Several of the climbers were back at their lodge rooms by nine or 10 that night, but a few had more serious medical issues. Troy Smith was flown on yet another helicopter to Idaho for CT scans. He turned out to be O.K. but would be loopy for weeks. Betsy Smith lost the index finger on her right hand, where the charge had exited her body, killing all the tissue. The finger had to be amputated and stitched up. Her wristwatch had burned her left arm severely. The arm was so swollen that surgeons had to cut it to keep blood flowing into her left hand.
Only Alan Kline ended up in the ICU. He had burns across his back and probably should have died. The electricity that had coursed through him had torn his lungs slightly, allowing air to seep into his chest and put pressure on his heart, which was beating at only 35 beats per minute when he was admitted to the hospital. "The doctor who saw me told me I had more air in my chest than anyone he'd ever seen who wasn't dead," Kline says.
One year later Steven Tyler still can't hear as well, though he's not sure if that's all from the lightning or from turning 68. Most of the rest have made a full recovery, at least physically. Several have continued climbing; for Kline it's his livelihood. Others have foresworn it, or plan to do less ambitious hikes—all under blue skies, thank you very much. Asked if he'd attempt the Grand again, Mike Tyler says, "No. I think we got the message."
The ranger who coordinated the rescue from headquarters, Jim Springer, investigated why Oldenkamp's rope and harness hadn't broken his fall. Given the evidence he collected and reviewed, it appeared Oldenkamp might have passed the rope through a weaker loop on his harness, one not designed to take his weight. Or maybe the rope slipped out of the carabiner on his harness, which had been found unlocked. Or maybe, reaching the ledge, Oldenkamp had simply unclipped from the rope. Greg Sparks cannot accept this: He was right there, and he's as certain as he is alive that the rope was through the main loops on the front of Oldenkamp's harness.
"I must have tried various scenarios out in the garage a thousand times," says Barry Sparks, who had to explain Oldenkamp's death to his daughter Katie. "I can't make sense of why it didn't work."
Oldenkamp was devoted to God, and his family says his faith, and theirs, has helped them earn a measure of peace. "I still weep sometimes," his father, Bob Oldenkamp, says. "We weren't ready for him to go.... But I do know that in those mountains Brandon saw the best the Creator has ever made. And, in a heartbeat, he got to see Him who made it."