American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Tetons, Wyoming: (1) Nez Perce

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

Tetons, Wyoming: (1) Nez Perce. On 5 July 1948 Winthrop Akin and Ben Pedrick, members of the Kachina Mountain Club, of Phoenix, Arizona, climbed Nez Perce from Jenny Lake by the usual route (west ridge and north face). They reached the summit at 12.45 P.M. While Pedrick was signing the register, Akin unroped and moved south of him, in order to take a photograph. While he was getting into position, he stepped on a large, loose rock on the edge. It tipped, or slid under his weight, and precipitated him into space. He fell approximately 80 feet, and on the way his head struck a projection with such force that he was instantly killed. After hitting solid ground, his body rolled for some distance. Pedrick climbed down and ascertained that Akin was dead. He then regained the summit and, in three hours, descended to Jenny Lake, where he reported the accident. Akin was 20 years old.

A recovery party under John de la Montagne left Jenny Lake at 4.00 A.M. on July 6th, located the body at 2.00 P.M., wrapped it in canvas, and raised it to the summit. A crew of eight and a relief crew of three lowered it thence to Garnet Canyon. It was then transported in a Stokes stretcher by horse to Jenny Lake, which was reached at 1.00 A.M. on the 7th.

Sources of information: National Park Service report, and letter from the president of the Kachina Mountain Club.

Analysis. No place on a steep mountain can be considered safe. Ordinary precautions are as necessary on the summit as elsewhere. The Kachinas are known to have paid a great deal of attention to proper training and safety in their local climbs, but unfortunately this is no permanent and sure preventive against human error.

The efficiency of the recovery team deserves special mention: it was due to forethought and to advance planning and training by the Park staff—a good example of what can be done in mountain areas by the Park organization. Also, the party lowering the body saved much time and effort by following the fall line throughout.

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