On Saturday, July 25, 2009, Janice Rea made her spiritual transition from our world. In a tragic accident, she fell to her death. Janice was 66 years young, and left behind her son Damon, daughter-in-law Andrea, grandchildren Helena and Riley, and Jim Dohn, the love of her life.
Janice had over 500 numbers in her Blackberry, mostly of people she sponsored or assisted in living sober, free lives. She touched literally thousands of people with her joy, love and aliveness. Her answering machine message says it all, “Hi, it’s Janice Rea. I love my life! Leave a message.”
There will be a memorial service at 4148 Lakewood Dr. Lakewood CA 90712 Saturday, August first at 1:30 pm. Map Inter via Harvey Way off Lakewood Blvd. Bring food.
Donations are being sought to help defray the cost of Search & Rescue and other extraordinary expenses being left to her family. Donations can be made to Janice Rea via paypal -----
This is Jim writing, and here is the story of what happened that day, from my perspective, as I was on the hike as well.
Janice was a graduate of the Sierra Club Wilderness Training, and was very experienced at high altitude hiking and climbing. That day, she was hiking with five of her good friends from her recovery groups, in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
We arrived Thursday afternoon to set up camp and begin the acclimation process to operating at high altitude. Friday morning we separated into two groups, the quicker stronger group, and the older slower group, and hiked around the Cottonwood basin for the day. This is at approximately 11,000 ft, and is necessary to acclimate. The Old Army Pass appeared to be snow bound at the top and we had decided to not go until we met a group of Boy Scouts and another experienced mountain climber, all of whom said it was easily passable.
Saturday morning we got up early to go over the pass onto 14,000 ft Mt Langley.
We left Muir Lake at about 6:30 am to attempt the climb via the Old Army Pass. The pass trail goes up a steep canyon wall from about 11,000 ft. to an altitude of over 12,000 ft, over a distance of about a mile of switchbacks along the canyon wall.
We kept the group together with Janice and I in the rear to get past the snow and the steep climb. We made it through to the top of the pass with a several hour hike to the peak of Mt. Langley still ahead of us. Because of the altitude, she and two other members of the group, Dave and Gretchen, decided to take a slower pace, with the three remaining members going on ahead. Janice kissed me good bye, with a cheery “Have fun,” and we agreed to rejoin on the way down.
Marriane, Kendall and I made it to the top, and started back down to encounter Dave and Gretchen, who told us that Janice had stopped along the trail and was waiting for us there. This wasn’t unusual for Janice, as she always carried a book to read, should she decide to wait for us at some point on a hike.
We got a call from Janice on the walkie-talkie saying that she wanted to head on down the trail to where the snow was. We told her to wait where she was, and we’d all go down together, but shortly thereafter we received another call saying that she was through the snow. Again, we told her to wait for us, but the next call said that she was half way down. Once again, we told her to wait for us, but she did not.
The snowy part of the trail is scary and difficult, so we all decided to go back around to the dirt and rocks, and avoid the snow patch. About half way down, we got another call from Janice saying, “Help, I’m in trouble, trapped on a ledge.” We yelled for her to stay put, while I grabbed another walkie-talkie and yelled for her as I started running. I never got an answer.
The fall was approximately 200 feet on to rocks, with a slide over snow patches, and onto the canyon chute. I was running down the switchbacks yelling into the walkie-talkie. I could see the disturbance in the snow. I started climbing up the off-trail scree, talus and rock filled chute to get to whatever disturbed the snow.
When I got to her she was twisted, silent, and without a pulse. I couldn’t stop crying. Marrianne had a SPOT for satellite emergency response back at camp that she used to summon help, but we were so remote that when a helicopter arrived three hours later, it was too late to get her out that night. We had to wait for that until Sunday morning.
Saturday night was the longest night of my life. My head was filled with “what if” and “why” and “only if.” I kept hearing Janice’s voice in my head saying, “Hi, this is Janice Rea, I love my life!” That is what is left for me. I Love My Life!
We hiked out on Sunday, and were interviewed by Inyo Search and Rescue before proceeding to the Coroner’s office in Lone Pine to be interviewed again.
I want to acknowledge Lt. Keith Hardcastle of Inyo County Search and Rescue for his loving and thorough attention to detail, and his heartfelt mannerism. I also wish to acknowledge Jeff Mullenhour, the Coroner, for his 46 years on the job as well as his kind and patient way with us. I am truly grateful for these angels.
Janice would be saying “Stay in your heart, and find someone to help,” and she’d be saying it with a lotta love.