American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Sierra Nevada: (3) Twin Peaks (8294 ft.), above Lake Tahoe, California

  • Accident Reports
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1948

Sierra Nevada: (3) Twin Peaks (8924 ft.), above Lake Tahoe, California. On 14 August 1947 Emmett Pettit, an easterner 23 years old, previously acquainted with a few climbs in the Canadian Rockies, was killed by a fall from a rock face. He was one of a party of six which had started from Tahoe with Hans Reiss as guide. The party had climbed the basin N. of Twin Peaks on easy slopes and was following a trail which led to the summit. Pettit insisted on breaking away from the party, against the objection of the guide, in order to take a shortcut. He stated that he would either return to the trail and catch up with the party, or else join it on the summit. Apparently he attempted to climb an almost vertical rock face alone. Members of the party thought they heard a rock fall on the face and, after waiting for some time on the summit, became alarmed. Having descended to the basin, Pettit’s fiancée found his broken body at the base of the cliff. Presumably he had fallen several hundred feet.

Sources of information: newspaper accounts, statements by friends of the victim, and the official report of the U. S. Forest Service.

Analysis. Here is a tragic consequence of climbing alone. It is understood that this was not Pettit’s first solo climb. Evidently he was unwilling to take the advice of the guide. Of course, the latter could have made a drastic move, such as calling off the climb. Whether the climber’s failure to recognize his limitations, or loose rock on the face he was attempting to climb caused the fatality, cannot be known.

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