American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Montana, Glacier National Park, Mt. Wilbur (circa 9,500 ft.)

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

Montana: Glacier National Park, Mt. Wilbur (circa 9,500 ft.) On 11 July 1950 four young men from Tulsa, Oklahoma (Chester Cadieux, Robert Stokes, Dick Hughes and John Fields) were campers at Many Glacier Camp Ground in the Swiftcurrent Valley. The next day they planned to hike to Iceberg Lake; and, without consulting any Park Service employee for information, they started out. They took Swiftcurrent Trail by mistake. Somewhere in the vicinity of Red Rock Lake they met a hiker who told them Iceberg Lake was directly behind Mt. Wilbur. After travelling part way round the face and halfway up from the base of the mountain, they decided the route was too hazardous and so turned back. On the descent Stokes slipped on a patch of snow and was killed in the subsequent fall, estimated at 700 feet. A rescue party of three rangers and 9 other men provided with mountaineering equipment reached the body the following day. Under the guidance of three of the rescue group, who were experienced climbers, the body was brought up a vertical chimney to a comparatively level spot and then moved on a fixed rope 120 feet across a crevasse to the snow field. This work required nearly two days, plus a night of tedious step chopping up the snow field. Three additional men were brought in to aid the evacuation and as a result on the afternoon of July 14th they were able to bring the body out to the Swiftcurrent cabin camp.

A regular Park Service PTR radio was used at Many Glacier Ranger Station and a Signal Corps PTA set was in operation at the base of the snow field, the site of the rescue operation. Regular schedulaes were maintained every half-hour for purposes of coordination.

Source of information: copy of official National Park Service report supplied by G. W. Miller, Acting Superintendent of Glacier National Park.

Analysis. Another tragic lesson. Inexperience and apparently lack of adequate appreciation of the dangers attending a slip on steep snow slopes with rocks and cliffs below. These boys were just out for a hike. They had insufficient experience to realize fully the problems in taking a shortcut across a steep and unfamiliar mountain slope.

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