American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Olympics, Washington: (2) South Brother

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1949

Olympics, Washington: (2) South Brother. On 2 October 1948 a party of Bremerton High School students went into the Brothers Peaks. On the 3rd some of them attempted the South Peak, but most turned back a short distance from the summit because of rain and fatigue. Two decided to go on to the top, which they believed to be not far distant. These were Robert Thorson (17) and Jerry Heacock. Heavy fog and rain made visibility poor, and the two lost their way, but the survivor thought they reached the summit. Having failed to regain contact with the others, they spent the night on the mountain. At daybreak they started down, still off the regular route; and about 500 feet below the summit Thorson slipped and fell headfirst some 50 feet or more. He was instantly killed. A large rescue party reached the body 24 hours after the accident and, 20 hours later, returned it to the road.

Sources of information: newspaper accounts, and reports from members of the rescue party.

Analysis. A case that emphasizes the need for proper education and some supervised training of prospective enthusiastic climbers. The youths were unroped and poorly equipped—Thorson’s boots had only two or three Tricounis and a few loose hobs. The area in which the accident occurred is descrihed by one of the rescuers as a series of cliffs and ledges joined by chimneys or gullies. The party separated below the summit, in rain and fog. Certainly, in deciding to wait for daybreak before descending, Thorson and Heacock did show good judgment.

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