American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Washington, Beacon Rock, Near Columbia River

  • Accident Reports
  • Accident Year:
  • Publication Year: 1958

Washington, Beacon Rock, near Columbia River—On Wednesday, February 6, at about noon, Robert J. Boyle (24) decided to try a one-man descent of the N.W. face of 840 foot Beacon Rock. Upon arriving at the base of the rock he gathered his gear, which consisted of one 100 foot piece of climbing rope, snaplinks, pitons, piton hammer, a special device he called a toggle, and 100 feet length of 1/8 inch nylon line. With this and his climbing clothing he walked up the trail to the base of the beacon, which is on top.

He apparently thought that by using a toggle and the 1/8 inch line he could rappel the full length of his rope, then pull the toggle out and let the rope down to him. This method worked quite well for three lengths (300 feet), but while going down the fourth length the 1/8 inch line became snagged around a small stub and fouled the line. Not knowing this, Boyle continued to his rope’s length. He found that he was about 10 feet from a small ledge upon which a tree was growing. He dropped to the ledge and pulled his line secured to the toggle to release his climbing rope, and found that the 1/8 inch line was fouled. He found himself 10 feet below his rope and no way to get either up or down.

After waiting for four and a half hours he attracted the attention of Mrs. Clarence Rudhe, wife of the Beacon Rock forester. After attempts by the forester and members of the Cascade Locks Police force failed, the sheriff at Hood River, Oregon, was called. He in turn called the Alpinees and Crag Rats. They were dispatched from the Hood River sheriff’s office at 2240, crossed the Columbia River, and drove on icy roads to reach Beacon Rock about 2310. The Mountain Rescue and Safety Council in Portland was also notified and their rescue team arrived at 2400.

Boyle all this time was perched on the cliff behind a small tree, with his rope above his head—out of reach. The wind was from the east and very cold and sharp. The rocks were wet and covered with moss, besides being loose.

The seven man Hood River Alpinee team, the four-man Hood River Crag Rat team, and later the MRSCO team from Portland, hiked up the trail to the summit of Beacon Rock. The cliff was lighted by spot lights powered by the Alpinees light plant, and with auxiliary car spots. Radio communication between the top and bottom of Beacon Rock was established.

Ray Barney (Alpinee) was snapped into the cable system of the Alpinees and started over the cliff, followed by Abe Howell on 120 feet of nylon. Dave

Hitchcock (Mazama) followed Abe Howell on 120 feet and upon getting beside Abe, belayed Abe another 120 feet. This put Abe 240 feet from the top, Hitchcock 120 feet down. Glenn March and Bob Sheppard (Crag Rats) followed the same procedure a little to the south. Ray Barney was steadily descending via the cable. When Barney was down 360 feet and found that Boyle was unhurt, it was decided to evacuate Boyle up the cable. Barney slid the cable down to Boyle. Then Boyle snapped onto the cable, following Barney’s instruction.

A five man pull crew on top hoisted on the line and snatched Boyle upward from his perch. The 5/32 inch steel cable was also used to pull up Barney and Howell. The others climbed up.

The rescue was complete at 0330, Thursday morning.

Source: Jack Baldwin, V. Josendal.

Analysis: This lone climber was fortunate to have attracted the attention of a person on the ground who notified the authorities. He was also very fortunate to have such well equipped and experienced mountain rescue organizations come to his aid so promptly.

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