Report of the Safety Committee of the American Alpine Club, 1950

Publication Year: 1950.



The mountain accidents reported during 1949 from the English-speaking portions of North America have fortunately been fewer than those of the previous two seasons. Particularly striking is the fact that during 1949 only one of the fatal accidents reported occurred to a member of an organized mountaineering club. There were at least nine deaths from general mountain accidents, compared with eleven in 1947 and fifteen in 1948. Other accidents reported to this Committee have likewise diminished in number, but unfortunately not in seriousness. Although not all the accidents of last season may be classified as mountaineering accidents, each of them forces a reiteration of fundamental rules of mountain safety.

The apparent lessening of accidents indicates that the safety programs of various regional clubs have succeeded in increasing consciousness of safety, but this is certainly no reason for slacking oft the campaign. It is urgent that each organization continue its current safety program with undiminished effort so that new members, especially, will gain benefits from not-to-be- forgotten lessons which have been learned the tragically hard way. Perhaps even more important at this juncture is an enlarged program designed to make the public aware of the problem, so that persons not associated with mountain clubs will realize some of the fundamental principles of safe travel in the hills. An excellent outline for such a campaign has been prepared by the Mountain Safety and Rescue Council of Washington. A synopsis is included at the end of this report.

It is significant that all the fatal accidents reported in the following pages occurred to young men between the ages of 17 and 21. Eight of these nine had had practically no mountaineering experience, and six were not members of any organized group. Each of these cases shows the need for making it as easy as possible for young men to obtain guidance and indoctrination. When the younger folks really get the urge to do some difficult climbing, it is the urgent responsibility of any person knowing about their enthusiasm to direct them into an organized group to learn fundamentals. Parents as well as their children should be made aware of this need.

From the above it would seem that the best service individual mountaineers can render in this matter during the coming months is to carry on an active public relations job, pointing out to the layman what mountaineering actually is, and showing interested but inexperienced persons what attitudes are essential if they are to avoid the difficulties which inexperience usually breeds.

With the firm base formed by active safety programs within the various clubs, it is now the responsibility of each such organization to aid in the extension of this public relations program by fostering articles in local newspapers and magazines, and perhaps even by stimulating public indoctrination through radio channels . Because much of the literature published in club journals and bulletins is perused by outsiders, it also behooves the editors to criticize carefully all material used, with an eye to exemplary presentation of mountain techniques and a commendable philosophy concerning the sport. This is probably the best way to counter a dangerous attitude toward “bagging peaks” and a “competitive spirit” which has arisen among some of the younger present-day American mountaineers.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service are already keenly aware of the need for a carefully worked out public educational program and are making strides in this direction through sponsorship of local mountain indoctrination schools and even the production of motion picture films for public showing. It is, of course, most important that such agencies, government and civilian alike, coordinate and cooperate fully in their safety programs for the increased effectiveness of the National Mountaineering Safety Campaign, which has been so we 11 begun. For this reason, in addition to a summary of known accidents for 1949, a few notes are presented in the following pages concerning what some of the more active organizations have been doing during recent months. Light is also thrown on special programs encountered in certain areas.

Maynard M. Miller, Chairman Ome Daiber

Benjamin G. Ferris, Jr,

John Fralick

M. Beckett Howorth

Hans Kraus

Richard M. Leonard