American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Mt. Jefferson (3)

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1955

Mt. Jefferson (3)—On September 6, 1954, William Morley (24) and Sam Morley (20) ascended Mt. Jefferson from Pamelia Lake despite the comments of bad weather from three other parties, who were descending. They reached the red saddle (10,000 ft.) at the base of the summit pinnacle. Because of disagreement as to which horn was the higher, Sam started up the south horn and William, with the rope, went up the north horn. On the way up the south horn, Sam slipped but his boot wedged in a crack and arrested his fall, which left him upsidedown. Using his ice axe and with great effort, he freed himself and completed the ascent. Since the other horn was higher, he continued on to it where he joined his brother. The brothers were close together near the summit. Sam, who had his back to William, heard a muffled sound and turned to see that his brother had disappeared. William had been standing on a rock and apparently the strong wind had thrown him off balance and he fell to his death. Sam descended and located the body. He attempted to move the body but abandoned this and returned to report the accident. The body lay in a couloir bombarded by frequent rock falls which made the evacuation dangerous. It involved approximately 60 men and required three days.

Source: John Biewener who talked with members of the rescue team and with Mrs. Morley.

Analysis: A rope would probably have prevented Sam’s near fatal fall. If the climbers had realized the danger of the strong wind and had tied themselves to a firm belay, the second fall might have been prevented. William should not have exposed himself unnecessarily to the strong winds.

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