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Washington, Mt. Erie Practice Bluff

Washing ton, Mt. Erie Practice Bluff—On March 24, four members of The Mountaineers on a practice jaunt to Mt. Erie, decided to attempt the chute that can be seen from the road as a large crack in the main cliffs on the south side of the mountain. Near the foot of the chute the party roped up. Dick Savory and Bob Latz composed one team, while the other consisted of Ray Rigg and Leon Israel (30). With the exception of Savory, who nevertheless was an experienced climber, all of the party were graduates of the Intermediate Climbing Course.

After a moderately difficult climb up the first 30 feet of the chute, the party came to a narrow platform. Rigg and Israel waited at this point while the next pitch was being climbed by Savory and Latz. This platform, while narrow and exposed, did not appear to present any particular hazard, and as a result neither Rigg nor Israel were belayed. However, their rope was tossed behind a solid protruding rock.

Israel, who had been standing at an uncomfortable angle on the platform, decided to change his position. He stepped up a way and in stepping down again used as a handhold a large flake that had broken loose from the rest of the rock and which had been used by both Savory and Latz previously in gaining the upper pitch. It appeared that in stepping down, Israel pulled out on the flake and it came loose; he toppled off the platform backward pulling the rock with him. He slid down the chute head-first on his back with the rock on top of him for a distance of about 25 feet when suddenly the rope which had been sliding around the projecting rock on the platform jammed. The fall was arrested and Israel was pulled violently to one side out from under the falling rock.

Fortunately the injured climber was able to walk out to the highway, even though the force of the fall had been great enough to rip the back of his parka to shreds, tear the heels of his boots, and tear a wrist watch from his arm. He was taken to the hospital in Anacortes where he was given treatment prior to going to the Swedish Hospital in Seattle. He suffered a broken wrist, broken nose and severe cuts about the head.

Source: Mountaineer 50: 9, 1957.

Analysis: It must be emphasized that huge rocks (or boulders) cannot necessarily be trusted to be securely attached to the mountain by virtue of their size. Their foresight in passing the rope around a potential belay undoubtedly prevented more serious injuries.