American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Colorado, Torreys Peak (14,264 ft.)

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1951

Colorado: (6) Torreys Peak (14,264 ft.). On 16 July 1950 Bill Bueler, 16, and James Kumkle, 34, were injured during their descent from this mountain. They had just completed an easy ascent of Grays Peak (14,274 ft.), having climbed it in 2 1/2 hours. They reached the summit at 9 A.M. The summit of near-by Torreys Peak (the fifth highest in Colorado) was attained an hour later, and the descent begun at 10:35 A.M. Five hundred feet below the top they started down a snowbank (about 45 degrees) and commenced to glissade. Both were injured when the snowbank, which narrowed at its base to about 10 feet in width, ended in a cleft in the rocks. Kumkle, from a sitting glissade, suffered only a badly bruised knee and cut leg. Bueler, who had an ice-axe and had attempted a standing glissade, lost complete control. After hitting the rock walls of the cleft many times on what (according to Bueler) “ must have been an icy slope of at least 60 degrees,” he landed partially on his head on a tiny ledge. He was unconscious for about 15 minutes. The head wound later required three stitches.

Source of information: Bueler himself; and the Colorado Mountain Club.

Analysis. These men report that they had no intention of going down such a slope - - in and below the cleft - - but that they simply got hopelessly out of control on the easier slope above. A third member of the party, Amy Clapp, descended without injury by way of the cliffs on the sides of the gully. The party admits that none of them was experienced, although each had made several more difficult ascents prior to this time.

These two men admit that they failed to study this portion of the route sufficiently well before starting their glissades to be appraised of the danger. Too much emphasis cannot be placed on the necessity for thorough route study before every ascent or descent.

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