Monday, January 31, 2011

Death Clouds-A Book Report

Death Clouds
Mt. Baldy
By; Cathy Hubault

On a clear warm day November 16, 1958, six young scouts embarked on a hiking adventure to climb to the top of the tallest mountain in Southern Arizona called Old Baldy in the Santa Rita Mountain Range just South of Tucson. Three of the boys were having birthdays in November and thought this would be a perfect way to celebrate. They ranged in age from 11 to 16. This was not an officially sanctioned hike but the parents were told that it was. They were allowed to go. Others who wanted to join them were not allowed. Due to the tragic results there was more second guessing and blame spread around, none of which was of any use. Three of the boys died high up on the trail when the weather unexpectedly worsened in the early evening as they were climbing the last section, first with wind and rain and later with a heavy snowfall. Several feet fell on the mountain and six inches in Tucson which was enough to shut down the airport and make driving hazardous. Three of the younger ones gave up and returned to their base camp where they were found the next day and survived the ordeal. The other three were not found until several weeks passed after hundreds of hikers, scouts, ranchers and military personnel spent arduous days and nights trying to find and save them.
There is a permanent marker placed at Josephine Saddle near to where the bodies were found.
As an ardent hiker myself since arriving in Tucson I have climbed to the Saddle many times and on two occasions to the peak which is now named Mt. Wrightson. Every time seeing the memorial triggers conversation. Everyone it seems has a theory about it. At last month’s meeting of the Southern Arizona Hiking Club the featured speaker was Cathy Hufault. She was a young girl at the time. Her younger brother was one of those that survived. On the 50th anniversary a memorial service was held. One of the speakers was her older brother. She asked him to write a story. He declined but then persuaded her to do it. She agreed and spent countless hours searching for any who had taken part in the rescue attempt as well as family members and press. It is a riveting book with the day to day events explained as garnered from her research.
As she finished her talk she told us we would have to purchase a copy of her book to understand the facts of the last hours of these boys as they tried to save themselves. I bought the book. Now I know. You should buy your own and learn for yourselves.

Jack B. Walters
January 31, 2011

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