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California, Sierra Nevada

California, Sierra Nevada—On June 28, 1956 John Brinkmann (15) was injured while climbing the NE ridge of University Peak. The party was led by Scoutmaster Jim Fairchild, who had had mountain experience with the Sierra Club; the climbing party consisted of six. In addition, there was a doctor in camp. The party was on the mountain in good weather, following the easiest route up the NE ridge. The leader had a rope and various emergency equipment; the rope was not being used at the time of the accident, because the terrain did not seem to justify it. Brinkman was following behind several others. At one point the climber in front of him, who was slightly heavier than Brinkmann, pulled himself up onto a ledge by grasping a 70-pound boulder. Brinkmann grasped the boulder, which felt solid, and started to pull himself up; he does not remember exactly how he pulled on the rock, but the only alternative route at that point was to one side, on steep snow. Brinkmann’s father, who was with the group and examined the place, concurs that there was no alternative. The boulder suddenly came loose and fell on top of Brinkmann, injuring him chiefly in the chest. Evacuation was performed by the party and packers operating in the area. Brinkmann’s father praised Fairchild’s experience, judgment, and performance throughout.

Source: Interview of John Brinkmann and Mr. G. H. Brinkmann by D. Harrah. Newspaper account.

Analysis: (D. Harrah). One could argue that the party should have been roped, but on the other hand this sort of mishap occurs to climbers in terrain where no rope would be used; it looks like “just one of those things.” The party was in a strong position as far as rescue necessities go, with plenty of manpower near at hand, a doctor in camp, and a rope for lowering the injured man.