American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Utah—Wasatch Mountains

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1954

Utah—Wasatch Mountains: On January 31, 1953, Arthur Owen (25), Fred Payne (19) and Jack Payne (17) started on a ski mountaineering trip up White Pine Canyon intending to bivouac at timberline and to climb the “Matterhorn of the Wasatch” the next day. The party was well equipped and Owen was an experienced ski mountaineer. They reached their bivouac site two and one half hours from the road and the next day set out for their climb. They were under the impression they were in Red Pine Canyon which is the route to the Matterhorn. After climbing over a couple of ridges, they realized their error and decided to give up the ascent and return to the road. While skiing down a slope into White Pine Canyon, Owen hit some heavy snow and broke his leg (later reports showed both bones above the ankle were broken). A crude toboggan was improvised from skis and the climbing rope, and Owen was dragged to the bivouac site. One of the Payne brothers then set out for help. On the way down he fell and wrenched his knee but he alerted the Forest Service who sent in a rescue party.

Source: Edward La Chapelle.

Analysis: Apparently a true accident but it demonstrates a real danger of ski mountaineering. Such an accident on a slope with a ski patrol is not dangerous. In the back country it is.

La Chapelle comments that in this rescue they did not take a standard rescue toboggan because of the weight, and an improvised toboggan from skis is not too satisfactory. For general ski-mountaineering rescue work he feels that a Swiss toboggan is best. It is a simple sheet of plywood turned up at the front and reinforced with ash runners. It is very light and easily

packed by one man. The victim’s skis and poles can be lashed to it to serve as forward handles and a rope to a following skier gives excellent control.

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