member in the Sierra Club, was known as an experienced and safety-oriented climber in this sport that by its nature carries a high degree of risk. In addition to her husband, Patty is survived by her daughter, Heather, 28, and son and daughter-in-law Ryan, 26, and Michelle, and a three-year-old granddaughter.
A memorial gathering is planned for Saturday, June 24, in Joshua Tree National Park. For more information, leave a message at (760) 366-4823.
As is routine, the cause of Patty’s fall is under investigation by the National Park Service. The Sierra Club may also review the incident because the trip was an official club outing.

LAKE KAWEAH:

Water over the dam

On Tuesday, June 6, Lake Kaweah breached the new spillway for the first time. The approximately 190,000 acre feet of water is the largest storage ever recorded at the reservoir that was built in 1962 and enlarged in 2004.

ELECTION 2006:

Three Rivers sends

primary message

   In a primary election that some say is an outdated method of choosing candidates, there was little excitement for Tulare County voters. The overall turnout of 28 percent is part of a national trend as voters demonstrate a lack of interest in any ballot without a presidential race or an American Idol contestant.
   But Three Rivers marches to the beat of a different drum circle and despite a low turnout makes their collective voice heard. This election was no different as they defied the rest of Tulare County and actually reversed the two-to- one margin of victory for incumbent Bill Wittman in the race for Sheriff-Coroner. Three Rivers voted instead by the same margin and more for Woodlake’s chief of police John Zapalac.
   From the very outset, Zapalac campaigned on the issue that outlying areas like Three Rivers are underserved and that it is time for a change. Evidently, local voters agreed with Zapalac, voting two-to-one for the challenger.
   A few days before the election, Zapalac said it was unfortunate that more voters did not have the opportunity to experience a forum with the two candidates like the one held in Three Rivers on May 22.

  “Since we were in Three Rivers, he [Sheriff Wittman] canceled two other appearances that we were scheduled to make together,” said Zapalac.
   All three Woodlake precincts and Zapalac’s own Lemon Cove precinct also gave the nod to the challenger, but the Three Rivers margin of nearly 70 percent was the highest of any of the local communities.
   Countywide, Wittman garnered 65 percent of the vote, drawing heavily on support of the Visalia area where he was a policeman for three decades. He was first elected as Tulare County’s sheriff in 1994.
   Zapalac pledged that in the event of an emergency in Three Rivers, his Woodlake department would be willing and able to respond.

  “If for some reason no county deputies are able to respond in a reasonable time we would be willing to help and pay the necessary overtime,” Chief Zapalac said.
   Three Rivers voted an overwhelming “No” on both ballot propositions. Democrats in Three Rivers opted for the more conservative Steve Westly in the race for governor, but statewide Phil Angelides got the highest number of the votes and will face off against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in the fall.
   Rev. Warren Mark Campbell, American Independent Party candidate for State Controller and a local resident of Kaweah, received 240 votes in Tulare County. Campbell said his campaign, being waged primarily on the Internet, will pick up the pace prior to the November general election.
   That election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 7. Local issues will include Three Rivers and Woodlake High school board races.

HIGHWAY 198:

Driver using

cell phone

causes wreck

   It’s a fact that talking on the cell phone while driving can have serious consequences. There’s even legislation pending to make it illegal. A recent accident lent more evidence that something needs to be done.
   The traffic mishap occurred last Thursday shortly after 2 p.m. James Moody, 57, of Visalia was driving a 2000 Chevy pickup approximately 55 mph eastbound on Sierra Drive approaching the Holiday Inn Express.

  “I guess I became frustrated by another dropped call and didn’t realize I had drifted across the centerline,” Moody said. “The next thing I knew I was off the roadway and into the bushes.”
   What caused Moody to careen off to the north side of the highway was a glancing blow from a 1996 Geo Prism being driven westbound by Carol Huelding, 44, of Kettlemen City. Huelding’s vehicle spun out and ended up perpendicular along the south shoulder.
   Huelding was badly shaken but not seriously injured. Moody, who just missed driving into the front room of an unoccupied riverfront cottage, said he was relieved that the worse thing that happened was the damage to Huelding’s car.
   A CHP investigator at the scene determined that Moody was at fault in the accident. Officer Travis, a CHP spokesperson in the Visalia office, said that because there were no witnesses Moody was not cited.

THREE RIVERS PEOPLE:

Theft spurred

by gas prices

   If rising gas prices aren’t enough to infuriate the typical motorist, consider what happened to Eva Ban. Eva, a longtime Three Rivers resident, wanted to tell her story in the hope that other potential victims be forewarned.
   For more than a decade, Eva has been leaving her vehicle in the long-term parking lot at the Hanford train station during her various travels. On this occasion, apparently a gas thief siphoned the precious petrol from her tank while she away on vacation.

  “When I returned on May 19th from a recent trip I didn’t really notice anything unusual,” Eva said. “But the next day I was already driving on empty. I thought it wasn’t right that it took an entire tank of gas to get to Hanford and back home [100 miles].”
   Eva remembered filling up at Three Rivers Chevron on the way to Hanford. She asked Dennis Reisinger, the station’s owner, to check out the problem.

  “Dennis discovered that some type of hose had been placed in my tank for siphoning gas,” Eva said. “I not only lost some gas but it also damaged the neck opening to the tank.”
   Eva paid the $22 repair bill but has opted not to go to the expense of a locking gas cap.

  “I’d have a hard time remembering another key anyway,” Eva said, “I guess I’m just hoping that it won’t happen twice.”
   A spokesperson for the Hanford Police Department said that the Amtrak parking lot is well lighted and patrolled by both Hanford officers and the CHP. Unfortunately, the high cost of gasoline is making some folks very desperate, he said, and the siphoning problem is likely to get even worse.

Prescribed burn at

Kaweah Oaks Preserve

   This morning (Friday, June 9), the Sequoia Riverlands Trust will ignite 39 acres of grassland amidst the valley oaks at Kaweah Oaks Preserve. The preserve is located just north of Highway 198, one mile west of Highway 65 (Exeter four-way stop sign).
   The burn will be visible from Highway 198, so fire officials are warning that drivers use extra caution when in the vicinity. A couple of trails will be closed, but the preserve will remain open.
   This is the first fire in over 100 years on land now protected by the preserve and this has led to high fuel levels. Sequoia Riverlands Trust is reintroducing managed fire to the landscape as part of a 10-year restoration project.
   The burning will increase the diversity of native plant species and assist with the control of non-native species such as the thistle that is becoming prevalent on the landscape throughout Tulare County.

RED HAT SOCIETY:

Hang on to your hat

   On Saturday, May 27, the Three Rivers chapter of the Red Hat Society hosted members from Hanford, Porterville, Exeter, and Visalia. Close to 100 women were in attendance at the Lions Arena and treated to a fun-filled luncheon prepared and served by the Three Rivers Lions Club.

  The purpose of the social club is to wear red hats, purple clothing, and have fun. Prizes were awarded for the smallest, largest, funniest, prettiest, cutest, most unusual, best decorated, and the most “floozy” Red Hats.

 
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
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