American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Alaska Coast Range

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1950

Alaska Coast Range. On 16 June 1949 Fred Ayres, a member of a party of climbers organized by Fred Beckey, of Seattle, slipped and broke his ankle on a steep, glacier-scoured rock slope about 1100 feet above the waters of Twin Glacier Lake in the Taku River district. Two men remained with him while the remaining two members of the party cut their way across the heavily crevassed West Twin Glacier and hiked to the Taku River for help. Fortunately, these men were able to attract the attention of persons at a cabin across the broad river near tidewater, and thus help was summoned by radio to Juneau. Subsequently, two airplane flights to Twin Glacier Lake brought in rescue personnel. Ayres was lowered bit by bit to the precipitous shore of the lake by use of climbing rope, and from there he was flown to a hospital in Juneau, where he remained for several weeks.

Analysis. This is not strictly a mountaineering accident, although it occurred in a rugged mountain area to an experienced mountaineering group. Although it is the type of accident which is within the realm of the legitimate risk on such a trip, it nevertheless points out the need for caution by experienced and inexperienced alike, and not only at high levels, but on lower and what would appear to be easy slopes as well. Since more and more expeditionary mountaineering is in the offing, the accident focuses timely attention on this recommendation: it is advisable for mountaineering parties in Alaska, just as at Yosemite or Rainier, to inform local authorities of their plans, and to make prior arrangements with other agencies which might by necessity be called upon in the event of accident. A system of emergency signals should also be prepared in advance. In this context, the headquarters office of the U.S. Forest Service in Juneau, which has jurisdiction over the Tongass National Forest in Southeastern Alaska, has requested that any future mountaineering parties in the Juneau, Petersburg or Ketchikan area make contact through official channels so that effective rescue procedures may be organized in advance. And finally, once an Alaskan mountaineering group gets into the field, it should, if possible, have some kind of communication with the outside world because, in Dr. Ayres’ own words, “a party without airplanes or radio would have a tough time getting through a call for help.”

This ANAM article has been reformatted into HTML. Please contact us if you spot an error.